Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Question on the edge

How has the internet changed the way you think? A question from the Edge, posed to some of the deep thinkers of our times, so thought I'd answer it too...nothing wrong with my sense of self importance today...

I have voice, I'm engaged, involved...there's a democratising capacity. I can engage with conversations that have temporal currency with some of the best minds in the world. And sometimes these other great people even engage with Me :)
Arguably, I live at the bottom of the world (unless you want to spin the globe a bit) a beautiful little laid back place New Zealand yet because of the internet I get to play with others i would never have had the opportunity to otherwise, the terrestrial constraints of geography and finances to span this just wouldnt make it likely otherwise.

I read more... everyday...and its no longer just for escapist fun...well...actually it is that too. I have a timely inquisitiveness at my fingertips. In the past i might have had a thought, a question to wonder, so fleeting that it would not wait for the next person I talk with to mutually ponder over, or to find a book or a library to extend the thinking... The internet extends my reach and I can follow such trains of thoughts, here, now... So today, I woke early, I cleared an email or 10, I followed a google alert to Sherry Turkle, it took me back to the edge question via @silverstream, I noticed the 'meme' person Susan Blackmore was there, and Taleb and Shirky and Rheingold too, and a whole lot of reading potential for a rainy day or several hundred such days...and fleetingly regretted my phd topic was not to follow such a great question with some of the (named) great minds of the 21st century (so far). But I'll stick with my phd of the very small (mobile) screen...but wouldnt be surprised if there's some commonality here and there...

So back to where I was...there's more reading, and its linked in a timely way to my interests.
And it's a lot like Alice down the rabbit hole, I could get lost in (t)here a long time...note to self...follow up on intentionality from yesterdays ponderings...when I read a cited J Foder (1989) Psychosemantics. MIT Press, Preface, p.ix
"Oh, mice have died and worms have eaten them: but no rock, and no spiral nebula - and no worm, for that matter - has ever chased a mouse, let alone caught one. (Mousetraps catch mice, of course; but that manifests our intelligence, not theirs.)
But I would never have got to such ponderings without the internet...
Nor such fears...
My thinking is altered, how I approach questions altered, how I approach answers similarly altered. But maybe I'm also older/wiser ;)

As a PhD student i wonder about being well enough read, there is always more...and my markers, will always have read more and differently. How to stay on top of it all? At some stage I have to concede I cant. But there's more information to be on top of than ever there was in a terrestrial plane. The ante has been upped. Will supervisors understand this? Like the wonders of domesticity at the beginnings of the last century, with so much more domestic machinery, the demands for whiteness and brightness became an enslaving domesticity for women, rather than a freeing of time, it just raised the bar...

So the internet creates for me some anxiety also.

Yesterday I altered my face book privacy settings, which had defaulted to public. Am I happy with family photos being strewn in public places? A younger life spent reading books (James a Michener, Leon Uris, C K Steads Smith's Dream....even the Matrix...)and it leave me with some distrust, some caution, in a world in which hiding would be difficult.

My life is altered. I am altered. I think I'm more thoughtful than I would have been otherwise...certainly, I think, I have more informed thoughts. Which brings up another aspect, I'm changed in what information I try to hold on to and what information I know I can search for, and perhaps, possibly more importantly, have learned skills rather than facts, how to search for, and how to evaluate what I find. I have a more tenuous relationship with ideas, a willingness to try for size rather than a permanent attachment to facts. And here its hard to know if this an internet thing or not, but I would not have developed such a way of seeing all 'facts' as networked without being introduced to actor-network theory, and again the internet made readings on this accessible.

And my relationships are altered. I'm connected, there's comfort in knowing people I want to be in hands reach of, can be...well at least can be present with me in voice or picture, or video. I dont accept Sherry Turkle's tethered analogy, what I feel I have is extended trust. I have a school aged child living in another country with people I have never met, where I dont speak the language, and who my parents generation had fought against...

so...whats in my head, whats in my heart, how i relate to others...all altered.

And back to Alice, Ive already had several impossible thoughts and its not even breakfast time yet :)

I'm a bit more fractional than I ever used to be...Being here there everywhere...and holding ideas more loosely...and connecting ideas more frequently... concurrently, I am networked, connected, and embedded more, rather than less,, in my/our world.

And now Im headed back to what those other clever people had to say...
here's my favourite, so far


  1. Ailsa, this is a wonderful reflection, and is indeed one of the reasons I blog, Tweet (thought I was following you, though it appears not), and is a fundamental shift in the way I think and act. I can relate with the democratizing issues you shared about the Internet, and while reading more and having the opportunity for more informed thoughts, I also find that I learn more by trying new things--reflecting with blog posts that are not fully formed yet, engaging others to help me think through issues of research and practice, and even by reaching out to engage in conversation in ways I would not be able to do F2F.

    Thank you for sharing this and helping me to get my own thinking flowing.

  2. Thanks Jeffrey, and congratulations on the network conference, wish I could be there.

  3. Gosh, it's a small world. Just popped over to say hello and 'thank you' for commenting on my blog, and I see you talking to Jeffrey...good luck to both of you with your PhDs

    Sarah :)