Rien à Dire

This poster perhaps encapsulates blogging better than anything I've seen!

(Image: CUBE

Even when I'm trying to be as honest and relevant as I can, I still have a lurking insecurity that it's all been said before, and better.  So, how can I truly claim to have something to say?

It's a poster by Alan Fletcher, "Britain's Most influential graphic designer".  CUBE (the Centre for the Urban Built Environment) in Manchester just had a retrospective on his work.  Too bad it ended last week.  And too bad it's on the other side of the world from where I live.

This is Alan talking about his book The Art of Looking Sideways.  He was a fascinating and prolific character.


On Being Malleable

It's been a while since I posted anything to this blog.  The new house we moved into, earlier this year, has no telephone line!  So, I've been largely without internet since January.  I can't say that I've missed it all that much!  I've been reading more books, instead of reading online articles.

However, after my (admittedly half-hearted) attempts to get a land line to our property have come to nothing, I've finally signed up a for mobile broadband deal.  This could be a good occasion for a rant about phone companies and the privatisation of public assets: New Zealand now has several inefficient phone utilities when previously it had just one!  But it's my increasing reliance on the internet (and therefore, phone companies) that interests me more.  I'm also just a little worried by the ways that I am shaped by it.

 Image: Doron Meir

Clearly, media shape as well as inform our thinking.  And the internet may be shaping my thinking in ways I don’t particularly like.  I read an article by Nicholas Carr, in The Atlantic, nearly two years ago, which suggested that whereas deep reading (in a traditional medium) equates to deep thinking, the internet encourages skimming and "power browsing".  Also, the internet appears not to foster concentration and contemplation.  I skimmed his article again (conscious of the irony) when I checked the link just a moment ago.  But how can one really criticize the internet?  It provides access (once you've got your connection sorted) to an astounding quantity of information.  Someone like Carr risks sounding like a luddite, but his concern is that information is all the internet makes us care for: the goal is to get lots of it, with no regard for its quality.  Knowledge is an archaism.  Wisdom even more so.

But perhaps it's not about "better" or "worse", just "different".  Perhaps the new technologies are developing an internet generation who simply think differently.  The timespan necessary to evaluate the effects of this new technological mode of exchange may be far longer than the human lifespan.  I'm at an age where I'm becoming aware of my finiteness.  Or rather, I have a sense of the dimensions of my finiteness.  So, I'm aware that, say, ten years is a big percentage of one's life.  The questions I'm asking are: What have I been doing the past ten years?  What has been shaping my thinking? And how much choice do I have about it?

Perhaps what I'm sensing is a need to take greater control over what it is that shapes me.  What do I want to be influenced by?  I don't want to be just drifting along, absorbing whatever comes my way.

That core of idealism still remains...