Friday, November 13, 2009

Blog Names

Google induced me (seduced me) into starting a blog, and one ignores Google at one's own peril. In fact, it is Google's influence on my life that helped decide the name of this blog. Before I get to that, let me list other blog names I considered:

The Digital Egoist: This was the first one I thought of, because really blogs are ultimately about egoism and self-image. Why do a blog unless one wishes others to look? And why would people look unless there's something worth looking at? So to publish a blog says, "Look at me, I am worth looking at." In the past there were other ways of doing it, from graffiti to making art, or dressing to draw attention, but now the prevalent method is digital. MySpace, FaceBook, blogs, commenting on other people's blogs, etc. However, I feel that most people want to be looked at, are egoists to some degree, so that title lacked a unique viewpoint. I moved on to other ideas:

The Biological Robot Papers: Robots are a fetish of mine, particularly those with AI, and I'm sure I'll blog about that topic eventually. I've always seen lifeforms as biological robots, or robots as mechanical lifeforms, so this appealed to me, but the blog name ideas were flowing and I couldn't stop:

Temporary Permanence: When I first heard of sand painting, a form of art where intricate designs and images are drawn with colored sand, I was aghast. It would blow away! And so it does. I think I heard of it in relation to Zen artists, and the impermanence of the form was part and parcel of the meaning. All is change; nothing is permanent; to strive for permanence is to run against the grain of the Universe. This has special implications in our digital age, where much effort is spent on "archiving" material, on (currently) magnetic media, of all things. Over the years I have found few things that are as volatile as magnetic media. All of our precious data, meticulously preserved on magnetic tape, floppy disks, and hard drives, is immensely vulnerable to corruption and loss. As technology progresses, this may be addressed in some measure, but even stone tablets eventually turn to dust. And speaking of stone tablets:

The Technophile Luddite: I've been writing, non-professionally, off and on for 25 years. Computers dawned during that time, and of them I was highly enamored (especially given my robot fetish, developed in my youngest years). With the advent of desktop word processing, I avidly pursued digital writing, storing everything on the aforementioned magnetic media. Even now I have obsolete files from outdated systems that I can no longer open. I used this electronic tool, the word processor, with much success, but also with much failure. While short stories posed no problem, I could not write anything of significant length.

It was only recently, within the past two years, that I found a solution. At a thrift store, for $3, I purchased a portable, manual typewriter. It was for nostalgia's sake, or possibly so that I could still write in the event of an power outage (I keep candles handy; I also have pen and paper, but I have been typing since 5th grade and it is my native form), but I immediately found that the typewriter demanded I use it. Or perhaps more accurately, my senses demanded I use the typewriter. The audio and tactile response from the machine was positively invigorating. I was an instant addict.

Since then I've accumulated 5 more typewriters, and come close to finishing my first novel. It turns out that the lack of physicality of a computer file (among other things) was keeping me from writing anything over 50 pages or so. I literally could not see what I'd written. If I was copying and pasting something, I would often lose my place scrolling through immense documents, or even forget what it was I'd copied. Typewritten pages can be shuffled and rearranged, mauled and caressed. This is apparently crucial to my process. The difference between looking at a stack of pages and a file name is indescribable.

Eventually, after I re-type my second draft (assuming I finish the first, an assumption I am now confident in making), I will scan the pages into a word processor. I will spellcheck and format and so on, but it will now come at the end of the process, where it belongs. Another factor that kept me from writing on a computer was the ease with which one could change fonts, margins, page numbering, and so on, and often I was doing those things rather than writing.

My job involves being on the Internet all day, using a variety of search engines and browers, and trying to make the most of the rapidly evolving digital landscape (for clients who need their websites marketed, but also for my own edification in the information age). I use Google's search engine extensively, I use their browser, I use Google Wave, I use Google Reader, and I have a gmail account. The influence of Google over my life has been increasing, and while I am not entirely opposed, a part of me wonders if I will find something out down the road, that bears a striking resemblance to the realization I had when I got my manual typewriter: that something had been lost along the way. Something necessary.

I take my computers with a grain of salt now. And I must admit that not only are they necessary and useful, but I enjoy them. They are a dual-edged sword and must be used with caution; and I cannot write a novel with them. But they have a place in my world, and since so do typewriters, my blog is named The Technophile Luddite.