We know that new technology always causes a stir—with champions and detractors rightly debating its implications. The internet is a newer technology, prompting heated discussion as we witness its effect real time. Being more connected and therefore able to share our observations, we also have an opportunity to investigate other institutions and the philosophies behind them to consider how they have also shaped us. We have been born into many longstanding institutions, (ex. public policy, cultural and social hierarchies, family, religions etc.) and have not felt the shock or dissonance of their arrival or evolution so we are not always conscious of their impact on our intellectual and emotional development. I wanted to invite students to look at other places in their lives where they may have been influence in highly impactful but “invisible” ways.
“I was being freshly coded with certain expectations of the world, one of which seemed to be an unflagging belief in the responsiveness of others and which never seemed to learn from its disappointments. Digital technology was reshaping my responses, collaborating with my instincts acts, creating in me, its subject, all kinds of new sensitivities. In that sideways glance at the postcard, I could feel my place in history by the peculiar register of my uneasiness.”
- What other structures and institutions shape our “expectations of the world?”
- How much control over our experience within these spaces do we have?
- What other sensations or experiences beyond the dissonance the author describes have made you aware of your “place in history.”
An interesting extension of this reading could be to write a similarly toned exploration imagining the arrival of technologies and modes of communication of the past (telegraph, phone, tv, novel, printing press etc.).
The author uses most of the text to discuss the emotional and intellectual changes induced by interaction with the internet, only suggesting its physical impact. There’s a feeling of awe, inevitability, and distress all wrapped up in his witnessing the internets draw and impact. Building on his realization of his impossible expectation that the unsent postcard should garner a response, I am curious what other ways the rewiring of our expectations impact our relationship with the “analogue” world.
“Going online can feel like a step on a homeward journey, where it is the abstract promise of home, rather than any real sense of the home itself, which matters”
- How do you think an intellectual and emotional construct of “home” compares to the experience of “home” rooted in physical time and place? Is one more desirable than the other?
- What implications, if any, do you think the internet’s emphasis on mental engagement says about the future of our relationships to our physical selves and others?