Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Disconnected connectedness

NPR had a nice interview yesterday with the author of Hamlet's BlackBerry, William Powers. In the interview, Powers talks about how several information upgrades in recent history (Roman cities and papyrus, the printing press, and now the internet), and how, always, society struggles to cope.

Photo by YlvaS
Academics are of course no exception to feeling overloaded. I am presently at a conference, and yesterday chatted with a friend. She said she struggles with staying present in life. Even while we were outside walking in a beautifully wooded area, she said she is always thinking of the next project, the next paper, etc.

This seems like a terribly stressful way to live.

Powers discusses ways in which his family has "offline time" on weekends, where they spend the entire time with each other instead of computing. Most people I know also seem to have developed certain rules for managing their technology. Like, "I don't use instant messenger at work", "I only check email after 6pm.", etc. This is certainly how I manage things, but perhaps due to occupational hazard I am more used to technology than most, and thus it's easier for me to ignore it.

The trick, I think, is to manage things in such a way that you can attend to the important things (i.e., your co-author needs your feedback by tomorrow), and disregard the unimportant things (i.e., the latest old spice guy video). Sadly all this technology is designed to trick our sensation-seeking brains into thinking every piece of information we receive is equally important, and sets it off into fire-fighting mode every time it dings/flashes/buzzes.

Speaking of which, back to meatspace...

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