The irony of my last post in 2013 being called 'Time stands still' was purely unintentional. I had no idea it would be almost another three years before posting here again! That must be one of those 'original accidents' Paul Virilio promises are inherent to any technology. It is a thought that haunts me constantly these days …
… which in itself is the reason that I thought of coming back here. For some time now I have been increasingly anxious about what our technologies are doing to us. Talk of technology's ubiquity, its intimidating proliferation, is so banal now as to be unremarkable. At the same time, we are all of us unconscious users of technology in ways that ought to be disturbing (but mostly are not). I think both Albert Borgmann and Neil Postman have commented on the invisibility of technology; the way in which the tools we use tend to become invisible to our perception - invisible in the sense of being easily taken for granted, as unconscious as any of our closest and most intimate cultural practices. What troubles me in such a vision is the potential damage that we suffer from powerful tools that have sunk entirely below our radar. If there is anything worse than suffering the unexpected accidents of some new technology à la Virilio, it is being of a frame of mind to ignore or suppress the same.
In rebooting this blog, I am looking for a thought gym; opening up a man cave in which to ponder on some of the issues that trouble me most. I have been a mild techno-pessimist for years. This recent journey has begun, however, with several works that I have either just read, am reading or am about to read. A list of these appears below. If you, dear reader, can suggest others, please post a comment.
I am not ignorant of the irony, the paradox, of launching a sceptical reflection on technology from the dizzy heights of a Blogspot page. What can I say but that I am a creature of my age? I may very well end up sawing off the branch on which I sit! If that is the case ... well, so be it.
The cruellest thing anyone said about the posts on a previous blog I ran was 'TLDR'. That is text speak for 'too long, didn't read'. Someone else laughingly asked me who on earth read my long, delirious postings anyway. Charming!
If I felt a little huffy at these comments, however, I now take it all back. Long posts are basically sound. Long posts are about concentration; they are about attention; they are about mental investment. They are, in other words, about as "counter-web" as it is possible to be. I dare say a very long blog post might even come close to the cultural level of a very short, personal, hand-written letter. Or might that be over stretching the point?
In any case, my warning should be clear. If you are looking for mental shorthand, you have the whole internet at your disposal. Some sites, I'm told, specialise pretty much in nothing but images.
But if you want a longer form of cerebral engagement, then you are most welcome. The blog from now on, for however long it lasts, will be mostly about technology, with perhaps one or two other obsessions dropped in occasionally.
Here's mud in your eye.
Albert Borgmann, Power Failure
Albert Borgmann, Technology and the Character of Everyday Life
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: how the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember
Matthew Crawford, The Case for Working With Your Hands, or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good.
Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head: how to flourish in an age of distraction
Marc Goodman, Future Crimes: inside the digital underworld and the battle for our connected world
Susan Greenfield, Mind Change: how digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains
Andrew Keen, The Internet is Not the Answer
Conrad Pepler, Riches Despised: a study of the roots of religion