This time of the year is filled with convergences. As the winter loses its bite and nature begins incubating the bursts of buds and brightness, there are changes within communities, within people themselves. Maybe after the holidays and the gray swath of cold a mental Mardi Gras is needed, not a trade show of fractured attempts but a chance to hear what others are saying on and off the page. There are plenty of metaphors that could be used for spring, for this part of the cycle, for when there is a need for realignment.
It’s not just about prepping the beds for the next set of flowers or for the summers work load. It seems to be across the board, some form of universal need for a chiropractic POP! to be delivered. Is it merely seasonal or is there a growing awareness beyond me?
I guess it’s time for a slight disclaimer in that some of this is clearly personal as I write it. I have recently been through a period of depression that was debilitating as far as thought or progress was concerned. The only difference this time as compared to any previous bouts since the mid-1970’s is I actually sought professional treatment. Earlier in my life I either self medicated or did the Eeyore until the cloud lifted. This time with the watchful and caring eye of my wife and the seemingly gargantuan dose of dispair I had the docs tinker until there was some improvement. There may not have been a blinding return to Technicolor but certainly a sense of an unread pile of books and a full DVR.
Have you ever been off the network or engaged in something that has taken you away from the modern lifestream for any period of time? Did you have a sense when you returned that you missed something or that you’d never recapture it because of the linear nature of the services you currently use? Similar to missing an important meeting at work or the season finale of a drama, you know down deep you can get the information but have missed the moment. This may not be a universal experience, even for heavy internet users or social media types. I have experienced it while traveling and also when life conspired to keep me from staring at the screen. For many, Real Time is not important. I think for those who have experienced it during an event or been part of a spirited discussion can understand.
I became interested in Real Time through the Gillmor Gang and one of its timely spin offs, News Gang Live. For many, the discussions and dissections performed by “Dr.” Gillmor and his team were often obtuse, repetitive ,techno-wonky and obscured by clouds (even before clouds were hip). Listening to these group conversations were not a destination, a product or answer to a question, they were often the process of finding the question so the listeners could think about the answer, both around the table and by the speaker. In a society where people prefer to be spoon fed, jerked off or told they are pretty, the show is a challenge even to regular listeners, because it can’t be absorbed casually. People want answers, not questions.
Over the past 5 years with the advent of status and location check-ins, the streaming of personal and professional information and the act of sharing or “liking” items of interest, many people have turned to devices other than their TV or radio for information and entertainment. The traditional outlets have scurried into the fray, attempting to maintain a presence and generate revenue for their corporate boards, while protecting their interests. What’s more, affinity groups and activists have bypassed the blockade that their governments and media outlets have created. The speed and (current) self determination of information sharing have created situations and outcomes that no one saw coming.
Current events have made much of this strikingly clear. Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin and Japan have been remarkable things to watch unfold online. As we have always been dependent on organizations for news, they start being an obvious choice but individuals with mobile devices have become our new news teams. How do I find these individuals? Not by the recommendation of a news gathering company but from friends and their friends. A government will stop a camera crew at a border but a native with a smartphone can send us, within seconds, images of what is happening, now.
Gillmor during the 2008 election run up would mix tech and politics and when both the listeners and the participants would say “Why Obama, why Twitter?” and he would answer “There’s no difference.” That’s a huge chunk of WTF for most people to sit down with. I think a lot of us nodded because of him being the embodiment of Oscar the Grouch, George Martin and Yoda for us but we learned after a few snout smacks that we often just talked until we figured out what we were talking about and then produced the question.
For the past two weeks I’m getting that event horizon/ convergence feeling again and I’m not sure it’s because I’m pulling my head out of my own ass or if there is something at play here. Wisconsin was telling because what we saw on Twitter was not what we were seeing on the TV networks. There was some serious high end message manipulation going on that most people who live here probably don’t think is possible, or would be un-American. How would they know, unless they used the other, newer network? Would they actually believe that public school teachers caused the Wall St. meltdown? Did the major media outlets think that no one would be interested in 100,000 people gathering to voice their opposition to legislation (as opposed to a sporting event or an American Idol audition?)
Maybe someone somewhere honestly thinks that iPads and iPhones are only gonna be used for Angry Birds and watching trailers for CSI: Tishamingo. There are plenty of people who don’t want to see the scale of the suffering in Japan or the theories why unions are saving or killing our country. They have the right to be uninformed; they should just have the choice of not being misinformed.
One headline really got my attention last week: It was about Stephen Harper, the PM of Canada, trying to get a law off the books up there because it prevents networks like Fox News from being broadcast: it’s illegal to lie on the public airwaves. We lost the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987 and now you can blatantly lie without much pushback. It makes you wonder if the truth is important to people if it goes against what they believe or say what they believe. Is the Wikileaks stuff true? Does it matter?
So, as individuals with access to the network (in most countries) we can sift through more information than we ever could if we did it every second for the rest of our lives. We count on others (reliable sources, friends, F.O.F.’s) to parse what is important. Even algorithms get involved. We can look at a map and see which people are actually there to experience it. We either have to trust these people, suspend our disbelief or not care if it’s true, content to parrot headlines to be “first!” or some other form of cool.
I began writing this article because of a feeling that’s been nameless and directionless for the past few weeks. I can feel and hear something coming but I’m not sure from which direction. Like a gunshot in a canyon the echo bounces off the cliffs and fakes the ear out, making the need for other senses to get involved in the location factor. Part of it may be our instinct for where the sniper should be, rather than any clue see or unseen. A glint of glass, a puff of smoke, they would be helpful but all I have is that echo bouncing around my head.
In that echo I hear a few things that might have something to do with it or not; identity and integrity, the continuing idea of having a single unified identity online and how some would be surprised how few people actually want that; that people want the layers of the onion and some kind of protection from being exposed as being human, flawed, weird, kinky, criminal, selfish, greedy, stupid, dishonest, gullible; the Asian concept of “Face” and how universal it is, like it or not; how “Groups” never really work, that “Circles” might, the intersections dangerous, exciting, promising, somehow being able to juggle your life in orbits you could manage; new roundtables, fresh energy and angles, new ears to listen to the clues, the ability to triangulate, find where the echo is coming from, find the sniper before we feel the sting of what’s coming next.