Reflektor, the title song of the latest Arcade Fire recording, explores our presence in a digital world and our virtual relationships with others.
In the song, the singer while “staring at a screen” to “enter” “the other side” and get “connected” to “friends” notes that “the signals … are deflected” and concludes “I thought I found the connector [but] it’s just a Reflektor.” This song and others (e.g. “Afterlife”) reference the tragic relationship of Orpheus and Eurydice, two lovers separated by death “entre la nuit … entre les vivants et les morts”. The screen acts as a divider, separating the lover from his beloved, the living world from the virtual one, the present from the past. And so, to the question “Will I see you on the other side?” the response is “it’s just a reflection of a reflection”. Although there is the appearance of life on the other side it is but a tantalizing image of what we are looking for and ultimately not what we will see. Moreover, isn’t our search in a reflected world, that is, the digital world, a reflection of ourselves? What does our search history tell us about ourselves? What reflection does our social network of online contacts and followers provide about us?
The use of the word “reflection” is especially apt in the world of social media. On the one hand, it suggests a representation or a mirror image on a surface like water. On the other hand, it suggests meditation as in a thoughtful, deep consideration of an idea. This dual nature, surface and depth, frequently characterize digital communications. For example, it is not unusual for the responses in the “Comments” section of an online news blog to range from a simple code (“OMG”) to an intricate analysis by an expert in the field. This dual nature requires the ability to register the appropriate tone in carrying on a digital conversation. How often have we encountered an online chat gone wrong because one of the players seemed like a novice or junior while another was pedantic or even pretentious? In some cases, the problem may be due to a lack of common courtesy while in other cases it is indicative of an imbalance of knowledge or experience of the various participants.
And to conclude let’s try a puzzle and a poem. If the reflector is the author writing, and is also the reader reading what is the “reflection of a reflection”? Or delight in this quote from Jorge Luis Borges’ Selected Poems, “God has created nights well-populated with dreams, crowded with mirror images, so that man may feel that he is nothing more than vain reflection.”
Oryst Iwanycky 11/11/2013.
Reflektor, 2013. Songwriters T. Kingsbury, R. Chassagne, J. Gara, William Butler, Win Butler, R.R. Parry. Published by Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing. Available digitally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrEl6oW6u-I
Borges, Jorge Luis. Selected Poems. Available digitally: http://q4quotes.com/Quotes/By-Jorge-Luis-Borges/6