Monday, August 12, 2013

Electronic dreams

WHEN I’m home, buying groceries is one of the chores I share with my older son Carlos.

There’s a gap of 28 years between us. It’s most obvious in the way we tackle this chore we dislike but accept.

We both come up with lists.

I write my list at the back of old receipts, ATM slips, cut-up calendar pages, and writing drafts. I keep the list in the book I am reading, and take it out when I remember something or the household supply runs out.

Carlos keeps his list in his tablet.

Having two lists should make our grocery trips a breeze. But as they say on Facebook, it’s complicated.

We fight over whose list should be the “official” guide for our buying. Carlos claims my list requires a penmanship translator at least, a shrink at most. I don’t find any joy in an electronic list I cannot cross out, item by item, with a red pen I wield like a turbolaser cutting down another domestic invader raiding my days.

Once, trying to be the adult, I said we could both use our lists. This shocked my son, the idea that two adults of sound health and full abilities would squander their time on a task that’s not even saving the planet.

In the end, Carlos won by posting about our War of the Lists on Facebook. Those of you who sided with him (yessss, including the traitors who were born in my decade and rightfully occupy with me the same side of the Digital Divide) did not tyrannize me into sharing your standpoint by the sheer force of your overwhelming, unassailable Likes.

My capitulation came with the realization that a grocery list converted into a micro essay is infinitely superior to one that will only line a landfill.

I remember this battle waged last summer when I had to recently write a paper for class. To expound on the theory of German philosopher Jürgen Habermas that journalism can create a public sphere, I reflected on how anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, and the desire to communicate is changing how we relay things and relate to each other in the brave borderless world online.

Don’t know how to write? You can take a photo, make an illustration, or upload a video you made. In the age of Tweets, running only for 140 characters, Carlos says my usual paragraph-long comment is the equivalent of a medieval unrolling of the scroll and the throat-clearing preamble that precedes a royal pronouncement that the world is actually flat.

Don’t know what to write about? I find there’s an online community that can watch cats watch themselves for hours and hours. I love artists who blog, as well as writers who knit and paint with a palette that captures a moment just before it vanishes between seeing and unseeing. Online, anything goes, even wrong speling.

Can’t get anyone to publish what you wrote? Start a blog, which is free. Start a blog for every passion. Write for yourself. Write for a reader of one if that makes you hear yourself and see yourself better.

Conversely, you can also express yourself by making a sex video or leaking someone else’s. In the playroom of Web 2.0, no pendulum is more wicked than user-generated content.

According to Habermas, the modern paradox is whether persons set free to become themselves by modern communication can penetrate the fog of self-indulgence and find an affinity with others.

Can we stop thinking of ourselves, monitor powerful institutions, and act for the greater good? Can social media surface informed and critical opinion?

Or will we just end up like Alice, excessively watching our holes, coveting the shape-shifting white rabbit of technology, and trivializing our pursuits?

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s August 11, 2013 issue of the Sunday editorial page column, “Matamata”

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