Out of touch
November 17, 2005
We live in a wired world. And I’m not talking about the proliferation of caffeinated beverages, though there is surely a direct connection. When the phrase “wired world” appears in print, it is almost always in conjunction with the unchallenged benefits that come from the new digital age in which we live. It seems that, as a civilization, we would not be tenable if we were not able to blog, get news and sports on a laptop, communicate with our friends and associates via our blackberries, and, of course, watch 1980s sitcoms on our iPods. Soon, all of these technological, digitized advancements will be available on our phones, with wristwatch-sized screens not so far behind. This is progress. Or should I say: “This is progress?” The fact is we don’t know if the wired world will enhance, advance and ultimately create a better planet for living and loving. It is just assumed that this world is simply better because of technology. Take this column, for example. It is written on an iBook, spell-checked by a software program, and then sent through the air to an editor at The Aspen Times who magically grabs it out of the netherland, opens it on his Mac, and, generally, improves it. The most human component of the entire from-me-to-you process is found in the genuine labors of the people who actually put the completed papers in the manually operated racks from which you take the newspaper. Unfortunately, in this day and age it probably couldn’t be done any other way. Handwriting a Paul E. Anna column on a Bovine Bakery bag and saying “here it is” would certainly be frowned upon. But still, there is deep down, perhaps in all of us, something that longs for a simpler nondigital day every once in a while. A day where a font is actually someone’s handwritten scrawl, where a digitally enhanced photo is replaced by a scrupulously time-consuming set of strokes from a brush. A day when we don’t have to open our damned e-mail. Days like ‘dat are becoming fewer and farther in between. What with cell phones and Wi-Fi, it is only on those days when you are truly out there, say, in the lineup off a Costa Rican beach or on the side of a mountain in the Chugash, that you can get away from the tether, the long digital line that ties all to the vast technological hub that has become, well, us. Thomas Wolfe wrote (by hand?) “You can’t go home again,” and perhaps we as a society can never turn back the digital clock of time, but we can individually take a small step by eschewing all of it for an hour or a day. Try it. Think analog.