Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What if the price of mobiles connecting with mobiles for counselling purposes is that people don't

Frank Schirrmacher is interested in George Dyson's comment

"What if the price of machines that think is people who don't?" He is looking at how the modification of our cognitive structures is a process that eventually blends machines and humans in a deeper way, more than any human-computer interface could possibly achieve. He's also fascinated in an idea presented a decade ago by Danny Hillis: "In the long run, the Internet will arrive at a much richer infrastructure, in which ideas can potentially evolve outside of human minds."

Is this what George Seimens and Stephen Downes have been getting at with connectivism cck09?
We are apparently now in a situation where modern technology is changing the way people behave, people talk, people react, people think, and people remember. And you encounter this not only in a theoretical way, but when you meet people, when suddenly people start forgetting things, when suddenly people depend on their gadgets, and other stuff, to remember certain things. This is the beginning, its just an experience. But if you think about it and you think about your own behavior, you suddenly realize that something fundamental is going on.

And this is what led me into looking at how changes are both shaped and shaping with the integration of mobile phone technologies into texting for counselling.
To rephrase the question:
What if the price of mobiles connecting with mobiles for counselling purposes is that people don't?

And the questions provoked keep coming:
If you were asked, where do you keep whats important of your life, is the answer facebook?
I'm not saying it's good or bad, I'm just aware that I have not only outsourced parts of my memory (i never memorize phone numbers anymore, and i leave editing and spelling to autochecks), but now i also consider that i have an external repository of my photos, and my highlights and lowlights of my life, and the bits inbetween floating on a'cloud' of blogging, twitter, facebook , texts and emails,, librarything
Need i fear like chicken licken having the sky fall on my head?

I think twice about what i post, here and there, I think twice about whats accessible into perpetuity by whoever whenever...
If I am exposed to an attention overload, how do i select the attention deficits to filter this? How do the tools i use select what they will attend to?

I spent an hour 20 yesterday trying to convince my mobile phone to talk with me let alone anyone else. Part of my life I cannot have back...
I told myself again and again that my mobile was to make my life easier... i had an inkling that i had been suckered into thinking this thing that was meant to improve my life and had decided i was not worthy of it. So much for my reach being extended, my voice being carried, or my hearing being able to cross the Tasman. For a cyborg I wasnt doing very well. Seemed something as supposedly worldwide as global roaming, visa top ups and the international company of vodafone could not make good on promises. Be with your bestmate anywhere anytime...yeah right.
I fell into a dark hole for a small time.

I begin to wonder who and what is determining my reality.

Schirrmacker provoked in me some angst for my very human condition, I suspect i need a psychotherapist to help me with this one:
but with the possibilities unfolding
the question of predictive search and others, of determinism, becomes much more interesting. The question of free will, which always was a kind of theoretical question — even very advanced people said, well, we declare there is no such thing as free will, but we admit that people, during their chidhood, will have been culturally programmed so they believe in free will.

i had loved Pandora, our detachment was a forced one. Should i now be grateful that my 'choices' are no longer contrived by the machine?
I love, should i be worried that my choices could be traced?
On my blog, my readers are more likely to be looking at just one posting than any other (it mentions panties) ...(whoops I've done it again).

That i am not so fully in control of how i might be perceived, or judged that I might not be so much predicting my own life, but having it predicted by others, through the cloud, through the ways i am linked to the Internet, are matters of import. Not so much that i should retreat from such involvements but that I should be more interested and invested with where such creations take me.

Reading Latour(2008), he talks me through the sin with Shelly's Frankenstein - was not in the making but in the abandonment. To withdraw from technology is not an answer, it is not possible, i am already inside of the machine and it in me.

How then to proceed? What is important, what is not important is something Schirrmacker describes as being linear, it's something which needs time, at least the structure of time. Now, you have simultaneity, you have everything happening in real time. And this impacts politics in a way which might be considered for the good, but also for the bad....

And I suspect it needs time because in the chaos of now, things are always unclear, it is with hindsight that a trajectory can be plotted.
Meantime I live withe the 'wealth of information' available, and the means with which to access it . I wonder to myself about the wonders of this- do thesis now have more references than 10 years ago... Are the expectations on PhD students to be well read more demanding now that there is so much more that can and therefore should be accessed? In my 100,000 word thesis, is 20,000 in referencing something that reshapes academia...and thereby me? being in this information cascade how to cope with information bittiness?

Nick Bilton, reassures me saying
We'll create and consume whatever information makes us happy, fulfills us, and leave the rest by the wayside. Maybe. Or maybe we'll school like fish in the Web's algorithmic currents, little Nemos, each of us convinced we're going our own way because, well, we never stop talking, never stop sharing the minutiae of our lives and thoughts. Look at me!
The informavore in me just hopes i dont get swallowed by sharks while I'm finding Nemo.

Latour, B. (2008). “It’s development, stupid !” or: How to Modernize Modernization In J. Proctor (Ed.), Postenvironmentalism: MIT Press.
Shirrmacker, F. (2009)


  1. Great analysis, Aylsa, I empathize a lot with the introspection you make, the questioning of the inner changes we go trough as we grow more dependent on external devices. I´ve also wondered how much weaker or more vulnerable we become by relaxing while we let others take care of storing our belongings, it´s kind of scary. I guess we´re just the first generation experiencing these crisis and hope that the coming ones will develop new resources to swim in this ocean.

  2. I loved this, Aylsa. Now I'm thinking about free will in reference to blogging, twittering, etc. (How free am I when I write? Do I really write what I want?)

    And, anyway, can we get out? What does it mean to "get out", actually? Yesterday I was reading this essay by Mark Sluoka (, and I can't help to think about his question: What do we teach, and why?

    The why is difficult, in fact. If we have this awareness about this issues, what do we get with it? Isn't easier to keep going in tech-promotion mode? Lately, I think I'm starting to understand that, actually, ignorance can be bliss.

    I'm afraid this leads to issues like "Why education? Why academia? What's the point then?", and I'd love to hear a bit more about what do we do about this... Is there really a possibility to use technology for our purposes, or are we definitely trapped by it?

    As you can see, great post. :D

  3. Hi Diego and Leila. Thanks for you kind comments and provocations for mulling this through further.
    I like to think i am freeish to act, Knowing what wraps me up, constrains me, shapes me also lets me see that things might also be otherwise :)
    Whatever chains or links or allies are added in, there is always possible for reversing, for reshaping....

  4. Anonymous10:14 AM

    Hi, I'm not sure if this is helpful, its kind of related - I had a chat once with Prof Hans Van Der Heijden when I was at Surrey Uni - I don't know about mobile - mobile counselling, but he did some projects in the early 2000s looking at negotiation and decision making with mobile devices, and$FILE/53Leeuwe.pdf

    Warm wishes,

  5. Hi Ailsa, it's so true the way you describe our creeping dependence on technology and the ensuing question of how little control we then have on where and how our thinking develops....

    And I got to wondering (not entirely seriously) about the new NZ law banning hand-held cell phones while driving...and how we dependent sorts are going to cope with such an enforced separation from our nearest and dearest (the phone, not the caller...).

    Will we bravely bite our lip,tear our eyes from its shivery jiggle (just visible over the handbag rim) and tighten our grip on the wheel while we frantically, furtively look for a safe place to pull over??

    Or will we quietly ( smugly even), try to wait it out, listening gleefully to the chinking text tones, knowing someone is out waiting in vain for our usual immediate reaction??

    Will we make a desperate, surreptitious grab for it the moment we cruise to a halt at the lights?

    Will we admit to a certain guilty relief; released from the imperative of responding, we can sit back and know the little gadget will keep a record for us of the callers's name, phone number, time of call and best of all, that secret message will be held for us,kept safe for as long as it takes...

    Will this create a sense of impatient anticipation for such a delicious treat? Will it increase anxiety about the potential problem awaiting your attention ?

    Is it a worry to be deferred...or a deferral of our worries?
    I prefer the latter... in fact, I'm considering switching the thing off more often...
    I'm even considering waiting till I get home and then (warning: shocking behavioural modification in progress) picking up the dusty telephone and calling the messenger back, real time and all!!


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