Friday, May 21, 2010

Ambient Awareness

Another thing that I think will be interesting to address with regard to my paper is ambient awareness. A really great article Ben tipped me off to explains this phenomenon really well. You can read it here.  One of the parts that jumped out me to the most says, 

The Japanese sociologist Mizuko Ito first noticed it with mobile phones: lovers who were working in different cities would send text messages back and forth all night — tiny updates like “enjoying a glass of wine now” or “watching TV while lying on the couch.” They were doing it partly because talking for hours on mobile phones isn’t very comfortable (or affordable). But they also discovered that the little Ping-Ponging messages felt even more intimate than a phone call."

To me, this sounds kind of like the metaphysical, lovey-dovey stuff Donne talks about, especially when he says, 

"Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion, 
Like gold to aery thinness beat"

I think that the ability lovers have in today's society to be not just emotionally and metaphorically but literally connected to their partner through text messages and other communication tools is an exemplification of Donne's metaphysical ideal of what a long-distance relationship should be.  

"It’s sort of like when you’re sitting with someone and you look over and they smile at you. You’re sitting here reading the paper, and you’re doing your side-by-side thing, and you just sort of let people know you’re aware of them.”  


neal said...

I think this is a really interesting comparison - the way that texting allows couples to stay in constant contact, perhaps strengthening their relationship even while miles apart. THough it make the statement "distance makes the heart grow fonder" a little obsolete, since that phrase is predicated upon absence, not connection.

Here's an interesting thing to think of, though...would the same couple put their phones away when they are together? Or would there intimate interaction be interrupted in person by their habit of texting? Might this be a downside? A recent episode of "The Marriage Ref" dealt with exactly this issue - the wife wouldn't put stop texting even when she was out to dinner with her husband:

So...maybe the ubiquity of texting might be allowing people to replace traditional modes of intimacy with new ones...and therefore sacrificing the old ones?

James said...

I found an example of a long distance relationship that raises the point that "our problems with social media seem to derive from the fact that we’re inappropriately treating in-person and virtual communication as entirely different things." What if they're more alike than we think?

The little girl in the article upon meeting her uncle for the first time in person treated him the same as she always had over the course of their webcam relationship. Contrast that with the fantasy relationships between older people staying in touch in long distance relationships and makes you think that maybe it's just that the older generation's treating it like it's not normal that's leading to real-life communication irregularities and awkwardness.

Gideon Burton said...

Great comments, Neal and James! You come at it from very different and important angles. Hope that you take them into account, Amanda.

You might also want to look at Elder Bednar's "Things as they really are" CES talk (,4945,538-1-4830-1,00.html)