Monday, February 15, 2010

you are not a gadget part 2

Another book I'm reminded of as I'm reading Lanier's manifesto is Vincent J. Miller's Consuming ReligionAssistant Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, Miller observes that when his students need answers to a question, they invariably "google" it as do my students, and if you are a teacher, yours too I'm guessing. They are almost immediately granted random access to the little piece of data that answers the question. The information provided, though, is divorced from any of its rich historical context, instead offering "sound byte" answers in effect. The medium provides the glut of information without filtering the important from the unimportant, the true from the false. That type of sifting requires an informed reader or interpreter.   

Shane Hipps has explored similar ideas in his book The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. Hipps says that the hidden message given by the ease which we can access contextless information is that the historical context of information is irrelevant, that, in fact, "truth is entirely idiosyncratic".

Digitally stored "information is alienated experience," says Lanier. Yes, it objectively exists, but it is only de-alienated (contextualized?) if it is experienced: "If the bits [of information] can potentially mean something to someone, they can only do so if they are experienced. When that happens, a commonality of culture is enacted between the storer and the retriever of the bits. Experience is the only process that can de-alienate information" (p. 29).

And yet the information itself, even if it's experienced, comes to us in an "alienated" form...without context.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

you are not a gadget

Some of my favorite lines in A Tale of Two Cities are not the famous opening or closing lines...rather the first lines in Chapter 3: 

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!

I thought of that passage recently as I was reading Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a GadgetHis book, though certainly a polemic against the mediocre mob mentality Web 2.0 fosters, is also a celebration of the mystery embodied in consciousness, in personhood. His insider perspective (as a Silicon Valley "techie" from the early days of the internet) is definitely provocative. He writes about the design decisions that have become "locked in" -- that have fundamentally changed culture. He says, "the deep meaning of personhood is being reduced by illusions of bits." He lists suggestions to promote intentional individual creativity, "to be a person instead of a source of fragments to be exploited by others." He says:
  • don't post anonymously unless you really might be in danger
  • create a website that expresses something about who you are that won't fit into the template available to you on a social networking site
  • post a video once in a while that took you one hundred times more time to create than it takes to view
  • write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out
As long as you are not defined by software, you are helping to broaden the identity of the ideas that will get locked in for future generations. In most arenas of human expression, it's fine for a person to love the medium they are given to work in. Love paint if you are a painter; love a clarinet if you are a musician. Love the English language...Love of these things is a love of mystery. But in the case of digital creative's a good idea to be skeptical.  (pgs. 21-22)

He tells you why in the rest of the book.  Whether you blog or tweet or text, you should read it, even if just for the unique perspective he offers. And while you're at it, pick up A Tale of Two Cities too. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Favorite Wedding Photos

Four daughters... and a son.

--all photos by our dear friend and awesome photographer Rachael at RachaelHopePhotography

The idea for the hurricane jars and Laura's lovely side do came from a cup of jo--which quickly became a favorite place to look...

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I was introduced to Berry a couple of years ago. thanks to preachermike for posting this:
I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.
So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,
prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,
and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it
already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,
where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.
--Wendell Berry


So I've been thinking in the last few years about the changing nature of place and space. Of the intersection of mobile space with geographical place as we move through real places while engaging socially or professionally in virtual spaces. What effect does the place have on our interactions, if any? And how does interacting in virtual spaces affect our movement through, our awareness of interactions in real places? Is it possible to be present and engaged in 2 places, in 2 communities or more, at the same time?

And speaking of's one that has changed drastically in one month, from clutter and laughter and music to this quiet place that still somewhat smells of the lotion that was used not that long ago. It used to be our oldest daughter's room, then the one who just married and moved to it is a "guest room", but it feels like it's just waiting for someone to move in (don't think it will stay this way long!). It's nice to have the extra space, but I really don't mind that place filled with laughter and music and clutter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Healthy Oat and Fruit Muffins

Preheat oven to 400.
In a large bowl, mix the following ingredients:
1 1/4 c. flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat and sometimes add 2 T. finely ground flaxseed)
1 c. oats
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Add one at a time, stirring after each addition:
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. apple sauce or apple butter or a combination
1 egg or 2 egg whites
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped fruit, dried fruit (here I added cranberries), or fresh berries (such as blueberries)
In a separate bowl combine:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
Place 1 T. of brown sugar/walnut mix in bottom of greased muffin tin (or muffin cups). Place batter on top to just top muffin cup. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Makes 1 dozen.

Lovely just warm from the oven on a cold day!

And January Evenings

taken Jan. 31st...