The social revolution

After all these centuries, ain't it wondrous to be finally, properly social? The dawn of new media has made us into the new Victorians, exploring massive new mindscapes of  production and expansion with blogs our steam trains and social networks our canals; but this time the industrial revolution is in our hands. We are the new William Morrisses, crafting digital Red Houses from our crowdsourced creativity and mashed-up UGC. Open source sophisticates, media savvy microbrands, we're the ones running the factories now in our witty personalised tees. Bask in the warmth; ain't it great to be part of our unprecedentedly potent plebian gang?

Good art, as ever, gives us the lie. In the past week virtually everything I've seen has struck me with a reminder that our loneliness is sharpest in the clamour of the crowd. The three short plays produced by the Arcola as part of London's East festival were all witty, unpretentious, and full of the impossibility of people knowing each other at all. Purgatory by Steven Berkoff showed the alienated, itinerant inhabitants of an East End boarding house struggle to both communicate and block each other out (with a stand-out turn from Amanda Lawrence as a cripplingly quirky, love starved lass); Flowers In Her Hair by Rebecca Lenkiewicz described the halting, eliptical attempts of a couple to reach across their differences and defences on a blind date; and The List by David Eldridge saw Paul Moriarty discovering, in devastating fashion, just how little he knew about his dead wife after a lifetime together.

Then Tuesday night found me in the cavernous, cold, cash-only Halo in Battersea, listening to guitarist and singer Roger Tarry - in the midst of some big-lunged, big-haired, big-titted Nashvillesque American balladeers wailing about Obama and God - produce songs of such complex, melodic, low-key loneliness that it suddenly felt OK to admit that Facebook addiction and Twitter crack whoredom doesn't change the fact that we're a genetically self-obssessed species doomed to desolation in our shiny, happy, WiFi enabled shells.

Man may not be an island, but He has something of the deserted car park about Him. There's beauty in that, nonetheless.