Saturday, February 28, 2004

Hi--Anna here... In response to Ben who responded to me:

When people sit at a computer to communicate, to learn, to explore, whatever, it is a very individual activity, at least in the physical sense. Even if they're communicating with somebody, their eyes are focused straight ahead on the monitor, their body is turned into the keyboard, and they are concentrating on the electronic activity. This posture and focus means they are not paying primary attention to what is physically surrounding them. They are not sharing a physical space with anybody and I believe sharing a physical space and physical sensations makes us more connected and accountable to each other. My concern with electronic communication is that this medium removes us from the physical world and, in some sense, each other. We can share experiences intellectually and emotionally on-line and there is value to that. But I feel the immediateness of physical proximity leads us to connect with people we may not have otherwise. Who hasn't smiled at a stranger and then high-fived them at a sporting event? I'm sure there is some electronic acronym that equates this in cyberspace, but it just isn't the same. The medium takes away a sense of intimacy that, as human beings living in the same world, we in some way share. And, as Ben pointed out, Miles Davis did play a chunk of brass with some buttons, but he played it in front of people and people listened to it while sitting in the same space with each other. Anyone can hear Davis play by downloading his music and playing it while they sit alone at their computer terminal. It is powerful even then. But how much more powerful would it be if you were sitting in front of him, or any musician for that matter, at watching his hands move, his forehead sweat, and his glances to his bandmates? There is a richness in physical proximity that is lost on-line. The music may be the same, but the medium matters.

And about Rheindgold's scene with his daughter--I don't think I explained myself well enough in my initial posting. It's a shallow scene for his daughter, not him. He certainly demonstrated the emotional and entertainment value of on-line relationships and I don't mean to be critical of his friendships. They're real to me. But to have a primary person in your life be hunched over a computer screen and interacting with it in a way you don't understand because you're not involved, is detrimental. This could happen with any hobby, but most people do not gain the same kind of emotional interaction from a hobby as they do from electronic interaction. When people are interacting so much emotionally with electronic friends, I have to wonder if they somehow ignore other face-to-face relationships in their lives.

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