In a span of five minutes, I had to check my email addresses, cell phone, land line, and fax for the most recent message from an important customer. Somehow, I managed to identify the device containing her text, but was, for a time, stymied as toward which implement, among her surfeit of technologies, I ought to direct my answer.
Rather than waste resources fretting, I wanted to grab her input, send her my output and then get back to my manuscript. I was writing about a tenuous relationship between some undead and a very much alive chemistry professor, an international expert on matters of magnetic molecules’ impact on the limbic system.
I had just gotten to the point in my story’s plot where the scientist finished preparing her lecture “To Heal or to Harm: Words, Power and Patients,” and where she was going to begin work on her journal article, “The Real Versus the Ideal in Physician/Patient Discourse,” while a frighteningly hungry ghoul was jumping through her office window. In spite of that excitement, I had to pause my own writing to ship my patron a response that could land at the periphery of her most optimal time zone.
I would have been much happier had I been able to continue giving my attention to the fictionalized fellow, possessed of half of a face, and to his unrequited source of salvation, than had I had to regard the spatial and temporal constraints of this reality’s technology. Better to leap frog, in my esteem, between nightmares on paper than among the bells and whistles of real life. Whereas my story got completed, that achievement came at the cost of my having to toss away a prime creative moment.
One might suppose, given such sacrifices, that I would loath the data shell game enough to make use of a unified communication system. Such a conjecture would be mistaken; it’s not my nature to get bogged down by bits and bytes. Ever since our culture got “smart” by transforming mobile mechanisms into portable offices, we denizens have been forced to invest greater and greater numbers of hours into culling data from real time and non-real-time personal apparati, and into integrating that feedback into our professional goings on.
The alleged improvements in two-way communications have made us subscribers dependent, not on the speed or affordability of gadgetry, but on the guess work indigenous to their use. If only we professionals had been satisfied with manual typewriters, we would have been able to avoid many of our current time sinks.
Consider that unified communication systems were originally developed to merge fixed line and mobile technologies. Beginning, in the 1980’s, with IVR-like voice mail features, continuing, in the 1990’s, with unified messaging, and extending, to the present, with IP Telephony and IMing, paraphernalia surfaced that were meant to unite existent, divergent channels. Those helpers were never intended, though, the avaricious minds of marketers notwithstanding, to be the chief transmission machines of simple folk.
For instance, despite my proclivity for stories filled with wet viscera or with many-headed inhabitants of the Horseshoe Galaxy, I am a straightforward creative. What’s more, overall, my readers, too, are uncomplicated. That we have been, as a group, schooled in science or in applied science, and as such collect the sorts of salaries that cause electronics’ makers to drool, conversely makes us a favored target of those folks. Ironically, we people commanding the type of jobs that enable us to afford grandiose goods are the very individuals with sufficient power to discern among technologies and to want, consequently, more than any other demographic of consumers, to run far and fast from such merchandise.
As for me, I’m happier keeping gelatinous monsters and their zombie assassins at bay than trying to figure out whether or not I ought to try to incorporate newfangled doodads into my current electronics configurations. It is true that cutting edge equipment enables urban teenagers, my sons and daughters included, to gain peer standing and enables businesses to build customer bases. It is also true that when my adolescents traded in their boom boxes for MP3 players and for A2DPs and when my patrons enhanced their personal computers with VoIP, with DSLR, and with related software, I screamed… often and loudly.
Sure, applying unified communication technology, to my dilemma of multiple information outlets, would allow me, and the people to whom I provide editing or writing services, to know from where to receive and to where to send messages. In balance, however, my employment of such a system would be akin to my employment of a cake mix; either is efficient, but concurrently smacks of all the nutritional goodness of cardboard. I shy from breaking with traditions governing the distribution and delivery of caloric or ideological nourishment. Homemade comestibles and comparatively old-fashioned communication contraptions, in my opinion, almost always exceed novelties.
Dedicated writers, like this midlife gal, don’t necessarily want to be altered by the machinations that power big business. My work, like the efforts of many writers, is often relatively small scale. Further, because cultural artifacts, which can interface among communication systems, are also used to manipulate paper money, credit cards, and other objects of questionable security and of qualified worth, those contrivances, at best, become distracting to persons trying to convey sustenance. If our society’s most consistent canaries, its critics, are stymied, then our civilization, suffers. Solutions to life’s most significant issues are not and will never be found in any race to utilize fancy tools. Accordingly, it behooves critical thinkers with big mouths, able keyboards, or both, to shout out the dangers of winking, tweeting appliances.
It’s more meritorious to articulate exclamations about the assumption undergirding personal and collective ideas and actions than about mechanized thingamabobs, manufactured gubbins, state-of-the-art gizmos, or late breaking rigamajigs. Regardless of the means we use to broadcast, to interpret and to answer each others’ views, it remains the essence of our thoughts, not the media by which we masticate them, that count.
Thus, I’m happy to slay undead or not in my short stories, but I am reluctant to trade whichever gadgets with which I’ve already burdened myself for “better” ones. Writers’ commerce dictates that I stay clear of unified communication devices.
Kj Hannah Greenberg’s a verbal vagrant, who gave up a academic hoopla to chase a hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs. Some of the homes for her writing have included: AlienSkin Magazine, AntipodeanSF, Bards and Sages, Big Pulp, Morpheus Tales, Strange, Weird and Wonderful, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, and The New Absurdist.