Monday, April 26, 2010

The Magnificent Ambersons

Jim Groom recently posted his thoughts about an excerpt from The Magnificent Ambersons that rang true for me (follow the "posted" link to view the excerpt and read Groom's ideas).  The clip displays a brief conversation about the impact of the automobile on society.  I won't repeat Groom's summary nor his analysis, but I strongly encourage people to view this.

As a late adopter of technology, I try to remind myself of why technology (and especially social media like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, this blog, and so on) can be useful.  I just got off the telephone with my friend Ben Fink, and we talked about how technology can actually add to my humanity, such as when I posted about Kurban Said's Ali and Nino, and my friends and colleagues in Azerbaijan commented, and in doing so extended my monologue into a dialogue.  That adds to my humanity.  I hope that it adds to theirs.

However, there are times, too, when social media and technology can be dehumanizing, and I am painfully aware of that.  The mindless emails that we must read and respond to because they are part of our jobs: the endless voicemails that need to be heard and the ensuing telephone calls that we will make, often to a disembodied outgoing message; the blog posting that will be read by . . . no one . . . .  I recognize this.

The Joseph Cotton soliloquy in the short clip is brilliant in its balancing act.  Even though Cotton's character played a role in inventing the automobile and now sells them, he is distinctly and brilliantly ambivalent about what it means (not indifferent but ambivalent).  It's not a matter of being a technology champion or a luddite: it's a question of how technology can connect us rather than divide us.

What has the computer and social media done for you?  Has it isolated you or connected you?  Are you primarily a consumer of social media or are you a creator?

Image from jovisala47's photostream
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