When I was 21 years old I boarded a train in Windsor, Ontario bound for Toronto, Ontario to see a Red Wing Hockey game (an “away” game against the Toronto Maple Leafs). (To see a photo of a Canadian Rail train go to http://www.viarail.ca)
I joined my sister, her dear friend (avid Red Wing fan) and two of my close friends in the train car. Just before the train was about to leave the station a small group of men entered our section of the train looking for empty seats (there were quite a few unoccupied). As I was in a party of five girls, one of us sat alone. The empty seat was next to me. The first man in the group asked me if the seat next to me was occupied. I said, “Now it is…” and indicated for him to be seated. Five weeks later I married that man I met on a train headed for Toronto and a hockey game. We flew to Toronto from Detroit for our honeymoon.
The point of the story is that occasionally I have been known to make decisions quickly and actually follow through on the choice. I was married to train guy for over 17 years. That was a very long time ago. Back then my career was not my childhood dream job. I abandoned the thought of 5 years of college (long sad story, but a quick choice…again) for a 2-year business school degree. My job title, at the time, was Executive Secretary and my method of written communication was an IBM Selectric typewriter using carbon paper for copies. When you “cc” a person in an email you are actually using a term that may have been created around 1806 by the English inventor, Ralph Wedgewood (see http://www.techdaycamp.com — the story behind cc and bcc). An ink-soaked paper was placed between two blank pieces of paper…creating a copy before the regular use of copying machines or highlighting and choosing “copy” on a pull-down menu existed.
I wish to interject here a plea for forgiveness…I am deviating from my intentions for creating this blog (which were mainly dog rescue and dog stories, in general) for a bit of a background story into the realm of communication as seen by my eyes, in my life so far. I do this partially for my Writing for New Media class at Oakland University, and partially for a glimpse into sections of my life which may shed some light on my current path. Therefore I may swerve from my blogging goals now and then as I learn more about this form of sharing the written word. My classmates, many of whom are lightyears ahead of me in knowledge and application of new media, have offered some assistance in learning to blog. I wish to thank them profusely here and now. I am quite certain I will need more guidance as I progress…and I do hope to progress.
Back to the “glimpse”…while I was in my first full-time job computers were being discussed, but I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention. Computers were big monstrosities that filled whole rooms and needed constant maintenance. If the air conditioning went down in the computer room, it was a red alert situation. Now join me in a leap across decades into a new century. Placing myself squarely in the here and now I can look back and realize I never saw the revolution coming. I was blissfully unaware that one day I could be sitting at home in my comfy desk chair, holding one of my dogs, and snapping photos of us that could be shared with others in many different ways in a matter of minutes…seconds, really.
This is a screen shot I took yesterday of my oldest furry friend (Princess Sophie Marie…just call her “Sophie”) and me.
This week in my Writing for New Media class at OU we discussed several scholarly articles. One was Chapter Ten of the book The Virtual Community by Howard Rheingold. Disinformocracy, the title of the chapter, discusses “virtual communities” helping “revitalize democracy” through electronic means. Old-to-new systems of computerized communication are discussed. For me the most chilling section of the chapter discusses Bentham’s Panopticon, in which a kind of technology allows a small number of people control over a large number of people. According to Rheingold, Jeremy Bentham proposed this “social control” system in his writing in 1791. Amazing. Two of my classmates and I thought this idea of Panopticon brought up images of the book 1984 by Orwell, or perhaps the movie, The Matrix. When one thinks about it, though, we are all, indeed, living in an age where technology monitored by a small number of people can and does influence, if not control, a large number of people. It is part of our everyday lives. Sometimes we barely notice it. Sometimes, as recent news stories have highlighted, we start to rebel against it…as with our government surveillance of phone calls, texts, emails and other forms of computer-generated communication. Howard Rheingold originally published The Virtual Community in 1993. PCs and laptops, iPhones and iPads, wireless this and wireless that, Facebook, Twitter, taking photos with your phone (for goodness sake!)…a great deal has happened in communication in a short span of time. Sitting in front of my IBM Selectric typewriter all those years ago, manually rolling my three-sheet-set of paper/carbon/paper into the typewriter carefully so as not to skew the second and third sheet, with my bottle of correction fluid sitting next to me on my desk, I could not have envisioned the world of communication as it is today. Even as I finish typing these words, I’m sure, some new way of communicating is being created.