Close Encounters of the Virtual Kind

You can tell Saturday has come round again. I’m here with another of those ‘mindless’ posts. Still, anyone not suffering from too much of a post-halloween hangover, and looking for a cool bit of culturally-correct entertainment should try this (especially mousing over top-right exhibit two). If however you are in the mood for a culturally less-correct but nonetheless fairly enjoyable quick read try this. And the point of all this, the place I found the links: Henry Schroy’s Blog. Now Henry is a musician (more culture: check out the music for Orixas), born in Rio and now living in Brooklyn New York: so what the hell has this got to do with Europe? Good question. The answer is probably very little. However…….

I can manage to work up one or two pointers which might get us back on track. You see, the interesting question to ask would be about how I got to meet Henry. And the answer would be that I found him because he linked to me (I normally follow new links back upstream to have a quick gander at just who might be crazy enough…..), and he linked to me because, for some reason I still haven’t fathomed, he got interested in my Indian Tech friend Rajesh, and this somehow sent him over to me.

Now I’m starting to get used to things like this, but when it first started happening, it was, I think, little short of mind blowing. Someone from Brazil, living in NY, zooms through Mumbai only to end up on top of my desk in Barcelona. Not only that, but it turns out we have a number of things in common. What I think I’m trying to say is that if this has never happened to you, it’s very hard to describe how you feel. My wife continually tells me that she can see from my face that something interesting has been happening, but beyond that there is no other external sign. She complains she has no way of telling what is important and what isn’t anymore. And the net is like this. Those of us who are in just can’t find any reasonable way of conveying the sensations to those who aren’t. The only strategy would seem to be preparing an experiential explanation – like one of those Borges maps which gives a more detailed specification than the space it is describing – which could offer a large as life version of the net itself. An astronaut must have similar problems after the flight.

And this brings me back to the core of this post. What I find is that my very conception of human contact – whether European or any other – is changing, and part of that change has to do with the loss of place, of physical location, as a determinant. I would say I had now a lot more friends, or people who I consider to be friends, than I had when I started blogging. But the strange thing about my new ‘friends’ is that in the majority of cases I neither know what they look like, nor have I ever heard their voice. I think it’s worse: I think I’m getting to like it like this. In some ways you could say the contact is ‘purer’: you have less to go on, you form your opinion without visual or auditory information, you get to use your imagination more. It is in a way a bit like reading a novel, and imagining the characters, simply by going on the author’s description and what he has them say. And yet, the strangest thing of all, I have the feeling I know the person I am communicating with, that I can like, or dislike them, just as I can like or dislike people in the physical world. Weird.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

3 thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Virtual Kind

  1. I recall that a few years ago the UK MoD released a report outlining what they saw as the challenges facing them in the next few decades. One of them was that the Internet would redefine the conception of national affiliation/identity and that groups would beginning forming transnational peer groups (the perhaps rather tenuous theory being that this would impact on MoD recruitment). I suspect this is somewhat overdone but transport and communications have certainly had the effect of making the world smaller in the past and would seem likly to continue to do so.

  2. “But the strange thing about my new ‘friends’ is that in the majority of cases I neither know what they look like, nor have I ever heard their voice. I think it’s worse: I think I’m getting to like it like this.”
    Just when I was about to put my picture on my blog!
    But more seriously: I appreciate this kind of “meeting” too but to me it’s important that it can have some impact on (political) reality. Accept for some strange “discussions” on the meaning of the word “redneck” and that sort of things, I like the discussion developing at fistful. I would favor more focus on the important European political questions however. The convention for example. And what about the announcement of Dutch finance minister Zalm that he gave up opposing France’s breaching of the Pact? Is he giving up Europe alltogether or should we understand his opposition in another way? Was the real background of his opposition showing how he asserts the Dutch interests against the “evil” foreign governments.
    (see also: http://www.fransgroenendijk.nl/comments.php?id=P162_0_1_0 )

  3. Don’t be so shy Frans, you can still post the photo.

    I have addressed the rest of what you say in a fresh post. Thanks for the tip. I’m surprised so few are really interested in the point I’m making about what we have previously considered ‘human’ to be. And the changing idea of community and friendship implied by things like ‘smart mobs’, ‘friendster’ etc. I think there’s a load of scope here.

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