Here Thar Be Monsters!

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22.3.12

Into The Great Narrow Closed

sunburnt saddles slipping
the paling dome
Zeus Horus evermind
the droning act of war

the shrinking mile
a fading smile
forever like a headline
severance like reunion
Chronus takes his place
-- from waste by B. Grover

This being Indonesia and all, last evening the power went out for several hours, and when it came back, our local IP took yet another couple of hours to come back up.

You'd think my wife and daughter had just had their hearts plucked out and held in front of them, still beating.

All the 'Berries and 'Pods and 'Books stopped working.  They were cut off from their entire social realm.  We're talking about two people who send BBM to each other at the dinner table.  They were jonesing like two smackheads who had just learned that poppies had become extinct.

It seems that people have forgotten the fine art of communication in the midst of a vast ocean of channels and media.  Any more, folks just don't know what to do with themselves if the toys stop working.

These days, people know someone living thousands of miles away better than the person living next door.  In some cases, we are not even aware of the people next door.  On the one hand, this is a wonderous thing, but on the other, it is alienating people in unimaginable ways.

Back in the days when I was matriculating at the University of Houston, a young and idealistic media major (though at the time is was still RTF), we oohed and ahhed over the early developments in things like tele-text, 1/2-inch magnetic tape and broadcast-quality cameras with on-board recorders.

A couple of years after I graduated, I was using the very first Mozilla browser, which eventually became Netscape, on the first backbone in Texas at the Houston Medical Center.  I was using a robotic camera designed by Sky-Cam to record surgeries for medical education.

About that time, the first real Motorola cell phones were coming out.  Only certain areas of town had cells, so they were kind of spotty, but they were far more chic than the ubiquitous pagers or the old radio phones in a briefcase.

Still, people were talking to each other and socializing.  Though the gee-gaws were growing in popularity, people hadn't yet lost themselves in a virtual world of mindless chatter.  That part was still confined to late night at the computer using Compuserve and AOL.  It was a time when people were coming to work the next day bleary-eyed and chatted out.

Then came the PDAs.  A few of my technerati friends bought in immediately.  They used the infamous Windows ME and you could carry your files around with you without those damn floppies and Zip disks.  Artists always used Zip because our files were just too big for those passe floppies.

Then those damn BlackBerries started appearing.  The first one I ever saw in the wild belonged to a Hollywood producer, who took every opportunity to whip it out and appear very busy and in demand.  He could snap a photo of a potential victim, I mean actress, and send it instantly to his partner in crime, I mean casting agent, in Burbank.  Everyone stood around trying to appear blase while trying to catch a glance of the new toy.

The other day, a friend here in Jakarta sent me an SMS asking if I had a BlackBerry.  I responded that, no, I just have a GreenBerry...a cheap Nokia that sends messages and makes calls.  I have no use for the Swiss army knife of communications.  I'm one of those weirdos who won't answer the phone when I'm in a social setting.  Someone in front of me is far more important than someone on the other side of the planet wanting to know what I'm doing.

I laugh myself to tears when I'm out on the town and see a group of folks gathered at a pub or restaurant, and they are all busily thumbing their devices, rather than talking to each other.  What's the point?  Why not just stay home and do the same thing.  One can hardly call these group telephonies social events.  No one is talking!

Whenever I get an SMS from someone asking, "What are you doing?"  My typical response is, "Writing to you."  They usually come back with, "I though you were..."  To which I say, "I was until you interrupted me."

I hate phones, really.  And the more they do, the more I hate them.  Granted, it is way cool that I can contact someone instantly anywhere on the planet, when I need to.  But to twit [sic] my every bowel movement to a waiting world just doesn't inpire me.

Suppose people put substantive communications out there.  They wouldn't twit or fob or beebee unless they had a profound thought, or snapped a beautiful sunset, and witnessed a newsworthy event?  Suppose we created a new economy where people got electronic chits based on the value and creativity of their inputs?  Suppose people reserved their slash-dots for private moments, like toilet functions, rather than ignoring those of us sitting with them?

Remember when people used to go into phone boxes to conduct their conversations in private?  Remember when it was considered rude to talk to people who weren't sitting directly in front of you?  Remember the early days of cell phones when people would excuse themselves and go outside if they had to take a call?

Evolution gave us senses to perceive the larger Universe and memories to preserve special events.  We are now reversing millions of years of development.  We are sealing ourselves off in a virtual world that no one else can perceive and share.  Our memories have been reduced to USB cards.

Any more, artists aren't people who perceive connections where others didn't.  Now they are nothing more than people who just use their senses without electronic enhancement.

Language is devolving to a series of abbreviations without adjectives or adverbs.  Not just English, mind you, but all languages.  You are more likely to see, "Wh r u dng?", then a prose description of some immediate experience.

Already, Googleglasses are showing up.  Now people can walk around in a complete digital haze, so busy watching their HUDs that they completely forgot to experience the real world through which they are sleep-walking.

Just for fun, if I'm sitting with a group of people absorbed in their techno-fogs, I'll do something like, "Holy Shit!  Did you see THAT?!"  Everyone looks up and around saying, "What?  What?"  I just say, "Never mind, it's over now."

Most people just fade back into their techno-fogs, but occasionally someone gets it.  They put down the gadgets and start talking.

Imagine that...we were actually born with communication devices that don't need charging, can encode and decode complex signals automatically, can be enhanced with applets through learning, and even a wireless internet, if we are willing to use it.

Or you can get a vibrating Nokia tatoo so you're never out of touch with your phone.

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