Thursday, 29 May 2008

badly fitting environment

The schedule of my life is determined by demands that come to me via a screen or a disembodied voice on a telephone. Where I go, what I do, what time is available for me to do those things i need to or love, these are specified by demands that reach me from an electronic medium.

Many times I have written, alluding to the animal within the human. We evolved. This is clear. Those that allowed us to steer the hazardous course that got us here, with all the predators, disease and constraints of diet and shelter, they left in us the mechanisms that succeeded. And thesea re powerful mechanism which still are sometimes useful.

This body and brain which we are bequeathed, has evrything necessary to survive in a wild environment, assisted by peers with whom we cooperate. The basis and templates for the cooperation are also coded into the machines that we are.

And so, here we are in the 21st century, bombarded by unnatural stimuli that the equipment nature provided us with has to deal with. Some of the ways in the information comes to us is shaped by the needs and requirements of the systems within us which we have subverted to new uses.

But I took off two working days and returned to work to several hundred unread emails. My savannah and seashore honed brain has no inbuilt strategy with which to deal with this amount of information in the timeframe allocated by the requirements of those who depend on the function of my job. How am I to scan and distill this and prioritise what to do first? And the calls berating me for unresponsiveness, how am I to point out that "Yes, I know yu sent an email but I havent got to it yet!" in a way that is acceptable.

And so to a wider perspective on this, to get away from my personal axe-grinding to more porsaic concern: How do we continue to function healthily in this enviroment?
Eyes, binocular for discerning distance and movement to prey and threat, are tied to a two-dimensional screen for a huge proportion of the day. Brain firmware ready to engage and interact with a three dimensional dynaamic world, is expected to stare all day at a basically unchanging flat screen and assimilate a mental picture of threat and opportunity from what it sees. And I, quite frankly am struggling with this on an existential level.
A friend gave me the sentence "I didn't say that you stole them" as an exaple of something very important. Try in you head to run through this sentence several times, stressing a different word each time. You will find the emphasis subtly but significantly changed by how each word is said.
Similarly, inside each of us, if we are working correctly, is a set of mechanisms and protocols for interacting. Initiall developed to enable cooperation and ensure therefore, improved individual chances of survival, we are primed to recognise facial expression, gesture, intonation, body language.
And now we have the rudimentary ASCII character set with which to convey and infer meaning. It is wofully inadequate for this and hence misunderstandings are inevitable. And what of the machinery for face-to-face neraction? Without practise, does it atrophy? Or in some, maybe the playstation generatio, does it not develop at all (evidence shows this actually the case, which I find a bit horrifying really)?

And so, the demands increase their pressure and this little escape into personal self-expression, stolen from a a busy day, is all i can indulge myself with at the moment.
Words are useful, we can do much with them (as I hope you see)
But sometimes, we need a physical landscape and some faces, conversations, gestures or whither humanity?

3 comments:

PerlNumquist said...

sorry about my spellings. I write on a tiny screen and keyboard on a mobile device sometimes and the quality of typing is bad due to the laborious nature of the process.

Anonymous said...

You wrote:
Try in you head to run through this sentence several times, stressing a different word each time. You will find the emphasis subtly but significantly changed by how each word is said.

Wouldn't you agree, that this could apply to each and every sentence one would say or rather write? A simple 'Yes' could be interpreted differently by how one stresses it...which brings us to the infamous 'chatting' in real time. So much is misinterpreted or perhaps even lost as many aspects are lacking whilst one is vainly trying to get their point(s) across....

Lady of Serendip said...

Yet another marvel of the human brain is our ability to decipher what is meant despite the spelling mistakes. It also creates an image of the writer depending on the nature and frequency of errors - it is easy to tell when mistakes occur because of haste or, in your case, mechanical difficulties, and when the writer is simply a really bad speller! The marvellous calculator that we carry in our heads quickly assimilates the letters on the page, the context and what the writer really meant - beats MS spell check! (but then what doesn't?).

Good to hear you have time to let off steam amidst the hurlyburly. A