A Variation on The Theme of My Technological Love For You

USPS stamp showing a postman, from en.wikipedi...

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Or how I kill the postman because I love you

NOWADAYS I regularly “disconnect” myself from the digital atmosphere. When I write, I ignore my BlackBerry. I ignore the flashing screen that signals a call. I ignore the instant or text messages that have just arrived. I silence my BlackBerry so that none of your calls would interrupt my thoughts. All these even though I paid fees out of my own pocket to stay connected to a place, a universe, a womb that is brimming with everyone’s thoughts. Because the device is my own.

But does it mean if you foot the device for me, I will have to remain connected to you forever?

SOMETIMES I even remove my work phone from its cradle, destroying its raison d’etre. When is a phone not a phone? When you remove it from its cradle, that’s when. A child pulled out of the womb prematurely, it becomes no more than a plastic object with some wires sticking out of it. It takes up prime real estate on my shrinking desk that has been occupied by foreign objects – press releases, magazines, papers, letters, invitations to launches, things to do, food to keep me at my desk, personal belongings to personalise the war zone (bleary badges of honour that also serves to keep people away). It just crossed my mind that I should dump it into the trash bin when this happens but I still need it to foray outside. I don’t write all the time, you see.

Put the phone back into its cradle and all’s well with the world. God’s in his place.

OCCASIONALLY I put on my headphones that can shut out any type of noise unless it is a screaming child trying to out-scream a chugging MRT in an underground tunnel. Earphones are useless because conversations and calls still filter through the music. But with headphones, you can call me all you want but I cannot hear you. I cannot hear your wants, your desires of me. For added effect, I choose a song from my iTunes library and loop it. for as long as I’m writing. Then I hear nothing but the song I want to hear, the mood I wish to evoke, my wants, my desires of myself. I will fulfill my emptiness through words, letting them do my labour in my proxy and hope that someday, one day, someone understands it.

Don’t we all? We write in different forms. Some call out, some tweet, some update their Facebook status, some whatsapp, some “tumblr”, reposting pictures that caught their fancy, mirrored their thoughts. Write – is it both wrong and right all the time? There’s no black and white – only liminality. 

ONCE in a while, I log off instant messaging as well. I have already made my exit from MSN Messenger a long time ago (and to think I used to spend hours on it chatting). I avoid your blinking messages, unread. They might as well have not been delivered because I killed the postman, your letter undelivered in his bag.

WHEN you succeed in getting my attention, I answer your query with the briefest moment I can spare. A brief departure from my world into yours. It is not that I don’t love you. I do. Your company, your jokes. I love that you are in my life. That I have met you. That you are reshaping my moments, my paradigms with your presence. Some of you may have left but rest assured, traces of you remain, affecting every decision I make.

IN sum I do all this, shut you out with technology, the other edge of the sword that so cleaved you to me, so that your thoughts, your psychic world, thus manifested, would not interrupt the birth of mine. No stillbirth. No punctuation but lots of commas, I wait for your waiting. Writing is selfish (and so is reading for that matter). I don’t send out every 140 characters that I have just typed (neither do I send out every 140 characters that I’ve just read). I do that at the end of the process when the task is complete and when I want you to know that I’ve done so, that the child is ready to be seen and heard by you.

I find myself shutting you out more and more, pitting technology against technology. 

HOWEVER at the end of the birth, I hope you’re understanding of my need to write selfishly. I would still like to converse with you, to reconnect with you, to share gossip or to just engage in nothing. To engage to disenage. To tweet, to update Facebook status and to love. Because sometimes, I do write about you.

Breakup

Dear G,

This is it. I think we need to stay apart from each other for a while. Try some new things, go out and see the world, if you know what I mean.

For too long I’ve been stuck with your incessant flow of e-mails (now if only we had coffee like that, our lives would have been much perkier).

It has got to stop.

I can tolerate it no longer, this random lambasting, this negative energy.

I’m gonna be zen about it. Let’s give each other a month’s break and we’ll see how from there, ok?

Good luck in your future endeavours, Gmail.

Yours truly,

B for Blackberry

On Conversations With Stakeholders

In my line of work, I sometimes have to explain why I use Facebook and Twitter for my media platform.

A, an editor of a print publication, asked me: “What’s the use of Facebook or Twitter?”

I hemmed and hawed. Finally I said:

“We don’t really know how such social media platforms will turn out in the future so we’re just staking our presence there.”

B, the managing director of a firm, said over lunch that he is interested in entering the Facebook platform but not Twitter.

If I recall correctly, he dismissed Twitter as something of a fad.

Such dismissals are quite common in Singapore, which largely stems from a couple of reasons.

  1. Newsmakers’ clients are largely conservative and not tech-savy. Based on anecdotal evidence, this sample ranges from 40+ to 50+ years of age, which puts them in the silvering generation. Ipso facto, the majority of the spending power also lies with this group. They are the ones who buy Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Jaguars. And they are probably Mandarin-speaking, consume traditional media and have traditional family values. 
  2. Online media is not as advanced in Singapore as it is in the US. We have the daily broadsheet, The Straits Times, here, which is consumed massively in terms of circulation. Print media is still deeply entrenched in the mindsets of the population.
  3. Online ad units are regressive. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is that even as technology advances with HTML5, Javascript, Flash, Flex and what-nots (I’m just throwing out names here), online ad units are still so backward and intrusive. They seemingly love to pop out of nowhere and fill up my screen. No wonder people use adblockers to kill off all the ads.

All these reasons, I realised, can be subsumed under one giant set: Compared to print, there is no money to be made on the Internet.

But

What’s the ROI from Twitter? A very difficult question to answer, yet you’ll find the solution if you can also measure: “Whats the ROI of a conversation in real life”. Since many brands have an objective (return profit to shareholders or owners) ensuring this is a high priority task will be difficult for many corporations.

Jeremiah Owyang, “Why Brands Are Unsuccessful In Twitter“, Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang

There are no answers right now. But having conversations with your stakeholders cannot be that bad. It’s called networking.

On Newspapers, Online News & Paywalls

Full disclosure: My opinions could be biased since I do work for an online news aggregator.

I see paywalls, vis-a-vis online news sites, as nothing more than defensive exercises to protect the publisher’s print subscription, and consequently, their ad revenue.

Print readership can be kept thriving – if such an adjective can still be used to describe readership in this contemporary times – by “walling” off the free Internet playground that is the free news site.

Ultimately that is the raison d’etre of paywalls. As much as publishers like to claim, I wouldn’t agree that the walls are there to monetise their content.

Still I think there are other models that work. For instance, a combined model of free news, albeit truncated, and paywalls a la straitstimes.com. But where would the ST go from here?

Then again,

Is it an absurb notion

that because people are accustomed to getting content for free on the internet, they have a right to do so and that charging money for online access to people’s work, whether it’s film, music, television or journalism, is ipso facto a form of extortion.

David Mitchell, “Rupert Murdoch May Be Evil, But That Doesn’t Mean His Paywall Is”, The Guardian

No thoughts at the moment. My fragmented multi-tasking online mind cannot take the singularity of this exercise. Hurhurhur.

Give back the pen and paper

SOMETIMES I think my life is shortened dramatically, not from the things that are supposed to harm myself (one thinks of smoking, carcinogenic foods, soda, masturbating which kills kittens by the way) but from things that are supposed to help me.

Things like technology.

My Blackberry gave me tonnes of trouble today as I suffered to reinstall operating system after operating system, in the vain hope of finding one that was not too bloated (they eat up the limited memory my Bold has) and possesses East Asian capability. I need the latter to read and write Chinese characters.

My carrier’s OS provides Chinese capability but because the world is run by fools on Olympus who think you cannot have your cake and eat it too, the OS is a terribly bloated sloth. After installation, I end up with only 20MB of memory.

That’s like a smartphone which cannot MMS. Or multitask.

Oh wait, there’s one for that too.

I cannot understand why iPhones, the best multimedia products in the world, cannot multitask or MMS. Do we have a name for such smartphones? Was Apple releasing subpar products just to earn more money in a kind of “soft launch” way. On a brighter note, I don’t seem to recall the users grumbling about memory.

And on the very same day when my Blackberry was acting like a poisonous fruit, my workstation happened to give up its soul too. Except for the fact that I slave away in a somewhat online company, I would have laughed.

I told a colleague or two that if this goes on any longer, I’ll turn into a Luddite. Scrape the pictures that should accompany words. Scrape the multimedia elements. Scrape the short-attention spans. Scrape the informality.

That’s why wherever I go, I carry a pen and a writing pad with me, regardless of my Blackberry.

It’s time to turn back the clock and return to the age of words, pencils and paper, landlines, grandmother’s underwear and what-nots.

Death of the Author; Aura of the Letter

Firstly, this post will not be on technology. It will not concern itself with the issue of copyright, cyberspace or Copyscape even though that topic is worth exploring in terms of cultural value, work of art, and simulacra. In the end (if there is one), what is put on the internet, inscribed and written down, precipitates the death of the author. For the final answer of the letter is none other than: “Eat your Dasein.”[1] Even the citation goes as far to demonstrate that the letter lives beyond the author for what Lacan was, in actuality, referring to the password of a Congress in Zurich in the year before the Seminar was given.

But I digress. The imperative here is the usage of language, which, in the world that we are speaking of today, is English. What I am writing now-which at the moment of completion will materialise my death-arises out of a need to respond to a lack that can be located anywhere today and that is the abuse of one’s language. At this point, I claim that the pertinence of this post will only be realised insofar that the addressed reader takes pride in her linguistic skills and places a priority on language, which is already much more than we can ask of from the average individual.

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