le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

wide awake, feed, technophobia, teaching

I've been thinking a lot lately about technology and teaching. technology and human interaction, human exchange. technology and capitalism. My students are thoroughly plugged in - constantly whipping out mobile phones/text/internet machines throughout class, and throughout the rest of their days. they have cable in the dorms, televisions in most of their rooms or homes. Yet not one of my 25 college undergrads - largely juniors and seniors - knew the name Bernie Madoff when I mentioned it two weeks ago. None of them - except the business major - are following the economic news.

When I was in college, ever so long ago, television wasn't really an option for us. most people didn't have one at all, it seemed; at least, i only knew a few people who had them, with VCRs for movie-watching. the public tvs in the lounges didn't have cable. reception was abysmal to nonexistent, i think because of being next door to an airport. My first year, we were still on dialup. second year, we moved on to ethernet (i think), but - well, if google existed, i didn't know about it. no one had cellphones until my last year, when a few people had them. we all had landlines, but no one used them internally. if you wanted to talk to someone, you simply went and knocked on their door. or found their whereabouts, and tracked them down, if it was important enough. the campus was tiny and the population equally small; everyone knew everyone else, and everyone else's movements.

now everyone is strung together by wires and cables and satellite signals. but somehow - they seem less in touch.

I've been thinking about FEED a lot lately, MT Anderson's rather creepy dystopic novel. I need to read it again. I've only read it once or twice, but lately I can't stop thinking about it. specifically, i think about Violet. I think about not having the money to get the feed installed at a young enough age. i think about dying from technology.

I've also been thinking a lot about WIDE AWAKE, David Levithan's dreamy utopic novel. I think I wrote about it here awhile back, briefly. Levithan's imagined historical event, the "Greater Depression," has happened before the narrative opens (it's set in the mid 21st century - the protagonist's grandparents grew up in the 1990s). That phrase, Greater Depression, keeps knocking around in my brain.

I'm also seeing, in my mind's eye, the landscape of earth from WALL-E. the landscape of deserted parking lots, abandoned trains, cars, refrigerators, lightbulbs, televisions, soda cans, after the population has abandoned to ship, blasting off for the eternal false sunshine of their space cruise.

I wonder about being "too big to fail." what this means is that institutions are too big to be ALLOWED to fail. and i wonder what happens if, despite zillions of borrowed dollars, a bank or system that is "too big to fail" still crumbles. I suspect the Roman Empire thought IT was "too big to fail," also. The technological advancements of the Empire were remarkable; some, in the form of roads, aqueducts and walls, are still standing.

My students DON'T see these things. they somehow still seem to be gazing at the sunny-side-up of a dropped egg. a girl told me a few weeks ago that "everyone" now thinks homosexuality is fine, it's totally accepted.

there's a kind of obliviousness, a blindness, that I see in my students. largely, it's a historical blindness: everything that happened before their birth is "the olden days." they simply have no concept of WHEN things happen, what the pattern of history looks like, what time means. It doesn't feel, to them, like women's suffrage is a relatively recent development. It's something that happened "back in the day," a phrase they use to mean everything from 1980 to 1700 to BC Athens.

i wonder about these things. i wonder what to do about them, in terms of teaching. I wonder how to think about systemic failure, and change, and technology that alienates under the guise of connecting us all.

mostly, i wonder about the Greater Depression, and the feed.


rebecca said...

No answers, of course, but I hear your wonderings.

You had dial-up your first year? When I was in college, there was no net at all. My boyfriend worked on something mysterious called Vax (heh), and the techies sent messages via computer to each other, but only within the Science Center. No one had a computer at home at all (except a few rich kids who had word processors). This was '87-'91.

formerlyAnon said...


Glad to read a post here. I enjoy your musings, & am glad to read about your teaching - I wondered if maybe you'd had a career/life change.

Anonymous said...

Just last fall, I had a student refer to something that happens in Anderson's "Speak" as "old-time days." The damn thing was published in 1990 (I'm 29).

I find myself thinking about Feed a lot, lately, too.