Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Autonomous Lifestyle

I was really inspired by the text "Slow Design Principles" in the sense that Carolyn F. Straus and Alastair Fuad-Luke take the long view of time, which I think is needed in today's fast-paced culture obsessed with, among other things, technology gizmos of every variety. Think of it as lifestyle design. I have to admit, I still don't own a cel phone. I KNOW you can't live without yours. And certainly I have occasion to use one. But I am the world's last holdout - never had one - never had a beeper or a pager either - ever. I seem to focus on their drawbacks. Being critical of technology is important. Part of this process is due to negative social conditioning. I get annoyed when people say "where are you" instead of "how are you" to begin a conversation. Listening to people talk very loudly about their private lives in otherwise quiet public space - irritates me to no end. The same people who are talking about going to the store to pick up anti-itch cream for their sister are the same people undoubtedly who complain loudly about privacy and surveillance. I also hate people who call me while they are driving or shopping in a store. If you call me from a moving vehicle on a hand-held cel phone, I will hang up on you for your own safety. But aside from observing how other people act publicly with their gadgets, I value the serenity of time without interruption. I also value the ability to plan, and organize. I think cel phone culture is creating an inability for some people to plan anything in advance - they'll just call when they get there. Take the example of Mr. X, who calls me once to tell me he's coming over to my house. Calls me a second time to tell me he's going to the store and going to be a little late. And a third time that he's almost there. By the time the doorbell rings, I'm astonished to see a human being. If you know me - you know that I tend to arrive early to events - this is usually for one or two reasons. Firstly I take public transportation and while public trans can be fairly efficient, there are vagaries of time over which one has no control, so I tend to plan ahead, and leave with enough cushion of time to be on time. This can be similar in an automobile, but there is an illusion of control in an automobile (more routes, speed control) that still tend to break down during relatively normal rush times.

Claire Pentecost also talks about this in "Autonomy, Participation, And"
We notice that the “auto” in autonomy starts to resonate with the auto, that all too precise symbol of individual freedom that appears indispensable to a life of agency in America. The auto that creates tedious traffic jams, respiratory diseases, wars, and deformed environments and, as long as we have one, saves us the inconvenience of coordinating our needs and desires with a larger populace. The lubricant of individual freedom so complicit in the erosion of community and social encounter that symbolic micro-gestures of participation are meant to salve.
So I think that a lot of technology and gizmos also give us those illusion of control over our lives - that having constant access makes us smarter, more productive, etc. They don't necessarily, especially if we allow them to run our lives. On the balance, I'm sure one day I'll get a cel phone. But for the moment, I'm planning my next technology move - rain barrels recycled from factory equipment.

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