In Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy Baym explores the effects of communication technology on the relationships and interactions amongst people on and off these media platforms. Communicative technologies are hardly ever embraced unanimously by consumer-driven societies and Baym reveals this recurrent pattern all throughout our cultural history. She even traces back to Socrates’ denouncement of reading and writing, who warned that writing is only a resemblance of truth. The mind-bending notion is truly loaded and questions all the triumphs of human knowledge as well as pointing towards to daunting issue of communication. The development of communicative technologies never seem to satisfy our society, throwing us into a somewhat vicious cycle of “technological determinism”, where we need resolve technological issues with more technology.
While driving to school this morning, I heard on the NPR program a brief discussion about the connection between our boredom and creativity and how our smartphones are interfering with this process. This immediately reminded me of Baym’s reading, more specifically about the idea of the machine’s capability to change us and dumb us down. Nick Carr’s Atlantic article amongst others stroke up much conversation about how technology seems to be using us, more than we are using them to our advantage. I traced this NPR conversation to the Brian Lehrer Show where I found an 11 minute segment titled “Brilliance Through Boredom”. Manoush Zomorodi joins Brian Lehrer to talk about our need to rethink the way we use our phones. She lauds the times when we used to “stare into space and let our minds wander” and questions whether consuming our phones with every free second we have is an issue. Research shows that boredom is a key component in our creativity, whether it be problem solving or coming up with fresh, new ideas to advance our lives. The segment, although brief, touches upon key ideas found in Baym’s reading and Zomorodi attempts to initiate a new embracement of boredom. As an avid consumer of my phone, the segment was truly a wake up call for myself. Although I was aware of how communicative technology affects our psyches, I did not realize the importance of boredom. It also lead me to think of times when I am forced to be phone-less, which most often is in the shower. Even within those 10 to 15 minutes, my mind usually wanders to strange and curious territories, and often times I have thought of problem solving solutions. In our consumer driven society, boredom is perceived so negatively, especially amongst our adolescents, when it actually could be the kick-starter of great ideas.