South Park Self

transition, transmission

I've just run an ongoing orientation workshop, which entailed being in the venue early to set up data projectors and what have you. (We insert the usual ritual cursing aimed at my Cherished Institution's classroom "facilities" unit, which mostly facilitates frustration and despair). While I was waiting for the start of the session students were doing the usual student thing, which is to trickle in gradually (this process takes place from about ten minutes before the start of the lecture until about ten minutes after it's under way). I was struck, though, by the ongoing silence in the venue even as the numbers built. Surely students should be chatting to each other while they wait? They certainly have no problem chatting during the lecture itself.

And, of course, the answer is because almost every student is sitting in their seat in the modern attitude of techno-prayer, hands folded, head bowed, thumbs working busily as they send SMSes or read their email or whatever. It's visually quite a striking trend, looking up at the raked seats. Also, almost every student walks into the venue with their phone in their hand, presumably because they've been texting as they walk. Cellphones and their ilk have become communication and identity prosthetics, an integral part of both daily function and of self-construction. I am, because I text. Existence is only proven and affirmed in virtual space. And they say cyberspace isn't real. Hah.

I seem to have missed the cellphone thing, it's an occasionally handy tool rather than an integral part of my functioning, but I think the internet is absolutely a prosthetic self to me. I suspect I've never acquired the cellphone habit because both my work and my home paradigms are fairly sedentary - if I had the kind of job where I was more than ten metres away from my computer at any given time, I'd probably be giving my thumbs repetitive strain injury with the best of them. I become very, very twitchy if internet-deprived for more than a few hours.

But I mourn what we've lost, which is time. Time in the sense of extended focus, communication in anything other than bite-sized chunks. My students write increasingly terrible essays as the years go by, because you don't learn the skills of sustained argument and marshalling the logical flow of a large chunk of text by reading instant messages. And this is why they argue that blogging is dying, and maybe it is. No time, no attention to spare. TL;DR. All those words.

I like words, and I think they're happier in stupendous, horizon-filling herds.
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the internet is absolutely a prosthetic self to me ... I've never acquired the cellphone habit

Internet and mobile phones are essentially the same thing. Or are converging rapidly.

Edited at 2012-03-01 10:34 am (UTC)