MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “technology”

The anti-tech mute

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/13/ea/7a/13ea7a3fc1a0414aa846a48ff7c03be2.jpgHis name was Edison. He had it sculpted on a wooden plaque in his bedroom to remind himself of it.

It was years since he decided to retreat into solitude. At first, he saw it as a challenge, because he realised he was too drawn into the digital life of constant social networking, online media access, useless self-advertising and unabashed self-appreciation. He did not like the person he had become. He was hanging upon the number of likes he would receive on every post he made, on the number of followers his posts would receive, on the number of people who viewed the videos he uploaded. It was as if this invisible click by people he didn’t even know was what kept him alive. So he decided to do something radical about it. He decided to disconnect from everything and everyone. Those who really cared would find a way to contact him. Everyone else did not matter.

For two years, he had devised a lifestyle where his talk was limited to simple daily transactions to meaningless chit-chat with neighbours and co-workers. Everything else, was typed on a laptop.

One day, however, he woke up with a strange feeling. He felt his vocal chords had gone numb. He could not utter a sound. Was it true that you could forget how to talk if you didn’t speak?

He tried to shout, to scream, to say something, to whisper even, but nothing came out. Not even a screech.

He felt all his other senses heightened. As though the lens in his eyes with which he viewed the world had suddenly zoomed in and he witnessed everything in more detail, more clearly and with greater analysis. He began to notice things people did that he failed to see before. The level and tone of voice they used to speak to each other. He could comprehend simply by the sound and intensity of their voices and their body language what these people felt about each other. And he acknowledged that as a people we have become more aggressive, more aggravated, are more stressed and in constant agitation.

When he went home that night, he turned on his laptop, opened a new document and began to type. He may not have been able to speak at the moment, but that in itself made a fantastic theme for his new book: the new-age entrepreneur who became an anti-tech mute. He would find a way to raise a warning about the dangers he saw unfolding. And he would do so the only way he knew how.

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The screen that unites us

https://img.clipartfest.com/cff882c695c65e98e3882a6a62ee1d15_-online-chat-clip-art-1-online-chat-clipart_400-400.jpegYou might in essence be talking to a screen, but it’s beyond that: you’re engaging with the people who for some reason or other can’t be physically with you at that moment. The range and evolution of new technology nowadays allows you to contact at any place and any time people who may be situated miles away.

It enables you to share your news, to ask for help, to learn how to do things together – such as cook a meal, bake a cake, or even sew, no matter the distance that physically separates you.

There are some things you just know. And there are some people who can see those things without you really having to say anything. Parents are people like that. People who know when you need help even when you’re not asking for it. People who understand you are not well, no matter how much you try and hide it. People who will reassure you and make you feel better, even when you insist that everything is fine.

And it is at moments like those when you acknowledge the importance and dependence we have on technology and social media. Because if used right, it diminishes the miles and brings you home.

RSVP

http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/wwfeatures/wm/live/624_351/images/live/p0/2k/4q/p02k4qwr.jpgWhen sent a form of communication – be it an email, an SMS, an instant message, a written letter, a pigeon, a Morse code or smoke signals – it is always good manners to respond. Regardless of whether there was a direct question involved.

The same implies for when someone is addressing you with an issue of some sort. Maybe they want your opinion on something, maybe they are asking for your input, or maybe they simply want to share their experience with you. But in all cases, they expect that you will respond in some sort of way.

Otherwise, if you don’t even have the courtesy to nod in acknowledgement that you are registering what they’re saying, it is easy to misunderstand or rather, conclude (either rightly or wrongly), that the other person is simply not interested.

If you care enough, you find the means, the time, and the way to respond.

The French have even globalised a polite abbreviation for it – Répondez S’il Vous Plait (RSVP). OK, you might not really want to respond to something, but it is merely polite to simply acknowledge receipt of the communication and fire up a minimum five-word response. It takes up much more of your time trying to edit a photo to upload on social media, or scrolling through social networking sites.

It is a shame that in the so-called digital era all this technology has in fact made us so anti-social.

Living with/in social media

asocial-networkingIn an age where everything is public, everything also inevitably affects us no matter how much we deny it. We are so hooked on our digital existence that we really can’t see to be without it. It is as if we don’t exist unless we document our actions and share it online for the world to see. No matter how trivial or silly these may be.

The problem with social media nowadays is that nothing is truly private anymore. The confines of personal space and data have become blurred. Once information is “out there” it can literally never be retrieved and re-hidden, regardless of how much it is deleted.

We live in a period when our pass-time is spying on one another online. We may never speak in real life, but have the closest virtual connections and know all about one another’s life – or at least the image we each want to portray – solely from what we post online. Fake or real, our lives have been transferred onto a screen, be it big or small. And it is in that, however, that we’ve lost our human emotion in an attempt to gain more communication. The digital evolution has undoubtedly advanced communication through the certainty granted by the distance provided by the screen, and the time allowed to work on the expression of your views; because otherwise we would seemingly drown in all those things that would have been left unsaid. Yet, filling up with words and flagrant demonstrations of actions, we have become void of sentiment. We have lost the ability to talk, to gaze into the other person’s eyes and speak without saying a word. To understand through the tone of their voice, the message of their heartbeat. To comprehend their state of mind, simply by observing their body language. There are so many things that a screen can still not convey.  And it is through this smartphone and digital media addiction, that we have brought upon us the death of conversation, panicking like drug addicts experiencing withdrawal symptoms when we are found without a device in hand. It is a necessary evil of the modern age, but like everything in life, we need to be able to control and take hold of it. Not allow it to be the other way around.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Panic

Aggressively inarticulate

http://associationnow.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/0309_language-800x480.jpgIt’s hard to find the right words. Especially when you’re in a hurry or rushing to get it all off your chest, you end up mumbling something stupidly incoherent that sounds like gibberish making no sense whatsoever. Then you sit and think of all the comebacks you could have said and beat yourself down for not demonstrating more verbal authority when you had the chance.

But is this a millennial problem? That we don’t really know what we’re saying? That we have lost any access to an extensive vocabulary, preferring instead to repeat nonsense words such as “like” and “you know”, filling up our phrases with…well, nothing really. We make it all sound “cool” and “hip”, but in essence, it means absolutely nothing. Rather, it all reflects the uncertainty that has dwindled upon us. And the dilemma of having nothing to say, or simply not knowing how to express it.

A fantastic kind of stand-up comedy presentation makes fun of exactly this, and eloquently argues that “we are the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since, you know, a long time ago”.

We no longer speak with authority, because we have none. We are instead overwhelmed with too many choices and selections; so many that we have ourselves become indecisive and unsure of even the slightest of things.

We have lost touch with the joy of learning independently. Of being able to handle things without computerized assistance. To the extent that some jobs won’t even hire you if you declare that you don’t need the aid of technology to do something, but can handle it very well on your own. Is it so absurd that you yourself possess the knowledge someone else fed into a machine to do it for you? Sure, it helps, but what about the satisfaction of accomplishing things on your own?

Being articulate isn’t just about finding the right words, and knowing how to spell them correctly. It’s about the clout that comes from demonstrating a higher level of intellect and the ability to expand your own horizons.

What to do in a blackout

http://www.greentechmedia.com/content/images/articles/blackout_1.jpgThere you are, enjoying a steaming hot shower after a freezing cold day. You take your time, reveling in the warm water running down your shoulders, allowing you to relax and feel rejuvenated after a tiring day. A flicker of light gets you worried for an instance, but you decided to think nothing of it. And just when you lift your foot to get out, the lights go out and you find yourself in a total blackout. You can see absolutely nothing, so it is good you already know your way around. But what do you do?

Firstly, you need to put something around you, if only to soak up the water dripping from you. Then you need to find light of some sort – be it candles, the computer screen (for as long as the battery lasts), or even a torch on your smartphone (see, it is smart after all).

Voices are heard in the corridor, because it is not just your flat that lies in darkness, but the entire building. You half-open the window shutter to witness that the entire block is out of power. This is interesting.

It might take a while to get back the technology you are so accustomed to, so what do you do? You mainly appreciate the silence, acknowledging how much noise electricity actually makes – well, you did have the fridge, computer, television, radio, heater, and tea kettle on.

Then you begin to wonder what would people do without electricity? Sure, you still have your computer and phone working, but for how long? And there is no internet, so basically you are cut-off from that form of communication.

Are you dressed yet? You need to keep warm.

There are noises outside, running up and down the stairs. At least, someone is trying to fix the problem.

You head to the kitchen for a snack. There is no use staying hungry all through this ordeal. Find something healthy, like wholemeal chips. That will keep you busy while waiting in the dark.

You hope the power will return before the battery of your savior-machines bails on you.

And all of a sudden, there is light! You can hear the fridge sounds return, the TV turning back on, the modem signaling it’s on, the computer plugging in, the radio singing, the heater warming up again. You rejoice with the “return to civilization”. You exhale a sigh of relief, as your boredom ends.

But it is short-lived, as the blackout revisits. Apparently, the problem was not fixed.

So you sit and wait, until the power eventually returns for good this time. And as you watch the candle light casts its shadows in the dark, all you can do is acknowledge how addicted we have become to things we take for granted. Things that we can now not live without. Things that may help us, but at the same time have converted us into technology-junkies vulnerable to any situation that does not involve their use. Because, be honest, how many of you took a photo during a blackout to post once the power is back on?

 

N.B. Based on a true incident, Athens, Greece, 30 November 2015 (apart from the blackout selfie).

Breaking the Law, Breaking Bad

camping_fullsize_story1Have you ever broken the law? Stealing candy doesn’t count. Something more substantial. Like tying the officer’s shoelaces together when you’re ten years old, so he can’t run after you when you grab an entire ice cream bucket from the town market. Not that I would know how that would be done, of course. So really, have you ever been bad?

I remember a specific summer when we had gone camping. That week was fully, completely, no-turning-back, law-breaking. There was almost nothing legal about it.

To begin with, we had camped in a non-authorised camping zone. And we would soon realise why.

We had gotten off track on the way there, because one of us had forgotten the GPS, and, well, let’s face it, a sense of orientation is not our strongest trait. But that is why we went camping to begin with. To practice.

It took us three hours to set up our tents (when at practice we had them set up and equipped within thirty minutes). The wind was blowing everything away, the tent blew up like a balloon, and then we spent about two and a half hours chasing the tents around the makeshift camp zone in order to bolt them down to the ground. It was kinda funny if you weren’t the one running after the tent.

So, by the time we got that part done, we were starving. Luckily we had brought enough food with us. Well, at least for the first couple of days. We had to light a fire to warm up the pre-cooked food we had cleverly tagged along, yet there were no marked firewood lying around anywhere (as there would have been if we had reached the intended camping site). So, the two “macho” men in our group proclaimed they “would go get wood”. We waited. And waited. Then we heard a screech, a yell, and a bump. Apparently, they had reenacted that cartoon scene where one of them sits on a branch, sawing the wrong end of it, so that eventually both branch and sawyer fell onto the on-viewer who was (stupidly, may I add) observing from ground view. Enough said.

We could not sleep at all during the night, because we were literally bombarded by flying monkeys. OK, so they weren’t monkeys, they were mosquitoes. But they were huge and noisy and were everywhere. They might as well have been flying monkeys.

The next day, we decided to go fishing at the lake. Well, you can see where this is going, so I won’t tell you much. Just that it involved a cut arm, a rusty fishing line, an eel, some whitebait, and someone almost drowning.

Our food ran out, faster than the sun set. It seems that misfortunes, and the absolute lack of any first-world comforts that we so often take for granted, can certainly accentuate your appetite. We decided to hike to the nearest market. On the way, we were almost tackled by a grizzly bear. OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration. On the way, we were definitely tackled by a grizzly bear. It tore off both the “macho” men’s T-shirts and tried to pull of my shoe. Luckily, the boot was tightly fitted on to my leg and I managed to run away.

We had hiked for three kilometers by the time we reached the market and found an inn right on top of it. But of course, we had (smartly) left our money back at the “campsite”. Nonetheless, we decided to sneak in and take a shower. Us two girls, managed quite easily. But when the second boy was finishing up and looking for a towel, the innkeeper’s wife came in. Screaming ensued, mostly from the wet, naked man, who had fortunately managed to grab a towel that turned out to be the innkeeper’s conservative nightgown, and we ran out of there like crazy.

The innkeeper, however, fulfilled the threat he had so loudly yelled at us. Police were called, of course.

By the time we returned to the campsite, the police were already there. So was the bear. We were the ones to get a heavy fine for all this confusion and illegality. But we did also get a ride back to town. Not matter if it was in a police car. With the sirens on. Apparently, the police thought we had something to hide and that is why we were acting so strangely. Little did they know, this is how insane we were. We were forced to spend the night at the police department and pay the fine in full before we were released. It was certainly better than spending the night with a grizzly bear in our tent.

One thing is for sure though. We definitely learnt to appreciate all the things we usually take for granted. Clean water, food of all sorts, warmth, technology, bear-free zones. But the camping trip did us good, for we realized that we need a little order lest our world springs into chaos; a little light to save us from our own darkness.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Breaking the Law

Selfish Shellfish Selfies

ShellfieGo into a café. Look around. How many people do you see who are really conversing? Who are actually talking and listening to each other? Look at their hand gestures, their body movement, their eye contact. Any? Now, count how many people you see instead being distracted by a digital device. Too many to count, huh?

It’s amazing how the first thing we have come to notice when entering a café, a bar, a restaurant, is whether they have free Wi-Fi or not. As if that is the criterion of whether their food will be healthy or tasty, or even edible. Because of course, we then have to check-in, post on every social media account we have, that we are at that specific place. And then, we have that irresistible need – that feels like an itch that must be scratched – to take selfies of everything, as if that is what will prove our existence.

We have become such narcissists and so self-centred that when someone asks us what we do, we hesitate for a while, and our thoughts run to the last thing we posted or read online in order to find an interesting conversation starter. How many hours of the day do we spend sunk in a screen, reading. As though we are shellfish retreating in their hard exterior, waiting for the moment a pearl will emerge. Reading about the news, about other people’s status updates, about pretty much everything. Because we need to be informed about everything. And then we also need to have an opinion about everything too. And we obviously need to post it to demonstrate that we are opinionated and follow the current trends.

But just consider for a moment, what happens during a power cut? We sit in silence not knowing what to do. And if we still have charged phones, we might take a selfie and save it for later, to post as soon as power is back – #blackout #nowwhat #awkward.

Is this what we want to be remembered as? The generation hashtag? We are so busy trying to prove that we are active digitally that we don’t really do much in reality. What is the point of going for a hike or for a cross-country train ride, when you keep posting updates of your location? How are you exactly enjoying being in nature away from the digital insanity? Sure, take pictures, but save them for later. Then you can comprehensively recap your experience and tell others how worthwhile it was to escape for a while. Prompt yourself and others to step away from the screen.

Because, honestly, is this all we have to show for ourselves? That we are selfish shellfish taking selfies?

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me

Also part of Daily Post: 21st Century Citizen

It could always be worse

RobotWhen Charles brought home the robot, Annabelle was ecstatic. As soon as she saw the life-size box in which it came, with the metallic grey cover and the white plastic ribbon with which it was gift-wrapped, she knew things were never going to be the same. And she was right.

Charles worked long and weird hours. He felt guilty for leaving his wife alone at home all this time, so to make up for it and offer her some company, he brought home the latest technological wonder that was available in the market. They had just moved to Singapore and everything still seemed light-years ahead of their South-Western hometown. He knew Annabelle would appreciate it.

Annabelle knew nothing could replace a human presence, a physical being with whom she could chat, laugh or simply sit with and look at the window. But a robot might also help her around the house. It was already too big for the two of them and it required constant care.

She considered naming the robot, but feared becoming too attached. So she didn’t. Secretly though, she did think of him as “Rob”.

The first couple of days felt as though she were treading on unknown waters. Having something like this, with a mind of its own, was unprecedented.

Soon, though, she discovered that, like everything, even a robot has its perks.

This one would move behind her and tap her back. Mostly when she wasn’t looking. And when she wasn’t in the room with it, it would yell “gal”, for some inexplicable reason. Annabelle made Charles look into its nuts and bolts, but he found no fault. Neither could the service responsible for the robot.

As much as Annabelle tried to ignore it, it only seemed to become worse. And it was all accentuated by the fact that she kept discovering even more annoying little habits of “Rob”.

One day, she programmed the robot to help her vacuum clean the house. Guests would arrive that evening and Annabelle wanted everything to be perfect for the dinner they would host.

It all started out wrong, though. Instead of plugging in the vacuum cleaner, “Rob” plugged in its own finger causing a power outage in the entire neighbourhood. That lost them two hours.

He would then chase after Annabelle every time she left the room, shouting “gal” and tapping her back at the same time. So much, that it was almost impossible to do any work with this robot around. She locked it in the broom closet, but “Rob” broke the door and escaped, bringing a wooden broom with it, which it now used to tap Annabelle’s back with. At one undefinable moment, Annabelle tripped over the broom, fell onto the vacuum cleaner and onto “Rob”. It started yelling “gal” non-stop now. There was nothing she could do to get it to stop. Charles was too busy to help, but he had suggested plugging its finger in again, in the hope it might do the trick. But it didn’t. It just lit up its eyes blue. It’s lucky it wasn’t red, thought Annabelle, then it would surely look like the devil’s spawn.

She was so upset by the entire episode and the fact that she was wasting so much time with this robot, that instead of making her life easier, it simply made it more frustrating and difficult. That is when she decided to do it.

She took the broom and beat the robot to pieces. It was all screws, components and broken pieces now. She took the vacuum cleaner and sucked it all up. She didn’t need a robot-helper. It had been more of a nuisance than anything.

An hour later, she had completed the preparations and even had the food in the oven.

Just then, she heard a mumbling from the broom closet. As she approached, she trembled as she heard “gal, gal, gal”. Could it be? How had this monstrous contraption resurrected? She opened the door and saw…nothing. Just to be safe though, she took the entire vacuum cleaner out to the garbage. Charles could get her another. Not a robot. A vacuum cleaner. She preferred to be more tired and get things done in twice the time, than have such a horrible pest on her head haunting her every move.

It seems whatever you do or think, there is always something worse.

Disconnected

DisconnectedOK, who turned the modem off again?

Did the cat pull the cable or is the bunny munching on it again?

It was a usual day at the Thompsons’ house. Four people were all surfing the web, sending emails, or downloading videos on all kinds of devices – smartphones, tablets, computers, even on the television itself.

Can we call Carla again, mi hijo? I want to ask what happened with Juanita!” Even the grandmother had become accustomed to the wonders of a Skype call and she was really getting used to this technological marvel that brought people closer.

But today, there was a problem. Elliott was the first one to notice it. He couldn’t log on to the App store to download a new game and was beginning to get agitated. He had reached a level that was simply unsurpassable in all his existing games. He needed something new.

Jenna was also upset. She could not see the rest of her favourite reality show as the streaming was too slow and would constantly break up.

Charlie was complaining because he could not finish his work and couldn’t even send an email to warn of the delay.

Sandra was also yelling. She could not find anything else to do and had grown up with the Internet. From what she remembered, she had always lived a life online. How would she now check for social media updates? She felt extremely cut-off, isolated. “WTF!! It’s as if we’re back to the Stone Age!

Will, the father of the family had just got off the phone with the service provider. There was a technical problem and the Internet could not be fixed today. Efforts would be made to solve it as soon as possible, but tomorrow was the earliest that could happen.

Panic ensued in the Thompson house. “How will we ever survive?!” was the main concern of the youngsters, while grandma lamented not being able to see her sister in Columbia today.

Will was aghast. What kind of a world are we living in? We have no Internet and suddenly, life as we know it is gone? Do they even know that people had more of a life before the Internet? People in the Stone Age perhaps lived a more fulfilling life than we do today, he thought.

So he decided to try a different tactic with his digitally-addicted family. He dug out the box of board games that was conveniently stuck in a corner and was gathering dust.

He was shocked to hear that the youngest members of the family had never even heard of the likes of Scrabble, Monopoly, even Jenga. So he set on a mission to rectify this. It required a lot of patience and calming down the constant Internet complaints. He was determined to teach these new dogs, old tricks. He was sure that once they get past the fact that they all involved more than a swipe or touch of the finger, it would be fun.

He was right. They all, including Sandra, soon forgot about the screens they were so attached to and began laughing their hearts out when bricks fell, words were misspelt and money was lost while the players were sent to jail! “This is awesome! How come we never did this before?” wondered Jenna. Charlie looked at his watch. It was three in the morning but nobody seemed to care. “Just one more round of Jenga please?” begged Elliott. And alas, there was life beyond the Internet, and it was enjoyable too!

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