John* in the digital age

* Not his real name.

John is a 55 year old chef who has worked in the hospitality industry for over 35 years. His tools of trade are the knives and aprons and books he takes with him from job to job and are a constant in a transient industry. Chefs come and go, waiters finish their university degrees and move on and cafe ownership changes hands. The books, richly illustrated and sumptuously bound, end up dogeared and saffron-splattered, but are testament to the publishing preferences of this digital immigrant.

All very interesting you say, but what has any of it got to do with writing and editing for digital media?

Well, despite the pervasiveness of new technologies and its infiltration into our daily work and life, I thought a case study of someone I know quite intimately would illustrate perfectly that for some people, there are huge gaps in their opportunities to integrate multiple media forms into their daily life.

John’s day starts with ‘prep’ (preparation) time. This is the mad slicing and dicing and mixing and mashing that a busy café must do to ready itself for the daily onslaught of customers. He checks the two menus – the set  and the specials. Is there enough of everything and does he need to invent more? Prep time is interrupted by the start of service, and from thereon it is cooking to order. Finally, the café shuts, staff clean up and John can go home. Not once has he used an electronic or multimedia device. He has a mobile telephone, but believe me, even answering a call is a nuisance to him.

At home and after a few minutes sit down, the grind of maintaining the family begins. He washes breakfast dishes, prepares after-school snacks, vacuums dog hair from the carpet, hangs out washing and starts the evening meal. (It’s handy having an alchemist on tap!) In the background is the radio (usually and annoyingly, SportsSENtral.) Later, much later, when the kids have finished their homework and I have logged on and logged off, John finally gets the chance (if the motivation still exists) to look at The Drum, missed programs on iView, read the headlines on The Age Online or catch a movie review.

So, aside from the limited material resources at John’s disposal (that is, one computer at home and none required at work), it would seem that the lack of ‘temporal resources’ available to John would be the biggest factor in his limited involvement in new technologies.

No matter. The food is great at my place!


7 thoughts on “John* in the digital age”

  1. People they all live in their own ways. I have been to a village where almost 80% of the villagers do not possess a mobile phone, but they still survive. For john, although he has limited access to multi-media tools, he get used to this live, and i am pretty he also enjoy his life.

  2. I lived with my family for more than three years far in the country, in a little cottage; no internet, no tv, just a cell phone for emergencies; we had books, music, a computer to watch movies. I had to travel twice a week (12hours bus trip) to work in the city; no big money, just enough. I’m sure the situations are different but also in some way similar as well, and yes, those were the happiest days. . .

  3. I almost envy that kind of job. The hospitality industry may be making more use of different media forms in years to come.

    1. John did have one job where he was required to stick a thermometer on the hour every hour into every fridge and oven, and record the temperature onto a spreadsheet that was later inputed into a database. Not surprisingly, he quit that job pretty quickly. If you are paid to cook, that is what you want to do!

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