« Narrative Laboratory for the Creative Industries | Main | Your decade with technology »


Sue Thomas

Peter, coincidentally I came across this today: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4437400.stm
Cancer mother's webcam link joy
The webcam enabled Joan Wallace to see her son in New York. A terminally-ill pensioner in a hospital bed in Stornoway has seen her son in New York for the first time in 14 years via a webcam...

As for your question above - as ever, I don't think there is a single answer. For some people technology provides a wall and for others it provides a gate, just as our feet enable us to walk away or to walk towards. You might argue that at least we have control of our own feet but at the same time we are largely dependent upon society for the means to obtain shoes and for the infrastructure to provide paths. So whilst I certainly empathize with your point, for the most part I don't think that digital life is any more separated than real life.

Nicki Hastie

I don't think the digital world is peopled only with 'safe' citizens and 'acceptable' ideas at all, but I do understand that there can be something uniquely 'contained' about relationships in this world. Rather than feeling distanced, I have a distinctly physical sense of the 'personal' and 'intimate' in the relationships I have built online. I go online, not to be anonymous, but to take part in human to human contact.

The friends I've made online (some I've met, others I haven't yet met) are names I frequently or infrequently speak of to my partner. But would she know how to - or even think to - contact them should anything happen to me? Would she feel able to turn on the computer and rummage through my inbox searching for significant people? These aren't friends whose details sit in an address book next to the telephone. Mostly, their contact details only exist digitally within my computer or out there on websites - and the digital world is thought of as primarily my domain within our household.

Your post is interesting because I started to think about this issue quite recently - that it was time for me to start writing down the full names, locations and email addresses of the online friends who I would prefer to eventually hear about my demise from someone who loves me. It would hurt me to think that others simply thought I had disappeared without them ever finding out why. I feel I owe this. Thankfully, I do have some online relationships where more than two days' unexpected silence means I get the enquiring 'Are you alright?' email. Sometimes it's good to know you're being missed.

I'm not planning on disappearing soon at all - I certainly hope not. But I have reached a stage where I have more friends online than off and, as Sue says, this digital life has no separation from real life. This is my real life. What I must do is find ways to connect all these people in my life. Just in case.

Jeremy Douglass

I wonder how different this is from the ephemeralities experienced by people using old postal systems - someone could be hospitalized, or evicted, or committed of a crime, or have any number of experiences that uprooted them suddenly from their physical address... and suddenly, months later, mail is returned undeliverable or vanishes - nobody knows where the person has gone... our unease is not at all instability, which surrounds us always, but at how specific moments of instability conflict with our expectation that something is in fact stable - say the rooted quality of a mailing address, or the telepresence effect of online communication. When the body moves, we realize again that the address is not the person. When the line is cut, we realize that proximity is not locality - we never knew where they were, but felt we had collapsed space such that it didn't matter.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Online MA in Creative Writing & New Media