Friday, March 12, 2010

From Luddites to Tapeworms

I'm the last one you'll find complaining about social networking. I blog,obviously. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Heck, with a few friends, we've started asocial network of our own, revolvikng around professional writers and photographers workin with amaterus who want to shre their vacation adventures. But the whole idea of using social networking platforms to tell people where I am when I'm tweeting or blogging or whatever, I'm not sold on that.

Foursquare, obviously, is making news these days, with people all excited to tell others what restaurant they're eating at, where they're waiting on the curb for a cab and such. I just don't see the utility. My Foursquare entries would probably look something like this:

On the bus, US Highway 20, heading for work.

At work. Radioactivity down to nominal levels.

17-Mile Cave, staring at the graffiti.

In the bathroom.

Still in the bathroom.

Wandering amongst the cows.

I'm a boring guy, see? And then there's the criminal element. I don't need to broadcast that, hey, while I'm having fun somewhere else, there's NOBODY at the house. Come on in and burgle!

Not that I think that's likely to happen; it's just a typical scare tactic brought up by people like me who want social network location tagging to get off our lawns. That's why I'm not turning on the "Where Am I" feature in Twitter, and that's why I'm careful when we're on vacation not to be too braggy. But also, that's why when we leave the house, we tell our neighbors (whose son is a cop) to watch the house and thump on or wing unfamiliar passersby.

All of this need to tell people where we are, though, reminds me of a passage from Arthur C. Clarke's novel Imperial Earth. I'm too lazy to get off my duff (I'm in front of the computer @home) to get to the bookshelf (about six feet away) to get the book (between Susannah Clarke's Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell and Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle) to quote directly, but, oh, hell, let me get it:
"I must ask you, [Boss] said, "to hand over all watches, radios, and communication devices. You won't need them until you get home."

He held up an admonitory hand at the chorus of protests.

"There's a good reason for this -- and for any other peculiar requests I may make. Remember, this whole program has been worked out for your benefit. If you won't cooperate, you're only cheating yourselves. Cameras and recorders -- yes, of course, Use them as much as you like."

There was a general sigh of relief at this. Duncan had noticed that most of his companions were festooned with equipment designed to capture every aspect of their experience. A couple were obviously "tapeworms," those peculiar addicts who went through life accompanied by voice-actuated recorders, so that nothing they said -- or heard -- was ever lost. Unless they could do this, Duncan had been told, they did not believe that they had really and truly lived . . .
So that's why I've got a picture of a chatty tapeworm for this post. (The quote here is from Chapter 25, "Mystery Tour," of Clarke's book.)

About the only thing he got wrong, I think, is the plural "devices." These days, of course, most everyone has one device, a smart phone, with which he or she can do all of these things. I'm still enough of a technology pseudoluddite that I have a still camera (a very nice digital) a video camera (HD, of course), an iPod Touch and, shockingly enough, a cell phone that ONLY MAKES AND RECEIVES phone calls. So I am festooned, as Clarke says. But I don't have them going every second of the day, either. No matter what my wife says.

No comments: