Engaging with technology

At the minority women's health organization, where I am working sporadically, they have 3 webpages. One of my tasks is to work on their newest page, by providing interesting content, including, awkwardly, "affirmations". The issue of my writing affirmations for minority women will be explored at some other time.

I've been mulling over their acquisition of 3 webpages. They have a myspace.com page [which is a social networking site that has over the years expanded to provide musicians with band webpages, and also seems to be a quick way for organizations to create a public presence on one of the very popular (the most? at least at one time) social networking sites], a ".com" website, with their organization's acronym, and newly, a ".org" website, also with their acronym as the main address. One afternoon, I listened as the main office worker spoke on the phone with a woman interested in learning more about the organization's work. Lacey**, the office worker, rattled off the websites for the organization, but she misspoke and mentioned the ".com" web address twice. It made me aware of the oddness of this ".org" and ".com" domain ownership. I think I get the distinction they are making in their minds -- as the ".org" seems to be more of a general informational website, with random postings of things they find interesting. The ".com" website offers more information about their programs and includes a calendar of events.

But it is clear, that Mary**, the organization's head, intends the ".org" to become comparable to the ".com," or even supplant it in its up-to-datedness -- leaving me a bit baffled about the purchasing of web-real estate. At the same time, their interaction with the internet as a major information source and as a dissemination method suggest to me that the internet is critical to them. The web-real estate grab seems to be about expansion and staking a presence. I'm just trying to figure out what virtual-presence acquisition means.

** -- names are pseudonyms.
I have not visited SecondLife (SL) yet, a virtual community that has captured media attention over the last few years since its inception. (I have had an intense debate with my friend J and her husband about the site more than a year ago -- J's husband had spent some time on the site, and he was an advocate, while both J and I were uneasy with the implications of the virtual world. I really ought to go visit the site, it just seems that it's rife with time-sucking.) A former classmate of mine has apparently just produced/directed (am unclear about his role) a documentary about SL. There is even an autistic woman who claims that SL is an important outlet for her to communicate her autistic world to others.

I found this article about using SL as a teaching tool vaguely interesting. I have memories of "chat room" classrooms. I found them deeply annoying and unproductive. But perhaps, like many things, it's just not the medium for me. I find the "simultaneous" conversations overwhelming. I don't instant message (IM), really, either. Email seems to fulfill adequately that gap in my life. I know that there is a intangible, yet distinctive [is that a contradiction?], difference between IM-ing and emailing, but I have no problem with emailing back immediately if someone has emailed me, and I'm in front of the computer. It seems like a more efficient way to go.

Back in February, P visited me and we went to see a film about the Prater -- a carnival in the center of Vienna. Near the end of the film (it's quite long, though very visually and narratatively (is that a word?) compelling), Elfriede Jelinek, a novelist, describes the sensations of the carnival. LA Weekly references Jelinek's monologue as detailing the "strange power riding on machines designed only for their pleasure," which sounds very much like the internet and its pleasures. It made me think about how the quest for amusement in mechanical objects (and inhuman/non-human phenomena) may have been supplanted, in some ways, by the internet. This is an under-developed thought, as I really would need to see the film again to better articulate it. But it is interesting to think about how once these pleasures occurred in a public, communal forum such as the carnival, shared immediately and sought after with others, and now they occur in the ether, in abstracted digital medium.

[Though perhaps it is I who lacks imagination, maybe the carnival ride is never about shared experience, but a form of exhibitionism? Not a shared titillation but a public display or flaunting at a time when such public acts were especially outrageous? Have carnivals lost their cache because we no longer find the public forum for screaming and being frightened while enjoying it a necessary outlet?]

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