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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“Machines alone have realized that sleep is no longer permitted”

Machine

“machines alone have realized that sleep is no longer permitted”

– W. G. Sebald –

I haven’t slept.

Sometimes, in a dream, it feels like “it occurs to me.”

Trying to create a lesson plan for graduate students in the College of Education, I want to tell them why internet research / database searching / source evaluation seems so complex.  I take a hammer, a wrench, a tomahawk.  I bring a plow, a harness, a sewing machine.  I show a steam engine, a telegraph.  I think about them.

Hold them.  Turn them about.  Consider what you can do with them (if you know how).  Surmise what you can do with them (if you don’t know how).  Lots of things.

Humans devise stuff in concord with their environment.  Stones to stumble on, to throw, to hunt with, to pound.  Sticks to slap, clack, burn, poke.  Maybe carve.  Maybe paint.  Maybe write.

What we devise have certain rules, operations, constraints.  Remember the first time you wielded a hammer?  Learned to turn a doorknob?  Fitted a screwdriver to screw?

There’s a learning curve.  Adaptation.  Practice.  Change.

Try archery.  A piano.  Knit something.

Simple tools.  Fire.  Rock.  Wood.

Mud.  Sand.  Clay.

Try them.

So we figure out things that might be done with them.  Things to do, make, say, or think.  Certain things are more efficient.  Certain ways.  Certain hows.

We practice and experiment.  Devise.

I am 45.  Until I was in my teens, my fingers had not touched a lettered keyboard.  In high school I had a class for typing (on manual typewriters).  As a pianist I excelled.  My homework depended on the legibility of my handwriting through graduate school.  By 1993 there were computers in the “typing room.”

You don’t have to know how to write now.

I watch the pencil or pen move along lined paper.  What do I have to know in order to do this?  How can I make the marks turn out like this?  Dexterity, control, care, effort.

Handwriting

Alphabetic literacy, knowledge, craft, semantics, semiotics, grammar and so forth…

Turn the hammer in your hand.  Tighten the wrench.  Use a pushpin. Take up a fork.  Operate a knife with steak.  Raise the glass.

“Tools,” perhaps, technologies – technics and techniques – with their own sets of rules for our cognizant bodies.

Pull out your phone.  A swipe, some taps, a certain way of holding.  Understanding icons, visual literacies, kinetic craft, operational knowledge.  Know-how.  Complex.  Astounding.  Dexterous.  Intelligent.  Think of all the things you need to know to work that small device.

We devise.

And then adapt.

Diagram the innards of a personal computer, a Smartphone, a tablet, a scanner.  Imagine the adaptation required to operate that machine.

SOC

Think networked information.  Big Data.  If all our images, texts, conversations, correspondences, budgets, ledgers, laws, entertainments, plans, designs, models, experiments, applications, programs, art…(and so on) are DIGITAL / digitized… then algorithm’d and interfaced, softwared and connected… NONE OF US KNOW WHAT IS THERE.

The machines to which we dump, turn-over, DEVISE, inform, enTRUST – the artifacts of our living – because it is too much – no ONE (person or institution) catalogs, lists, calculates, organizes, arranges, assigns – THE MACHINES MUST DO IT BECAUSE OF THE SCALE and PACE…

NOBODY KNOWS WHAT IS THERE

Stacked algorithms and protocols select relevancy and value; similarity and related; significance and import; primacy and rank.  We operate.  And barely.  How do we guess the coding of its imputing?  How do we wrangle the keywords?  Information coming from anywhere at anytime into any port…what are the techniques, dexterity, knowledge, grammars, semantics, decoding, crafts – analytics?? – (at least as complex as the machine we diagrammed – times powers of 10 for all the machines involved!!) in order to locate our NEED; QUALITY; ESSENTIAL…?

In other words – we turn over.  We devise these concords of things – and revise ourselves according to them.

Internet_map_1024.jpg

Internet map

You’re guess may be as good as mine.  What is in there, where it is, and how to access it.  We use a Smartphone for many more things (at once) than a hammer or pen – while we and it are being used by systems larger than any of us altogether.

Systems of devised systems – we have no hope of controlling.  NONE of us.  Nor all of us.  We are entangled: mutually dependent – and subordinate.  We DON’T KNOW.  We DON’T KNOW.  We don’t know.  We’re IN the weather completely.

This is rough, when you also have a propensity, passion, or interest to know.  Subordinating oneself to a system is hard with a developed desire for autonomy, freedom, liberty.  As far as I know, at the mercy of was not a Sapient evolutionary goal.  Yet here we are.

How shall we adapt to these devices?

How shall we then live?

Begging your patience at year’s end…

Who is Writing

The year’s end approaches.  Writing by hand grows slower.  In need of practice.  The ubiquitous milieu of technology.  A differing technology, and our relation to it.  Our co-evolution with it.  My father’s handwriting is beautiful.  Still.  Differentiation of the digital.  Digital purposes.  Digits accustoming to tapping, percussive, losing their ability to flow, to caress.  I squeeze this pen too tightly.  As if in fear of losing.

Embedded in each loss a gain, development, adaptation, transformation.  Slowness for speed.  Close- for hyper- (reading).  Ambiguity for binary.  Sloppy for distinct.  Mystery – machinic.  Unique for uniform.  Elegance to efficiency.  What is communication?

Interesting to me, easing my grip on the pen, recalling, desiring, hoping, [nostalgia]…

…it occurs to me:

Habitude.  For years, approaching the blank page [paper] – began with “in the beginning was the word…” an “as if,” as if the void, emptiness, blankness of pulped tree afforded emergence, ex nihilo, some everclear clean unknowing evolution out from inchoate.  Trace and track from complex disorder toward infinitely specifiable order.  Each session a composition of the new…

I am struck by the assumption.  Presupposition of potential: that ANYthing might blankly begin (already, like bicycling, shoulder-elbow-wrist-hand and its particular angles operating this ink-stick picking up pace, stretched and loosening, reaching stride).  Presumption of absence, emptiness, a universal glory of “From nothing: This.”  I create.

Happens no more.  Reviewing the increasingly sparse occasions (with age and responsibilities) I am able to operate with technologies of paper, pen and hand-i-writing over the past few years of employment, reading, writing, parenting and relationship…the fundamental (as in foundational, originary) manner of approach…to composition, inception, expectation, hope and desire…is significantly altered.

The fidelity to languaging remains.  That belief, commitment, conviction and trust that ordering the disordered – shaping absence, mattering energy – still transacts secrets into reveals, fabricates meanings of mysteries, is an activity of arbitrary author-ing/-ity; that experiencing’s a processing of signs, of signaling and symbol – that invention, discovery and behavior = complex activities/adaptations of interactive dynamic systems interlocking at multiple scales – inexplicable, indecipherable, far beyond observation or comprehension – and that action or activity actualizes SOMEthing = something unknown, unforeseen, “free” or “new” or potential simply via the inter-, intra- activity of operationalizing with an environment – IN it, part and particle, (that all ‘moments’ eventuate this)…and yet,

There is difference.  Cermonializing, greeting, risking the activity of encountering, engaging, marking a blank page (against death, in hopes of being, realizing desires, imagining, etc.) no longer invokes “In the beginning…” or “word…” somewhere/sometime along the living this transmuted into “Who is writing – ?”

Space-time carved, empty notepad placed, pen inked and ready, and only the sensation, the amorphous geography of a question emanates – Who is writing here now?

No more an assumption that Someone prepares to express, incise, inscribe.  No more presumption that given the space and the time “I” am an entity full of content waiting for production.  No more Someone with Something to process, work out, or to say…

Simply – “Who is this coming to write?”

And any word will do.  Any mark.  But not just ANY word (although also that) – whatever word(s) come to occur between the living – the instrument – the surface – and said ACTIVITY, INTERACTION, RELATION becomes its own answering.

In the “opening” – questioning and answering are one and the same: RESPONSE and ABILITY.

Writing, a certain sort of what might be culturally convened ‘creative writing’ – for me has become a constituting behavior/action of RESPONS-ABILITY.  Given the temporary knot of my organism-in-its-environment or context…what inscribes here represents my ability to respond within it, at this time.

Who is this writing? replies in the writing, and also takes shape as a Who in the writing.  In A beginning (inception of a specific way of acting) is neither Word nor Who but a bothness occurring in its occurrence…

Who is this writing?

Who is Writing2.JPG

“When I write I escape myself, I uproot myself, I am a virgin; I leave from within my own house and I don’t return.  The moment I pick up  my pen – magical gesture – I forget all the people I love; an hour later they are not born and I have never known them.  Yet we do return.  But for the duration of the journey we are killers.  (Not only when we write, when we read too.  Writing and reading are not separate, reading is a part of writing.  A real reader is a writer.  A real reader is already on the way to writing.)”

-Helene Cixous-