The acceleration of immediacy

Marshall Herff Applewhite, Jr., aka Do

On March 26, 1997, my friends and I sat watching as the evening news was dominated with the lurid story of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. The image of Do, through an evening’s viewing, quickly became iconic. With semi-serious earnestness, we figured that if we had some way to get that image off of the television and print it on a t-shirt, we could go down to San Francisco’s Haight Street the next morning and sell ’em on the street. We loved the idea of immediate translation from news story to meme to hipster product. We didn’t have the technology (or really, the motivation) to make it happen, but for me that was an early signal of the potential to really collapse the time in that cycle.

On May 6, 2010, we had a strange stock market crash. In the Twitter era, a commemorative t-shirt (‘I survived the crash of 2:45 pm”) was available within a few hours.


The tools to deliver this immediacy are now available to more of us. You could probably have a Do shirt up for sale on the web within a few minutes of reading this post. But the very idea of this immediacy is more part of the zeitgeist. It’s becoming a norm. We expect more immediacy. We expect that we can create an immediate experience for others. Meanwhile, consumers become producers. At the same time, we see an emergence of slow movements (from food to media), because every trend has a counter-trend.

Ironically, it took me a week to write this post. Immediacy makes no concessions to busy, I guess.


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