Infinite Musings

The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it. Edward R. Murrow

Monday, November 06, 2006

Internet "X" - The Devil is in the Details

For a while there it seemed this day would never come. It seemed like a simple thing getting a telephone connection and setting up the Internet. I'd moved to London after all not Lagos. Simple, oh no. But one learns valuable lessons along the way and gets to meet new and interesting people. Bell technicians are an especially colourful lot while the Sympatico technical cadre seem to have been deprogrammed of any sense of humour. Every cloud has a silver lining, I always say. Unfortunately, lately, the silver lining seems to have pooled under my eyes appearing in most light as unsightly dark circles trying to keep up with readings, labs, blogging (we won't dwell on my failures in that department), teaching, marking, accessing the Digital Repository and the Wiki, trying to understand how a linotype works without Internet access at home. I've spent hours upon hours in Weldon Library where climate control seems to be determined on the weather outside: If it's cold outside it better be colder in the library. There are only so many hours one can spend, teeth chattering, in that lofty building before the law of diminishing returns sets in. I could probably have purchased two new printers for all the money I've deposited in the one-armed bandit that issues copy cards so that I could read at home when I couldn't bear a single moment more in the Library. But today, an almost balmy November day in London, while the sun shone gloriously, Said (Sympatico technican extraordinaire) and I finally crossed my Rubicon. Intermittant phone line: Problem fixed. "Multiple gateways": ultimately disabled. All systems go but still no lift-off. In the end, I can scarcely believe what was keeping me separated from the 21st century: a simple "x" or should I say "X"? If God is in the details let me assure you that the Devil too is into details. Dear Sympatico, when issuing case sensitive access passwords please ensure that uppercase letters are clearly distinguishable from lower case letters most especially the "x"s!

Being on-line for just 24 hours my life is transformed. But just how and when did I, the non cell phone owner and pre-digital age relic, become so dependent on the Internet? This is what surprises me most of all. But doing the digital history readings this week online was illuminating. Being able to follow the links, which is not possible in hard copy, make me realise how much more dynamic information is available in the digital versions of the readings. The hard copy, while still easier to read, is static. The author stands alone and his/her citations and linkages to a broader community are dead words on a page. In the digital version a world of context is embedded and only a click away. Likewise, the class wiki which up until now I've had to print-out or read fleetingly in the library and to which up I haven't been able to contribute to significantly. What an incredible way to communicate and aggregate queries and understanding at a group level. I suppose it was the absence of easy access that makes me more fully comprehend my new-found Internet dependence. I feel as I've been trotting by in a house and carriage while some of my classmates zoom by in sports cars. I feel so behind that my tail is longer than Amazon's "long tail". But rather than despair; which is not to say that I haven't felt at the point of despair more than once in the last few weeks, I'll trade in the horse and buggy for a Model T and try to catch up.


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