David Foster Wallace's 1996 novel _Infinite Jest_ imagines a not-too-distant future in which the equivalents of Hulu and Netflix streaming kill the advertising business to such an extent that the government decides to save the economy with "sponsored time": hence, a great deal of the novel's action takes place in the "Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment." The book is deeply (if hilariously) pessimistic about people's chances of connecting with one another in a culture built on one-way media consumption -- this pessimism, of course, is represented most baldly by The Entertainment, a technology-enhanced movie so entertaining that anyone who once sees it becomes incapable of doing anything other than watching it over and over again.
This panel will, broadly speaking, address the question of whether David Foster Wallace was or would have been a Clay Shirky fan. In other words, would (did) Wallace believe that the Internet is better for us than TV because we are active participants in the creation of Internet content? Why are the digerati enamored of _Infinite Jest_, and what can the book tell us about the Internet's potential to help or hinder human connection?
11th–15th March 2011