Saturday, September 13, 2014


This is actually my younger brother's class.  

Since I’m 75, my elementary education preceded television.  My BS was library- and practicum-based.  (My degree was in speech/theatre.)  It was the last of the Fifties and we were seeing the very beginnings of the third-wave psych theories as well as the very beginnings of what turned into post-modern thought.  (Hayakawa’s semantics)  The Peace Corps was barely invented and I was ahead of the curve by taking a job teaching on the Blackfeet Reservation.

By the time I “retired” and came back here, I was out-of-step with everyone in many ways, a hybrid person.  Fifteen years after returning, I sit at my computer all day pretty much as I did before, but I’m more profoundly out of step.  Techies do not believe I exist and if they did, they wouldn’t care.  My demographic has no money.  

“Outlier,” “long tail,” are both statistical terms meaning that I’m in the part of a bell curve that’s at the far end where the numbers are very low.  Our society at present is based on commerce  and believes that profit comes from making a little money from a lot of people.  Even in the arts the newspapers don’t report the qualities of content anymore.  Instead they talk numbers of people who attended, money it cost, profit it made, scores, market shares.

Sunstein had hair in those days.

In 1981 I was a transcriber at the U of Chicago Law School while finishing up my degrees at the University of Chicago Divinity School.  The Law School was cutting edge technically -- had to be -- but the Div School was all about content.  At the Law School about the only profs who typed directly into their computers were Jim White and  Cass Sunstein.  Everyone else, including Scalia, I think, did some kind of workaround, like dictating. We were all connected to a massive mainframe somewhere, but everyone worked independently.  Still, we transcribers smiled when we heard the muted sounds of “Asteroids” coming from offices with closed doors.

For six years in the nineties I worked for the City of Portland doing data entry, sitting at the computer all day.  I still sit at my computer, a free-standing desktop with internet access.  It’s a “mini” Apple a little larger than a sandwich.  I keep a second one that is NEVER attached to the Internet.  I mean, there is NO physical connection.  My last computer (eMac), even when it was turned off, was connected to the Apple techies, who turned it on by remote control in the night and rummaged around making “improvements.”   Even on my connected mini, which is on all day so I can get email and do research, can be accessed by my provider, so I cut the power at night.  I shut off Blue Tooth when I began to see my neighbor's computer content.

Social sites do not interest me.  I’m connected to only a few and only so I can follow the people who are halfway between being friends and being co-workers.  I dumped Facebook when they cut off those people without notice, destroying a whole backlog of videos they had made.  Also, we have all begun to realize that social sites, including Wikipedia, are ways of building mailing lists and “hit” records that are valuable to marketers, the government, and covert operators.  No longer do we have to depend upon self-reporting to see what people care about -- we can call up the bell-curves and the bar charts to find out which porn they watch, what medicines they take, who they talk to and what about.  Even where they were at the time.   This is a vid discussion.

Marketing departments love connection.  Buy one thing from Dr. Leonard and you will never get them back out of your life without some kind of confrontation.  (I ended up screaming on the phone.)  My Medicare contractor (Silverscript) is owned by a drug store chain (CVS) which began with a soft sell, a discount card, and escalated until I get regular phone calls and mailings saying that they’ve noticed that I’m not ordering my meds on time and demanding to know why not.  I write across the letter in red fibertip,  “STOP NAGGING ME!” and send it back. It does no good.  They own my butt.  Or at least my oral intake.  They assume I’m demented or I'd be compliant.

The techies of the world, the ones who grew up on game theory and have brains that know everything about systems and whatever technical terms they use, have almost no humanities background, no understanding of content or even metaphor except math.  They have no canon of shared reading, no valuing of the past.  Their morality is success-based, their empathy is for their pets.  All is innovation, more bells and whistles, more automatic spelling since they can’t do it alone.  All is templates assuming you want everyone to be your buddy so you can sell them something.  (If you don't mind piggy-backing.) I find my writing sometimes wrenched out from under my hands because it doesn’t agree with what the computer “thinks” I should do in terms of spelling or even sentence construction.  It is anti-creative with its little red and green lines.  

But worse, these sources have no intention of providing content.  They have convinced the public to do that for them.  “Send us your photos,” say the newspapers.  “Post your best writing here,” they direct.  “Twitter the news,” say the reporters, even though they know better than anyone else that their editors (who are from a different generation) will censor and reframe the reports anyway to make them appealing to the advertising bell curve.  To get news that isn’t mainstream vanilla, one must go to a foreign country.  I like The Guardian, but Al Jazeera is always interesting.

Demonized stuff is always interesting.

First Netflix just provided movies.  Then they began to want us to rate them.  Then they began to recommend movies they think I will like.  (I don’t find it useful since I respond to quality instead of genre.  They think the awards are indicators of quality, but remember that my original degree was earned with a bunch of theatre people -- I know better.)  Netflix and Amazon want us to write reviews.  We figured out how to game that in a hurry so all the reviews disappeared.  Now we have “author platforms.”  You can’t sell without confining yourself to something with edges.  

You can’t read some websites or join some orgs without allowing cookies.  If you clean off your cookies now and then, which I do, you lose function.  For a while we were assured that if we stored things in the Cloud, a massive computer warehouse someplace, they would be safe.  Now it turns out they can be searched, and if the website goes down -- maybe because of power loss or maybe because of a legal directive -- you’re down, too.  In spite of claimed redundancy.

Some "free" websites are demanding your VISA number "just in case."
Num num num num.

Automatic ads like those on blogspot respond to algorithms developed by people with no worldly knowledge, so that one's profound reflection on Buddhism gets followed by some crass ad for fundy Xianity.  One's careful essay on the forming of ministers is followed by an ad for instant ordination by mail.  It's all part of that religion blob.

But the providers give us metrics so we know exactly who, where, and how many people are reading us.  Just not their names.  (Do you watch the little maps in the right hand column?  I do.)  Best if they start comment “wars,” politely called discussions.  Whatever drives up traffic.  Now, after I've watched a movie, Netflix wants me to send recommendations to my friends.  I used to do that via email anyway, but they were paragraphs of analysis.  I resent being TOLD to do it.  It turns out that most of my friends don’t like the movies I like anyway.  We don’t watch the same way because I care about technical stuff far more than they do.  They want immersion; I want enlightenment.

Nurses want to be needed.

Very few of the people I know are as willing as I am to venture into the youth fascination with muck, darkness, sex, loud unintelligible noises.  Most adults prefer their SM with the romantic veneer of a movie like “Outlander” which they fancy to be true history of their own people.  They assume that if I watch XXX content, I must be a XXX person.  Because they don’t watch it, they assume it’s somehow corrupting, that there is nothing technical to think about.  There is no "real" content.

I have no laptop, no smart phone, no tablet, no iPod.  (Well, I think there's a little green iPod somewhere.) An occasional sign-up will DEMAND my cell phone number or prevent me from going farther.  There's no way to check "ain't got one."  In fact, some online mail order retailers will prevent me from going further if I don’t provide a physical address for mail delivery, though there is no home delivery here.  In the even smaller village thirty miles away, the streets have no names which REALLY upsets those Manhattan-based people.  At the moment you cannot use a Verizon-based cell phone in town -- only ATandT.  

On the highway the only places where a person can get cell reception are marked by turnouts and signs.  Not a lot of them around here.  GPS is not dependable.  The whole area is at the end of the bell curve.  We don’t even have fiber-optic service to our houses.  Our streets may not be paved.  The electricity surges and fades and sometimes is just missing.  We are invisible in many ways.  That’s why I like it here.  Sometimes.

One more thing, since this will mostly be read on a Sunday.  Religion is being forced into the same context of institutions and numbers: church as business, paying members, butts in the pews, number of self-identified believers, number of clergy -- all handy for designing bell curves.  Nothing about spirituality.  If you can’t number it, it doesn’t exist.  Cookies in the religious world will get you appeals for donations.  You don't have to pay for sunsets.

Light a candle?


Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Since I mentioned CVS in passing, the web crawlers evidently picked it up and I'm receiving SPAM advertising from them.

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Mary. You are maintaining your vital independence in a time when we are all considered market targets, and nothing more.

On another note, my wife, Sue Hart, died three weeks ago. She admired your work and you. And I have been seriously ill and hospitalized.