They’re walking down the street towards you, you don’t recognise them but as they approach, they yell a greeting and – caught aback – you blurt out a reply. It’s only then that you spot the blue glow emanating from their ear and realise that they’re in the middle of a conversation with an invisible third party. You’ve been caught on the hop by a blue tooth junkie. You can see them anywhere and everywhere – the chap in animated discussion, wildly gesticulating as if he’s been caught up in some tribal street haka, the poor souls whom you assume have Tourettes, only to realise they’re actually in a midst of a heated argument with their significant other, and – let’s be completely honest here – the overwhelming majority of people who insist on employing these infernal devices have absolutely no need to do so in the first place.
The flash executive, busy fielding incoming calls as they cruise along the motorway in their company Audi, may well have a need for a bluetooth headset, but not – as I was bemused to encounter recently – the fat bloke in a tracksuit, stood in the middle of the aisle in Tesco, furiously demanding of his unseen better half – along with every shopper within shouting distance – ‘Fishfingers or crispy pancakes?’ (Crispy pancakes, of course, every time!)
I’m not sure whether it’s sheer laziness – why should I go to the trouble of physically raising a phone to my ear? Or misplaced bravado -look at me with my glowing ear, or maybe it’s simple idiocy that drives people to think they cannot do without a constant and visible connection to the communications supernetwork, but whatever the reason, I find it both baffling and intensely irritating. I probably wouldn’t mind so much if the content of their exchanges and the volume at which they tend to be conducted was a little more low-key, but it seems that modern technology is incapable of transmitting your voice unless it’s raised to a volume capable of registering on the Richter Scale! It amazes me too, just how many people seem more than happy to conduct the most violent of arguments in a public arena – perhaps they feel that involving the world in general adds weight to whatever points they are trying to make?
Then again, when it comes to combining technology and communication, I’m a total Luddite. That may surprise you, considering that generally I’m pretty tech savvy and that such things form a significant part of both my working life and recereational activities, but I’m afraid it’s true. I don’t own, or aspire to possessing anything that has an ‘i-‘ designation before it, (except perhaps an i-ron, but I can’t say it particularly enhances the quality of my life), and when people tell me excitedly they’ve just acquired a new phone or similar gadget, my usual gut reaction is ‘so what?’
Maybe I think differently to how most people think today – whilst I’m fascinated by technology and anything to do with it, I tend to view it as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. I don’t care if it’s trendy, the latest of its kind, made by Apple, or if Beyonce owns one: what matters to me is how it works and what it does. In short, I’m more interested in the chocolate bar than the wrapper (ideally, peanut butter chunky Kit Kat!)
The same is true of SL – I view it more as a means to an end than a product in itself. So, for me, SL is more about forging friendships than building friend lists; it’s more about realising my own creativity, than buying the results of other people’s creativity; it’s about exploring and discovering the virtual world, rather than having it handed to me on a plate. Consequently, I can easily fall behind what’s trending and fashionable – my inventory is still stuffed full of non-mesh clothing, I don’t possess a single body part of the Slink or similar stable, and many of the ‘essentials’ that others couldn’t possibly manage without have never played any part in my personal SL experience. Conversely, when it comes to the technology that makes SL happen – the nuts and bolts – I’ll frequently venture into territory where others fear to go.
It’s an approach that I find incredibly satisfying, and has given me opportunities and hopefully a degree of insight into ‘the nature of things’ that, it seems to me, is not shared by all. I’m more than happy fiddling about with command line switches and debug settings in order to coax every last nugget of performance from the viewer. When things go wrong, rather than complain and moan about ‘how crap SL is’, I’ll look up the issue in JIRA, report it if it’s a new bug and work with the devs to get things resolved; I’ll engage in discussion, weigh up difference of opinion and try to see both sides of an argument when the inevitable fights break out following every change, improvement or alteration to SL. As a result, I’ve had the privilege of using experiemental viewers, played with hidden settings, seen problems fixed, experienced new tools and features before they’re released and I’ve formed what I hope are balanced and informed opinions – the Lindens are not demons, SL is working better than ever before, none of the conspiracy theories are true and most of the problems we experience are our own fault. Maybe not an entirely popular stance to take, but that doesn’t bother me.
I do feel that sometimes we tend to take more notice of the gloss and finish, than the equally, if not more important infrastructure that we don’t see. Bluetooth headsets certainly have their place and communication is incredibly important, but shopping lists are a far more efficient and sensible way to plan what to have for tea, and sitting down and talking things out face-to-face is a much better option than involving the whole street in your latest domestic. Is this really what all those talented and creative engineers, designers and programmers had in mind for their products, or did they hope for more?
I don’t deny that all the shiny and pretty things of SL have an intrinsic value and our SLives would be the lesser without them. There’s nothing wrong with being caught up in their allure either, but I’m always grateful that there are people in SL – perhaps a little bit like me – for whom SL holds more a of a challenge: People who don’t mind getting their hands dirty and – occasionally – suffer for it, It’s not glamorous, it may seem weird to some, but it’s equally as satisfying – albeit in a subtly different way – as throwing on your latest pair of mesh feet and hands, heading off to the trendiest, most happening hotspot in SL and glamming it up with the glitterati.
Each to their own – and that’s exactly how it should be.
Music and mythology, Einstein and astrology
It all started with the big bang!
It all started with the big… BANG!
Barenaked Ladies – History Of Everything