Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More On Leisure And Technology

Withywindle makes a related point to my paper on Leisure in regards to the global warming fiasco:
here the ever-increasing speed of communication begins to undermine the progress of science, as the ability for scientists to build upon one another's progress becomes the ability to communicate before the experiment is completed; hence transforming multiple experiments and peer review into one, coordinated experiment - with all the flaws that follow.

This is really the crux of the issue for me. Does technology, and communications technology in particular, undermine contemplation?

If you asked me three or four years ago, I would've said, "Whatever. Technology is a tool. Humans use it how they will. If they aren't pensive it's because they aren't pensive. Don't matter that they have email."

But after watching the effect that blackberries have on people I'm not so sure. There's no way that the people who are huddled over their blackberries on the subway, at lunch, or on the street are doing anything more than getting an email and responding with the first thing that comes into their head. Now, the vast majority of email doesn't require much thought to respond, but that's exactly my point. When communication gets faster and cheaper it becomes commodified. There's no reason to devote much time to a seemingly inexhaustible resource.

But that's an illusion. On the other end of all those emails are people who are firing off emails in response whose time is also limited. And yet in a very important way we aren't interacting with people. We are wrestling with a disembodied queue of tasks known as our inbox. We are trying to keep it from drowning us.

But to return to the question of commdification and contemplation. Andrew Sullivan's piece on blogging from last year makes my point:
This form of instant and global self-publishing, made possible by technology widely available only for the past decade or so, allows for no retroactive editing (apart from fixing minor typos or small glitches) and removes from the act of writing any considered or lengthy review. It is the spontaneous expression of instant thought—impermanent beyond even the ephemera of daily journalism. It is accountable in immediate and unavoidable ways to readers and other bloggers, and linked via hypertext to continuously multiplying references and sources. Unlike any single piece of print journalism, its borders are extremely porous and its truth inherently transitory. The consequences of this for the act of writing are still sinking in.

Blogging isn't the well-defined, logical structure we are accustomed to in print. Printing costs money. Consequently, determining what deserved to be printed and what didn't led to editing, which in turn, demanded a structure and format to organize and analyze the information. This allowed us to more easily digest the information.

Now, I, along with millions of others, post first drafts and half-thoughts with little to no organization. (This post is a prime example.) How can we possibly filter through the information?

That very question led me to another form of technology -- the RSS feed reader. It helped at first, but now I have so many feeds that I'm somewhat overwhelmed again.

Technology has helps us create and gather more and more data. It even helps us sort it. But it doesn't help us determine its meaning to us as human beings. And so we are left not with a firehose of information, but a deluge of shit coming at us that we have to go through.

Sorry for making you sit through all that if you read this far, but I'm trying to think out my paper and writing it out helps.

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