Thursday Three #39

  1. This is a good article on the importance of writing things by hand rather than writing using a computer. It boils down to this: writing by computer distances a writer from his work, leaving him to feel as though he has little authority over it.
  2. It is hard to bridge the distance between myself and writing, and I don’t think it has anything to do with handwriting versus typing. I no longer feel as though I have time to form a coherent thought, but that’s silly because I need to make time. Priorities have gotten in the way, I suppose.
  3. On the brighter side, I have gotten more of a chance to read. (It is easier to immerse oneself in another person’s created world than to build one’s own.) I am reading Mischling by first-time author Affinity Konar. It’s about twin sisters who wind up as victims of Josef Mengele’s deranged “scientific experiments” during the Holocaust. The writing style is gorgeous; all of the metaphors are spot on. Highly recommended, even if you’re sick to death of stories about World War II.

Sharing a Computer

This article on Slate brought me back to the mid/late 1990s and early 2000s when my brother and I shared the family computer (which was really my dad’s computer; my mom never had any interest in it). I don’t remember what the computer itself looked like, but I remember that the monitor was one of those huge, ungainly CRT things that my dad pulled out of the garbage at IBM, where he worked. Beside the computer was a stack of floppy disks, another stack of computer game CDs, and an Artemide Tizio desk lamp, on which my brother and I used to hang action figures and small stuffed animals. I remember that my dad hated when we did that because the lamp was expensive. We had Windows 95 back then, and to this day, I still believe it is the best operating system that ever was.

My brother and I spent so much time playing games on the computer, and those are some of the best memories I have. We’d play all day during the summer, and we would attempt to take turns on the computer, which sometimes became a fight that my dad would have to break up. Then I’d go to my room and read when it was my brother’s turn, which, to a great degree, was better than all the silly games we played on the computer.

The article talks about how playing (or working) on the computer was once a shared family past-time but is now a solo endeavor because where there used to be just a family computer, there are now computing devices for every family member. Laptops, cell phones, and tablets all make the Internet portable and personal, so one can easily retreat to his bedroom or another enclosed space with his device, with no need to share it.

Back in the day of the family computer, you had to interact with people to share the use of the computer. You were the audience when your siblings were playing games. Nothing you did was really private because a parent or a sibling could walk up to you at any time because you had no claim over the computer. It belonged to everyone. I think it should still be this way. Computers and the Internet can too easily be used for evil or for aimlessly wasting time. Sharing a computer can prevent “ownership” of the device and remind us that we are still in a world with other people. Maybe those people would like to “play” with us, so we’d be better off turning away from the screen.

Useless College Classes

This post is about an older article (from 2014), which I just now read and find fascinating. The author is a college professor who is teaching a course called “Wasting Time on the Internet.” Sounds like a made-up, clickbait article, but it’s unfortunately not. It’s legit, and it seems to be based on the premise that the Internet is like a surrealist painting and can be studied as such. So in the three-hour course, the students are supposed to aimlessly surf the Internet, but they will also “explore the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting, through critical texts by thinkers such as Guy Debord, Mary Kelly, Erving Goffman, Raymond Williams, and John Cage.” (I don’t know who any of those people are.)

Eh, I don’t know if I would take the course, although with that description, it sounds interesting and passably useful. Maybe it’s supposed to make students rethink the amount of time they spend online, or at least rethink what they look at online. The author of the article believes his class will encourage students to create something new from their aimless Internet wanderings. Their browsing history can become art, probably in the same way that a photo of someone’s fecal matter can also be considered “art” because anything goes.

There is a school of thought that says it is necessary to be bored or do things aimlessly, so that the brain can relax and daydream. After all, the daydreaming state is what brought about a lot of classic literature, art, and music. It seems to me like it’s all about how much time is spent wandering about aimlessly in your own mind. It’s one thing to do it in a three-hour class, but those three hours are certainly not the only time that students will be spending in their pointless Internet jaunts. The old principle still applies: Everything in moderation, including mindless “creative” time.