Thursday, January 15, 2009

Confluence of Technologies



Every so often, I like to stop and contemplate the feedback loop between technology and expectation. There's a connection between how we conceptualize what we do and how we do it. The connection is made plain by which technology one uses, or prefers to use, in doing one's work.

These comments might be about writing and art-making technologies, but in truth the principle is universal. As the saying goes, When you're a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail. The principle of fluid perception allows us to come up with more solutions, and more various solutions, than we could if we are boxed into only viewpoint, one way of perceiving all things.

I see often how critical thinking in the arts gets even the most flexible minds into trouble. The mind is very good at making habits, even process habits, into categorical boxes. The intellect is very good at categorizing and analyzing—that's its job, after all—but not so good at . The tendency is to create more boxes, more -isms, more theories, more categories; entirely overlooking that the most useful response is sometimes to abandon all such boxes as liabilities. John Cage was once asked what the purpose of artistic work was; he considered for a moment, then replied, "To get out of whatever Cage you are in."

So, it's interesting to juxtapose the handwritten text against the laptop, even if only for a brief, symbolic moment. It's a short, symbolic moment that can resonate deeply, if you're open to it.

Being open to paradox, to ambiguity, to contradiction, seems to be something many writers are afraid of. Actually afraid of. They don't like their assumptions shaken too deeply. They don't like their worlds torn apart. Others, and I freely admit that life's experience has put me in this camp, have been so shaken up by life, or by their own desires, that they have learned how arbitrary most scabbed-over habits have become; especially when they get have become artistic ruts, like deep grooves in a vinyl record that the playback needle is never allowed to stray outside.

I like anachronisms, paradoxes, and juxtapositions. They can sometimes shake up your complacencies—and every writer needs their complacency shaken up, now and then, some more than others. It's so easy to get into a rut and repeat yourself endlessly. It's far harder to climb up those canyon walls, outside of your groove, and see what else in on the horizon. Often you see things you never thought existed, or could have.

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