‘I saw this movie the other day,’ says Jay, a twentysomething IT worker, to his companion, Gail, who’s a photographer. They’re leaning against a bar in New York City’s trendy Hell’s Kitchen district, drinking Estonian beer.
‘Uh huh,’ says Gail.
‘It was really good. What’s new with you?’
‘I bought some shoes.’
‘I reckon Rumsfeld’s ‘
And on it goes, often for 40 minutes or even an hour at a time.
Welcome to the latest craze that’s sweeping America sitting in the long tail of the blog revolution a mode of direct interface with real-time messenger capacity for information sharing. A new standard in exchange facilitation with a high energy, it has inevitably come to be known as ‘torque-ing.’
But what exactly is torque-ing?
‘Really, information-wise it’s the killer app,’ says Jay, showing me the basics of the process (face each other, speak clearly, be in the same place). ‘It has all the advantages of blogging, plus it adds a unique cueing system, which allows for rapid response, and the modification of the next message in light of the previous reply.’
Like Gail (and everyone), Jay’s been a blogger for a few years now (www.only-lacanian-in-idaho.blogspot.com), and he sees ‘torque-ing’ as a refinement of the skills that gained him the Best Boise Blog Award of 2004 and a readership in the high two figures.
‘Just as the blog progressed niche meta-communities and the narrowcasting revolution, torque-ing takes that further’, says Gail (www.bettieboopslashpagelastriotgrrlinYonkers.blogspot.com). ‘It allows for feedback-reinforced audience input.’
‘You mean you know someone’s listening?’
‘Yeah, you could put it like that.’
No one knows where torque-ing originated, but it may have been in California, that crucible of social experimentation. Information theorists have used game theory, population dynamics, ecology mathematics, quantum string models, MRI neural imaging and the latest findings from Neanderthal DNA to devise a new model which involved three or four people seeing each other regularly and exchanging commonplace opinions and news in a non-recorded form, rather than crouching in a dark room and posting it onto a server in Gdansk.
‘I’ve found, if you draw faces on empty toilet rolls and give speeches to crowds of them, it has almost the same effect,’ says Jay. Thanks to Sharyn Raggett
‘We were flying blind, really,’ says Dr Grevious T Wishbone, Berkeley-based information theorist and former bassist for the Grateful Dead. He may well be the first person in the world who ‘torqued’ when he and three colleagues gathered at a San Francisco juice bar and shockingly turned off their laptops.
We’re speaking on the phone a popular torque-ing plug-in and Wishbone remembers that his first contribution was a three-minute piece on why he didn’t like George W Bush, and did like Mission Impossible II. ‘All the time I was thinking œbut there’s no record of this! What if someone in Toronto wants to know that I’m irritated by razor scooters? And then my friend said something, so I had to œlisten and œpay attention [two software extras developed in the wake of the torque-ing revolution]to him.’
Torque-ing is spreading like wildfire, but not everyone is happy. ‘It’s a flash in the pan’ emails ‘strangequark5’ (email@example.com), one of the main figures in the decentred network of the ‘keep blogging’ flashcloudnetworkparadigmthread.
‘Blogging is the greatest revolution in human history since we lost our body fur. For the first time in history I can know what people thousands of miles away think about Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ronnie Bobbie. Thank god! Of course, to really keep track you have to cut out a few things, like leaving the house and having chance encounters with life. Fortunately, I’ve developed agoraphobia, so there’s no temptation there.’
‘Besides,’ types ‘quark’, leaning in and prodding me in the chest (using the emoticon _/:-)_/>>(..) ) ‘what about the exchange of ideas?’
‘It’s a good point,’ says Gail when I put it to her during another so-called conversation, ‘and that’s why we developed Word Record Information Transfer, or WRITing.’ WRITing uses feeback loop protocols such as ‘thinking,’ ‘reflecting,’ ‘synthesis’ and ‘redrafting’ to combine multiple ideas into a finished text which and this is really revolutionary is not communicated as soon as it is thought of.
‘Sometimes, I’ll hold a piece of WRITing back for days or weeks,’ says Gail.
‘And sometimes like yesterday I noticed that it’s difficult to find diet cherry coke I won’t write it down it all!’
‘You’ll just ‘
But is there anything they miss, having left blogging behind?
‘Having 400 friends on MySpace,’ says Gail. ‘That’s a huge number of people who love and care about you. Luckily they never came over all at once. Or at all.’
‘I miss typing my knee-jerk reactions to current events out into the void in the pathetic belief people give a rat’s,’ says Jay. ‘But I’ve found, if you draw faces on empty toilet rolls and give speeches to crowds of them, it has almost the same effect.’
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