by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
I’ve spent a lot of time recently making fun of “Alexa” and other similar voice activated assistants — the idea of willingly installing what ultimately amounts to a wire-tapping device in my own home seems patently absurd to me. Yet, I can’t deny the fact that I carry a smartphone with me at all times, a device that not only has similar surveillance abilities, but the power to track my every movement as well. I guess the question I should really be asking, then, isn’t “why would someone willingly buy a device like this?,” but “what would it take to make someone willingly buy a device like this?” Sometimes it’s convenience, sometime it’s the unparalleled access to information, and sometimes it’s simple denial. All these seem to be in play in Benjamin Percy, Christopher Mooneyham, and Lalit Kumar Sharma’s Nightwing 46, as Blüdhaven embraces technology that’s clearly attempting to data-mine the entire city.
To be fair, many of the citizens can claim ignorance to the most insidious of Mirage’s plans for their city — they aren’t privy to the nitty gritty details that Dick and Barbara are, they haven’t seen mechanical malware machines crawl out of their head filled with their secrets like Nightwing has. But they’re fully aware that their city is about to undergo an initiative that will fully digitize every inch of it, and nobody seems to care.
The future Willem Cloke proposes here quite literally isn’t real — it’s a digital veneer painted over the true city, a flashy band-aid rather than a real solution to Blüdhaven’s problems. That’s probably what most of Blüdhaven — from the smallest citizen to the officials of its highest offices — want, though; easy solutions to impossible problems. It’s not the truth, but it’s a lie they want to believe, and that’s more than enough to make them willing to ignore all the obvious downsides of living in a fully digitized surveillance state.
Comparisons not only to our own willingness to embrace convenient technology that doesn’t always have our best interest in mind, but also to “fake news” and the public’s eagerness to embrace “their” truth rather than the truth, are obvious. Solutions, though, are harder to find. If Blüdhaven’s prostrating itself at the altar of technology and Dick Grayson’s Luddite ways are the two extremes here, perhaps we need to look to Barbara Gordon as an example. She embraces technology, but isn’t blind to its flaws. She uses technology as a tool rather than submitting wholly to its wiles. This is perhaps most apparent in the device she makes for Dick to help deal with the malware-spider in his head — it’s technology, but technology that allows him to toggle between reality and virtual reality at will, to choose when to view things through the lens of technology and when to remain fully in the “real” world. We may not have high-tech visors, but if we keep our wits about us and stay informed, we can certainly do the same.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?