The Opinion Engine 2.0:
Are You Easily Distracted?

My october symphony

Guest answer from Karie (@kariebookish).

Life The fact that I had to be asked three times to contribute this piece says a lot. I am not sure if I can blame impending middle-age or the internet. What did you say .. oh, look! A funny dog video! All I know is that I have been meaning to make that important phone call for two months and I nearly forgot the postal deadline for sending Christmas presents abroad but I am able to tell you all about a trampoline being blown away in Scotland and a dog chasing deer outside London. Has my brain succumbed to memes?

Maybe our brains are not wired for this post-industrial age of information. Information used to have gate keepers: people who made sure that we did not get distracted from important local news by stories about US mall officers tracking down owners of lost envelopes. These days our gatekeepers seem to be the people who find the most obscure piece of news and spread it via Reddit or Metafilter until it ends up on Twitter and then Facebook where your aunt will read it and email it to you three months after you first plus-'d-oned it. Can our brains be trusted to filter the deluge of information and suss out which are the important things to remember?

So, the way information has disseminated has changed irrevocably. Arguably the ways we receive, store and process information have also changed. Twenty years ago the critic Donna Haraway wrote her famous “Cyborg Manifesto”. The manifesto uses the concept of “cyborg” as a feminist metaphor, but Haraway's essay is eerily prescient. We receive, store and process information as though we are machines although I'd say we are closer to being conduits than actual machines. Can we be so distracted that we forget we are human?

I used to think of myself as a woman of the modern age – someone who looked at buildings as machines and saw art as an escape from emotion. I confess there has been a change and that I am more a romantic in the old 19th century sense of the word. I find myself becoming increasingly interested in the ideas of authenticity and origin. Words that I should be rejecting as obsolete in this day and age. I think I am reacting to my own distracted state of being: I crave slowness and I need time to think in order to connect to myself again. I read books (not on a Kindle although I am clearly the demographic for it) and I knit (preferably from yarn so authentic that I know the name of the sheep) – both gestures reaching back through time though interestingly also both infinitely now gestures.

2011 was the year of protests, so the media tell us. I like to think that my brain has protesting against what I have been doing to it. Will 2012 be the year of Luddism? Will I remember to make that phone call and write letters? Ask me next year.

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