The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

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Reclaiming Conversation: Are Cellphones Reducing Our Empathy for Each Other? November 27, 2015

Filed under: Communication,no technosavvywhatsoever — Karen Shafer @ 10:46 pm

From the book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, author Sherry Turkle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gives us her favorite quote: “Technology makes us forget what we know about life.”

This is a worthwhile conversation…

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/how-your-cellphone-is-silently-disrupting-your-social-life/

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Cookie-Free Zone. Or Maybe I’m a Luddite? July 31, 2012

Filed under: no technosavvywhatsoever,peace,The Natural World — Karen Shafer @ 11:14 pm

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Journal Archives: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

 

Cookie-Free Zone. Or Maybe I’m a Luddite?

 

I’m staying in a New England coastal town.  It’s the off season, which I like — no crowds, little traffic, but there’s the company of friendly locals so that one doesn’t feel isolated.  The weather is beautiful:  sometimes sunny and mild — and sometimes chilly, blustery and raining.

 

Today I’ve returned to the spot where I come every day, and many other people seem to feel about this particular place the way I do.  The few tourists that are here at this time of year, as well as ‘year-rounders’ —  retired residents out for a stroll, workmen at lunch or on their way home at the end of the day, teenagers out of school for  spring break — every few minutes people pull into the car park where I’m sitting overlooking the sand bars stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean beyond us.

 

Some, mostly tourists like myself, take pictures.  A few people descend the stairs to the beach to walk their dogs, search for shells, fly kites, play catch or just amble.  Others sit in their cars or stand on this bank above the beach and gaze at sand interspersed with sea that expresses itself in some inexplicable combination of ease and power.

 

A few point at the beach and ocean, turning to their companions and discussing… what?  Whether that is a gray seal or just a log way out on the sand bar this early in the year?  (Seals!)  Anticipating the unusual appearance of the Great White Sharks that have come in recent years to hunt the seals and wondering if they’ll appear this season — is there a chance that’s a fin way out in the water?

 

Earlier in the week, I spoke with a man who comes here weekly from a nearby town simply to see how the shape of the sand bars has changed.

 

A minute ago, a middle-aged man came up from the beach.   It’s cold today, but he was barefoot!  Well dressed, balding, tidy jeans rolled up.  I said to him, “Like your shoes!”  He laughed and gave me a ‘thumbs-up’.

 

There are dunes to the right of here, then, beyond, more ocean.  Far down the coast are shoals — nicknamed ‘Turner’s Terror’ — which caused the Mayflower to turn back in 1620 while it was attempting to reach the Hudson River to set up a settlement in the New World.  These shoals are the primary reason that New England was started first at Provincetown on Cape Cod, and ultimately at Plymouth [Plimouth] rather than on what is now Long Island, New York.

 

During a hurricane a few years ago, this was one of the places which was charted to be ground zero.  I remember seeing a television reporter standing on this very beach, being almost blown away by the near gale-force winds, trying to anticipate with some accuracy what was to come within the hour.  Fortunately, the hurricane moved off its expected course and spared what lies in front of me now.

 

It is mesmerizing, calming, yet moving to be here.  It is peace.  Along the coast, and particularly in this spot, are the only places I’ve been in a long time where people just come, sit, look and think.  There is no intermediary here between oneself and the natural world —  — no one interpreting, screening, collecting your ‘cookies’ in order to send you Google ads that fit your profile.

 

One almost never sees people here driving around speaking into their cell phones, nor do people in restaurants talk on their mobiles or text.  Instead, they talk to each other animatedly over dinner or while sitting in a pub over a pint.  I don’t know why it’s that way, but I like it.

 

KS

 

 

 

To Tech or Not To Tech? March 17, 2012

Filed under: inspiration,no technosavvywhatsoever,peace,The Natural World,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 9:10 pm

Saturday, March 17, 2012

 

To Tech or Not To Tech?  There’s a Different Answer for Everyone

Friends sometimes ask me, ‘Why aren’t you on Facebook???  How do you keep up?’  I realize we are coming from different perspectives and that it may be hard to explain.

 

I want less internet, not more.  I see the online world as an invaluable tool but also as a kind of necessary evil.  It seems to me that it can be addicting, yet that it is somehow inherently unrewarding.  Maybe I’m looking for some sort of response there that I never get.  Could the response I’m missing be the three-dimentional experience, either from human beings or from the natural world?  (Or, if you’re a particle physics fan who’s interested in String Theory, that would be more dimensions than three!)

 

Another way of saying it:  ‘I want to smell the actual-not-the-virtual flowers and to pull the three-dimensional weeds.’

 

I want to sit and stare.  At the trees, the sky, the birds and butterflies (and at  this time of year, the shower of pollen!)  Not at a computer screen or a handheld device.  It’s taken me so long to start to learn to ‘be here now.’  I hate to voluntarily give it up any more than is absolutely necessary.  My ‘lights’ will flicker and dim soon enough.

 

As a news junkie, I prefer to get my info from the BBC World Service on radio, the television evening news, and PBS Newshour.  As it is, I think often enough of, for example, of what’s going on in Syria, that I have a friend who lives in Damascus — and that I have no way to know if he and his family are OK.  I don’t really want my newsfeed to be more frequent than that it already is.

 

It may seem disingenuous to say this, given that this blog is on the internet.  The worldwide web has it’s uses, without a doubt.  An extremely positive one is spreading the word about certain crises in the world that need our attention and care.  I just somehow feel that sharing and caring about what time of day a celebrity ate a piece of pizza is definitely TMI.

 

I even think that it’s probably harmful to the human brain to experience the world increasingly through ‘screens’.  I recently learned of a study which found that electronic devices are addicting to the brains of children.  But am I a retro freak who’s behind the times and way out of touch?

 

Along comes an interview with writer Paul Theroux to save my reputation (the word ‘reputation’ is hyperbolic in relation to myself, but please indulge me)!

 

The Atlantic Monthly:  What does the advent of the e-reader mean for reading — for the health of narrative storytelling as a form, for the market for fiction, for the future of books?  E-readers certainly make it easier to tote lots of novels and other texts while traveling.  But don’t we lose something — in sustained concentration, or in a sense of permanence, or in the notion of a book as an art object — in the migration away from the codex?

 

Paul Theroux:  Movable type seemed magical to the monks who were illuminating manuscripts and copying texts.  Certainly e-books seem magical to me.  I started my writing life in the 1940’s as an elementary student at the Washington School in Medford, Massachusetts, using a steel-nibbed pen and an inkwell, so I have lived through every technology.  I don’t think people will read more fiction than they have in the past (as I say, it’s a minority interest), but something certainly is lost — the physicality of a book, how one makes a book one’s own by reading it (scribbling in it, dog-earing pages, spilling coffee on it) and living with it as an object, sometimes a talisman.  Writing is one of the plastic arts, which is why I still write in longhand for a first draft.  I can’t predict how reading habits will change.  But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive — no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.

 

TA:  Does the migration to e-readers increase access to good stories or diminish it?

 

PT:  Greatly increases access.  I could not be more approving.  But free libraries are full of books that no one reads.

 

TA:  What has the Twitter-ization of our attention spans, and the hyperlinking of our storytelling, and the Google-ization of all our knowledge meant for imaginative literature as an art form and a vehicle for transmitting ideas?

 

PT:  In a hyperactive world, the writing of fiction — and perhaps the reading of it — must seem slow, dull, even pedestrian and oldfangled.  I think there is only one way to write fiction — alone, in a room, without interruption or any distraction.  Have I just described the average younger person’s room?  I don’t think so.  But the average younger person is multitasking.  The rare, unusual, solitary younger person is writing a poem or story.

 

Crawling into bed and picking up my hard-bound copy of Henry James’ The Golden Bowl is the most peaceful and satisfying part of my day.  I feel like he’s my ‘friend,’ even though neither of us has a Facebook page, or, if he does, I’m pretty certain he’s not the one who put it up!

 

KS

 

Mac or No Mac? July 6, 2009

Filed under: no technosavvywhatsoever — Karen Shafer @ 8:17 pm

 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mac or No Mac?

 

A week and a half ago, my MacBook gave its little all and went ‘belly up.’  Being unplugged was traumatic for the first few days, but then I began to feel surprisingly, exhilaratingly free.

 

However, it’s not really a possibility to stay unplugged for long in our culture, is it?  And I’m sure it would have gotten weird to have gone on much longer.  Still, I was surprised that the longer I was without the internet and email, the less I missed it.

 

That said, tonight I took my MacBook into the Apple store in Northpark for an appointment that was to be either its autopsy or its organ transplant.  Hooray!!!  It was the latter.  The lovely guy at the Genius Bar told me after about three minutes that it was the battery that was the problem.  Then he plopped a new one in, closed the computer and handed it to me.  “How much?” I asked warily.  “Oh, no charge,” he smiled.  Full of unanticipated glee, I blew a kiss to this long-haired perfect stranger — which he thought was pretty funny.  His t-shirt said, quite rightly, ‘Not All Heroes Wear Capes.’

 

This — and my pathetically inadequate computer-capable DNA — is why I LOVE MY MAC.

 

KS

 

Blogs, Their Wills, and Their Mothers March 18, 2008

Filed under: no technosavvywhatsoever,Random Post,Uncategorized — Karen Shafer @ 4:44 pm

Just recently, my blog has been unwilling to acknowledge me as its mother. About a week ago, in a matricidal impulse, it banned me from its premises.

Fortunately, through some delicate negotiations and not inconsiderable tech support, I am able once again to be a player (albeit a very minor one) in the Weblog Game.

Who knew blogs had wills of their own? I just hope that, when the time comes, my blog remembers its own mother in its will.

KS