Friday, August 19, 2011

I am Not a Gadget

I recently started reading this really interesting book called You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier, offering a critical look at online technologies written by a man credited as being "the father of virtual reality technologies". I recommend it for all bloggers, certainly for all readers of this blog, and anyone who spends a great deal of time online, especially those who have dabbled with social networking sites, or anyone having an optimistic view of it all.

*Unless otherwise noted, direct quotes from the book are printed in bold, followed by my own lengthy commentary.

Regarding your presence on the internet: "These are some things you can do to be a person instead of a source of fragments to be exploited by others."

-- "Don't post anonymously unless you really might be in danger."

This I only semi agree with. I would be extremely uncomfortable posting my personal mailing address, phone number, complete birth name, and resume online in connection with this blog. Because, as much as I value openness and honesty, why should I blindly share personal info with you which can be traced back to my exact physical location, when you the readers are mostly anonymous, invisible, quietly reading without commenting, or sharing anything personal about yourself? After all there are such things as cyber stalkers and identity thieves waiting to prey on gullible bloggers who reveal a bit too much about themselves, setting themselves up to be exploited, to be attacked, robbed, blackmailed, or conned in real life by unsavory predators just waiting for the opportunity to pounce.

Nevertheless, I believe in the value of posting a real photograph of myself and using my real name. Yes believe it or not, Cym is not an acronym, nor is it a pseudonym, but it is in fact my real name: the name I use offline. It is not my full name, but it is the name I am most known for. It is pronounced like the words symphony and symmetry, like the musical instrument the cymbal.

If anyone wishes to comment, to send me an e-mail, to interact with me online, I would prefer that they identify who they are, using their real name, providing a real photo of themselves, and preferably have a blog or website, so that I can have a better idea of who they are; as the way a person writes, especially when writing about oneself, gives probably the clearest reflection of how a person thinks. It may differ slightly from the spoken word, from a person's real-time face to face persona, but the written word does offer the clearest reflection of a person's internal thought processes.

I no longer feel comfortable interacting with people online who hide behind the masks of anonymity, who wear false names and cartoonish avatars (it's okay if you use that for your online profile so long as you have your name and picture posted elsewhere), and those who wish to continue hiding, who are unable to be upfront about who you really are, it is probably for the best that you remain in hiding, because I do not wish to talk to someone who cannot be honest about who they really are. I will no longer respond to anonymous comments, and unless I know the person in real life, it is unlikely that I will respond to e-mails in connection with this blog who do not provide a link to a personal blog, website, or social networking profile.

So while I do not believe in full public disclosure  -- there is no need to post your resume, birth certificate, or photo id online -- I do believe in at least providing a real name and photo attached to your online web presence, to give it a more authentic human presence. That is what I do, and ask that anyone who wishes to interact with me here does the same. Fake pictures and fake names will not be tolerated, and anyone who does such a thing is just a creepy bastard who if I ever find out that is going on, will become permanently blacklisted from any and all future exchanges of communication.

--"Create a website that expresses something about who you are that won't fit into the template available to you on a social networking site."

Twitter and Facebook on their own are shallow attempts at creative self-expression. A blog or website can be anything that you want, it is up to you what you share, but really, if you want to authentically share the depths of who you are, to be known to a wider audience, to expand your circle of associations, and you want to do it online, a blog or website is the way to go. Creative self-expression is not a priority to everyone. Not everyone feels the call to share themselves in this way, to keep a public diary, to share their personal passions, to keep a website that is devoted to some hobby or social cause that you feel passionately about.

It is not for everyone, blogging and website creation (aside from its business angle) is primarily in the realm of the artist and the teacher. There are those who feel the impulse, the call to create, to share what they know with others. And then there are those who are here solely to read, to feed, to learn what they can, for creative inspiration, or to observe for purposes of strategic analysis, similar to how a scientist studies the habits of a laboratory subject. In any case, whether you are here in the role of a teacher or a student, a creator or one who appreciates observing the unfolding creative process in others, a website or a blog is the most fruitful online tool available for creative self-expression. If you limit yourself to social networking sites, like facebook or twitter, you limit yourself to a much more fragmentary tool of self-expression.

-- "Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out."

This is the main difference between a blog and twitter. A thoughtful blog post is more like the uncorking of an aged fine wine, or a fine cup of tea which has had time to steep to perfection, where an experience has really had the chance to soak in and become more refined in its subtleties of expression. Whereas a twitter entry is like a cheap bottle of MD 20/20 (aka Mad Dog) with a shallow depth of flavor and a nasty lingering aftertaste, which though it may have been fun in the beginning, when you were young and inexperienced and afflicted with the poor taste and poor judgment of youth, but in hindsight was as unmemorable as suffering a terrible headache or a terrible head cold years ago on a boring and lazy Sunday afternoon.

-- "If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your inner state instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would define a machine."

This is why I no longer use twitter. Though it certainly is possible to innovate, to make the most out of twitter, to make it less of a trivial fragmentary expression than it normally is. But I myself prefer the creative fluidity of a blog, where I can post all manner of media, pictures and videos and words of any length and depth I choose. And I'm doing everything in my power to not allow external events to objectively define me as they would define a machine. Because I am not a machine. I am not a gadget. I am not an artificial intelligence or a virtual reality robot, but I am an individual free thinking human being with a real body mind and soul, who lives and breaths real air, and who thinks and feels and senses and speaks and stands in real time in real space. I will not be restricted or limited or diminished by this technology; this technology serves me, I do not serve it.