*Brave New World* or Not
"Special" and "desire" are relative and subjective terms. What makes something special? Must it be original? Or exciting? Or poignant? Or a catalyst for love and/or change?
What is desire? Many agree that it's wanting something or someone you don't yet have.
The reading I've been doing for school and the class-time discussions lately have been on how all of the social media we now access so easily contribute to the end of desire; after all, if we have instant gratification more so than ever due to it and other technology, then we have fewer desires, right?
The readings also have been talking about how scholarly work can be less special these days, as there's less time to sit and think due to all of the 24/7 access that scholars' sponsors, students and colleagues have to them. Eriksen's (2007) complaint is: "Academic books increasingly look like cut-and-paste collages with snippets of conference papers here and excerpts of journal articles there" ("Stacking and Continuity: On Temporal Regimes in Popular Culture," in *24/7: Time and Temporality in the Network Society,* Ed. R. Hassan & R. E. Purser, p. 156).
By contrast to the academic realm, Pat and I are walking to the corner of Grove and Alexander in our town, Montclair, this afternoon, and I tell her:
"All this stuff I'm reading makes Web 2.0 out to be the devil. It totally demonizes it. Yeah, I know that there's less impulse to be original and slowly thoughtful, but the upsides are at least even with if not more numerous than the downsides. I mean, what a boon for communicating with people from really far away -- don't you love that you've got all these people you're finding to play games with, from all over the world?"
"And then for marginalized people, a voice and visibility like never before. Certainly, people in the majority with privilege can complain about the downsides, but they don't even see how helpful it is to people who've been shy at best and disenfranchised historically at worst. That makes sense, right?"
Pat smiles at me.
"Right?...Were you listening to anything I just said?"
"Uhh, I was thinking about Mafia Wars [a game Pat likes that she found on Facebook]."
The new media do seem dangerous in terms of how easy/facile/quick they make most everything; I mean, just last week, I was responding to a colleague's blog-entry on how he's begun writing out his blog-posts by hand, though he didn't see fit to explain why. I commented:
To me, it would have been most fascinating to learn your reasons for blogging initially on paper. My writing is more soulful when I hand-write compared with when I type, and yet I type-write my blog entries for efficiency’s sake…which sort of defeats the purpose of blogging, which, for me, is to parade my soul. If only sleep were unnecessary....
It's true that I'm haunted by how easy typing is, and so how much less engaged I fear my brain is while I'm writing electronically. That's my biggest complaint.
Otherwise, I do not think that social media removes desire through instant gratification, which was how it was characterized during class the other night. I was so taken aback that I didn't even formulate a defense in real-time, and really, it's not for me to have to defend it, but I do want to say my piece here, where I say whatever I want routinely:
Facebook and its ilk have not reduced desire in me. Finding people on whom I had crushes in high school did not take away the historical desire for them. In some ways, it fanned it. A less loaded, and more common, example is how the technology has enabled me to become acquainted with gay, lesbian, bi and transpeople (GLBT) around the world like I'd only been able to do via my behind-the-firewall network of GLBT colleagues at IBM prior.
How cool is it that marginalized people can find one another and feel less marginal and more empowered? What does any of this have to do with time and learning?
In my experience, time to find kindred spirits and also to learn about remote cultures is reduced while time to write something from which people can learn at least a little, also, is reduced. People might learn even more if the authors online, including me, spent longer in authoring the writing, but then, there's also value in unveiling thoughts as quickly as possible, so that *some*one might be inspired by them to do good sooner.