Let me define me

True to form I am commenting on Esmayu’s excellent and engaging post one week after I first read it. Thanks Esma for the opportunity to consider something I would never have formulated in my own mind, let alone commented upon and posted!

  1. I hate links.  After reading the articles in Week 5, I now understand the value and importance of links, but I still find them unsatisfying and distracting. They make me feel (sorry, reword that, I feel ) like this: In fact, today I changed my gravatar to more accurately reflect the state of my mind. Links make me feel (dang it, they do!) like I have missed something, like there is something better out there to read and that if I don’t follow that link, I’ll never find the missing link.
  2. I’m always telling my kids not to trust Wikipedia. As a first point of reference it’s okay, but go look up your Greek myths and legends in a book!
  3. Thanks to this course and the stimulating discussions in our class and via blogs, I am now starting to understand the power of the web and feel a little bit more in control of what is happening out there. Believe it or not, my work colleagues think I actually know a few things!
  4. I once bought a FURminator online. I was flabbergasted by the ease of the purchase and by the fact that I wasn’t ripped off. I’ve since made two further frivolous eBay purchases (scooter-wheel bearings and an empty Hamish and Andy gravy-flavoured chip packet).
  5. I have spent hours late at night trying to self-diagnose by the internet (as you do). I found depressing American chat forums that prognosticate a bleak future. Fortunately an epiphany arrived just in time and I realised that if your surgery or treatment was successful, you wouldn’t be back on the forum telling us about it!
  6. I rarely go to the movies. If there is a movie that interests me, I wait for it to come out on DVD. By then I’ve usually forgotten about it. I don’t think I am missing out on anything.
  7. I’ve never had an attention span. My attention span has been compared to that of a gnat. At work I write 10 emails simultaneously and have six different programs open at once. My computer frequently crashes because it can’t cope with all those instructions so I make frequent cups of tea that I either forget about it or have to reheat in the microwave (aha! That explains it!)

I YouTube, therefore I am

I suspect that you have figured it out by now – that I am always behind the eight ball. I am a little behind in everything – paying the bills, sorting my tax, finishing my work, teaching my children. I have a pile of books and papers beside the bed and other miscellaneous piles of this and that for sorting, fixing, attending to. The detritus of my everyday life doesn’t always fit into the third drawer down.

So it is no surprise that I am a little behind in my course reading (unlike a fellow blogger). As you all move on to the next topic, I am still digesting and reflecting on the previous.

For example, as I read your blogs I realise that not all of you are the digital natives that I first thought that you were. You are digital immigrants like me, although I am more like your first generation immigrant Italian Nonna, who wears all black and speaks barely a word of English.

It is a comforting thought that I am not alone. In fact, my age group is right up there with yours in terms of social media use. Believe me, it’s not me who is skewing the data.

Heck, I remember my first full-time office job during second year uni. I didn’t understand why the new secretary was crying. Turns out she had been a stay-at-home mum for fifteen years and was overwhelmed by the new electronic typewriter with a one-line memory. Compare that with my ten year old son Joey, who googled and installed Hypercam so he could record his avatar playing Runescape and upload it onto YouTube, complete with a song he downloaded from iTunes.

And that made me reflect on Matthew Wesch’s video “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” (which was hanging around my subconscious like an overdue DVD). I couldn’t help but feel a little bit scornful at the profundity of thought that he credits to YouTube and the webcam apparatus.

I mean, I get that with YouTube we can reappropriate culture, shape and control it and throw it back. And I get the bit about our inherent need for community and desire for strong relationships. But as a surrogate for the real thing? And as a tool for deep self-analysis?

For example, Matthew Wesch says of a girl who has spent five minutes deciding how to wear her hair (forming her “new identity, new mask – to her new community”) before sitting in front of her webcam:

… this self reflection happens while they’re looking through these webcams … there’s really this hyper-self awareness that’s developing as people are doing this … YouTube is a great place to study self and identity …

Because she spent five minutes deciding how to wear her hair? Does YouTube, through “rare and ephemeral dialogue”, really enable us to:

experienc[e] the sense of being totally overwhelmed by the beauty of the human in front [us]. Like people have this really profound deep connection with other humans through YouTube.

It’s all a bit pathetic really. It’s not just this first generation digital immigrant that feels this way. Even my 13-year old Louis felt saddened by the future predicted by American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku on “Visions of the Future” (Episode 1: Intelligence Revolution), where “the lines between our virtual fantasies and the physical reality will increasingly blur.”

The loss of connection with our community is so keenly felt and openly acknowledged that we spend hours on-line trying to reconnect. Pity those who aren’t able to get on-line in the first place. Think of the homeless, the mentally ill and other marginalised and disempowered groups. There’s lots of them. How do they connect, and how will they connect in the future if there is nothing to connect to?

Spaghetti

The Macquarie Dictionary defines linear as that ‘involving measurement in one dimension only; relating to length’. One theory is that ‘books are linear and foster concentration, while the web, with all its hyperlinks, is kinetic, scattered, all over the place.’

You know, my brain sometimes feels like the web would look if it could ever be mapped visually – scattered, fragmented, incomplete but seemingly connected. Conversations with colleagues stop, start, stop and then fizzle out. As I issue instructions to the kids, words that aren’t connected to the moment fall from my mouth. They relate to tomorrow’s thought and have arrived too early: brush your homework, can you pick up that dog ? Put her on the cupboard!

Conversations take tangents. They don’t always resemble a straight thread and can start at one point and end at the frayed edges of a thousand others. For example, every Saturday morning I have coffee with Margot. The conversation usually starts with her apologising for something. She’s that sort of person – very apologetic – even though it was I who was late because I had to return some books to the library.

I’m reading ‘Middlemarch’ by George Eliot (I love a good frock drama). Margot is reading ‘Just Kids’, by Patti Smith. She doesn’t really listen to the music anymore, but we both agree that ‘Horses’ was her finest album.

 

Cover of Patti Smith's 'Horses' album. Photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe.

Anyway, Patti Smith’s boyfriend at one time was Robert Mapplethorpe , the photographer of some renown. They both listened to Tim Buckley, who coincidentally Margot is wearing to death on her kitchen CD player, and Tim Hardin. Not knowing who Tim Hardin is, Margot did a Google and discovered that he wrote ‘If I were a carpenter’, which has been covered by just about everyone from Bobby Darin (my favourite) to Robert Plant (yuck).

I told Margot about Sam Cooke’s ‘A change is gonna come’, also sung by everyone from Billy Preston to Seal, and used by Barak Obama in his presidential campaign.

I didn’t know Margot used Google. She’s in her fifties and only recently learned how to use email. She is a big fan of blogs, having discovered craft blogs when she started a textile diploma last year, and told me her favourites.  She visits sosewpoppy (created by a colleague in her class), wrenhandmade and the brooklyn flea (which can take you to a myriad of places).

So we talked music and craft and latest finds at op shops. Margot is going to set up her own blog soon (I can teach her now!) and call it “What have you got, Margot?” (as McGarrett said to Danno, in Hawaii Five-O.)

Anyway, my point is that conversations can be like reading on the web. They are networked, like spaghetti.

They can end abruptly, like this.

Michi girl needs you

Dear fellow bloggers, it is my responsibility to share with you a blog that you may or may not be familiar with, and that I thought some of you would definitely be interested in.

Every day, Michi girl sends me (and thousands of other fellow subscribers) an email with a fashion and weather forecast. In one email! Combined! Very handy if you need to know what to wear tomorrow in our variable Melbourne conditions. Actually, she not only sends fashion tips, but  other interesting snippets relating to shopping, design, vintage, craft or anything else new and interesting that she thinks the world should know about. And in the spirit of sharing, she now wants us (dear reader) to contribute to the content on her new website.

Help!

Okay fellow bloggers, this is a call for help. I can’t work out how to categorize or tag my posts. Actually, I can’t work out the difference between the two. I seem to have created a tag called ‘irritation’ (my permanent state of being these days) but don’t know where to go to from there. Can you please tell me what they mean and how to apply them?