How has the computer changed you?
For some time now there have been studies done and many articles written about the effect that computers have had on the users of them. One of the more noted was, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" from 2008 in the Atlantic Magazine. In it the author, Nicholas Carr, begins with an admission: "Over the past few years Iíve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isnít goingóso far as I can tellóbut itís changing. Iím not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when Iím reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and Iíd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. Thatís rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if Iím always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle."
When I read that the first time I have to admit that there was something familiar about it. I can't say that I've experienced an extensive reprogramming but with time I did notice some changes. I can still effectively concentrate on something when necessary but it seems in a different mode
than what it used to be.
Personally, I've been "computing" since around the mid 90's, not to any great extent at that time but I was beginning to get the feel of it with the pc's of others and those at libraries. I got my my first "full-time" computer in 2000. In the beginning I "surfed" wherever the electronic waves would take me. Bulletin boards, chat rooms and the early forums were the social media of the day. I also began to learn html and then around 2003 is when I began considering making a web page of some sort. The results were some blogs, a couple of forums, and an arts and writers magazine which ran for 4 and half years.
All of that came to a relative
halt around 2009-10 when for away-from-the-keys reasons I had to review many aspects of my personal circumstances. While I could have continued with my computer endeavors, what I opted for was a "vacation" away from the keys. I didn't renew the hosting account and for around 9 months the computer was basically a library, word processor and canvas for various art things. Thus you can see what I meant by "relative" halt. But it was enough to reveal aspects that were interesting and somewhat unsettling. Rather than cite this or that I will give an example that has nothing to do with computers.
Around 1989-90 I moved from Los Angeles to the high desert town of Johua Tree, California. After living there for one year (and the only use of a computer a now and then thing at the local library) I realized that it took that year for the "tapes" of Los Angeles to unspool from my consciousness. In other words, I regarded LA as the grid and my having been out of the grid showed me how much the grid had modified me, my perceptions, my self. To say it was an interesting revelation is putting it mildly. Eventually I did return to LA but it was never going to be the same as when I had left it.
My vacation from the computer had somewhat the same effect. It wasn't that much of a surprise since for some time I had been aware that anything one involves him or herself with will eventually involve them
regardless if they're aware of it. Or to use an old phrase: "You are what you eat". Perhaps it can be said that you are what you compute? Any repeated interfacing - with anything - is bound to have an effect on the user. Thus, computing would likewise never be the same for me as it once was.
Perhaps my example is not one you can relate to. But I figure that for many there has been much thinking about their personal time with the computer. Maybe for you the interfacing is at full speed with not only the computer but with a more advanced phone every year or so, with more friends on Facebook, and more of whatever that the tech world has to offer. Hey, different keystrokes for different folks.
At this point I haven't become a zealous Luddite, nor hacker, nor promoter of all-things-tech. What I have become is more conscious of a balance between the virtual and the real. In a way I can say I've always been aware of that but a vacation whether from the grid of a city or the grid of a motherboard can be a good check and balance of reality. I often wonder if all the computing everywhere really addresses what has to be addressed. When I go out and about in the city I look at all those people with their phones that have by now become appendages of a sort and I wonder if that will in fact help the matter. Will the plenitude of online offerings make me any wiser? Will the next OS make my real life any better? What's my definition of "real"? Well, the computer has made that a relative thing too, hasn't it?
Or is the proposition really a stranger one in that computers are if anything a surgical medium that is bringing to light something that otherwise couldn't be accessed? Don't worry, you won't get anything too heavily philosophical or conspiratorial from me on this one. Just one of those strange breezes that I've discussed with others.
So what's your view on this? Is it a case of, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy", or, no big deal, just another day and another way. Pass the chips.
All in all, for me it's all about the balance, all things in moderation. And of course, to know innately what you really need regardless of the external's ever-changing marquee.