Searching for the Darkest Hour

IntroductionDarkness

A quick note about this section

When uncertainty is the best path to new ways of seeing.

Introduction by
Paddy Harrington

In 1939, in a garage in Palo Alto, California, David Packard and Bill Hewlett started the company that would eventually bear their name. While their first product, an audio oscillator that was the precursor to so much of today’s technology, was nothing more than a hint of what would follow, it started a paradigm shift that would profoundly influence the 20th century. And like other intellectual breakthroughs of past historical eras, the proliferation of technology would shape the way that we understand and engage with the world.

At the heart of these new technologies was binary code. This two-symbol system, most often made of ones and zeroes, provided a way that different items could be represented and encoded into strings. These strings then became the instructions and data that now form the foundations for every aspect of our digital lives. There is no question that our lives have become overwhelmingly digital. With over 80% smartphone penetration within the United States alone, our reliance on technology and its influence is actively shaping us.

We are constantly faced with binary decisions that put us squarely into one category. The problem is, more often than not, we are somewhere in between.

But the question is, what effect is this having? If all of our information can be encoded into strings of instructions and data, what impact does that have on us? How does the fundamental architecture of these technologies impact the ways that we think and act?

By living our lives online we are creating digital versions of ourselves. We are encoding our lives. And once our information is encoded, it becomes easier to identify us, to sell to us, and to provide us with information that matches our digital profile.

One metaphor with particular resonance lately is the concept of the “echo chamber.” Our ideas and beliefs can be reinforced when communicated and repeated within a defined group. There may be no more poignant example than the 2016 presidential election in the United States. With platforms like Facebook identifying its users based on their online behaviours, all of the information they consumed was targeted toward their digital profiles. Instead of being exposed to a variety of viewpoints, information that aligned to their personal ideals was reinforced and repeated. It’s an infernal circle of self-affrming hell with nothing to shake us out of it.

This binary categorization has become a problem with tangible implications. Is there a way out? Why does everything have to be so black and white? You’re for gun control or against it. You like something or you do not. You’re an urban elite or find yourself in a basket of deplorables. We are constantly faced with binary decisions that put us squarely into one category. The problem is, more often than not, we are somewhere in between. Ones and zeroes are not particularly good at capturing fluidity and change. Our lives are most often spent in this grey area; in this unknown. In this darkness, continually searching for the light.

The Frontier office in Toronto, Canada.

2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada. It was a year marked by nationwide celebrations. In many ways, Canada leads the world. In recent decades, this country has been consistently ranked among global leaders across a wide variety of measures. But to focus only on these positives is to ignore the heart-wrenching darkness that is an intrinsic part of our past. In recent years, we have begun to understand the historical and ongoing genocide of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. A failure to accept and attempt to understand this reality and this darkness will result in an inevitable failure to achieve the idea of Canada that we are trying to celebrate. Despite our inherent desire for the light of celebration, we will never truly achieve it without understanding the darkness at its heart.

This issue is dedicated to darkness. It’s dedicated to people who spend their lives inside of uncertainty. It’s full of stories of people who are using their creativity to make sense of things that are hidden from view. It considers the idea of darkness from diverse perspectives and is at turns playful and serious.

We get a glimpse into the lives of an intrepid few who travel the world chasing solar eclipses, in search of an otherworldly transformative kind of darkness. We go inside a phenomenon called Dark Patterns, where design is used to prey on our vulnerabilities in a way that we don’t even notice. We talk to the creator of a podcast about Indigenous women and girls in Canada who is bringing light to one of the darkest aspects of our history.

Darkness is elementally polarizing. For many, it represents the possibility of a visceral thrill and for others it represents cause for concern. But in this age of reductive ones and zeroes, it’s a place we must seek out. We must try to understand it in ourselves and in others and come to terms with its inherent mystery. Darkness is important; without it there is no light.

Over the coming weeks, we will continue to publish featured content from Issue 03 online. With that said, we also believe original content is worth paying for. If you’re enjoying the content on this platform, consider heading to our online shop today to order the print edition of Frontier Magazine. From all of us at Frontier, thanks for reading.

Paddy Harrington

Paddy Harrington is the founder of Frontier. He has degrees in architecture and literature and is an award winning writer and film maker.

Preparing is Half the Adventure

Modern-day discoverer Adam Shoalts discusses risk taking, remoteness, and the role of research in his latest four-month solo trek through the Canadian Arctic into areas still untouched by human footprints.

Read More

Reading in the Dark

Ten must-read books to get you through the night.

Read More

PolitEcho

A mirror for the "daily me"

Read More

Aerelight

Thinner, greener, smarter

Read More

SuperBetter

Epic wins, every day

Read More

Enchroma

Colour for the colour blind

Read More

Gravity Light

A new class of lightweight

Read More

Awake in the Amazon

A traveller shares his deep and incomplete reflection on an ayahuasca trip.

Read More

Wearing Black

A Photo Essay by Nick Kozak

Read More

Missing and Murdered

Julian Brave NoiseCat interviews award-winning journalist Connie Walker about her podcast that brings light to one of Canada's darkest issues.

Read More

Chasing Totality

The most vivid memory I have of an eclipse is one of deep anxiety.

Read More

Dark Patterns

In today's digitally driven culture, where we share more about ourselves than ever before, companies are finding new, subtle ways to tap into an age-old marketing opportunity — our insecurity.

Read More

Changing the Conversation

Three YouTube creators are working to destigmatize their culture and maybe even learn a thing or two about themselves in the process.

Read More

Embracing Our Dark Reality

A collective of writers, artists, and thinkers is exploring the darkest realities of our time.

Read More

Preserving the Night Sky

Two astronomers discuss why the night sky we see today is different from what our grandparents saw.

Read More

Saving Endangered Languages

How one Mohawk community is reclaiming culture by revitalizing its mother tongue.

Read More

The Night Shift

Four Torontonians share the ins and outs of working outside the nine-to-five.

Read More

This Film is Available in Critical Audio

Blind film critic Tommy Edison reviews films for those seeking entertainment beyond sight.

Read More

The Dark Arts

Artist Kent Monkman subverts colonial myths and First Nations representation in his sesquicentennial exhibition.

Read More

Having Fun Watching Others Having Fun

Twitch has built an unlikely new platform for online entertainment.

Read More