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All the TVs in Town - an If collab

27.10.2001

feeling kinda how a girl feels

i'm finally digging myself out of the morass and getting back (way back, in some cases) to my poor neglected collabs. from September (yes, yes, i know) for If...:

If all modern-day technology were to suddenly vanish (the Internet, computers, TV, CDs, cameras, etc.), how strongly would your life be impacted? What steps would you personally take to redefine your life in a non-technological society?

All the TVs in Town

i've been watching The 1900 House on PBS recently. it's a reality show as only the British can do. :) the idea was to have a family live in and experience the conditions of life in 1900. there were no penalties, as in other reality shows. the producers wanted to see what the family's reactions would be.

the producers took a brownstone and renovated it to be historically accurate for the turn of the century. no electricity, no central heat, very few of what we think of as standard amenities. they communicated by post several times a day, did their shopping from certain 'costermongers' and had to restrict their purchases to only what would have been available in markets at the time, within a 1900 budget. period clothing was worn, the medicine cabinet was stocked with period remedies, and washing was done by hand.

the series really provides a lot of food for thought about how technology separates us from family, from self, and from more natural rhythms. if you had to tend a garden to provide vegetables for dinner, you'd pay a lot more attention to the weather and the seasons. it seems that the technology we consider essential to our daily lives has let us set a pace that often overwhelms so much else.

so how would i react? since this is theoretical, i can only guess. if television and computers went away? what i get from computers and television are two things: entertainment and information. and i'd look for other ways to feed that need, to keep my brain happy. i'd go back to reading every single day. i might just end up taking up residence at the local library, or build an annex for my own personal library. and i'd probably start reading one or two daily papers, front to back.

would i miss the immediacy of finding a fact in a few minutes? yes, very much. i like trolling around and finding an answer quickly. i also enjoy tripping across articles and essays from sources that i would never thought to have searched out. in some ways, information seeks us out with the current channels. and i think it would feel a little suffocating, in a way not immediately recognizable, perhaps, to not have the discovery be that easy. i suppose what it comes down to is that television and computers make it easy for me to be lazy about learning. and that would have to change if the technology went away.

and no email - eep! you know how there are some people who take days to respond to emails, if at all, and others whom you worry about if you haven't heard back in 5 minutes? i'm more the second one. email makes it so easy to keep in touch. too easy, perhaps. because right now, if you don't have an email, the chances of hearing from me are slim.

without email, i'd try (i hope) to find the discipline to write real letters to my friends and family. you know - the kind where you sit down and spill your thoughts on paper and then wrap them up with a stamp and send them off via carrier pigeon? i have a whole box of letters from aunts and relatives that i got when i was little. they don't say anything particularly revalatory, these letters. but i've carried them with me every time i've moved. i don't reread them often, maybe every 7 or 8 years. but it's comforting to know that they're there, a little piece of caring and effort committed to paper. there's a reason that letter writing used to be an art, i think.

also, with no email? less humor. ;)

i was going to say i'd travel more, for a few reasons. via the 'net, i've had the opportunity to meet (virtually, for the most part) people from all over the place. and i'd want to continue to be able to connect with people, outside of my comfortable little corner of the world. plus, i just like travelling. but as i look over the question, it occurs to me that it wouldn't be so simple. do planes go away with the rest of the technology? trains? cars? how rudimentary would our transportation be? that one would stick a bit, i think. being able to spread my wings (you'll pardon the phrase) is important to me. i'm not sure if i'd be able to adapt, or just end up feeling cornered.

lessee, what else... no microwave. i very well might starve to death on that one. quite seriously, i got a microwave to keep myself alive. i have a chronic stomach problem, and it sometimes leaves me too weak and tired to cook properly. being able to microwave a basic meal is a life saver. without that, i'd need to make my health the top priority in terms of time and effort. if i did nothing else in a day, feeding myself would be it. i'd need to learn to budget my time and energy to make sure i stayed healthy. the upside of that, hopefully, would be rediscovering the pleasure of cooking.

phones go too, huh? i'd move closer to my family. i'm not all that far away now, but certainly not close enough to pop over for dinner at the drop of a hat. being able to keep in touch by phone, i've been able to stretch the bonds a lot, and be very independent (some might say stubborn), almost insular. without a phone, i'd rather move back closer to my family and nourish, rather than snap, those bonds.

i'm sitting here, in front of my computer, listening to a new album as i type (Twilight, by The Handsome Family, since you asked), and it strikes me that music is the thing i'd miss the most. i don't know how i'd adapt to that one. music is such a part of my life; a good album can get me thru a day, make me laugh, provide comfort, or rock me out. most nights, i have a jazz show on the radio. weekends, i work my way thru the NPR roster of shows. if i decide to clean the apartment, i load up the stereo with a couple of loud albums and blast my way thru the chores. sure, there are plenty of voices in my head, and yeah, i can sing to entertain myself. but it's not quite the same.

that would likely be the single biggest impact. all those other things - technology facilitates a choice in my life, and there are changes i could make, quite willingly, to continue to meet those values or goals that are important to me. but i'm not really sure how i could do that without a soundtrack.

yesterday :: tomorrow

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