Tales from the “real” world

Using a computer often gets branded with the same attributes as watching TV. It is often seen as antisocial and a waste of time. These machines rot our brains, right? Well, this past week I spent some time away from my computer, and I’ve come to a different conclusion.

First, I should clarify; I’m no monk – it was just a few days, but it was quite a change from my routine.

What I found was that my computer isn’t rotting my brain at all. Rather, I use my computer for all kinds of activities that I would generally consider quite healthy and positive.

I use my computer to write. I use my computer to read (all kinds of great stuff), I use my computer to communicate (with real people). I write for this site, I write for my intranet at work. I (attempt to) compose and record music. I communicate with people through email, through discussions on this site other others.

I also realized how much practical “real world” stuff I do online. For example, this week I constantly found myself wanting to do things like check the movie listing for the local independent cinema (aren’t I cool?), look up more detail on a news story I heard on CBC Radio (btw, CBC Radio is my new best friend), or even just taking care of some banking. Sure, I could call the cinema, and walk to the bank (which I did), but there is no offline equivalent to the ability to dig up details and background on a radio news story. Oh, and it turns out that banking online is a far more inviting and humanizing experience than actually going to the real bank.

I’ve learned this week that I use my computer (and the Internet) to do good things – things that I enjoy, at least.

A computer is just a tool (Marshall McLuhan be damned!). The computer is just as content to help you map the human genome as it is to show you hardcore midget porn. It will be interesting to see if the popular conception of what it means to “use a computer” will change. It might sound like a waste of time if I told you I spent all weekend “on the computer”, but what if I told you I was writing a novel, or composing a symphony (not that I’ve done either of these things).

This isn’t to say that I use my computer solely as a tool for enlightmentment. In fact, just last year I suffered a nasty adiction to Tony Hawk Pro Staker 2.

For more the on the “cult of Turn Off Your Computer”, read Curt Cloninger’s article, The Cult of “Turn Off Your Computer” Must Die.


6 thoughts on “Tales from the “real” world

  1. Isn’t the turning off of the computer once in a while the point.

    Maybe we have all advanced to a point of equilibrium of facination with the medium that few people run a business where people sitting at the same desk ICQ each other – maybe not. I remember seeing a “piece” on computer use on TV showing a couple that e-mailed each other as they worked away at their business in the same room. I thought they were nuts. Now – at my newish job – I am ICQing guys I can swing at because of the quiet convenience, the organization and the keeping of the record of the conversation. Tools are only useful if you understand them and once they are they disappear. McLuhan is right, though, as even though they disappear they leave other ripples in life than the immediate. Being wary of those effects is important.

    As a result, I am still skeptical about how pervasive we need the technology to be. Do I need to be able to buy a car with my wired fridge? I can’t imagine. Do I need to dig spuds in the garden and can’t with my computer? You bet. Do I need to kick a real ball on a pitch wearing stripey clothes more than I need to play FIFA 2002 (and not just because I suck at the latter)? Definitely. So how long is it to the “while” that we need to be turning off the thing?

  2. I can’t agree with this more and now that I have read this, I am tempted to actually keep track of how many times I am told that I’m on the computer too much and how many times I’m not on it enough. I would bet the second option would be 0.

    I too spend a lot of time on the computer during the week but I never think it’s too much. I know my limits and when it’s time to shut down for the day (one reason why I don’t have much time for games anymore). My limits just happen to be higher then those that criticize and many of those critics are the ones that don’t know or understand how a computer can be a benefit instead of just a chat room.

    If I can do it online, I will. Why go stand in line when I can pay my bills, register my vehicle, get answers from a tech form, read the opinions of a blog and get a review on a product all in a single afternoon?

    Since the Internet I watch less TV and play fewer games religiously but have learned so much more all on my own time. The Internet is a resource tool if used effectively.

    The comment at the end of Curt Cloninger’s article summarized it all for me:
    ” I have a life — a REAL life, and part of it is online.”

  3. I too spend a lot of time on my computer. Normally I will spend a couple hours before work and a couple hours after work messing around. I talk to a couple friends on MSN that moved away to universities off island, banking, read movie reviews, listen to music, upload my pictures I took while not on the computer, play a little Counter-Strike and much much more. But in the real world I do more. I work, hang out with friends, play in a band, go for walks, shopping and much much more.

    And this person conterdicted their argument by telling people to shut down their computers while being on one…

  4. As said, computers are indeed tools which are extremely versatile when coupled together with meida forms such as the internet.

    I would think that I do spend a large amount of my free time doing something or other on the computer. But I would also like to think that I use my time constructively as well as alowing me to make better use of the time I’m not on the computer, by searching and reading others views/reviews on certain books or music I am interested in, or a new band etc ….

    I personally would spend a lot more of my time wastefully if it wasn’t for my computer and it’s coupling to the internet.

    BTW, your publishing system thinks my email address which ends in .info is not kosher! 🙂

  5. I was thinking about your CBC radio comment as I am listening to the programme about the new schedule they are bringing out. If the CBC is really your new best friend, you are a rare thing indeed, apparently – “youth”/”yute” moving to CBC. I started serious CBC radio listening to the Saturday line-up around 1980 when Finkleman’s 45’s started along with an entire day of new shows (other than Qirks and Quarks). The best was Parka Patrol which I think morphed into Saturday night with the blues. It was a blues show presented as if a guy was held up in a winter cabin up north somewhere. Items like 10 steps to “better soup” were in every show – the one I remember was “wear a hat when making soup…it is always better…I don’t know why”. The real gem was “The Radio Show which morphed into DNTO. It was not a magazine of pop culture (yawn) but a weekend guide to the weekend. Items like sightings of loose roaming cows and how to lay around in a lawnchair all afternoon were common. I am hoping the new host to DNTO will remove the bad lecture by someone who once got a story in Wallpaper. The Radio show had losts of laughter without the needg a script in front of the presenters saying “laugh now”.

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