Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stop the Presses!

'Contrary to the hopes of some advocates, the internet is not changing the socioeconomic character of civic engagement in America. Just as in offline civic life, the well-to-do and well-educated are more likely than those less well off to participate in online political activities such as emailing a government official, signing an online petition or making a political contribution.'
--a conclusion from the most recent "no-duh" report assembled by the Pew Internet organization, producers of a series of studies that point out the painfully obvious. You can review earlier iterations of our Stop the Presses series here.


At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Mike Q said...

You mean if you're less well off you probably don't have the computer, the internet connection or the money to do any of those things?

Like someone once said, "I've been rich and I've been poor -- and rich is better."

At 10:45 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I second that notion.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Maria said...

Having used the internet at the library before having access at home -- and still using it there to be sociable, now -- I am struck by how rushed one is. Can't be helped in these times of tight-budget. What worries me these days? That, literally, the sense of touch and all its deep-mind/heart connection may be replaced with the sense of computer-touch. Not the same to the brain. New areas of neocortex may be polished, but deeper areas of the emotional brain...I'm not sure. On the computer anyway...but what might collective over-reliance on symbolic forms do to empathy?

At 9:15 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

They sure won't help in the empathy department, Maria. But I think all of this speaks to our own individual responsibility not to become over-reliant on all these virtual tools, and to instead use them as a gateway to more and deeper human connections, face to face. There's simply no replacing that.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

You'd be surprised how many people involved in the Lewis & Clark era historical reenactment (aka Rendezvous) scene are computer professionals. A lot of those get away to the Rendezvous for a long weekend, set up camp, and live in the 18th century for the weekend. I've been one of them; but then, for me, technology is technology. I'm interested in the history of tech, and also in archaic tech that is still relevant to today.

There are a lot of "invisible" (to the media or the academy) people out there, in other words, who already know that the human touch, and human contact, are not served by doing everything virtual.

Virtual is a form of disembodied Gnosis. Radical philosophers such as Hakim Bey have written about its pitfalls. So has William Gibson, in his cyberpunk novels; he both explores and warns.

HIstorically, some of these same arguments warning of technology's pitfalls have been repeated since Mary Shelley wrote "Frankenstein." It's a constant tension within technical culture. It's wise, I agree, to not forget about them, and similarly wise to practice the enhancement of empathy.

But in many ways, none of this is anything new, exactly.

verification word: prowling

At 1:31 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yet another interesting thing I learned about you today, Art, that you've apparently taken part in the Lewis & Clark re-enactment. Most people have perhaps heard of Civil War re-enactments, but I must admit this is the first I've ever heard of L&C re-enactments. How intriguing. Have you written about this? If so, please share the link.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

I've written about it much. But the Rendezvous circuit—aka fur trade era reenactments, aka mountain men reenactments—are nationwide. They're usually limited to the time period from around 1750s till around the 1820s or 30s; but that technology was stable for almost 300 years, from the Renaissance through the Napoleonic era, the tent designs were pretty much the same.

Civil War era reenactments get a lot more press, and they tend to be sticklers about absolute historic accuracy, no anachronisms allowed, etc. But they also tend to be a little more uptight. We used to give them crap about it, sometimes. The Rendezvous was fun in that a lot of us were also Monty Python type people: strange, sick twisted minds who liked to have fun. Witty mockery was high sport. Always loads of fun.

Here's a place one can start from:


If I ever write up any of my stories from this part of my life, I'll let you know.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I learned something useful today, Art. Thanks.


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