Friday, January 25, 2008

tech-mediation: parents and children

when i left the small island of Trinidad in 1996 for the slightly larger island of England/Scotland, email had only just hit the mainstream public Trinidad. but recognizing how much it would save me - both financially and emotionally - i made sure that my mother learned how to use it so that we could stay connected during my first steps away from home.

to her immense credit, she persisted through flaky 14.4 kbps dial-up connections often needing to rewrite entire pages of hard earned typing when the system would fail, but truly she was probably one of the 1st power users of email in her generation (not counting the email corporate crowd, of course). thus, technology and particularly communications technologies can be a powerful connector and mediator across generations, especially where there is another motivation to use the technology - holding on to important relationships when geography gets in the way. still for many parents the onslaught of mobile phones, Blackberries, webpages, iPods, iPhones, blogs, wikis, flickr, Skype cams, Second Life, etc. is a huge hurdle and sometimes an obstacle in the already complex dynamics of communicating with their pre-teens, teens and young adult children. further, as the aging baby-boomers arrive at retirement and leave easy access to these technologies at the workplace, connecting to grandchildren is even more problematic and confusing.

never before in history have so many communications media been available at the same time. and as we, of the tech-generation hurry to use and explore these with excitement, it is worth a pause to consider whether the armfuls of technologies that we settle on for this month or that help or maybe alienate those who still want to just feel near to us. and in that pause consider the tax we ask the previous generation to pay for loving us. just a pause. then wheel an' come again...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hodgkinson lashes out at fb

with a well-inked pen, Tom Hodgkinson whipped the blogosphere into a frenzy with his Jan 14 op-ed in the Guardian "With Friends like These", see using one of those inevitable lapses into bored procrastination, you should check it out. stinging, hot, and bright - kinda like the tropical sun, but...well, not. there is lots that is being said out there about it and i add 2 reflections; faces and places.

first, faces. in the midst of the piece Hodgkinson echoes what i have heard others say before about fb and other such spaces; people are manufacturing and carefully maintaining a proxy of what they "look" like on fb. naysayers are unhappy about this, and point out that we are not being honest about who we are on these virtual spaces, loads of our fb friends are imposters, and in our fb profiles so are we. well i ask, who are we in physical space, anyway? do you have one face? instead, perhaps all of these new spaces are places for us to put on many different masks and have some fun. for a long time anthropologists have studied the cultural significance of masks and identity presentation across cultures; from french-colonial balls, to Trinidad carnival, to halloween, we love to mask, even in the physical world. in general, we are told that masks have two important social functions: (1) they provide a disguise for the wearer and (2) they allow the wearer to assume the identity, at least temporarily, of some other person or being. in new media, there may be a third social function: (3) virtual masking allows us to highlight and project in a much more flamboyant way that we can in face-to-face interactions a sub-set of ourselves geared to the whomever we perceive to be the audience. e.g. perhaps i want the explicit-content, spoken-word orator in me to be my dominant face for MySpace, but push my academician face on my website? (btw, i don't yet have an explicit-content spoken-word orator in me... but it's a thought).

second, places. while Hodgkinson catches plenty, he misses the point that many people get disappointed with this glorified utopia that is the physical, f2f world - where environmental degradation, terrorists, pedophiles, corruption, politics (of any kind neoconservative, liberal, whatever), and mindless jobs persist, and where we get to go to pubs with our friends loads of times. my research subjects tell me that virtual spaces like fb are places where they can just relax, take a rest, and whoa betide, have fun of the silly, mindless ilk. especially when life says that f2f is rarely possible when we need it.

so, i largely don't buy what hodgkinson is selling. not because there is not some truth in it, but because every now and then i know that folks just want to escape the f2f, and throw a chicken at someone out there.

L8R, R. (ne1 can undRst if th will is thR, IMO. nuf Z)

why me?

so although for many i'm a little late to the party thumpin' on the blogosphere, among my peeps i'm still gettin' here early. i thought i'd better answer their immediate question in the first post...why Rhonda, why are you doing this?

as a researcher in new media, i kinda hafta be in here. a bit of participant observation if you will. and i believe that what John Gregory Dunne said is true, that "writing is manual labour of the mind: a job, like laying pipe". so it's a workout. lastly, and more seriously, i'm playing with this blog thang as a form of asynchronous conversation with the big, bad whomever, that i will lovingly call "my public".

so, my public, since research shows that less than 10% of people who read blogs ever post a comment/response, i invite you to every so often be that 10%. let's talk.

L8R, R
(ne1 can undRst if th will is thR, IMO. nuf Z)