Screen and Self


Long ago, we lived in the oral culture. Orators would speak for hours on end.

Now we communicate in short bursts and sound bites (injected with acronyms, see OPP blog).

In between, we had enjoyed the print culture, the Morse code, radio, film and TV , before we got to the Internet with  SMS,  touch-screen and voice-activation.

I was having a conversation today without an awareness that it’s an analog-digital-analog conversion and transmission.

That context is unchanged. The mode of communication has.

I looked at the screen, first to decide whether I should take the call, and what would be my response.

Over the years, adults in our families have served as mirrors and screens.

They told us when our behaviors were proper and when they were not.

Now, we interact more with the screen (let’s say, online education and gaming).

The intelligence in the software sets the standard for what is right and wrong answer.

So, slowly, we build our trust for the screen, our newest and highest authority “It says here in the computer that you owe us xxx amount of dollars”.

Our kids play with imaginary “friends” while we share our “Like” online.

I have mentioned “Being There” in my previous blogs.

It has gotten worse since Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine laughed about “in TV we  trust”.

Many states have prohibited text-while-you-drive.

I don’t know how they are going to enforce it, because by the time the tweet was sent, it’s already done with. It will be hard to “gotcha!”.

One thing is for sure. We, as adaptive creatures, have learned to be more tactile, thumbing our texts and chewing gum at the same time.

All along, the screen and the self have interacted like dance partners, each anticipating the other’s moves (on YouTube, we found a video showing a toddler toying with an Ipad; might as well start them early).

In fact, with self-improved algorithms, Search and other apps learn to guess our very intention.

Everything is in the name of utmost efficiency. Make your point.

No winding hour-long speech: ” Men of Rome! Shall we stand and fight? Yes or No”. Between the TV’s, the smart phones , the tablets and yet-to-be-invented devices, we have it all covered, from cradle to the grave; a life long state of  “being-there” i.e. communion between screen and self. In our age, the latest is the greatest: touch screen eliminates the mouse, voice activation eliminates the touch screen, so on and so forth. I read in the WSJ  today that smart phones are telling jokes “2 I-phones walk into a bar…..” In short, the screen first informs, then tries to educate and entertain, all in one fell swoop. No wonder spouses are jealous of the screen, for the obvious reason: it’s the attention economy, and Spouse/Self  is fighting a losing battle against Screen.

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