It’s a scenario taken to implausible extremes with no real ending or moral theme, so just don’t expect much, just consider it as half cooked food for thought.
So the context - WHAT IF:
Mark Zuckerberg, making the most of Facebook’s data resources begins to implement face-recognition technology allowing users to auto-tag their uploaded photos via an adaptive database on the Facebook central servers.
Inevitably this is put to use for commercial marketing, using the U.K.’s extensive existing CCTV network (and the U.S.’s rapidly growing one) to identify specific consumers on the high street and direct adverts to them offline via street projectors. The only to avoid being marketed at is to rediscover a lost Venetian fashion trend.
In short; Mark Zuckerberg steals everyone’s identity and society starts over.
20thCenturyBoy scanned his masks with consideration, wondering who or what to be today. The various card and plastic disguises were, uniquely for his possessions, carefully stacked and arranged with care in a system comprehensible only to himself.
She’d already seen the vast majority of his collection, so choice was limited lest he start to repeat himself. ‘Boy’s hand hovered over the collectible character set that came free with the MMO downloadable content he’d spent unholy amounts on recently. Geek enough, yes, and not so ironic that he’d be mistaken as a hipster, but still… he glanced at his watch and with a sigh grabbed the space-zombie half mask and snapped the elastic round the back of his head as he left the house.
A gang of pre-pubescent ex-prime ministers were aggressively kicking a football against an old cashpoint box on the way to the bus stop. ‘Boy avoided them even as the ball drifted past his predetermined trajectory.
“Oi!” shouted Norman Major, “go kick our ball back gay-face!” ‘Boy strolled past the ball and carefully presented the kid with his middle finger.
“Fuck off gay face!” said Cameron menacingly.
“Yeah, fuck off nonce-features!” chimed in Blair.
“Fuck off back to paedo-stan!” they all sang in squeaky chorus behind their oversized plastic masks.
The bus was just pulling up just as ‘Boy reached the stop, much to his relief that he neither had to run from or awkwardly hang around the brats while they would inevitably conspire to kick his face in.
He scanned his pass and sat down beside a businessman wearing the plain black eye mask that was popular amongst professionals. Since the public masquerade began, financial districts had begun to look more like comic book Yakuza conventions. Once inside their offices they would be able to take them off again, corporate anti-adware keeping the aggressive marketing at bay (with the exception of company endorsed products of course).
‘Boy’s phone buzzed and he carefully levered it from his pocket taking pains not to elbow the Johnny Mo who was casually reading the Metro.
<Going to be late by a couple of minutes, just handing in these essays. Sorryyyyyy!>
<No worries, I can amuse myself in town for a couple of minutes.>
<Not sure if I believe you. Can you really? i.e; 4 Realz ?>
<Nope you’re right, I’ve already gone mad with boredom. Flibble.>
<I thought as much, see you soon.>
‘Boy left the bus in the masked crowd and wandered past the shops, the occasional non-personalised advert trying to grab his attention from the pavement or any blank wall that wasn’t store window. Some of them would try to elaborate a sale based on clothing or mask design, and zombie game avatars shambled across his path, shotgun blasts spaying logos in blood onto the ground at road-paint angles so that they appeared to stand vertical in front of him.
An elderly woman in a hijab looked at the ad projection trailing ‘Boy distastefully, and for a moment he considered how much the older generations had to compromise when the public advert floods began. It had become a rarity to see people of a certain age in the middle of town nowadays, most seemed to stay outside of the city centre where the projectors and cameras were less dense, and you can walk about without a mask and still get very little visual hassle. For ‘Boy though, this was just the natural order, and the parents who hustled their children through the crowds seemed not to care about the violent and semi-pornographic images beamed at skewed angles onto every bit of spare ground like animate multicolour noon shadows.
‘Boy entered Greggs and bought a greasy Cornish pasty, trying not to gawk at the naked faces of the women at the counter, instead focusing his attention on the clinical bare floor, noticing the ads clamour at the doorway, twitching at the threshold like evil spirits. He hurried to their rendezvous point, now aware that he was nearly late himself.
AmericanGirl99 sat on their usual bench, short pink hair with long bangs draped over a flat Tank Girl mask, she turned and smiled under the laminated cardboard.
“Hey! What kind of time do you call this?”
“Hmm, about five seconds after you’ve gotten here, obviously, since you’ve not started fiddling with your phone yet.”
She lifted the mask enough to stick her pierced tongue out at him and let it drop back down. ‘Boy flustered a little and tried not to let is show.
“Oh, wait before I forget” he delved into his bag and fished out a square of hard yellow; clear plastic over paper insert. He passed it over and she opened it up, carefully retrieving the silver disk from the inside.
“Oh wow. You know I’ve already got a download of this…”
“I know, but you need to hear it on Compact Disc. It’s all about the imperfections, or, you know… whatever.”
“No I get it, that’s cool. I’m going have to keep it till I can borrow my dad’s old walkman though.”
“Yeah sure, no worries.” 20thCenturyBoy smiled awkwardly and scratched at his chin beard. He sat down and both of them quietly looked about trying to think of conversation topics.
“Okay.” Said AmericanGirl. “Let’s just do this already.”
“You sure?” She nodded.
“On three. Onetwothree.” She whipped the astro-zombie mask off of his face and at the same time pulled off her own. ‘Boy’s expression was frozen in surprise for a moment till he made a conscious effort to relax. She was quite pretty, with a complexion that suits a lack of makeup and a pert nose pierced in one nostril.
“Your eyebrows are massive” said American Girl, grinning.
“I’m, uh, sorry, I guess?” The two of them looked at each other for a few more seconds, before noticing the activity that had begun around them.
In under a minute the bench had become surrounded by a web of tangled advertisements, and more and more were popping up around them, spamming up the pavements in their respective fields of vision. The closest, largest ones were for subscription music streaming sites, clamouring for attention with suggested playlists based on recently scobbled tracks, behind them were the newspaper feeds with images of a grey-haired Damon Albarn on a red carpet somewhere, reviews of games from every developer ‘Boy had played a game from, every book from an author ‘Girl had once read. Slotting in between them all were the product placements; Little Wallop Cheddars danced next to noise cancelling wireless headphones, SHD 3D TV, iHUD 2G, Coke Delite, roaming data transfer contracts, quantum optic broadband, long pig Super Noodles, smart pills, Viagra… a fractal map of consumerism tunnelling ever smaller and seedier, a thousand little logos writhing on the pavement trying to make themselves seen.
The two of them were now aware that every micro-projector in visible range had locked onto them, servers in the basements of a thousand different companies would right then be strategising combined media targeting plans, overclocking systems to speed the info burst lest the target window closes and the consumers return to anonymity.
“Well this isn’t too bad… I suppose.”
“Just kind of annoying.”
The adverts had begun making cross product deals now. MusicBeast.com silently played the video for Song2, every band member’s head now replaced by a packaged cheese or a can of soft drink, zooming out to display a monolithic television taking up an entire living room wall.
“Urgh. Let’s just put them back on and go somewhere else.” Said ‘Boy.
As they stood, the whole media panorama began to sweep blue, the adverts wiped away by a yellow scrolling text, like some horrible low res screensaver;
MARK LANDER: IDENTIFIED. CONFIRMED ON THREE COUNTS OF LITTERING, FIVE COUNTS OF FARE AVOIDANCE, ONE COUNT OF THEFT OF PUBLIC PROPERTY
CLAIRE ABBEY: IDENTIFIED. CONFIRMED ON ONE COUNT OF LITTERING, TWO COUNTS OF SPEEDING AND ONE COUNT OF DAMAGE TO PUBLIC PROPERTY
REPORT TO THE NEAREST POLICE STATION TO PAY YOUR FINES AND / OR FACE CHARGES.
The two of them donned masks and briskly walked till they were out of range of all the projectors.
“Do you think that they actually follow up on that if you don’t go?” said Claire.
“Doubt it. It was just a road sign by the way.”
“Scratched a post box with my bumper. Surely not worth arresting anyone over, right?”
“Unless of course they need an excuse…” Said Mark, thoughtfully. “Let’s go to the shops. I need a new mask.”