Sunday, April 15, 2012

Digital divide?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project just released "Digital differences"--another look at who uses the internet, and who does not. While there remains a digital divide for economic reasons, a good number of folks could use it but do not "because they don’t think the internet is relevant to them."

This bothers some of the digiterati.

But I think the unconnected my be less disconnected than we think.

A few years ago, I spent a few Sunday (First Day) mornings at Quaker meetings. You sit, waiting in silence, to be moved by God, or if that makes you uncomfortable, call it wisdom.
Your brain fires too rapidly, too many thoughts and images of the week of the year blazing past.

After a time, you lose time, and, rarely, you lose self. (If you become aware you've lost self, you've lost your lost self and you're back in the walls of your ego. Those Quaker folk know what they're doing.)

The first few minutes, as I sunk away from my verbal universe,I'd stare through a large window at a large tree. A telephone line ran through it. I would try to guess how many bits of information could travel through that line in a second.

On a good day the question became nonsensical.
Everything you glean through a computer must be blown to bits first, then reconstructed. Everything is filtered by humans. Any sense of mystery, anything at all that cannot be reduced to bits, has been removed.

We're pretty good at it, this digitizing thing, because we've gone done fooled ourselves into what we think matters. Our visual cortex, our language centers, rule our world. We like to be stimulated.

Or so we think.

When we sense a threat, we need to do something.  It's this need, this desire, that kept your clan alive this far along in the game. (We're talking billions of years.) When we do something, we feel relief.

We spend much of our day seeking relief--buying tchotchkes, popping zits, taking that first sip of wine at the end of a "long day."

Very few things we seek on the internet add to our wisdom--someone has already done the thinking for us.
If you're on the internet for information, you've come to the right place. Just remember that every piece gleaned passed through a human filter.

The computer is the Eniac at U Penn, back in 1946. I think it's PD.


Unknown said...

I posted something on why we don't understand social media and only two people responded. Someone sent me an instant message that the post had made him squirm.

I cross-posted it on TeachPaperless. It was tweeted and retweeted, but no one left a comment.

It's a hard conversation that we need to have. It's uncomfortable. I'm discovering that the slightly sarcastic @johntspencer of #pencilchat lore is fairly popular, but the real John, the one who writes novels by hand first and who spends time in the garden and asks questions about the nature of technology, is much more uncomfortable to be around.

I like my human filter (books, blogs, art) in both the physical and the digital. But I also love playing catch, barefoot in the backyard or taking a sip of a hefeweizen or a decent IPA.

I can't make sense out of it all. My best friends are here in town, but I have a few folks that I regard as good friends as well and I wouldn't know these folks without technology. I've Skyped with them. I've met some in person.

I understand the desire to disconnect. It is, of all things, very bold and very relevant. But I love me some nuance in my life and tools in all their abstract glory are both incredibly human and deeply dehumanizing. I'll live in both places even if it is cognitive dissonance.

Aron said...

...and then you have holograms of dead rappers performing on stage. Yeah, we're good at digitizing.