Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reality and the dangers of tech: is the logic inescapable?

One of the things I worry about (fret about, consider -- choose whichever verb you like) is reality. It is one of the hallmarks - or so I'm told - of Thomistic philosophy and Scholasticism, and also that of the late John Senior at Pearson College. (I minored in philosophy long enough to realize that it made my head hurt. Latin and Greek were far easier for me.) Senior -- together with his colleagues Frank Nelick and Dennis Quinn -- was famous for reminding his students, "Water is wet and rocks are hard." In other words, reality is real. As a result Senior was also a great critic of technology and the way in which it removes us from reality. For example, IIRC he disdained recorded music, preferring instead the venue of a live concert -- or even better, self-made music. It should go without saying that he was opposed to television as well -- not merely for its content, either, but rather for the way in which it divorces us from reality by creating this virtual universe of existence. If ever there was a lesson which spoke to my heart, it was this one. A child of television who grew up in the 60's and 70's, I now think of it as "the plug-in drug" as someone else referred to it. And so it is against that constant understanding that I struggle with technology and its appeal. My friends know that I love gadgets, I always have. Some of my earliest memories of my father were the little electronic trinkets he'd bring home from S.H. Kress (the 60's forerunner to K -Mart) which had a store next to his offices downtown. Dad was constantly bringing home transistor radios, walkie-talkies, etc. much to the delight of my brother and myself. And as I've noted recently, I've been playing around with some Web2.0 technologies in order to update my law practice and its marketing efforts. But I worry about it. I worry that I am feeding an unhealthy attachment to virtual (as opposed to actual) reality, in doing so. Is technology taking us to a place we should not be going? Are we Twittering and Facebooking, and GPS-ing ourselves into oblivion? Maybe. Eric Rauch writes about related issues and their treatment in recent movies in The American Vision @ http://www.americanvision.org/article/the-logic-is-inescapable/ Go check it out -- its worth a read.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Staying Afloat in a Sea of Data

Are you drowning in information? Is it coming in over the gunwales of your smartphone faster than you can process it? If you're anything like me -- God help you -- you are fascinated and transfixed by the availability of data anywhere, anytime. For Christmas I received a smartphone which has instant access to the Internet, to email and to social networking apps like Twitter and Facebook -- the internet in my pocket, I call it. It's a different sort of "too much information" (TMI, as the kids refer to it.) They don't call them "Crackberrys" for nothing. I just recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C. where we led a group of teenagers and college students on the March for Life. As a part of that effort, I came up with the idea of using Twitter to push up-to-the-minute text updates to both the marchers and their parents and interested friends back at home. On the whole, it worked okay but could be improved for next year. But that was my intro to the social networking world, and from Twitter I quickly moved on to harder stuff like Facebook. In fact, just last night my wife informed me that I have a problem: I need a Twelve-Step program for info addiction. She's may be right. One of the great ideas that I see in Suderman's article is the notion of an information Sabbath, i.e., a day in which you turn off your smartphone, and withdraw from the grid, so to speak. I used to think of "going off the grid" in terms of moving out into the wilderness. Images of mountain cabins, unconnected to the phone and power grids came to mind. But maybe a new paradigm is in order -- going off the info grid, as it were. Peter Suderman wrote in The New Atlantis about drowning in a sea of data due to Web2.0 and the push of data: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/staying-afloat -- go read it, it's excellent stuff. PS: I'm still doing Mass365 -- I've just been busy with the March for Life trip (and playing with my Smartphone and Twitter.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

COMING SOON! Project Mass365

Had an epiphany (no pun intended) at Mass on New Year's Eve: along with my resolution to attend daily Mass, why not blog about my experiences as I go through the year? So far, I'm 2 for 2 -- see tomorrow's post for December 31, 2008 Mass at the Church of the Madalene, and what I observed there. More to come