I think it's official: I have started to feel old. It's not the achy joints or the memory lapses - those I attribute to my accident a few years back. No, it's the sense that technology has zoomed past me and is not even checking the rear view mirror to see if I'm alright.
I don't think I'm a technophobe - hey, I have a blog! That must put me in the modern spirit of things. Shouldn't it? But I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker recently that depicted a big pie chart categorizing people who blog. There was one-third people who make stuff, one-third people who self-promote, and one-third people who engage in conspiracy theories.
You might share my mystification at why this cartoon is funny. I thought making stuff was a good thing, certainly not on a par with egomania or conspiracy theorist ranting. But I have been vaguely aware that blogging is not cutting edge, and why should it be? I consider it a useful format to record and store pictures of my work and life, and I am delighted that some people find it interesting enough to check in on from time to time. Blogging has brought me friends and opportunities, and expanded my world.
Yet, that's about as far as I go in the realm of technical innovation in communication. I don't have a cell phone, I don't Twitter, I don't have one of those tablet thingies, I don't read e-books. In fact, I am so far behind that I don't even know what I don't have. And don't want. Even if I could afford to update gadgets at the rate the fast lane demands, the whole concept appalls me. (Which shouldn't surprise you, given that I plan to interpret Canada's first natural history document in 17th C. needlework.)
What it ultimately comes down to, for me, is touch. It creeps me out the way people stroke their little electronic devices. It's far too intimate an interface, in my opinion. While that may suggest I have unresolved issues of a personal nature, I prefer to see it as a sign of how important touch is. Our hands are incredibly sensitive and dexterous beyond what any machine can achieve. My work relies on the skill of my fingers. The expressive nuances of texture have meaning for me in the way the slick surface of an ITouch can never match.
I type this blog on an old Dell laptop. I use a mouse, never the touchpad if I can avoid it. I love the slight resistance of the keys as I press them. (I don't long for an old Underwood typewriter, that's too steampunk even for me.)
Maybe it goes back to the days when I first worked as a graphic artist, manually drawing perfect lines with pen and ink, cutting galleys of type and pasting them on boards in preparation for mechanical reproduction. It took meticulous skill and a trained eye, endless patience and a professional touch. I hope these traits have stayed with me years after that particular job description has gone the way of medieval manuscript illumination.
The bygone ways are not all good, of course, as surely as the new ways are not all bad. The main thing is communication. As the old phone company ads used to say, "Reach out and touch someone." I would only add, "And, if you can, knit them a sweater."