Sunday, October 22, 2006

From One Computer to Another: Shubh Diwali, Eid Mubarak etc...

Note: This post has been published in Blogbharti.
A Dumbed-down Deepavali?

This holiday season, I shall not talk of the significance- the multiplicity of meanings- of religious festivals for our times, ‘when the globe has shrunk to about the size of a grapefruit’, or even the symbolism of ‘the happy coincidence’- it’s not every year that Diwali and Id are celebrated one day after the other- as a Divine Call to strengthen interfaith harmony against teeming mutual suspicions and xenophobias. I will instead deliberate briefly on the role of communications technology in transforming interpersonal relationships during festivals: put simply, I will look at the way the Internet- emails, instant messages (IMs)- and SMSs have changed the way we ‘greet’ each other.

Unhappily enough, I’ve been in bed: the consequence of a viral epidemic. Hence my capacity to respond to the countless emails, SMSs, scraps and messages I’ve received has become rather limited. As always, technology, the contemporary Super Man, comes to the rescue: all I’ve to do is type this down, and with a click of a button, everybody who I’ve ever known is blissfully reading this, soaking in the warmth of my good wishes- or not. This is where I’m wrong: the chances that anyone of my recipients will actually read all the way down to this is, for lack of a better word, zilch. I console myself: after all, it’s the gesture- the sentiment- that counts. They will at least know that I responded, if not how precisely I did so.

Three trends can be discerned from what I’ve just described. First, ‘content of communication’ has become secondary to the ‘act of communicating’ itself. We don’t read because we pretty much know in advance, even before the SMS icon flashes on the mobile screen, what to expect. It’s got nothing to do with empathy or even telepathy. The messages, they’re all the same. This brings me to the second point: much as I hate to use the expression, the commonality of content- the way one man’s received message becomes another's forwarded message, forming ‘message-chains’ long enough to cover the distance from here to that recently discovered but still unnamed planet beyond Pluto (in some cases, we don’t bother to alter the sender’s name from the plagiarized text-body)- is reflective of a collective ‘dumbing down’. Quantity, as we all know, cannot be a substitute for Quality.

Last and most troubling, I’m compelled to ask: has digital technology replaced personal obligation? Look at it this way, I might just be dead inside my bed, but my computer- that sweet, super-intelligent entity happily humming away on my desktop- will not fail in its duty to send you this, just as your computer or mobile will not fail in its duty to shoot off an instant reply. Machines greeting each other? Is this what our festivals have dumbed down to?

With that thought, I wish you Happy Holidays!


8 comments (टिप्पणी):

Mohit Singhania said...

i totally agree has made our wishes n greetings really dry. and every sms or mail is so damn monotonous that one just has a glance and trashes them. nothing can replace the charm of a handwritten card or letter and there can be nothing as good as a warm hug (btw it might soon be possible to recieve virtual hugs and what not :-P).

wishing u a very happy diwali the "tech" way for now.

Anonymous said...

Amit, I must admit, well written. Along with my cart load of wishes, comes along the get well soon note. Cheers!

Arun Rajagopalan

Anonymous said...

hi amit ji,

read your awesome jargonfull and distinguished mail regarding this festive season. The complexities of thoughts are really unpredictable for me but all i can conclude is that you deserve to be an editor of "TOI" , the most happening place for people who can write extraordinarily ...


quite proficient stuff to read !

Naved Ali

Anonymous said...

amit,this is all crap written by you for not responding to the mails you recieved,this attitude doesnt help anyone in this world,if you want to become a good leader then you must start acting fast,all the great leaders of the world had this quality of greeting and wishing even their servants,infact our indira gandhi use to wish her body gaurds and servants before they greeted her,so i dont think you have leadership qualities of any sort,some chamchas may appreciate this kind of gesture but not everyone,better change your behavior if you want appreciation to come in your kitty,this is not a quality of a good leader.infact i think your father Mr.Jogi is an accomplished leader not you.

Amit Aishwarya Jogi said...

i thank anonymous above for actually reading the contents of this 'greeting': at the risk of being blunt, i think it is important to drive home the point that our growing dependence on technology is making our communication with other people rather impersonal, even mechanical. the personal touch- so essential to our individual identity- has been lost. this blog is an appeal to reclaim that dwindling humanity in the way we relate to people... AJ

Anonymous said...

Hi Amit
I agree with your view on technology.
To give more strenght I would like to say one point here. There is research going on " how to make computer more intelligent?" This area is called Artifical intelligence or Artificial Nural Network. The objective is make computer which behave like machine.
Science has to go very long way to make this type of machine.
But, the way we are addict or computer and due to this average guys has stopped thinking. Thus we people are behaving like machine/computer.
Basically, we are behaving like machines rather then making machine which behave like us. I feel, computer/machine are like sword. If we dont use it correct way then we are only going to be victim.
I feel like writing my thought after reading your view.
Anil Kumar Sao

Anonymous said...

I agree with the earlier anonymous who stated that its important that we dont curse technology.

Imagine, writing a letter and posting it and then waiting for the other person to get it then to read and reply......wheres that much of a time.Also, i salute all those people who have contributed to the field of technology improvement.

AJ, do you realise that if it wasnt for techonology,then our exchange of views would have taken years to happen........anyways, i also have reservation on the fact, that there aren't any emotions involved when one uses tech. or there is a dilution of emotions,i think, whether its hand written or computer typed message ........ emotions will always be there as long as the parties involved in the process feel so.

Hope, u will understand my perspective. Trust you are in your cheerful spirits now.

Let me know if there is anything else which you watched after "Tranamerica" which is a fine movie.....


Anonymous said...

Hi Amit,

Nice writing! My dad for one would definitely agree with your views!
Hope you're getting better!


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Amit Aishwarya Jogi
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