By Alexandre Carvalho, 2009 Fellow
Yesterday morning i was surprised by synchronicity. Let me explain the threads first, so you can see and maybe agree with me that the universe does conspire serendipities here and there. Lately I've been reading and reflecting about McLuhan's work on media and how it encompasses us, particularly how all media works us over completely, how it becomes an extension of human physical or mental faculties. Computers and the internet, iPhone, Twitter, email, teamworks, Facebook, iPads, laptops - or even more ancient inventions such as the radio or the wheel - oh my! they all become embedded in the fabric of who we are collectively and individually.
You may protest. You may deny this. But let's be frank and do some recollecting: remember that day when you left home and forgot your cell phone, or when the battery went dead and you suddenly realized the preposterous crime you've made, forgetting your life behind, or omitting on the duty to bring along the charger, the feeder and nurturer of modern existence? How could you? And how helpless did you, dear homo sapiens contemporaneus, feel?
Our stuff becomes part of ourselves. This is no new thought. It can be seen in proverbs that say that if you want to know someone, just look at his or her books, music LPs (LP's, my god), or paintings in the wall. And if you want to know human history, dear curious reader, just peep at the stuff or as McLuhan would put it, the media that walked by the monkey's side. The history of human evolution is a history of media.
Dear reader, when the email was
invented, no one could do a business case for it, people complained,
tried to keep things as they were, but two decades later it is
impossible to live in our current world without it. Below is a curve
that shows this "innovation adoption pattern", and this can be applied
to all human innovations in fields as far ranging as management,
sciences and the arts.
At the same time, no innovation is free of compromises and trade-offs. And some of those can take tolls in our families or personal lives. A recent article in the NYT revealed some of the pathological symptoms that we face as a result of the excess dependence on devices. Since i'm a physician, i'll take the liberty to tag - i mean, name - the condition as "virtualosis", or the temporary withdrawal to an abstract virtual world of information, a plugged-in state, that once on takes a while to break off from, even after you turned the gadgets off or stopped briefly using them (to have a conversation with someone, for example). And this does not relate to facebook or other singular platform per se but to the whole lot of our gizmos that we are dependent upon to work, relate, or even feel.
The question then becomes, do we have a choice? Is this under our control or are we immersed in a new era of media that is extending our faculties and freedoms but paradoxically restraining our ability to live without it? What a disconnected life means? How strange it appears to be, when we observe that the world's never being so connected but so detached at the same time?
Well, gotta' go. Sorry
to keep you for so long; see you around, have to check my email, my
tweeter, my iPhone, facebook, my online newspaper, my...