Friday, July 16, 2010

Down the rabbit hole....

Beautiful July morning--I picked some purple beans with hues so deep and warm I wandered back to childhood. My fingers slipped through the vines knew what to do. There is unspeakable pleasure when we do what we are designed to do.

The first tomatoes are ripe now--tumescent with life. Four months ago they were tiny tufts of seeds I tucked into peat moss. My fingers knew what to do.

On mornings like this, one should avoid finiteness. The world holds wonderful and infinite complexity.

Alas, I'm an idiot, and logged into the internet.


I've given up Twitter before, and may give it up a few dozen times before I get it right. I follow teachie/techie type folks, and learn a lot. Today, perhaps, I learned my most important lesson. This was not it:
To folks who scream they don’t want private lives online:
Maybe you should just try to be a better person.

I am pretty much the same online as off. My Twitter account is "M_K_Doyle," not exactly a pseudonym. I stimulate annoy folks pretty much wherever my words take me. And I scream a lot. About just that....

I immediately let all 7 folks who follow me that I found that tweet scary. I tracked it down to Bud the Teacher, a marvelous edublogger. He clarifies his position a tad, but he's still scary.

And I think my public persona,
person I am at work and in the world,
be it the store, or church, or at the park or anywhere else, should be the same public persona online.

Here’s the problem, and where modeling matters. We have multiple levels of intimacy/behavior in different settings.

What I say to a colleague in an elevator may be different than what I say to her in a pew, both public spaces by Hunt's example. The database searching capabilities have smashed our online personae into an extremely public figure–one with a megaphone screaming at anyone who cares to listen.

Part of becoming an adult is learning situational awareness. Lumping our online persona into some common public space sounds great, but there is no single layer of “public” in our real lives. (It’s like “global awareness,” another impossible task that sounds so cool.)


Today I saw this: "10 Reasons to Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life" on the Harvard Business Review blog, by Alexandra Samuel, a social media expert:

In our online lives we shake off the limitations of our physical selves, perhaps even our names and consciences, too. What remains are the fundamentals: human beings, human conversations, human communities. To say that "reality" includes only offline beings, offline conversations and offline communities is to say that face-to-face matters more than human-to-human.

I keep hoping to see "America's finest news source, The Onion" at the bottom, maybe the Harvard Lampoon.

My conscience, my name, my physical self is all human. The slight resistance feel as I pull a ripe tomato off the vine, its sensuousness as it rests alive in my palm, is part of who I am.

Face to face evoke all kinds of humanness, not all visual. My neighbor's aromas just beneath our consciousness, his growly gut, the preliminary hug or handshake--all involve a complexity and richness online cannot capture.

There is more complexity in a spoonful of the soil around my tomato plant that can be found on the whole of internet. We kid ourselves when we float on the web, amusing ourselves like bored kids throwing rocks at windows, passing time until we die.

Because we all die. Even if our web personae live on and on....


The Science Goddess said...

The problem with being the "same" everywhere is that you lose the ability to be personal. You succumb to groupthink because you care more about how you are perceived than what you truly stand for. They confuse being authentic with being robotic.

The perception of others is not my problem. If someone doesn't like what I write, they don't have to read it. If they don't like what they see in my "digital footprint," they can hang out with someone else. I should not have to conform to suit them. And, it is not my responsibility to please everyone else.

What richer conversations we could have if everyone was willing to connect as a person and not a persona.

Anonymous said...

I've never really thought of Bud as a persona. He has always been a person to me.

doyle said...

Dear Science Goddess,

I think I agree with you, but let me check out #doweallagreewiththis on Twitter first....

I don't worry a whole lot about perception, either, but (and it's a big but), folks who care can shut me out of things I like to do (such as teach for a living) for nonsense.

"Whoa! He used the word 'tumescent'--on his education blog!"

And I agree--"persona"'s one of those words....I was riffing off the post.

Dear aredden,

No doubt--I was riffing off Bud's words.

Sue VanHattum said...

On tomatoes: A few days ago, on Monday, I was in Michigan with my parents, and picked 3 large green tomatoes from their garden, so they could make me their amazing fried green tomatoes. They watched tv as we ate those succulent masterpieces.

The next day I flew home to California. My house-sitter had done a great job watering the garden, and my tomato plants are spreading their limbs. Lots of flowers, and a few tiny fruit, but nothing close to pickable yet.

On the internet:
I am not much tempted by Twitter. My colleagues in the math ed blogosphere find it valuable, so I check it out once in a while. I never quite get it.

But I read over a hundred blogs, and it sucks up a lot of time. I'm working on a book, and the internet has made it possible, so those are work hours. When I'm done, and the book is published, I'll still have to publicize it online for a while. But I'll figure out a sensible time to cut back, and I'll pare it down dramatically. (I'll still be reading you,Michael, if you're still writing.)

John Spencer said...

On Tomatoes:
We're pulling 10-20 tomatoes every day right now. Yesterday the boys helped me make pizza sauce with it.

On Internet:
I'm pretty transparent in "who I am" but every environment has a different context - one forged by the semantic environment (I stole that from Neil Postman), cultural layers (think "thick description" of Geertz), social norms, power structures, rituals, etc. What makes the internet confusing is the clashing of these environments.

Twitter is especially difficult. Sometimes it feels a bit like a chattering party and I'm a wallflower. Other times it feels like a quick way to connect with folks I enjoy.

The language often clashes (in terms of semantic environment), the culture is layered by geographic distance and the medium itself seems to have a superficiality to it.

It makes it all both interesting and confusing at the same time.

doyle said...

Dear Sue,

Could you send the recipe? I'd like to try it!

Twitter is a (mostly) pointless timesuck--you can glean the information from blogs if you can stand to wait the 2 or 3 days (hours? minutes?) anything worthwhile on Twitter hits the blogosphere. =)

If I should get off the electronic bottle, I will still continue to write. I'd write, I think, even if I were the only one left on Earth (and maybe especially then). Can't wait to see your book!

Dear John,

(Pssst....speaking of books. Any more coming down from the Spencer Turnpike?)

"Semantic environment" is a great term! A few of us in medicine cussed like sailors. The medical records area was generally safe, until we moved the charts too close to the patient waiting area--hard to unlearn situational spaces.

And if tomatoes are not evidence of a higher something (or at least evidence that humans will never really have a clue what's going on), I don't know what is.

John Spencer said...

My friend Javi and I are working on doing a re-write (with some original material) of the Pencil Integration blog. We're thinking of calling it "Pencil Me In." I'm thinking it might be too for out there to be published, but we're actually going to send it out to some publishers and see if we get anyone to take it. If not, we'll go the self-publishing route.

I have another work of fiction in the back of my mind and I've toyed with the idea of "Tutored by Toddlers" or turning "Ditch That Word" into more of a narrative.

doyle said...

Dear John,

Well, I will add it to my library when it's done.

My original Spencer works will be worth millions in a generation or two--if they survive the constant re-reading.