06 June 2010

Only (dis)connect

In comment on the article to which my "Only connect" post links, Dr C says:

I have been wondering lately some things, reflected in what you say in your article, whether someone who has been carried along by the flood (e.g. texting, Facebook, iPhone, GPS location, implantable chip) can't voluntarily turn the other way. Do a sort of Thoreau maneuver and walk away from it all. I feel actually chained to my cell phone and I am expected to be there, one heartbeat away from an anxious parent. I don't really mind it but I can't imagine all of society barreling down the road with our every action, every movement, analyzed by someone in Washington, London or Paris (actually in Bangladesh).

Removing my scientist's hat (UFO shaped, in a padded fluorescent orange synthetic satin, carrying the words "Kiss me quick, Igor") and replacing it with my vigilant citizen headgear (a frayed and sunbleached beanie, with floral hippy insert) ... this is something that concerns me, too.

The answer, I think, is that (as with almost any aspect of social organisation) one cannot easily walk away from the ICT revolution as a whole and still remain connected to the main of society as a whole ... but one can pick and choose amongst its manifestations to a considerable extent.

I have indicated before my lack of personal enthusiasm for sites of the FaceBook variety (and an alternative approach to the same requirements). On the other hand, here I am making use of another online strand – the blog – and I am an enthusiastic exponent of wikis for many particular purposes. The thing is, in my view, to decide what serves your needs and what makes you serve it ... embrace the first, shun the second, and be aware that the distinction will be different for each person who asks the question.

In his third sentence (“...cell phone ... one heartbeat away from an anxious parent”) Dr C says, in my opinion, more about himself than about the technology. A warm and compassionate person, with a strong professional conscience, he feels that a device which makes him more available to a concerned parent must be used to do just that. My own cell phone, by contrast, is a vital component of my life but spends most of its time "on silent", taking messages which I check regularly but to which I respond when convenient (hmmm ... it suddenly occurs to me that perhaps I have painted myself into a corner here ... perhaps I am, also by contrast with Dr C, a cold and unfeeling...)

About a decade and a half ago, commenting on exactly this, I used the metaphor of “a free fall parachutist, compelled to fall downward but riding tiny variations to a choice of the available landing points”. It still seems to me, after all this time, a reasonable description of what needs to be done.

No comments: