Hello boys and girls, here's sending you DVR dreams and iPodelicious wishes. Finding the life electronic overwhelming? I'm thinking of starting a neo-Luddite movement. That's right, down with technology! So first steps first, let me put it out on my blog, tweet my friends, and oh yeah, gotta facebook that sucker....damn.

When was the last time you turned it all off? Tried living without the boob tube for a week? Put down, GASP!!!! the cell phone?! Clearly, as I'm blogging this, I may myself have a problem. But it amazes me that the principal increases in technology seem to be moving more and more to expose people to constant communication, and the end result is (once again, GASP....yeah...) mindless drivel.

Is my life so bad that I need four hours of TV a day, PS3, radio in my car, iPod at work, twenty-three text messages an hour, email, the web, a blog, a blackberry, and my cell phone to distract me from it? Do I really need the latest up to the minute news about the Jonas brothers' insulin pumps to maintain a social life?

How about you? Can you sleep at night without the radio or TV on? Does having the radio off in your car make you uncomfortable? How many times have you gotten in trouble at work for having a dead cell phone? Do you have a kid under 10 with his own computer? Cell phone?

What's particularly shocking to me, is the rapid rate at which technological bread and circuses are infiltrating our lives. Telegraph was early, how many decades to Marconi's radio? Then the first big TV event was the Olympics in Hitler's Berlin. Even when I was a kid, late seventies, early eighties, many people didn't own TVs. I think I have six. I'm not sure.

I can remember my first Commodore, the briefcase cell phones, the Atari, my first CD at age 16. Now it's something new every year. Social lives seem to have dwindled down to nothing. Offline anyways. And yet, with all the constant communication, education is dying in our nation. We have vast expanses of knowledge literally at our fingertips (god bless the wikipedia, the new library at Alexandria), yet remain incredibly ignorant. With the power to communicate to millions, what do we chose as our favorites on TV? American idol, Survivor, reruns of Jackass......well, you get the picture.

My old friend, Farenheit 451 starts with a quote essentially that you don't have to burn books if you can get people to stop reading them. Heinlein maintained that the downfall of any society could be directly correlated to a downfall in manners, and satirically, that those who chose to ignore politeness were worthy of instant mortality. (On a related topic, did you know that politeness comes from the old Greek word for city, polis. Polite in it's older form means someone who acts civilized, or belonging in a city, like policeman means man of the city.)

At any rate, I too am one of the great unwashed masses, with the same access to instant fame and fortune (clearly) as the rest of you. Screw it all. I'm joining the Amish. Pictures of the barnraising and my beard coming in will be posted on Myspace.

Yours truly,

NBS

(unless otherwise noted, this article was written on organic foolscap using a goosequill pin and iron gall ink. please note that no geese were harmed in the writing of this blog, and PETA members were on hand both to ensure no animal cruelty, and to provide their caps as noted above.)


Comments
on Jul 10, 2009

Society is changing. I read (from egyptologist and cultural theorist Jan Assmann) that the internet has resulted in a huge cultural revolution akin to the invention of bookprint by Jo Gutenberg in the 16th century. It changed the way we access and deal with information, how much we try to remember of it. If you're always able to look any information up with a few keystrokes, why remember at all? Maybe, if you want to have better students and schools, they should not be allowed to use computers in school at all or for homework, everything handwritten and looked upin a library.

Maybe Sokrates was right, reading and writing will be the downfall of education and society.. (see, now I am not 100% sure it actually was Sokrates, but hey, you can look it up yourself).

Alas, the quality of the media is bad (was going to the colloseum and watch ppl fight each other to the death that much better?) and being unable to live without communication tools is just a matter of conveniance. I don't have a TV (you should try it, you'll never want to have one ever again). For news I have a (hrm i wanted to use conscription but it is actually) subscription for a daily newspaper and of course the net, but I love reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee or two. It's not really the same when you stare into a monitor.

on Jul 11, 2009

There's a book by a guy called David Crystal called "How Language Works" (I don't know if Americans get Penguin classics but it's worthy buying if you can get it for a couple of bucks). He reckons that electronic communication is a completely new form of human communication, joining speech, body language and the printed word. He backs it up with plenty of research, but that's irrelevant - I just thought of it when reading what you have to say.

I think for a lot of people, myself included, the idea of unplugging is as unappealing as going deaf for a week. You lose a way of perceiving the world, even if it's not so sharply defined/essential as sight, smell, touch or sound.

And it's the world that you're perceiving. I can know what the cultural and political zeitgeist in the US is about right at this very moment just by reaching out through the intarwebs. You could probably even hook into a webcam of Times Square, although god only knows why you'd want to.

It can get a bit much, but I don't think it's the end of civilisation. It's just another level of sophistication on top of what we used to have, with its own unusual sense of social niceties or lack thereof. In my view, the world c2009 is more civilised in the sense of complexity than any that have come before.

I just wish the catchphrases were as well-sourced as polis-man and politeness.

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