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Sunday, 7 December 2008

the shock of the old

Work has required me to read a very interesting book, 'The Shock of the Old: Technology in Global History Since 1900' by Prof. David Edgerton of Imperial College, London. (Indeed i have the pleasure of speaking to him tomorrow and hopefully persuading him to take part in the film I'm working on).

The idea behind it is rather simple: we hold it as axiomatic that life is move ever faster in a technological blur, becoming almost dizzying in its rate of change. Except in many ways, as Prof Edgerton points out, it isn't. We often confuse invention with utilisation and even the mobile telephone is merely an innovation on phone technology that has existed for a century. The triumph is in the marketing, not the product. Most of our life is based on technologies that have endured, not technologies that have exploded like fireworks onto our consciousness and then disappeared again, having failed to latch on to our lifestyles and consciousness in more permanent ways.

Is there a parallel for emotions? Are we obsessed with new treatments particularly for negative emotions
or old problems by pharmaceutical or therapeutic means? This is not to denigrate either field completely, it's just that I can't help but wonder if we are too blinded by some shiny modern chimera. The notion of medicalising grief springs to mind as an example of this, or perhaps diagnoses of conditions like social anxiety disorder where perhaps the term shyness might be as appropriate and a pill definitely not the answer...


Linda S. Socha said...

I really do connect with your writing! I see this as such a relevant topic on many levels. You have a viable point...and I also see the internal interpretation of an external process as noteworthy ...For example, while is is true we cannot multitask...we think we ought to be able to do so ..What I see more that wanting a medication that is magic is folks expecting themselves to do it all have it all and be it all even...I find it is the levels of emotional expectation for our day to day lives is overwhelming for many....
Ah for some respite and some simplier times

scot in exile said...

yes i do think we have become infected with misplaced notions of productivity from our industrial heritage.

personally i'm a big fan of doing nothing and have been known for doing it for long stretches of time

Linda S. Socha said...