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...