My Information Drive

My information drive has been changing rapidly in the last five years, and continues to evolve. In high school I stopped watching television, and started listening exclusively to NPR and music. And the music I listened to got quieter and quieter over the years (as is to be expected)[1]. Now I don’t even listen to music really, unless I make it.

I am almost always bored with the information I am receiving but I feel like I always need more. Instead of accumulating the maximum number of experiences I am seeking unique information experiences.

Most of my childhood was spent with extreme amounts of redundant visual stimulation. I was a fanatic comic book reader, and a slightly below average American television watcher. My favorite shows were (in order of appearance): He-Man, Knight Rider, A-Team, Inspector Gadget, Murder She Wrote, Macgyver, Quantum Leap, Brisco County Junior, Millenium, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Talk Soup, The Simpsons (I got into them really late), and Seinfeld.

In high school, I was lucky enough to happen upon WAMC, an awesome NPR station out of Albany. At first I just listened when I was in the car, driving in between all my after school activities. Running around like a mad person. Now I am obsessed with listening to a single radio station à NPR. But no NPR affiliate carries Democracy Now! in Syracuse so I also try to listen to that on the internet.

When I was a kid I had the opportunity to make and listen to my own sounds. This is ultra important if you want your kids to be creative. Before they are completely trained let them tape themselves. Start ‘em, young too. Before they are demanding Heavy Metal that is too loud for human consumption, or million dollar Hip-Pop stage shows, they will still be able to tell simple straightforward stories that mean something to them.

I am going home this weekend and am going to search for all my old tapes. I want to see what I sounded like before I was bombarded.

At 6 I got a tape recorder, and made plays and interviews with my sister. Then I learned to play drums, and guitar. And then punk rock exploded in my lap. My favorite bands were (in order of appearance): Green Day, Rancid, The Ramones, NOFX, Operation IVY, Pennywise, Line of Fire, Husker Du, The Clash, The Minutemen, Talking Heads, Devo, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits.

And then I started listening and playing jazz. The cool thing about Jazz is that it can be really loud at very low volumes. I admit, I still want my noise but not as much as I used to. I am getting older. I am afraid that my friends think I am selling out. I am writing quiet contemplative songs.

I refused to allow my college band Hijack Jupiter to write anymore love songs. The last song we wrote together had to simultaneous parts in different time signatures, and all of the instruments would drop time when instructed. It was called Triangle Teeth and was about a panic attack that I had, and I was also thinking about a panic attack that D____., as well. Obviously, our drummer was very talented. Obviously we no longer exist.

I stopped watching television four years ago. I do not have a television in my house. Occasionally I’ll sneak a peak at a storefront or when I am at my friend’s house and we just want to “veg-out.”

When I have the urge to use television it is because I don’t want to have to think. I want to experience the comatose of blanking out in front of the blue glow and barely perceivable ultra high frequency hum. Sometimes I still want to put info-toxins into my body even though I know it is bad for me. Sometimes it still feels so good.

Television addiction is like slowly raising the temperature of a pot of water with the proverbial frog in it. We never even get a chance to jump out. One day we just wake up and realize our brains have been boiled to death. It is better to not have the drug in the house. I am less likely to use it then.

Since I have started making videotapes, and electronic art, and multi-media bonanzas (under the auspices of the Syracuse University dept. of Transmedia) I have a much harder time reading. I am afraid my newfound visual stimulation and saturation is making other, language-based activities, under whelming.

Working in front of my computer is mainly a visual environment, but is not as extreme as television. So even though I spend a lot of time in the silent space of the computer screen I still want audio information as well. That is why I have a real urge to listen to the news every day, even if I have already read the newspaper. The computer and the Internet do not overload me to the point of exhaustion as television has a habit of doing.

The Internet has its problems too. It can be hard to navigate. Being an explorer on the Internet, requires a lot of time. It takes a lot of time to be adventurer and find the unexplored territories because the Internet is totally flat. The non-hierarchical that is the webs greatest strength is also its most frustrating feature. Climbing the mountains of corporate web-portals clouds your view. That means there is a lot of ground to cover on your own, and often a lot of swamp land to muck through. But we like the Internet because it is instantaneous.

I often find myself traveling over the same exact terrain. The pattern of the water changes and some plants die and new ones re-grow, but I need to get into new territories. If I am not careful I will always leave an Internet escapade feeling rather unsatisfied.

Part of the responsibility is on me to spend more time being adventurous. But I am afraid that the corporations will make everything on the Internet bright shiny and jarring, and I will be too distracted to explore. And I will leave the same way I left television: bloated but empty.

My Information drive needs to be stimulated in new ways, not only in many ways. Instead of seeking out more and more information I am trying to make my goal to seek out new information.

I am trying to seek out personal, human, and natural time. I don’t listen to headphones when I walk to class I listen to the world or I make up songs for myself. It feels good to hum nonsense or make up your own words phrases.
Bluscobittles
Rolodex-Bravado
Voicemail tagging

(4/23/2003) I have started to read novels again, but it is hard to get through Tolsltoy when you are online all day. I have turned off IM. I have begun hanging out with friends outside, without an electronic device on in the background.[2]

I am doing all of these things because somewhere around 17 I became extremely exhausted. I had spent too much time collecting information and information receptacles. The absolute emptiness of my world absolutely had to stop. I think I am working towards a better place but I am not entirely sure. Its counterintuitive but I have a lot of work to do before I can turn things down. And I am afraid that if I do I will be left behind. Thoreau was a little bit strange coming out of the woods. I feel like after a year in the woods I would return home to find myself more human, but less relevant.

:
Sitting behind me in the computer lab of Bowne Hall are two members of the Syracuse University Maintenance crew. They are adult women sitting next to each other. Every couple of minutes they ask a question of each other.
“Did you watch any Soaps Yesterday?”,
“Naw, I don’t have time for that anymore.”

They can barely bring themselves to look away from their computer screens. One receives a call on her cell phone and talks to a doctor or something and then goes back to the screen. They are both playing puzzle games online.

It is certainly interesting world we are entering.

[1] I think you can remain relevant at lower volumes, but it is also good to crank all the knobs to 10 every once and a while, again. (See: Elvis Costello).

[2] UPDATE: (12/7/2003) I have begun to regress. I haven’t seen my friends in weeks. Everyone keeps saying they haven’t seen me in a while. At least I get out of my room to type at the public computer cluster. Sometimes I see friends there. At least I am moving to Hong Kong in a couple of weeks. This might exacerbate the information overload I am feeling, but I feel like I will be too enthralled learning about the Chinese people and there traditional and modern culture to be freaking out.

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