Practically everyone I see sits a lot of the time with their faces glued to a screen. It’s in the news at last. How to get off the hook?
One possibility: Find out what hangups are possible.
The only tool. You feel (which is partly true) that you can’t work without the computer. You think with your Mac instead of with a book, a piece of paper and a pencil, or with a nice view, an interesting conversation, an art exhibition. If you occasionally write by hand, you create extra work for
yourself, because most things you write is to be sent on to someone, via the
New pastimes. You may often have the feeling of doing something, without actually doing anything. The drive to take a break was always there, but it is so much easier via Facebook, or you can read a newspaper, browse an encyclopedia, listen to music, anything in the stream. The mass of distractions that are available through this catalogue easily turns into a concentration problem, and you don’t even have to move your body. All
you need is to push a few buttons on a keyboard.
Meddling with your routines. Coming quite often through your automatized colleagues, who give you solutions to problems at least I don’t always want to solve or spend my time on. Arguably, the products you buy online is still owned by the people who sold them to you, because you are completely dependent on downloading the upgrades every time they come, whether you pay for them or not.
Many programs become more user friendly as time goes by, but if you do more than routine tasks you regularly spend some time figuring how to do it.
Too much information. It is a stock truth that there is now no lack of information in the world, but this has in a way always been true.
To find the relevant information when you research something is of course a problem, but it is always possible to solve, and always was possible even in the pre-computer world. Smart thoughts were thought also in the age of
libraries, even in the époque of scripture rolls people found intelligent life
in their heads and put it neatly together into things we still need and use.
This is of course also done today – but many has a tendency to be impressed by the technical solutions that are invented, instead of focussing on the content, which is wrapped up in some really sexy layout somewhere.
Unnecessary speed. Certain things move incredibly fast, so much faster than before: Sending a message, for instance, or a “letter”, takes – virtually – no time at all. Since it all happens now, the expectation of an immediate answer is often present, with consequences for the tempo of the working life, and our private lives. The mental movements of young people is for me sometimes stunning, both what you can see in shops (or coffee shops) where they work, and when dealing privately with them. I am 53, by the way.
If you have your own channel for sharing things with others, a blog or something else, publishing is so easy when you have learnt how to do it, that you sometimes have to stop yourself not to lay out every movement of your brain. In printed or established media a desk or an editor will stop you or censor you. Sloppy thinking is a problem on the Internet, also for yourself and your work, if you don’t use your channel with care.
Existence without limits. Where does the Internet start and where does your mind end? After hours in front of a screen you may wonder. Someone can find you if they really want to, no matter where you try to hide, and
if you’re on a mailing list, you’ll perhaps never get off. Paranoia threatens…
Invisibility. Actually, what you are using are virtual machines, meaning programmes and bits of programmes, like apps and the like. They act and are constructed in many ways like mechanical machines, but you can’t see what they are doing, although the result of electronic actions often matches mechanical or otherwise physical machines. Problems can arise from not understanding what goes on when machines “do” things, change
positions of something on the screen (which is the only thing that goes on, at all, you could say). The “things” are “handled” by you, you do things which structurally imitates real actions, you “push” “buttons” etc. Still, this is not the world we left behind, but something new.
Abstractions in the grinder. What electronics do is show us pictures of words, numbers, actually pictures, sounds. There are no concrete things in this machine, no fish in the grinder, no spinning wheel turning around. We are not used to the fact that abstract objects, which is one of the names you can give language, for instance, behaves unstable to the extent that it actually does on the screen. It is possible to chop, move, reorganize in whatever way in a seemingly physical way, something that mysteriously resemble a piece of paper.
Some say about the screen and the Internet that it is “white”, “blank”, neutral, but you can’t really claim that it has no properties. Visual perfection is close at hand, for instance, everything is usually to be
seen “100% sharp” and with clear, translucent colours. Once again it
also depends on your ideals of visuality, where you want your layout to go.
But it may be that this is just a starting point for a new medium, I’ve seen computer animated films that doesn’t resemble pop art or plastic at all, on the contrary, it feels like something oldfashioned, textiles, handmade paper,
watercolours, the old animated films. I’m sure there are many possibilities
which we haven’t tried out.
Painting and drawing on and with an iPad can be fun, but it is still something else than painting or drawing on a piece of paper.
Reproducing other media, paintings or music, is also (easily or necessarily?) biased or coloured by this new medium, to borrow some expressions from journalism. The technique itself dictates it, or the use of it. I don’t think we know the difference or the borders between those two things yet.
One should also remember that technical perfection does not necessarily equal interesting content. A kid can easily notate something in my music notation program, and it probably looks great for someone who knows little about music, but it doesn’t necessarily mean much. It’s fun of course, kind of an aleatoric work, you could say…
Information equals knowledge. Knowledge as a concept has a long and varied history within all sciences, and has gone through many stages. The concept “information” is launched as a new overall concept from new gurus of artificial intelligence. It often looks not as a new interesting concept, but
rather, countless ways of organising and presenting knowledge, often without precisely the base of knowledge which should come with it. The news in this branch of science seems technical rather than thoughtful.
Computer memory equals human memory. Many see a computer’s memory as something exactly the same as our own. I’m not sure whether “Yes, it’s
there” and “No, its not” is the sole base of human memory, and in all the other quirky ways of the computer you may surely find similarities with ourselves and our ways of thinking, much of it is also modelled after brain research, but seriously, human thinking is…a lot of things.
Not least, there exist lots of overviews of the world, within different sciences, philosophy, etc, in the arts there are also loads of different approaches. All these things are frameworks not only for understanding
the world, but for remembering and of course organising facts.
No Instructions for use. They do exist, but many shun the Bibles which are made for this purpose. Many, maybe most, just try to find their way in this world or these worlds, virtuality, without any written assistance. If you have a practical approach to life you risk never learning the concepts of
this world, the names of things and their definitions.
I wonder whether the specialists can actually name them. An average help desk can usually not answer the question “what is this?” – only “what does it do?” – if you’re lucky, and even more commonly, “what are you going to do”.
In this way we remain slaves of the machine, and are unconsciously trained to see everything as actions, not concepts, simply by using the machine, unless we actually have command of its basic concepts. It seems likely that many of its creators also lack portions or aspects of this knowledge, when you look at names things are given in some programs. I am not always sure what kind of thinking actually rules in this world. Knowing just a little of its nerdity, mostly by rumour, I am suspicious, but have not really had the time to dive in and seriously check.
The screen is the world. This feeling, which definitely does not correspond with reality, can make you lazy and unreal – like crashing the habit of looking out of the window to check the weather, going to a weather site instead, to be really sure. We’re used to the eyesight as a means to finding
our way in the world, concretely, but now the eyes to a much greater extent are used to orientate ourselves only on the Internet. The senses which were orientated after nature, will somehow be formed after these new media.
A language mess. Sometimes you have double eye sight. I mean, what exactly did you just publish on the internet? Did you go viral? You haven’t moved a decimeter while doing those things, or moved any other things,
you sit on your butt and move only fingers and arms a little.
This is not a completely new phenomenon. “He’s on the phone” existed before computers, but a whole new world as a sort of moveable abstraction, that is a novelty. It shows itself, it’s there, but it constitutes a “place”
which constantly makes it necessary to distinguish between physical presence and presence in the virtual world.
Google knows it all. I don’t think our family is the only one to have gone on vacation without a proper map. I met an Italian couple, on the train from the Oslo airport, on their way to Kongsberg, eleven at night, instead of Oslo, where they actually had booked a hotel room. They thought their hotel was in Kongsberg because the train ended its journey there (they had a printout from the internet with them, with, I think, only this train line on it). Oslo is about halfway to Kongsberg from the airport. We got them off the train in Oslo, luckily, so they didn’t have to spend the night in a hotel in the wrong town.
What was their plan? Not easy to understand, neither for us nor them. They waved, happily relieved when I left them on the Central Station.
Copy & paste is also a thing that makes reality slightly disappear. Where is unca Scrooge? There are already 7 of him, and what copy of your article did you actually work on, a moment ago?
Like meeting someone. The contact with the machine can give you impressions you usually get from meeting a real person. The imprint of
what you see sits in your system afterwards, even if you actually met no one.
Have I missed something? The question is asked for many reasons. Maybe you check your e-mail too often, news sites, Facebook, what you’re hooked on can be many things. The pace of the information machine creates unrest in my system. I need to be calm to think, the opposite often generates
action, and not always structured action.
The tough guys command the technique – that’s an old saying in these parts, at least. If you’re not practical or technical you’re soft. This argument is often silently present here, and knocks away other arguments before
the discussion has started. This may be a Norwegian speciality, but is a very
present fact here.
Workaholism as an ideal: It is difficult to stay away from your computer if you are actually a workaholic, because this is your workplace. Since many people see work as a status symbol, you’d better watch out. The machine is a constant invitation to working yourself into fatigue, I mean, it is always
Laziness: You can develop a physical laziness, if you hadn’t already got it, which tells you not to lift your butt at any time if you don’t really have to, for instance if you want to look something up in a paper dictionary. It could have consequences for your physical health or your wallet, depending on whether you end up in the doctor’s office or the gym.
What is actually real? Virtuality can be defined as an imitation or a representation of reality, given on a computer screen. There are obviously a lot of different types in the virtual world, on many levels.
Internet journalism is problematised a good deal as a new phenomenon. But Internet and computers is not often discussed from an aesthetic point of view, meaning the way the whole visual thing affects you, both what the technique itself does to the medium and the communication and layout sides of it, the results of editorial choice, actually.
“Intuitive solutions” and verisimilitude are some ideals that are in much use when designing both soft- and hardware, and if you overemphasize those ideas you risk forgetting that design is also a result of choices. Whose intuition rules these choices, and what kind of reality are they trying to reproduce? The problem how reality can be represented may be solved in many ways, no matter whether you draw, photograph, film or write about something. There is never only one way of presenting anything,
technically or mentally. You always have to take away something and include something else, whether you make artwork, journalism or something else. This is part of the ABC for professionals, but not necessarily for the many new amateurs.
All screens draw your glance into its world, maybe because you don’t really know what you are going to see there. You want to check, you feel the urge to check. Eyesight is one of the most sensitive of our senses, or so we’re told. If your Mac is always on and up, it is pretty difficult not to look at the screen, just like a TV which is on all the time.
We are in a process of liberating ourselves from nature once again, and the computer is one of the many aids contributing to this liberation. But the situation easily becomes similar to one where you have a perfect
life partner: You give her too much power over you by loving her too much. Him, sorry.
I would like to let go of the Mac, get up from my chair, and then come back to work – when I want to.