Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mac Tonnies featured in the New York Times

This upcoming Sunday, there will be an article in the New York Times magazine titled: Cyberspace When You’re Dead By ROB WALKER. It features a long section on Mac Tonnies and the impact of his passing as seen on the internet.

I received an email about this article from Mac's mother Dana, and I read it within seconds of posting a photo of Mac and Leo Srpinkle (with a funny tag-line) and that was part of the essay above. The sychronicities continue.

Leo Sprinkle photographed in Wyoming with Mac Tonnies.
Mac wrote: The blur is almost certainly the result of paranormal forces! ;-)
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article:

The last entry on Posthuman Blues was titled “Tritptych #15,” a set of three images with no text. The first comment to this post came from an anonymous reader, wondering why Tonnies had not updated the blog or tweeted for two days. Some similar comments followed, and then this: “Mac Tonnies passed away earlier in the week. Our condolences are with his family and friends in this time of grief.” The author of that comment was also anonymous. After a rapid back-and-forth about whether this startling news was true and some details of the circumstances, that post’s comment section transformed into a remarkable mix of tributes, grieving and commiseration. You can still read all this today, in a thread that runs to more than 250 comments.

“It was a very strange feeling,” Dana Tonnies, Mac’s mother, told me, describing how she and her husband became aware of the swirl of activity attaching to her son’s online self. “I had no control over what was being said about him, almost immediately.” Dana and Bob Tonnies were close to their only son — in fact they had coffee with him, in a regular Sunday ritual, the morning before he died — but they had little contact with his digital self. Sometimes he would show them his online writing, but he had to do so by literally putting his laptop in front of them. The Tonnies did not read blogs. In fact they did not own a computer.

In the months after their son’s death, Dana and Bob went about the difficult business of organizing his papers (letters, e-mail printouts, story drafts) and deciding which of his belongings to keep (like his thousand or so books) or to give to his friends (his leather jacket, his three watches). This painful process took awhile, and they were not really focused on his blog or Flickr account and the like. They also inherited their son’s computer and have since learned how to navigate it and the Internet. But by then, their son’s online circle had already taken action.

Follow-up from Mike C:
Let me add that I now have Mac's leather jacket, it is a deeply treasured gift from his family.

Over the last year I have used this blog to share some deeply personal stories about my friendship with Mac, and they are collected HERE.

More info added on 1 / 11 / 11 :
A superior article about Mac, HERE, written by his friend Rita J. King, published in the recent Atlantic. The author shares heartfelt synchronicites and the deep creative enthusiasm that defined my friend Mac.

This inspired it's own post, and a personal challenge.


Anonymous said...

So nice that you have Mac's jacket.

And it's good Mac and his work continue to get attention, even post mortem.
Blessings to him always!

~ Susan

Red Pill Junkie said...

Man that was a good article! A fitting homage to the Macbot -- though he author should have mentioned his book.

It made me reflect on my obsession with the on-line world. It's clear that I have a conscious desire to be remembered, among other things, by my "digital legacy" as it were; which is one of the reasons I strive to be an exemplary webizen, much unlike my actual behavior in meatspace, I'm sorry to admit...

On the other hand, it's painful to acknowledge that almost all of my "online persona" is completely unknown to my family members! I think only one of my sisters has actually *read* my blog a couple of times :(

It's almost as if I'm wishing for the people whom I've interacted with via the net to be my advocates, when I'm gone. That they may get to say (or blog, or Tweet) "hey that RPJ wasn't such a bad guy".

Will that redeem all the failures in my life? probably not; but there remains comfort in the prospect that as long as you're remembered by the living, you're still a part of the world.

Mike Clelland! said...

I wanted to add a little bit about the synchronistic happenings from yesterday.

I was finalizing my post with the audio interview with Leo Sprinkle, and I needed a photo to accompany the text. I sort of knew the photo I was going to use, it was the blurry photo of Mac standing next to Leo, it was taken while Mac was in Wyoming working on a documentary for CBC-TV.

Mac posted the photo on his FLIKR site with this funny tag-line:

The blur is almost certainly the result of paranormal forces! ;-)

As I was posting the photo, I saw an email come in from Mac's mother (Dana) and I replied in less than a minute, saying thank you - and I would soon check out the link.

It was a little while later that I realized that the article was about how people still have a web-presence even after their death. And it happened at the same moment I was adding to that presence by posting a photo of Mac, and my very real intent was to add to that presence - to do my tiny part to keep his spirit alive.

Needles to say - It was a curious bit of timing.

Mike C

Brizdaz said...

"It's almost as if I'm wishing for the people whom I've interacted with via the net to be my advocates, when I'm gone. That they may get to say (or blog, or Tweet) "hey that RPJ wasn't such a bad guy""

If it's any consolation,I've read most of your comments on this blog,and I think you are not such a bad guy.
So chalk one up for yourself RPJ.-)

Red Pill Junkie said...

LOL thanks, amigo —hope you don't back down later on! ;)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Brizdaz - people on the blog were worried about you after hearing about the floods in your area. Hope you're all right!

- Trish
PS Mike, sorry about using a comment on your blog like this, but I didn't know how else to contact Briz!