Occasionally I’ve enjoyed taking a television commercial as an invitation to explore some dynamic of the social-technological milieu. For example, a Droid commercial offered an opportunity to explore the technology as prosthetic metaphor. A Visa commercial allowed me to rail against the mindless pace of contemporary consumer culture. And finally, unless I’m forgetting a post, a Jeep commercial spoke better than it knew (most likely) when it claimed that the things we make, make us.
Now a new Dodge commercial offers another occasion to reflect, although this time in a slightly different direction. The commercial plays off of our love affair with the great outdoors, although one has to wonder how sincere that love affair may be since we often seem quite untroubled by our infidelity to our would-be lover. Nonetheless, this commercial positions the great outdoors as an antidote to the Internet, or perhaps better yet, to Internet fatigue.
“People don’t make a list of websties they want to see before they die,” we are told in the commercial’s opening line. “Like being there” is not “like being there,” the commercial continues. And, we are assured, “It’s okay, the Internet will be just fine without you.” Finally, we are invited to think of the Dodge Journey as a “search engine for the World Wide World.”
Its somewhat noteworthy that our marketing geniuses believe appealing to Internet fatigue or to some otherwise nondescript unease with digital life an effective sales strategy. The aura of technology, especially novel digital technology, is more often than not a selling point. Of course, in the commercial it is a GPS that gets you were you need to go, so you are tacitly reassured that the technology is there when you need it.
So sure, they’re selling you something, something you certainly don’t need to have a fuller experience of the world. But at this juncture, I’ll applaud the advice to unplug wherever it may come from. The real issue, after all, may not be whether the Internet will be just fine without us, but whether we will be just fine without the Internet.
Update: Courtesy of Nick Carr, lest we credit Chrsyler too much, here’s the uber-connected Grand Caravan. At least the Journey’s presentation is a bit more evocative.