Thursday, February 01, 2007

Time Magazine's "Person of the Year". Is that ME?

On Time Magazine’s cover for their “Person of the Year 2006", the computer screen is a mirror. The caption says “You. Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.” My hunch is that many people looked into that piece of mylar on the magazine cover and did not see themselves reflected there. The story is “about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before” on "Web 2.0". Time asks “Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says ‘I’m going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet Iguana?' ... Who has that time and that energy and that passion?" and answers: "You do." Who? Me?

Increasingly, I am finding that sort of time, energy and passion. But, for me, the "what" often gets frustratingly tangled up in the "how". My son has advised that I avoid the term "cyberspace", but my efforts to hoist my pieces up there take a degree of grinding which mystifies him. After my return to art school after the age of fifty, I switched my studies away from my comfort zone in visual art and into digital communications media such as the Internet. I am convinced that, like it or not, that is the leading edge in art. But I confess that my reaction is often "not". Many of us who came of age before computers have worried about losing our children to computer "twitch games". We also fear losing ourselves, if we were to start to play with computers. Often when we do experiment for fun, we find ourselves spending our precious time thrashing around, bogged down in technology and jargon. Who wants to blog tonight if we aren't having fun, when we know that tomorrow we have to face our overstuffed inbox at work?

I felt relief when I heard one of my teachers respond to a query about his absence on the school's online forum with "I've got a life". Comments such as that foster an atmosphere where both artists and non-artists can make choices about using computers for creative activity. The point is to pick the elements of the recreational computer world that actually reflect and nourish our own particular -- maybe sort of boring -- lives.

We may not be motivated enough to tolerate a steep learning curve in order to make a movie about our iguana, but if properly encouraged, we might spend an evening in the YouTube site, figuring out how to post a home video of our child playing on the beach. In the links section on the right you can see just such a clip, posted by my brother, Steve. I hadn't visited YouTube until I got that link, and when I checked it out, I was intrigued at its potential to be useful to people in my own demographic. The trouble with buying a digital video camera is that it is cumbersome to show the results to people who are not there sitting on our sofa. YouTube is free of charge to upload, no special software or registration is required to view, and a direct link to your video can easily be emailed to friends and family. Steve's clip "Korkobite Beach" has 55 views, while below it,"The Wedge" clocked 4,258. Who cares? There are 138,999 videos in that category, and room for everybody.

The fact that Steve playfully engages me, as part of his "community" by emailing me his YouTube link, makes me feel that maybe Time magazine did get it right. The main payoff for Steve and his son was playing together in the surf, and the main payoff for me is to feel connected to them. I am now using some of that life I have to play on my computer, and it is especially sweet if my son keeps me company. Sure, its better on a boogie board. But gazing into that monitor does not doom us to becoming lost in narcissism.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Nancy for your insights about how computers are becoming more integrated in our lives. Actually one of my main tethers to the network these days are my Podcasts. Every day there seems to be six or seven of the dailies that have to download. My weekly subscription includes Treasure Island Oldies, by the way.

    With YouTube all night is not required to figure it out, for sure, it only took me ten minutes or so. Most digital cameras or phones can simply jacked into the system. Even in a place like Accra, where I live, the internet is fast enough to make these two digital revolutions feasible.