(Re)Awakening the Analog Experience

This blog was meant to be a record of my thoughts and musings while participating in the Fall 2011 installment of the New Media seminar. It was going to be a compilation of ideas — the good, the bad, and the ugly — while I pondered the readings each week. Obviously, I failed at this. I ended up writing only two blog posts in the first two weeks of the seminar. But I didn’t fail at the actual pondering.

A funny thing happened to me during a seminar that was focused on ‘new media’ (or ‘digital media’) and its influence on education, collaboration, creativity, science, art, and culture in general: I ended up enjoying a distinctly non-digital experience.

The best part of this seminar was sitting with other people and talking to them, face to face. We did use Skype (or G+ ‘hangout’) to include out-of-town participants several times, but the foundation of the interaction was people sitting in a circle in a room. This is the first time I’ve had such good discussions about how people connect and collaborate using the internet while not being on the internet at that moment. I’ve been blogging and interacting with others (mostly geoscientists) on the internet regularly for over five years. I’ve had some great discussions with numerous people, typically using comment threads of blogs and, more recently, via Twitter. Having conversations about the internet outside of the internet was powerful for a reason I can’t put my finger on.

The other aspect that added to the analog-ness of the seminar was reading text out of a book. I know, a physical, tangible book! How fantastic — we were reading about the lineage of ideas and technology of this astoundingly complex ‘machine’ that we’ve both built and has emerged/evolved through a much older text-delivery device. I loved it. As with the discussions with others about the internet, the vast majority of my reading about the internet has been on the internet.

I did try to write blog posts throughout the semester, a few times. But, when I sat down and opened the New Media Reader to consult my scribblings in the margin — whether it was before or after we met to discuss — I simply wasn’t feeling it. ‘It’ being that feeling of ideas, thoughts, revelations, epiphanies even, swirling about in your head — that exciting feeling of mental or intellectual discovery. That happened during the seminar. Not associated with or because of the seminar, but during it.

Perhaps this all sounds very obvious. This is why people enjoy seminars — the collective mixing of off-the-top-of-the-head statements and ideas, it gets our intellectual blood flowing. But I didn’t anticipate that the seminar experience would barely intersect with the experience of interacting online.

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