Interconnection and Autonomy

a personal note

I have long disliked and had an intense aversion to telephone calls.  Like televisions transmitting in shared or public spaces, they present inescapable interruption and intrusion.  One could be in thought, repose, intimacy, conversation, activity — in fact, whatever one is about when one is not on the telephone – and then suddenly must react to a demand.  A call.  But WHO is calling?  WHY?  Why now?  When my attention is demanded through interruption or intrusion, my body anticipates emergency.

Disembodied conversation shifts the burden of dialogue to the voice.  Therefore the natural indicators for “I’m thinking…” or “give me a moment,” nods, smiles, frowns or gestures that flow in face-to-face interaction, offering wholistic responses, are all pressured onto the mind and voice – forcing incessant reports and the trickiness and difficulty of translating bodily experience into language.  I require time to listen, consider, and respond.  Movement.  Silence.  Whether it’s a simple invitation, business matter, question or request – it always emerges as demand on the telephone.  Respond to this NOW.  (public or shared-space televisions – SEE this NOW).  You cannot escape, select, regulate or direct such importunities.

Global Communication Technologies, – our networks, internetworks and their myriad machines and devices – have provided some enormous benefits toward expanding our social lives outside of limited demographics and cultures, opening realms of activities and artifacts, information and resources that in any other time-period we may never have known about or encountered.  As these technologies proliferate into internets of thingsubiquitous (or pervasive / invasive) computing, and manifest the inherently linked realities of our world…simultaneously providing ambient findability (all of these terms and phrases as easily interpreted as violence or intrusion as well as opportunities or boon).

I’ve long preferred face-to-face interaction (in spare doses, they are taxing & rewarding) and textual communications (obviously, but also texting, emails, postal correspondence), because in the F2F we are offered and allowed appropriate cues to follow and respond to one another, and in textual discourse we are allowed the time and distance to craft and dictate our translations of experience, messaging intentions, and terminological tones.

Of late, however, I have noted a convergence of Call-Anxiety and Pervasive-Communications.  And am wondering about our levels of autonomy (if there even is such a thing for the human) or self-direction, any amount of governance we might preserve over our lives and activities and choices in a world populated with linked devices?

How much of our days – work time, supposedly “personal”/private time, play time, labor time, interpersonal time, family time, meal-times, chore-times, reading times, creative times, necessity times, and so on…- are steered and directed, controlled and dictated by the consistent, persistent, pervasive and invasive thoroughfare of MESSAGES from OUTSIDE?  If we consult our devices upon waking – how often are that day’s events passively designed around what we receive?  If we respond to text vibrations / updates / posts / SMS or IMs / emails – how much are they eroding self-governance and discipline or choice and instead simply ANNOUNCING (demanding?) direction and response?

How many swerves do we make in our causeways of living by our over-saturation with “friends,” our communicative reach far beyond our communities, our global information system versus our local work offices or families or few (actual) friends?  There have been plenty of studies from nearly every field of inquiry reporting that our safe or thrivable social capacities are quite limited – most studies indicate humans do best in consistent contact with 30 or less others.  Proffering sufficient opportunities to know, understand, interact and relate.  Yet any given Facebooker or tweeter or snappy-chatter may have exponentially larger engagements nearly every minute of their lives.

How different would my relationships with co-workers,  children, family, friends, BE if we weren’t including thousands of others in remote places, professional connections throughout the world, images and language and emotional reports and happenstances flooding like telephone calls and tele-visions and noise into our domains, habitats, domiciles, studies?  What might i NOT buy if it weren’t so easy?  How differently might I know books, movies, music, animals, persons – if they weren’t in virtually infinite supply?Do we preserve moments of choice and connection, safe from Call-demands or Pervasive/Invasive-communication-technologies?  Or do we simply escape or take breaks from time to time?  Going for a walk or having a dinner, camping, hiking or traveling once in a while without our devices?  What would it be like to lose them?  What would we know?  What kinds of knowing would we produce?  What sorts of makings?   What might be drawn or composed, felt or engaged, seen or heard if we were DISconnected to the hive of activity and input? How might we relate to those around us?  Where might we go?  Who might we be?

Well, that’s what I’m thinking about.  Pondering.  Wondering.  Queries of value and quality and meaning.  Stress-levels, anxiety, physical wear of being “on alert,” alarm, reactive, responsive to ubiquitous “Calls.”  Demands.  Invasions.

What if we saved intrusions for emergencies?  Took time to send only specific, relational-oriented, relevant and appropriate information to one another?  Thought critically?  Reflected?  Looked, touched, listened, and managed more wholistic presence with our immediate surrounds?

I don’t know.  I’m just wondering.

[The lucky piece for us at present is that, like pulling the phone line from the wall, our technologies are remarkably easy to dismantle and turn OFF, should we CHOOSE to]

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7 thoughts on “Interconnection and Autonomy

  1. That’s an interesting perspective, my dear. I would imagine the entire societal lifestyle would be altered … and perhaps for the better.

  2. No matter who calls, or what their message/business is, they are interrupting – it is the very nature of the phone call. When I worked in a brick-and-mortar building and answering phones was one of my responsibilities, I always thought my obligation to be polite was most manifestly unfair.

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

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