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Why our digital life will be the end of history

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High School

My high school reunion is next week – but I won’t be going.

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time in high school… I had a great time in high school.  And it’s not that I never went to my reunions over the years.  I went to all of them over the years – too many to mention.

A high school reunion doesn’t make sense any more.  Only someone who understands what it means to dial a phone and can recognize the sound of a turntable needle skating across a vinyl record understands reunions.

A high school reunion used to mean getting back together with friends from high school that you haven’t seen in a few years.  My high school has a reunion every five years.

But a high school reunion doesn’t make sense when you see your high school friends frequently – perhaps every day or maybe once a week.  How can this be when high school is long past and your friends are scattered to the four corners of the globe?

I see my high school friends nearly every day.  I get their Facebook updates.  I look at their pictures on Instagram.  We listen to music from the good old days by exchanging playlists on Spotify.  There’s Facetime and Skype.  And I have some long-term games on Zynga going with a few of them – Words with Friends and Draw Something.  The impediment of geographic distance and separation in time and space is nearly erased.

So a reunion doesn’t make sense anymore.  There is no need to “get back together” since, in a sense, we are all still together.  It’s just that we don’t all travel to a physical location on a daily basis to engage each other.  And, like the difference between the medium and the message its the physical location that’s different but the content as engagement is the same.  Perhaps the engagement in social media, anytime anyplace, exceeds what was available to us in high school.

Time has been flattened; geography erased

In a general sense, time has been flattened.  What is disappearing is the sense of past and present.  In a very real sense, the past is present and evolving.  Our digital life and technology has put us on the trajectory of giving us access to every book ever written, every movie ever made, every track of music ever recorded, every picture ever taken,  every personal video clip ever recorded,  every status update ever made on social media, and every word anyone has ever posted to the internet.

So, what is there to remember that is not immediately available?  Do I need to remember, with a sense of loss, the music I used to listen to in high school? No, it’s readily available on Spotify.  Do I need to remember, with a sense of loss, the movies we watched?  No, they are readily available on Netflix.  Those favorite clips from TV?  Maybe its on YouTube.  Do I need to wonder where my high school friends are?  They are all immediately present wherever I go.

History has traditionally been a fading memory of the past recovered with great effort and difficulty.  But what becomes of History when all the past is readily available in the present?  In fact, we have so much history that is available with in-your-face immediacy, perhaps abundance creates a new set of problems.  How do we forget?  Are there some things that we must forget to make the future livable?

Immortality

If people are looking for immortality perhaps we have it.  As the cost of digital storage approaches zero it may be possible to archive everything ever posted to the Internet.

Imagine a time, perhaps 50 years from now, where Facebook or social media in general  is now the “ancestral record” of the digital generation.  The millennial generation, posting to Facebook and other social media would have a timeline of 50 years.  In 50 years, the children of the millennial generation would know more than they ever wanted to know about their parents and grandparents.  It’s all there in the cloud.

Right now, in 2013, we go to http://www.ancestry.com/ to discover (in the hard sense) our family tree.  We search through old boxes of film photographs in the attic or basement to find picture of grandparents and relatives.  We ask our older family members, perhaps with fading memory, to tell us stories of how life used to be.  We recover stories through oral history with difficulty.

The whole idea of past history being a difficult work of discovery is undergoing radical change.  In the future, the past may be as immediate as the present.

The Take

Thousands of years ago, folks imagined  the akashic records…  a sort of giant library that is ever-present and all around us…

The akashic records, – akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning “sky”, “space” or “aether” and is described as containing all knowledge of human experience and all experiences as well as the history of the cosmos encoded or written in the very aether or fabric of all existence…

The akashic record is like an immense photographic film, registering all the desires and earth experiences of our planet. Those who perceive it will see pictured thereon: The life experiences of every human being since time began, the reactions to experience of the entire animal kingdom, the aggregation of the thought-forms of a karmic nature (based on desire) of every human unit throughout time…

People who describe the records assert that they are constantly updated automatically and that they can be accessed through astral projection or under deep hypnosis.

There will be no need of astral projection or hypnosis to access these records.  Access will be granted to anyone with a wearable or embedded device that can access whatever it is in the future that will have the Internet as its progenitor.   How much of your digital life is already part of the “akasha” record?

Read More

After the Interview is Over: Managing Digital Oral History Collections

 

Written by frrl

March 7, 2013 at 4:44 am

How Social Media Ruined My High School Reunion

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Some dialog from the movie The Jane Austen Book Club

Okay. Chloe Baher is not my friend, Dean.
Chloe Baher came to my mother’s funeral to gloat. “Ha-ha! Your mother’s dead.”
And you hit on her!
– I do… I do… – You hit on her!

I was not hitting on her.
You know, when I was in the 10th grade,
I wrote an entire paper on Julius Caesar in iambic pentameter.
And Chloe Baher removed it from my locker and she read it aloud to the whole class.

And everyone laughed at me.
Baby, high school’s over.
High school’s never over.

High School

Every three to five years for the past eon I’ve been attending my High School reunion.  Attending a religious private school my graduating class of about 400 has pretty much stayed together.  The High School Alumni Association was instrumental in keeping us in touch with each other and with every graduating class since the school first opened in the first quarter of the 20’th century. 

My particular high school has a long history.  And of course, if you attended a religious high school there is a similar grammar school and college in the unbroken chain of education.  Some who graduate from the teachers college in the system go back to teach in the same high school they attended.  It’s a virtuous circle.

The Alumni Association & Social Media Disruption

But now, anyone who is anybody in my High School graduating class  is using social media.  Social media in general and Facebook in particular.

Always on, always connected, geography irrelevant, and time-shifting social media has made some of the aspects of the Alumni Association obsolete.

Does the Alumni Association need to publish a quarterly paper newsletter and send it out?  No, not really.  We get our updates via Facebook in real-time – all the time.

How about an Alumni Directory?  No,  I can get in touch with anyone, anytime, via Twitter, Skype, Facetime, or even e-mail for the older traditional folks.

What about events where we can meet?  We now do that ourselves on Facebook.

Sans Reunion.  Social Media Disruption

What about the tradition of our every 3-5 year reunion?  We would all look forward to this.  See each other.  Catch up.  What are you doing now?  How about the Prom queen – what does she look like now?  The cheerleaders?  And how about that special someone who you wish you dated?  What about the smart kid – where are they now after about 5 years have passed?  What about the geek?  The loser?  What happened to those kids in the Chess Club?  Was Band Camp in my HS like I saw in that movie way back when?

With Social Media the anticipation of the High School reunion has vanished.

Today, we are all on Facebook reading each others timelines, updates, and looking at photo’s and movies uploaded by our High School peers.  We share music and send each other tracks and recommendations on Spotify.  Some folks follow each other on Twitter.  Nothing like renewing friendships with “the one that got away” with an innocent game of Words with Friends.  The possibilities enabled by the state of social media in 2012 are almost endless.  The traditional  High School Reunion now seems obsolete.

“Baby, High School’s Over”

High School is as much about the socialization process as it is about education.  In high school individuals learn how to form relationship, compete for grades – as well as for social standing, become popular – or not.  At this early age, for many people, a great deal of character is built during these years – including fears and regrets  Those in your peer group in high school most likely left a lasting mark on your character, ambitions, and values you hold today as an adult.

High school’s never over.”

With all the varieties of social media, High School’s never over.  To some, this will become a joy and to others it will become a pain. The former will engage social media in all its ability to connect with people with whom they shared their high school experience perhaps decades ago. 

To the outcasts, the memory of  high school years may remain a painful memory.  To the prom queens and jocks something different.  What about those techie geeks from high school – those who would embrace the newest technology but yet always lacked, or never developed  social skills to be popular?  For them, social media may be something of a conundrum.  The love of technology that brings with it the fear of a  highly social context.  Baby, with social media, high school’s never over.  (read).

Written by frrl

April 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

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