More stimulating words from someone at PurseLipSquareJaw got me to thinking about whether or how our digital toys make a difference.
.....urban space is now the unique stage for experimentation with new lifestyles based on digital network connectivity.
"...[E}xperimentation with new lifestyles based on digital network connectivity" ...hmmm...New lifestyles, eh?
Technological gizmos are cool but my own current thinking is that digital technology will be seen to have had little impact on the psychological experience of life. It has extended our physical reach and obviously changed the way we do many things. So I guess in a superficial way it has changed "lifestyle."
But it has not extended or significantly changed our emotional core.
Do we stlll laugh and cry? Do we still fall in love? Do we still betray each other? Human life abides and --- for better or worse --- surmounts the technology it uses.
Even at the more superficial physical level, digital technology has created few significant changes. Has the digital "revolution" spurred or hindered suburban growth? Neither one. Has it encouraged urban redevelopment? I don't think so.
Yes technology and digital connectivity allow us to do things differently. And I am not trying to deny that life in 2003 is different from life in 1953. But the basic tone of life continues to be the same. When I "ping" (this relates back to the specific possibilities of Ubiquitous Computing) that intriguing woman on the other side of the room with my Palm, I'll still be a little nervous about how she will respond. New toys, same us. Homer still speaks clearly and we are still afraid of the dark.
Statements such as "urban space is now the unique stage for experimentation with new lifestyles based on digital network connectivity" strike me as very questionable.
Here's another example of this idealization (?) of technology from the blurb for a book titled Design Noir.
Dunne and Raby investigate the real physical and cultural effects of the digital domain, demonstrating that mobile phones, computers and other electronic objects such as televisions profoundly influence people's experience of their environment.
Well sure it's undeniable --- pretty obvious actually --- that, say, Instant Messaging means that a mother and child far apart can have daily conversations and to that extent their "experience" of the world is novel compared to people even 20 years ago, much less 200. But are their feelings about each other changed by IMing? Do they like each other less or more? I don't think so. And of course that's what is so remarkable about so much of digital technology: it is so invisble and transparent that as soon as we put it on we forget we are wearing it and we go along our merry way as if nothing has changed. And in our human core, nothing has. At least that's how it seems to me; I take the digital technology I use (and which I love) largely for granted now and I don't think that it changed me, for better or worse.
I think a lot of folks are looking for a good subject through which to "make their bones" and I think that they have this one vastly overrated. Hey! these toys are cool and useful but there is a "deep down things" of being human which is far beyond their reach, thank god.