For most of the morning, I've been reading about Phil Agre; partially because a potentially tragic mystery (shamefully) raises my rubbernecking senses, but also because some of his publications are tangentially relevant to my thesis. They are excellent reads.
What has me personally invested in this Agre narrative* is the fact that he's been missing for over a year and his family just filed a missing persons report in October; he used to have a mailing list of 5,000 subscribers and nobody noticed he was gone; he abandoned his job and apartment sometime last year and still nobody realized he was not there anymore. I would say I don't know how someone so seemingly connected could phase out so easily. But that's not true, I totally know. I'm sure it's quite easy.
I originally wanted to do my thesis project on the replace-ability of people. That is, people increasingly have the ability to exist independently. This diminishes the functional need for community and connection. It becomes easier to move in and out of communities and interpersonal relationships without making any kind of commitment because those communities and relationships can simply be replaced with new communities and new relationships. That entire system tends to devalues human life. This vague phenomenon is still somewhat of an obsession for me.
So when I read about Agre, I think that whatever role he must've played in peoples' lives–as distant as it may have been–was easily replaceable with another person. His disappearance went unnoticed for quite some time. In my mind, he planned it that way. It seems like a large amount of work to stay in touch with people but it also seems like a large amount of work to keep people away.
It is strange to me that not too too long ago, you could move across the world and your family would never expect to hear from you again. There are few places one can go now and achieve that level of silence. If that is what Agre was seeking, I hope he found it. For me, for now, I am definitely using his papers in my thesis project. Thanks Phil!
*I would just say Agre but I don't know this person and have only been vaguely aware of his existence until the announcement of his disappearance, a funny thing in itself.
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