Saturday, November 30, 2013

Having online presence




In terms of presence, I think nothing can be better than just sitting at a cafe with a friend-- sipping a coffee or tea, and talking, sharing ideas, talking about books that you're reading, projects planned or abandoned, the future, the past.  Or going out walking or hiking, stopping for a sandwich or to get a drink of water, observing things, recalling memories, making connections...

But now we have this 'online' kind of presence. A very strange, mediated kind of representation of selfhood. When I began this blog, I knew I was opening myself up to a new form of vulnerability, kind of like publishing one's own diary.  Sometimes I'll be speaking with a friend and they'll allude to something I've written in this blog without telling me that they've read it. That always gives me an odd feeling. It's just reached3000 views,  and while I try to edit my own views out of the count, that means well over 2000 views from others.  Lots of views from other countries. At first, there were almost just as many views from Russia as there was from the U.S.. Lately Russia doesn't seem so interested, but China has picked up. For a while there was a view just about every day from Germany. But I know that the statistics are not accurate at all. It's just what the algorithms choose to count or discount.  While it's flattering to know that a few people are looking at this blog I've only had a handful of comments.

This just takes me back to Diderot's Encyclopedia.... What a wonderful thing it would be to have someone bring some of these mysteries to the fore. Perhaps a programmer with a deeper historical awareness. Someone to let us know: just what exactly is going on here?  I think about a line from Shakespeare quite a lot, something like "Alas there is no art to discern the heart from the visage." There is certainly no art in discerning truth from a computer screen, because there's no truth to be found there. No art + no truth = no fun. I look around at the books on my bookshelf and the ones that I value the most were almost all found by browsing through a library, bookstore, were handed to me by a friend, or a friend told me about them.

There is almost a kind of terror that seems to creep up in people when someone begins to critique technology. It's the new heresy.  In the talk last year at the Beacon Center that was promisingly titled "The End of Technology," the science writer John Horgan concluded his talk with the statement: "People need to make demands upon technology." But what does that mean?