Computing Our Selves

I sometimes wonder how technology has transformed our development and everyday lives. For instance, the generation preceding mine grew up utilizing typewriters or just writing by hand; I grew up writing on a computer. Even that little difference is quite monumental, when you think about it. With computers, we can backspace. We can mouse up a paragraph earlier and revise a whole sentence in the space of a few seconds. We can spellcheck and autocorrect. We don’t have to worry about typing precisely, accurately, and with correct grammar and spelling as we type. This must affect not only the flow of our written language, but even, perhaps, our very processing of thought. Writers like Faulkner perhaps derived their drunken ecstatic run-on sentencing from the creative flow that was generated by the sense of forging onward on a typewriter, with no turning back.

I think written language on a computer is in some sense more loose, immediate, and both more improvised and edited. Of course, you can write any way you want on a keyboard. But when you have the option of re-editing everything you’ve just written, even as you write it, in any way possible with no consequences, and you can continuously save it as you go along, then I’m sure that that must in some way change the overall manner with which everyone approaches their writing.

Taking this idea further, think of how computers have affected memory. We maybe have 3 or 4 photos of our grandparents or parents when they were kids. Now we have whole harddrive disks worth of videos and pictures of our children. They are well documented. They have websites. People oggle over their niece and nephews on YouTube. Think of how this will change how these children perceive themselves: perhaps they will have a stronger sense of identity. They will have their memories enhanced with footage and soundbytes.

Furthermore, our memories are enhanced with blogging and email. I personally utilize this blog not only for the purpose of catharsis, fostering a sense of connection with my greater community and with myself, but furthermore to remember. I have a terrible memory. But now I have a reference point for my emotional, creative, political, and philosophical developments. I can scroll backwards through time and see where I was at 5 years ago and compare it to where I’m at now.

Our relationships are also enhanced by computing. We can have immediate updates on our friends, families, and random acquaintances (sometimes with much more information than we need to know). You can find out that your friend in Peru just barfed on a street corner an hour ago on her birthday from your Facebook account. You check up on your friend Manderson on his blog and see that he’s in NYC and looking desperately for a job. You can IM some random girl from high school that you don’t even remember that found you on MySpace and ask how her experience in grad school is. Our intimate personal lives are now catalogued on Google search. We connect to each other through cellphones, videoconferencing, Skype, and all the other assorted candies of the technology spectrum. Our grandmothers are talking to us over the computer. Our grandfathers are buying collector’s rifles on-line and chatting with other old farts about them on discussion boards. Our dads are checking their Hotmail 24/7. Our children are looking up porn and playing video games. It’s one big happy interconnected networking family.

And video games: that’s another thing to consider. Perhaps this phenomena of “ADD” is really just a reflection of the different development that is occurring due to all the new stimuli of our technology. Maybe it’s not a disorder, it’s just multi-tasking in our brains so well that we can no longer learn via conventional, non-technological means. I don’t know. Discuss amongst yourselves.


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

2 thoughts on “Computing Our Selves”

  1. Your last paragraph about ADD…remember!? We talked about that—how it may be just because there’s too much stimuli.

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