Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Msg. in a bttl." : from Shorthand to Quicksand

In all my recent thinking about technology's pathetic aesthetics (ha ha), I come across this article by Simon Dimenco. I like his call-it-like-it-is analysis of my (relatively new) discovery of "journaling in the commons;" aka: blogging. Thanks to everyone who has emailed me and let me know in person that they have enjoyed my blog: You know who you are!

Here is an excerpt from the essay:

"And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing -- writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology. Even though I tend to first use Microsoft Word on the way to being published, I am not, say, a Worder or Wordder. It’s just software, people! The underlying creative/media function remains exactly the same."

This makes sense to me. Media is simply the way we house our experience. We bring life to our ideas through words, that is how language functions, by defining the realm of sharing. Words enjoy the great priviledge of holding our ideas, of storing, as if in antique iron clasped jam-jars, the colourful and rich and fermenting conconctions of the years. So then does it matter how it is shared? This is something I think about a lot. How is the content of our speech affected through the different ways we choose to convey it? Which is of greater value: the message in a bottle, yellowed with sun and seawater, or the "cu2nite" I scan on my phone while shopping for potluck goodies? The above quote seems to suggest that the two are equal; at the very least it hints at the neutrality of media. It doesn't matter then how one goes about disseminating information, whether at the public square, as did Jesus and the Apostle Paul, or via this new "virtual" commons, as does Gordon Atkinson. It seems to say that the meat of the message is not in the vehicle used to bring it to life (the medium). It seems to say that technology in the form of publishing programs and software is only the great beast we ride into victory, neither to hasten nor impede.

Then again, sometimes I agree with Marshall McLuhan, that the medium IS the message itself, not just its temporary skin. Sometimes the manner in which I receive information, or love, or friendship, or counsel, actually matters. Go figure. I could learn that over the counter sipping tea with my roommate, or I could learn it from Oprah. Maybe it doesn't matter. Then again, maybe it does. But I'm not the only one asking these questions, am I?

I don't have the answers to this dilemma, hence the continued posting. I have this love-hate relationship with technology: long-sensitized to the innovations of the past (which were at the time of their introduction, equally jarring), but resisting those of the future. It's hypocrisy. If I can accept knives and bowls and pen, then I can accept iPods and Blackberries. Moreover, advancements in electronic media have made many things possible in my life: they have allowed me to maintain friendships, cultivate new ones, and discover things that I never would have otherwise come across. There are flip-sides to these perks however, dark sides if you will: have my real friendships of yesterday faded into false pursuit? Have we built simulations of communities to somehow combat our isolation from one another? Have we grown so bored with the journey of seeking that we've become ravenous for more and more and more? What has happened to the notion of too much information?

It's easy to say "it's not the tools themselves it's how you use them." But I often wonder if that's too optimistic a position, given our depravity. How have we used guns and steel? Not for any coffeetables I've seen. But the only alternative is rather pessimistic, that we are clay in the hands of our own creations. I don't know which I prefer. Even as I write this, I can see my own naivete glaring back at me like this lifeless computer screen. I wonder how this would've come out different in my little beat-up journal . . .

This post was my Frankenstein. Ahhhhhhhhhhh, he's chasing me down!

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