Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Ranting About "Cyber Sanghas"

My God! Someone else noticed how intensely weird that recent Marmaduke strip was. Thank you Colin for sending this to me!

I'm about to leave for my mini-tour of British Columbia and Minnesota. Click here for details about where I'll be and when. And remember severe punishment awaits anyone who is anywhere near these gigs and fails to show up. I wouldn't risk it if I were you!

I just finished reading Chuck Klosterman's new book Eating The Dinosaur. Towards the end of the book he puts forth an interesting argument. He points out that human beings have been on Earth for around 130,000 years and that the first ever commercial film, The Great Train Robbery, was made in 1903. He says, "For roughly 129,900 years any moving object a human saw was actually real. It was there in front of you. If a man in 1850 saw a train chugging toward his face, it was an actual train." He argues that visceral, real understanding of these manipulated images lags way behind our intellectual understanding of them. "Intellectually we know the difference between a real person and a Facebook profile... but is there any possible way 129,900 years of psychological evolution can be altered within the span of a single century?"

I think this is an extremely important point. I will be the first to admit that even I sometimes -- no, make that often -- respond to manipulated fake images, particularly on the Internet, as if they were real things. It is very confusing and disorienting. Which is why I spend as little time on the Internet as I can. And given my current job, I have to be on here a lot more than I really want to be. I'd probably be far more successful if I were on the Internet more. But it gets to me after a while and I need to run away.

I know I've been harping on my antipathy towards so-called "cyber-sanghas" way too much. But that's because what I do here is so often confused with that concept, in both overt and subtle ways. It's also why I refuse to get involved with any cyber-sanghas. The experience is not at all the same as dealing with real human beings face to face. No more so than cyber-sex is the same as real sex.

You can get very lost in the twisty twirly world of Internet communication and easily lose sight of what's real and what's not. These days I often hear people say,"I was talking with my friend..." And I'll ask, "Were you actually talking with that person or were you chatting online?" Often it's the latter. There is an enormous difference between these two activities. Yet many people these days seem to regard them as being essentially the same thing.

I'm keenly aware of this because so much of what I do is in the form of written communication either here on this blog, in my books or thru a million emails I have to write each day. Often when I meet people who only know me through these forms of communication are really surprised when they encounter me in person. I am not at all what they expected.

You don't get the tone of voice I would say these words in. You don't get my facial expression. You don't get the smell of my breath. You don't get the subtle electrical energy that human beings exchange when they're near each other. There are far more missing elements than I can possibly list. All of these things matter a lot. To dismiss them as if they were nothing very important is a terrible thing. The difference is the same as the difference between seeing a real train speeding towards you and seeing film of a train speeding towards a camera.


Anyway, Klosterman also says about an article on the NY Times website, "When the article was posted online, dozens of people hurled childish, ad hominem insults against the writer in the comments section -- a phenomenon that now happens when almost anything interesting is published in public." Yeah! So maybe this blog isn't so unique. Still, I'm gonna keep commenting switched off for now.

OK. Well, I'm off for the Great White North. I'll try and post updates as the tour progresses.

See you in Canada!

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