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find boredom again

I worry for the children …that with all of this information, they will not have the chance to be aware of their own lives… Head for the hills! Go to the woods, get away from all these people! Go to a place where boredom is available to you; there’s where you will start to remember all the things that have ever happened to you.

Garrison Keillor, on the Book Show.

Indeed. There is so little time to really think these days, what with the constant processing processing processing processing of information. New, surface, ephemeral information, constantly updated and replaced by more.

Mike and I and a few others had dinner with Jon Udell the other night, and Mike raised, convincingly, this big spectral question:What are we really doing, we digital do-gooding evangelists? To what degree will these “improvements” we wish to bring to people’s lives actually bring improvements? Mat’s complainging about the SNR on the web.

Ursula Le Guinn thinks books are doing OK (subscription only), and while I agree with her, I haven’t finished a book in months (this happens occasionally).

So: Is your life improved by the web? By your mac? Your iphone? I mean, I know you love the web and your mac and your iphone, but have they truly improved your life? For me the answer is a very big yes, and a very big no, and they compete furiously. (Though I don’t have an iphone yet, so maybe I should wait to make final judgments).


  1. Mat Mat 2008-01-31

    Yes, the Web makes my life better in a significant way. No question.

    I able to understand my industry (the technology industry at it were) in a way that would not be possible otherwise. Further, through online tools and social connectivity, I am able to go beyond my field of interest and discover things I might not ever have discovered.

    I am able to share my thinking with others, and as a result, improve my ability to articulate thought.

    I am (quite easily) able to lead an existence that goes beyond my apartment’s four walls, and touches many people and many places around the world — as many as I feel I can meaningfully manage.

    Yes, at times, I find myself (my mind, my eyeballs) rotting in front of the screen; dazed, stalled, drowned in noise, hyperactively unproductive.

    Despite all, the net result is a large positive for me.

  2. mtl3p mtl3p 2008-01-31

    man. that is totally unfair of you. you absolutely have to buy yourself that iPhone before you can answer a question like that. Dontchaknow, it’s going to change *everything!*.


  3. Hugh Hugh 2008-02-01

    @mat, presumably if you didn’t have a computer and the internet, you’d be working in a different industry…and I guess the question re: quality of life is, how much better/deeper/richer is your life now than it would be if you were just, say, reading books from the library and talking to live humans (my answer is that in theory I would prefer to read the books; in practices, obviously, i “prefer” being an ephemeral info junkie).

    @mtl3p: quite right. i will wait.

  4. mir mir 2008-02-02

    for you interest:

    I don’t think reading books can be compared to staring at textual media they are ultimately quite different.

    I would never absorb a website the way I would a book.

    In fact to quote you:

    “New, surface, ephemeral information, constantly updated and replaced by more.”

    Is something a good book never should be, so why compare the two activities.

  5. Hugh Hugh 2008-02-03

    mir: ““New, surface, ephemeral information, constantly updated and replaced by more.”
    Is something a good book never should be, so why compare the two activities.”

    HM: The problem for me is that one comes at the expense of the other. The more time I spend looking at my computer screen, the less time I spend reading books. Further, the more time I spend on my computer, the more difficulty I have reading books. My mind wanders, I cannot concentrate, I want to check my email. I have not finished a book in months.

    I’m not happy with that.

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