Everything on my monitor is underwater. People and places track by, leaving a brief wake of turbulence and are, afterwards, forgotten. I could stare at it all day and I do. The meaningless drift of content: fish, fake plants, the filter burbling down into the pebbly bottom. I mean for crying out loud, it glows. What else am I supposed to look at all day?
Anyone who has spent enough time with a fish tank can attest to its ability to mesmerize. It’s a gentle hypnosis and one that seems to justify itself. Like a piece of performance art meant to signify relaxation as a platonic ideal. Or maybe the fish tank’s many occupants and their activities are an observed demonstration of the unpredictable but ultimately insignificant arc of biological life. Or maybe it’s a controlled exercise in affirming the validity of Ooooh! Shiny! In any event, from the moment you first laid eyes on a fish tank, its inherent value was obvious to you and you’ve most likely never questioned them since.
But what about the cyberdigital fish tank nestled in my hand? It glows. It contains things both fake and real. I stare at it all day. Things drift by that amuse or delight me and then are promptly forgotten within moments. The major difference between this fish tank and all fish tanks is that the fish seem to swim only vertically. Great long films of fish, unspooling upside down and reverse, cut and copied, edited all together with marketing glue as my thumb streaks by on the silky soft interface as soft as lake water. Every once in a while I bob up for air and think How long have I been here?