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the tale of the late adoption of a smart phone

The previous week was my first with a smart phone. I had never given much thought, to be quite honest, to how it could really affect my life, or anybody else’s for that matter, but I am convinced now that it really does.

The first thing that I noticed is how unused to the post-pc world I am. My own silly example: I still tell my wife that I need to check something on my Mac before going out for dinner. The idea that the content is actually available for me at any time, regardless of where I am, is totally new. When I think about this in the big picture context it actually helps me realize how life changing such a technology might be. As it keeps growing, your own world keeps growing, ie. your context expands, creating new possibilities of life on the go, not just for communication purposes but also for pretty much anything that you can think of. 

Now, I admit, this is pretty old news for 99% of people out there in the US, but it has given me a truly great discovery-like experience that actually feels brand new. I do not feel like I am taking my computer with me everywhere, I used to do that before, that just felt like I could connect anywhere. Now I actually feel like I am connected, because… well, I am connected.  

It might appear totally trivial – and maybe it is – but just think about it for a second. The possibility of being able to connect to the web, it’s services, it’s tools, depends on the availability of certain conditions, each dependent to the physical space. The subway might not be an ideal place to take out your laptop and start typing away, at a really fancy restaurant you might be cast away and frowned upon, at school… cemetery… dinner… &c. The possibility of being able to connect gets reduced by the physical and cultural context. 

This does not happen with a smart phone. In this case, you are already connected; as we know, the difference – although possible to represent in a context of on/off, 0/1 – is abysmal, in the same way that you would rather take a free cheap chocolate instead of buying a really fancy one for $0.50. 

So now I ponder upon the other hidden faces of what it really means…

Connected vs To Connect…

What happens when it reaches the state where to connect is no longer a word/possibility, what happens when connected becomes the new state of affairs?

It makes me think of Wittgenstein’s words: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” What happens when those limits are expanded in this way? 

(Special thanks to Kevin Kelly for writing the book What Technology Wants, which made me reconsider what it was that I actually knew about technology, and helped me see it in a brand new light.)

The Dhalang

Gideon is sitting right next to a friend of his, whom we can call Mitra. We interrupt them in the middle of a conversation; the show had begun some time ago.

“… Arjuna is a prince, one of the Pandava brothers. Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is his charioteer,” we hear Mitra say.

The epic develops in front of their eyes; the Dhalang sits behind the white kelir, upon which the shadows of the wayangs are projected by means of the light coming from the blencong. 

“See how each has his own movement and way of speaking. This is the work of the Dhalang. Very clever man, very skilled”

“That’s the puppeteer, right?” asked Gideon.

The shadows keep moving, synched to the sounds of the Gamelan. A certain ethereal ambiance surrounds everything.

“Ah, yes, yes,” answered Mitra, “the Dhalang.”

The dream-like atmosphere feels enhanced by soft clouds of smoke.  We hear the metallic sound of the kepyak right before the Gamelan’s pace changes.

“He makes the voices and moves the wayangs,” we hear Mitra say, “He directs the Gamelan musicians. His job is to make us laugh and cry. Very clever man. The Dhalang is more than a puppeteer.”

After a pause, Mitra added “His skill makes us believe that we see a war between two great armies, but there is no war. There is only the Dhalang.”


(With special thanks to Grant Morrison, author of the original dialogue, featured in The Invisibles. January, 1995)

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