Today I went to a Chicago cafe, like I so often do, to try and accomplish some work. Telecommuting has its many advantages, but after not leaving the house for 3 days straight you just gotta get out. Anyway, with a strongly brewed organic earl grey in hand, I found myself without internet. Unfortunately this happens all the time in Chicago, making it one of the top 10 unreliable cities for public wireless connections (a statistic I just made up).
Secretly, I kinda love when this happens though. I put my computer away and trade it for a mini notepad to jot down some thoughts. I find myself overwhelmed, like a lot of people, with the amount of tech that we deal with on a daily basis. Computers are great and all - but in my opinion we reached the height of computer usefulness around 1999-2000. That's around the time when computers graduated from nerdy tool to fashionable, low-cost social accessory. Anyway I won't digress too much, but in short I think when a technology "overfunctions" (functions well beyond your need) it tends to have a negative effect on productivity/life, as a result of overwhelming feature shock. Too many things it can do, infinite options, infinite possibility, infinite distractions! You can never master and overlearn it, because there are too many features, making it difficult to achieve and experience flow. To be clear, I'm not a techno-curmudgeon - I just think computers should adapt to the way we work and not the other way around.
One of the exhausting things about the internet is the amount of information that must be conveyed through text. It can be a frustrating medium for emotive communication. The. awkward. period. Ellipses... :D LOL I'M EXCITED AND LAUGHING!!! ~~|?|><:) Imagine if you had to do that in real life - "Hey man! I'm laughing out loud right now! Are you there? I'm sad now, because it is raining. Now I'm experiencing a complex nostalgic emotion because of the smell of this food!!!! LOL!"
Communicating online is pretty taxing, and I think sites like Twitter and Tumblr are popular because they split things into more manageable chunks. Leave it to others to piece together the fragments and figure it out. Picture, link to funny video song, 140 characters about where I am. Little micro-updates firing into the air in all directions, breathe it all in, blink, and try and create a subconscious impression of the person, what they are doing - how they are feeling.
In real life you look at somebody and without words you can read body language, hear the tone of someone's voice, smell what they are smelling. There is shared communication and shared experience, even with the stranger sitting next to you. Not any effort involved...your brain just absorbs it all subconsciously.
So is microblogging and twitter updates satisfying a human need? I dunno. People have an obvious desire to share things, and keep in touch with friends. I think it works best in this utilitarian way, much like a phonebook or bulletin board. But achieving a full emotional experience by summing small bits of video, text, and audio together seems incomplete. No matter how much emotive information I glean from my friend's twitter feed, I'll never really feel their full presence. But it doesn't stop me from trying, because it is addictive as hell to try.
Anyway thinking about all of this, I thought it'd be interesting to try and experiment with communicating with no words, and use *only* images, audio, and video that I create. The exception would be that it'd be ok to post a photo of something handwritten. Instead of explaining what things are all the time (metadata), just let a picture, video, or audio clip speak for itself. No titles, posted dates, hyperlinks, not even a caption - no automatic documentation of any kind. A pure stream chronologically listed, left to interpretation and blurry memory.
Sounds kinda liberating to me, and challenging. I may try that out here, at least for a little while!