Tag Archives: Social media

Technology versus serendipity

Google announces Project Glass:

Like Sherry Turkle, Bob Mondello, and Pico Iyer, Linda Holmes is pushing back against our increasingly “all tech, all virtual, all the time” society:

Convenience is one thing, but I’m not looking for technology to reduce risk to the point where nothing can ever happen to me except the things I’ve already thought of.

Inefficiency exists for a reason. I don’t want to know before I leave exactly when to arrive somewhere so that I don’t have to stand in line, because when I stand in line, I might talk to people. I might take three minutes and think about nothing at all. I might actually look around. […]

There is a weird sense in which this technology treats everything unintended as if it is unwelcome: It is fundamentally opposed to the idea of figuring anything out for yourself. It advances the notion that we are entitled to a noncorporeal, completely nonpersonal presence we talk to like a person (“Where’s the music section?”) so we don’t have to expend the mental energy to suffer the indignity and inconvenience of potentially taking a wrong turn in a bookstore. We’re not talking here about turn-by-turn navigation that keeps you from heading for Boston and winding up in Charlotte. We’re talking about stamping out every trace of inefficiency in pursuit of a life where every right turn that would most directly have been a left becomes a problem to be solved. […]

I’m not sure I intend to have a life that’s quite as frictionless as Project Glass envisions. I don’t mind getting lost, and I don’t mind messing up, and I don’t mind walking into the business section instead of the music section, even if it does turn out to be a lot of how-to books by guys with big teeth. I’m not looking for the end of unpredictability.

Yes.

Read the rest here.

Update: YouTuber rebelliouspixels — who’s probably right — thinks Google’s goggles will end up more like this.

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“Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved”

Psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle expresses perfectly some of the qualms I have about our plugged-in, always-online, invasively interconnected lives:

The transcript is worth quoting at length (boldface mine):

We expect more from technology and less from each other. And I ask myself, “Why have things come to this?”

And I believe it’s because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. But we’re not so comfortable. We are not so much in control.

These days, those phones in our pockets are changing our minds and hearts because they offer us three gratifying fantasies. One, that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; two, that we will always be heard; and three, that we will never have to be alone. And that third idea, that we will never have to be alone, is central to changing our psyches. Because the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device. Just think of people at a checkout line or at a red light. Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And so people try to solve it by connecting. But here, connection is more like a symptom than a cure. It expresses, but it doesn’t solve, an underlying problem. But more than a symptom, constant connection is changing the way people think of themselves. It’s shaping a new way of being.

The best way to describe it is, I share therefore I am. We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings even as we’re having them. So before it was: I have a feeling, I want to make a call. Now it’s: I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text. The problem with this new regime of “I share therefore I am” is that, if we don’t have connection, we don’t feel like ourselves. We almost don’t feel ourselves. So what do we do? We connect more and more. But in the process, we set ourselves up to be isolated.

How do you get from isolation to connection? You end up isolated if you don’t cultivate the capacity for solitude, the ability to be separate, to gather yourself. Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don’t have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive. When this happens, we’re not able to appreciate who they are. It’s as though we’re using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self. We slip into thinking that always being connected is going to make us feel less alone. But we’re at risk, because actually it’s the opposite that’s true. If we’re not able to be alone, we’re going to be more lonely. And if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they’re only going to know how to be lonely.

There’s much more, and the whole video is worth watching. And this seems like an apt place to point out that Kate Bush saw this coming:

A previous post on solitude and the need to unplug here. And I’ve also previously mentioned Bob Mondello’s provocative post on E.M. Forster’s prescient science fiction story “The Machine Stops,” which is worth reading here.

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People, not technology, will make us free

Previously I expressed my doubts that social media was the all-important spark of revolution in Egypt that it’s been made out to be, and cited Frank Rich’s and Malcolm Gladwell’s comments for support. But Andrew Sullivan makes a compelling counterargument: Continue reading

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“The heroes are the ones in the streets”

It’s impossible to watch this now-famous interview with Wael Ghonim — the Google executive who was imprisoned for 12 days for helping organize the Egyptian protests via Facebook — without being powerfully moved by his courage, his convictions, his love of country, his anger and his grief. Here’s the conclusion to the interview:

The full interview, with subtitles, is here, and worth watching. You can also check out alternate (and perhaps more coherent) translations of Part 1 and Part 2.

Some thoughts: Continue reading

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