Mark Kingwell on smoothness.
But the seductions of smoothness
go beyond the placeless, spaceless, ethereal
arrival of the shoe or the laptop. They embrace
the larger value of efficiency, or usefulness,
which in our day is most often thematized as
even flow: of goods, data, capital or individuals.
Things function better, they are more useful and
efficient, when they submit smoothly to this
flow, when they shed their hard idiosyncratic
edges and enter the appropriate streams and
channels of transportation without too much
trouble or effort. The inner logic of smoothness
is not just about reproducibility, with multiple
indistinguishable tokens parading before us,
different only in their candy colours. It is also
about translatability, the idea that anything and
everything may be smoothly converted into a
metalanguage of useful disposal and thus
effortlessly transferred from one place, one data
port, to another.
It is not wrong to derive pleasure from the flush
surfaces and inviting curves of the world around
us. It is not wrong to regard a limpid sentence
or glossy household appliance as something
worth having, something worth your caressing
glance. But it is wrong to forget, even for a
moment, the hidden costs of that achievement.
And it is doubly wrong to think that smoothness
says all that needs saying when it comes to who
we are and what we want -- when it comes to
who we might be.