Thursday 30 November 2017

Another Day, Another App

So I'm starting to think we must have reached a new phase in man's progress from the primordial slime to the stars when, still boggling over wotwine, I'm told about this: An Augmented Reality App which Will Bring Your Wine Bottle To Life. Actually, just writing it down makes me partly lose the will to live, but no, this is where the world is going, this is the kind of thing the millenials dig, so I mustn't be off-trend about it, I must embrace the now.

Which is? Look, it's easier if you just watch the video: this more or less explains how, if you buy a bottle of 19 Crimes Australian red - marketed by the all-conquering Treasury Wine Estates, a company that also handles Blossom Hill, Penfolds, Wolf Blass - then download the 19 Crimes app onto your phone and point that phone at the label of the bottle, the grizzled face depicted on the label will come to life on your phone and start bending your ear about the real-life crime he or she committed, or at least was convicted of, in the nineteenth century and which led to her or his transportation from England to Australia. For the sake of my children, I begged for mercy, says one; Forgive me for caring more about myself than the cause, announces another, with a sneer. Little faces! Talking at you!

A bit weird for the dinner-table? Well, yes, except that, as the website (that old thing) explains, 'For the rough-hewn prisoners who made it to shore, a new world awaited.
As pioneers in a frontier penal colony, they forged a new country and new lives, brick by brick. This wine celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built.' In other words, it's all positive. You can even Connect with the gang and Join the banished if you're so absolutely parched for stimulation that joining a virtual society of deceased ex-cons who exist only to gimmick up an extremely small range of reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend and something called Dark Red) seems like a good idea. Why not? It's that or wasting the evening on a re-run of Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, so you might as well.

And of course it's not so much the product itself, the 19 Crimes, which is significant, but what it represents. You can see it coming, like bad weather across a sound, a new dispensation in which wines of all sorts will talk to us, or play music, or host an impromptu quiz when they sense that the chit-chat round the table has got onto Donald Trump again, and what do you know? John XXII is looming out of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape bottle and asking us, in guttural Mediaeval French, how late the trains run because he has to get back to town? Or the bay on the front of your Oyster Bay starts making soothing lapping sounds, broken only by the bleating of sheep and foul-mouthed bucolic New Zealand banter from unseen shepherds and winemakers? Or raised voices are heard coming from the villa on the Chianti label and after a while you realise that it's you they're shouting about, and not in a friendly way either, particularly unnerving as you're drinking on your own and already regretting it? Or the cockerel on your Le Réveil starts crowing and will not shut up, not even when you stuff it in the recycling bin and heap empty soup cartons and bleach bottles on it?

And the wine? Wine is such a twentieth century thing. Do we really need to think about the wine? How does wine even fit into a world of constant intermediations from ongoing digital reference points? How do we find the time to drink a glassful before we have to share the experience with one or more digital platforms while the AI is toiling away in the background, cloudbasing our subjectivities into a worldpermeable interface which then allows someone from Abilene, Texas, to address us, mid-drink, live from the label on the wine bottle and suggest that maybe the tannins are a bit overdone? See, this is augmented reality and if anyone says that wine in and of itself is quite capable of augmenting reality, they haven't experienced either enough or the right kind of augmentation.

Next week, another reality, augmented to the point of no return: Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish


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