It’s the twenty-first century; people are born into an army of standing-reserves through joining a vast collection of human and non-human objects. Heidegger (1889-1976) was a German philosopher who studied existentialism and coined the term ‘standing reserve’. The idea of the standing reserve is a result of the relationship of between artefacts, including humans, to technology; “subjects relating to objects” (Hands 2010). This means that modern technology has developed a new paradigm whereby nothing is good for itself; rather, it can only be good for something else. It also transfigures the natural environment to raw materials. Even humanity becomes a raw material in the present economy, in the form of big data (ibid). This relationship is seen by Heidegger as a given; humans are enframed from birth and this relationship is inescapable in the current period.
We can clumsily imagine this idea as a world completely absorbed by Google. Heidegger suggests that the questions surrounding technology are derived from the questions of being (Hands 2010). Thus it is reasonable to suggest that below the surface of each application of networked technology is a code of binary digits which represent an aspect of human existence (Barney 2000). Therefore all aspects of human existence “must be reducible to the form of bits” (Hands 2010). In this sense, when we type in the Google search bar, we are not ‘using’ Google, we are being enframed by its logic. This is not to say that Google is taking over the world in an exclusive, commercial sense; rather this is an example of a sociocultural movement which is characteristic of the digital age. As nodes, we are carriers of technology, thus it stands to logic that technology relies on us somewhat to operate. The relationship between humanity and technology is therefore interdependent, but with a scary power distribution which is sliding further and further from human control.
Barney, D 2000, Prometheus Wired: The Hope for Democracy in the Age of Network Technology
Hands, J 2010, @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture, London ; New York, NY : Pluto, 2011. vii, 210