I Am Not a Gadget (But I do like poetry)

Jaron Lanier, in his new book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, writes:

Every save-the-world cause has a list of suggestions for “what each of us can do”: bike to work, recycle, and so on.

I can propose such a list related to the problems I’m talking about:

  • Don’t post anonymously unless you really might be in danger.
  • If you put effort into Wikipedia articles, put even more effort into using your personal voice and expression outside of the wiki to help attract people who don’t yet realize that they are interested in the topics you contributed to.
  • 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.
  • Post a video once in a while that took you one hundred times more time to create than it takes to view.
  • Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out.
  • If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal 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.

These are some of the things you can do to be a person instead of a source of fragments to be exploited by others. (p 49-50 of the B&N eReader edition.)

I’m thinking that Lanier, so far, is overselling his case that we are, in fact, becoming locked-in to a particular way of thinking, being and doing because of the technologies that are shaping our world today. Yes, I think such lock-in can occur – but only when we don’t pay attention to it.  Television and movies provide similar opportunities to fiddle with reality.  And have for some time.

But I think his calls to action are dead on.  And not so terribly new.  We’ve been creating culture through media for a very long time.  I wonder who has written similar calls to action against becoming so swept up by professionalism or industrialism or society’s particular rules of okayedness that folks forget to feel. (Yes.  That last sentence was sarcasm – much of the literature that I find fascinating is a reaction in some way to whatever the writer finds to be an artificial limit placed on humanness.  I’m thinking this book fits in the “literature” category more than the “nonfiction” shelf.  But it’s early yet.  I’m only a couple of chapters in.)

I wonder who will write about that next.

This book is, so far as I’ve gotten, as much poem as argument.  He writes in the preface that “You have to be somebody before you can share yourself.”  He’s right.

How are you supporting your somebody before you’re racing to share?

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