Monthly Archives: June 2012
Technologies, such as paper, eyeglasses, mechanical clocks, roadways, or any other extension of the human spirit, have forever changed the operational facilities of life. They have influenced the level of productivity that a society can achieve by creating extensions of our individually limited capacities. For example, eyeglasses enabled the workers of medieval times to extend their careers by several years, giving workers clarity of sight even in old age. Eyeglasses have also lead to the development of precision tools by focusing the eyes on mechanical detail. Similarly, the Gutenberg press, and other printing innovations, have allowed for mass publication of news and ideas, while also raising the level of collective literacy.
Of course, with every new stride in technological development, there comes with it a certain level of consequence. Certain technologies have both benefited human society as well as thrown in obstacles, limiting the scope of potential efficiency. They have propelled our minds into a wealth of information, and they have sedated our minds with visions on the screen. A long list of automated, prerecorded options on a company’s voicemail might save time and money for the company, but it also severely limits the level of communication and customer satisfaction. One could even argue that the mechanical clock, although allowing us to organize our day, has lead to procrastination; since it is much easier to put something off till the last minute when one knows when the last minute is.
The question of whether or not technology as a whole has helped or hurt our human species could be equally supported on both sides. Sometimes there is no concise answer to such inquiries. What can be agreed upon is that technologies have influenced immense change and have completely revolutionized how we live as human animals.
David Landes says in his essay The Invention of Invention that, “Government rests on paper.” Although it might be more accurate to say that government rests on language, – Hammurabi’s ancient Babylonian code of laws were printed on clay tablets – Landes does present an interesting point: without the proper means of organizing a standardized language of rules and regulations, it is very doubtful that a government could exert control over a large nation.
By mass producing printed law and constitutional rights, governments can distribute the same standardized information to a large populace and expect a consensus of understanding. In this sense, the printed word has contributed to the rise of most governments’ ability to establish control. One only need to look to the German propaganda of the 30s and 40s to realize the large influence the printed page has on our perceptions and actions, and the propensity toward indoctrination that these manufactured perceptions have.
When it comes to the printed word, on paper that is, ideas are easy to regulate. Governments can easily burn and wipe clean the journals and papers of Wilhelm Reich, or they can distribute Mao Tse-tung’s Little Red Book to every citizen and enforce a mandatory reading.
On the other hand, digital print and media operate quite differently. It opens publication to every individual, it’s hard to stop, and it has the ability to spread like wildfire.
The birth of new digital technologies, such as the internet and smart-phones, are inciting fear within the leaders of more authoritarian governments. The regimes of China and Egypt are two contemporary examples of governments who have attempted to restrict citizens’ access to community-run websites and social networking. They are terrified of the internet’s ability to share information and organize opposition. What’s scarier for the rulers of oppressive nations than a populace that can organize and freely publish dissent? The recent explosion of Wiki-Leaks is another great example of the impact that internet technology has on government; even in our own country. The tides are turning, and governments no longer hold the restraints on media that they once had.
We are already seeing drastic changes in collective consciousness and public awareness due to technological developments that have raised the bar on global communication. With ubiquitous and instantaneous spreading of information, cultural barriers are diminishing and new ideas are being pushed to the foreground of public discussion – such as the T.E.D. conferences which are now posted online. It is also worth mentioning that during the peak of Cairo’s revolution, anyone with internet access was able to go on Youtube.com and watch the rallies and protests that Cairo citizens were publishing from their smart-phones.
The famous chant “The whole world is watching” is brought under a different light and holds new meaning than it did for the antiwar protesters of Chicago in 1968. The whole world really is watching, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for oppressive regimes to hide their citizens under their frayed cloak of ignorance. Governments might rest on paper, but they’re reformed through binary.
So I was sitting on my couch watching 90s cartoons while tactfully planning how I would prepare for a zombie apocalypse when I accidently kicked my PBR can over onto my favorite flannel. I was paying attention and all, but my fitted pants sometimes squeeze uncomfortably and send my Converse Chucks kicking out aimlessly. I’ve been told I need looser fitting pants, but these were like $90 so I know they were made well and will last for a long time.
As I got up to grab a paper towel, I eyed a commercial coming on the television for Sonic, and there was a large man with his family slamming on these grease battered burgers, and I thought “thank god I’m a vegan.” Not that I believe in god. I believe that religions are brainwash to get people to follow established norms, and that all religions should be outlawed to get people thinking for themselves, like me.
I made it to the kitchen, and when I reached out for the paper towels I saw my ‘anchor’ tattoo out of the corner of my eye. I’m really into ships and pirates and anything that has a rugged, seaward look. I have a skull and crossbones on my chest too. I think they’re rad, and they define me as an individual.
I’d say my favorite band is the Decemberists because they like to sing about ships and stuff like that. They look like they’re from the days of antiquity, or whatever, and that’s totally rad. Lately I’ve been getting into a lot of dubstep.
Anyway, I grabbed the paper towels and started to wipe the spilt beer, when my glasses fell off my face again. This happens sometimes when I tilt my head down, because my rims are so thick, but they represent my bookish, philosophical side so I have to just remind myself to keep a level head. Not in the sense of the idiom, but literally.
With my paper towels in hand, I walked out of the kitchen and passed the birthday card my girlfriend got for me on the fridge. I had to stop and read it again, because it’s fricken hilarious. The front has a kitten wearing a sweater, and he has a mustache and a sombrero. The kitten is looking majestically off into the sunset, and the inside of the card says, “I hope you have a birthday as random as you are.” Haha lol. Rofl. Kittens are the bee’s knees, and anything with a moustache is genius. Where do they come up with this stuff!?!
Sitting back on the couch, another commercial came on. This one was for American Eagle Outfitters. I can’t believe people can be manipulated by these advertisements into conforming to a style. I mean, all these people look the same. I tend to stray from cultural norms and do my own thing. I don’t let the adman tell me how to think.
So, over the past month I have graduated college, accepted a fulltime job doing marketing for a software company, bought a new car, and my girlfriend has moved in with me. Despite these time-sucking life changes I am still trying to find time to write for myself. One of the hardest things in growing up is finding accommodation for your passions under the ever-growing weight of responsibilities. My dwindling time spent on poetry, skateboarding, guitar, etc. is what some would call a bummer, but so it goes.
My blog posts have been infrequent and short over the past month, but I haven’t lost all hope. On the rare occasion I get personal inspiration, I’m doing my best to mold it into verse or prose. But for now, I’m going to lazily repost an old poem I wrote that deals with my thoughts before I got into this (actually quite wonderful) mess:
I’m at the comma splice in
Falling from textbooks and chalk,
Crawling toward goodlooks and talk,
Through society’s leatherdark parking lot.
A field of tar,
I yield in car,
Checking dashboard digital
Awaiting the ‘open for business,’
Ready for 10,000 tomorrows
Of cell phones
Erupting 7 o’clock seizures
On my magazine massacred bedside.
I fear the predictably punctual
With open arms.
(note: the forth-to-last line should read “6 o’clock seizures”)