First off let me thank you for everything I’ve been able to learn from this forum. Up until earlier this year I’d been a fairly casual fan of Donald Glover’s work as it made its way through layers of pop and subcultures to me. But thanks to all of the analysis, work and creative contributions from this group, as well as other saved media from the last decade which exists on a loop across the murky waters of the internet, I’ve been able to dive deep into the “universe” he has created with his art. However I recognize I have not been a good community member and have not helped contribute to the conversation you all have been having. So I’m writing this in part to offer some sort of contribution to our shared experience online but also to explain and express some of my personal experiences.
I’ll preface this by saying that most of this is speculative and based on my own perceptions and understandings of the worlds/universes that Donald Glover has built. I’m not an expert on anything, unless it’s my own story (barely) and maybe taking pretty photos of endurance athletes in the mountains. But I hope that by sharing some of my story in relation to our shared interest in Donald Glover’s art that I may aid in your understanding of it in some way. So take from it what you will, but don’t believe everything you read or experience on the internet. Media Echo Chambers on the Internet
REDACTED The Allegory of the Pond (*a WIP*)
Over the years I’ve come to think of the internet like a body of water. Its size and scale is really more comparable to something as vast as the ocean, especially in regards to the world and reach of someone like DG operates in. But for simplicity and in honor of Thoreau, who learned a lot of lessons about society while walking by himself around a small slice of nature, I’ll often think of it as The Pond.
In The Pond we’re all creatures that drift about through fluid space, where we are guided by our instincts, natures rhythms and currents, and our interactions with one another. There are various corners of the pond with different depths and temperatures, and we all migrate between areas we’re drawn to. While there are predators and piranhas in the water with dark corners of The Pond that should be avoided for the most part it’s an ecosystem that should exist in harmony and homeostasis. We can’t see what’s above the surface of the water, but sometimes we see shapes and shadows that we only understand as symbols in our minds. These unknown symbols of unknowable higher beings provide natural but unpredictable gifts of food or the fear of death from above, both of which are outside of our control but have the power to guide or influence our instincts and existence in The Pond.
To reach the point where society existed in The Pond we first had to travel through The River. Our lives in The River existed in a much more linear fashion as we were guided by strong currents through time into the future. Now that we’ve entered The Pond we can only see and have memories of The River as it flows into our new environment, but many still remember what it was like upstream by stories of the past and the artifacts and art that have washed downstream that help us tell our history.
Art exists throughout The Pond, as it did in The River. However because of The River's flowing nature we were conditioned to consume art in a much more linear way. Storytelling was very linear as well, as it was difficult to travel back in time up The River for artifacts, art or stories to provide future context to a narrative. However as we began to enter The Pond many people began to realize that life was no longer as linear as it once was. The artifacts of our history and the art we created were no longer trapped upstream or washed away in time but could live in perpetuity in a timeless shared environment. We no longer were constrained by a universally linear world but in a new multidimensional one where cultural time and storytelling cant exist separately from biological time.
In The Pond art and storytelling are no longer limited by the order in which they are presented. An artist's work or sequence of works can live on and be found and interacted with more readily through history, and our personal interpretation and understanding of their meaning can evolve and grow as we do. In addition more of an artists essence and personality can be imprinted upon the world through what and how they create within The Pond than it did in The River, as it carries more power for it to live on well beyond their own biological time. With this begins an exciting new era of personal and creative expression as we become more free to construct our own realities from our experiences and create more thinking of audiences of the future.
However any advances in our evolution, culture or environment that we don’t yet fully understand can be subverted, exploited and manipulated. History, stories or artifacts that may have once been cast aside to the shore or forgotten in time can now live on forever. And the unsavory or dangerous creatures that once were spread out among others in The River can now hide together in the depths of The Pond and feed off of each other. Those with power, money or influence realize that the old ways of controlling others don’t work any more. So with the help of technology they’re able to escape the confines of The Pond and view and quantify the world from above. They’ve realized they can guide other’s movements and realities by confining or dividing their movements with nets or by directing them unknowingly around the pond with incentives of artificial food from above. In addition they’ve learned they can strategically feed and manipulate certain influential creatures, or even the predators and piranhas, emboldening those that would normally hide in the depths or be held in check by the natural order of the ecosystem.
Now if it isn’t clear what I’m trying to convey it’s that I’m working on my own version of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” but for the digital era. Projecting two dimension images on the wall of The Cave might have worked in The River but our modern understanding of the world and how it works have advanced dramatically in the last 20 years thanks to a greater understanding of the world provided by the internet and our advancing culture. We’ve become more connected and free to construct our own realities and mythology than ever before but we are still struggling to find purpose and a greater meaning to life. Sadly technological advancements have also created tools that allow others to quantify and view, divide and guide individuals or entire groups of people's preferences and beliefs. We don’t yet easily recognize the trappings of how non-linear narratives online are moving us around The Pond. So now the danger is no longer being told a two dimensional story about life in The Cave, it’s being artificially led through a three dimensional life that we believe we are constructing ourselves in The Pond. The Evolution of Donald Glover
REDACTED The Timestamps
So finally after all of these words thrown around to explain myself and trojan horse some other information I’ve buried the lead at the end, bringing me to what I think the timestamps represent. In addition to the suggestion by the title and timestamps it be consumed as a whole I believe it also symbolizes a sense that DG’s story is stuck in time and he is currently unable to move forward with his vision. For most people the timestamps suggested a puzzle or hidden content, typical for what was expected from past work, that needed to be solved in order for more from the album to be released.
Anyways if you made it this far thanks for indulging in writing I was inspired to create for this community based off of the work of Donald Glover, just as I’ve seen many of you do here with your amazing artwork or other creative outlets. I’ve been an “event photographer” for a long time but I’ve always thought of myself as a creative writer of stories on the internet that can impact the real world and the space between people’s ears, but historically I’ve focused on the stories of other people or organizations. Early in quarantine as everyone's worlds were rapidly changing I was feeling disconnected for many reasons so I began to explore using the internet and social media as a way to understand the world and emotionally connecting with others. What I found was that even with the incredible creative tools at our disposal and the immense ability to reach out to so many people it’s difficult to have a shared emotional experience and conversation with others living in vastly different bubbles and emotional time zones. In an increasingly binary world full of programming languages I think we’re overdue for developing a more nuanced and emotional mixed media language for the internet that will better help connect us with one another across space and time.
The internet has made creators of all of us. We all have artists and a unique language inside of us and our identities, especially online, are increasingly part of our art and who we are. I know we just got here but we need to start evolving and figure out how to leave The Pond and see the world from a higher perspective. Because right now I think those with the resources to be above the water and throw chum at us don’t have our interests in mind and we can’t see or understand how we’re being manipulated. It will be a journey for everyone, but it’s always been up to artists and writers to distill complex information down to a narrative/code to help show others the way.
See you in the future,