From Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other to tech writer Paul Miller’s experiment of going offline for an entire year, much has been written about how the Internet is potentially warping our brains. So, I found it refreshing to read Helena Fitzgerald’s recent piece in The New Inquiry, which argues that our current primary forms of communication – texting, Gchat, email, Twitter, blogging – are forging (or re-establishing) a new relationship with the written word:
Internet socialization is far closer to a 19th century mode of intimacy than to a dystopian future of tragically disconnected robot prostitutes. There’s a Jane Austen-ish quality to online social life. The written word gains unmatched power and inarguable primacy.
Whether we’re sending long-form letters to one another or chatting face to face with friends, storytelling is key, according to Jag Bhalla writing for Scientific American:
Any story we tell of our species, any science of human nature, that leaves out much of what and how we feel is false. Nature shaped us to be ultra-social, and hence to be sharply attentive to character and plot. We are adapted to physiologically interact with stories.
Finally, Discovery News reports that there are 23 words that may date back 15,000 years. Here’s a hat-tip to David Weinberger, whose link to this article poetically ties together these ancient words with our modern technology:
15K-yr-old words: thou I not that we give who this man ye old mother hear hand fire pull black flow ashes spit worm reddit.com/r/science/comm…
— David Weinberger (@dweinberger) May 7, 2013
- Intimacy as Text; Twitter as Toungue [The New Inquiry]
- It Is In Our Nature to Need Stories [Scientific American]
- 15,000-Year-Old Words? [Discovery News]
So I was thinking that perhaps it was the phone’s fault for me being online all the time. Then I remembered I was one of about five people that used to stay in the college computer lab – yeah I’m that old – until 4am almost every night.
I was definitely one of the few people on IRC at the time. Anyone out there ever dwell in #altpunk circa 1993? If you did, message me and I’ll tell you my somewhat embarrassing username – my first username!
I’m kicking myself I didn’t end up a coder or developer or something. I took a one-off course in computer science my sophomore year of college. I taught my professor and the students in my course how to go online and use EMAIL. I tried to teach my boyfriend, who was leaving spring semester for Buenos Aires, how to email me while he was away. There was nary an Internet cafe in the Palermo neighborhood of BA in 1994 Argentina. So that semester, the only thing that took me away from the computer lab was the one week I hopped in a band bus post-concert and ended up in Atlanta five days later. Everybody’s gotta have a spring break!
I miss those early days of the Internet, especially because I knew they had such promise but also because I could envision a future that all the technology I was digging would be easier for others to use. I wish I’d envisioned what we have now (except maybe with fewer animated gifs). I wish I would’ve taken another computer course (and another) and had the guts to switch majors. Or at least minors. A minor in German? WTF?
So yeah, I’m the same age as Marissa Mayer and I kind of want to throw up. But I can’t help but cheer her on because she came of age in the same computer age as I did. We have inhabited roughly the same span of time.