Only a few of you may have notice, that I have been away from my digital spaces. Not because I deliberately chose to, but because in my new home I'm still waiting for the installation of my Clix internet account (they tell me they are waiting for PTelecom to instal the line). Since my workplace does not exist any more and I'm on a research grant, my social contacts are almost non existent. My communications are limited to mobile phone use (which is to expensive in face of my actual financial status), so I had to cut down outgoing calls, although I'm very glad to receive any calls :-)
Before, I used to be connected all the time and I didn't realize the importance it had in my daily life, namely the sense of connectedness to a vast network of friends and contacts. Apart from the obvious sense of isolation, I have been missing a lot of events just because I'm not connected. In a way it is like loosing your hearing, cause I'm not able to listen to the conversations going on. It's also like being mute, cause I'm not able to express myself. It's like being eye shorted, cause I'm not able to scan my (previous information rich) environment to see what's happening.
But this situation as given me a lot to think about. We can try to understand how those left behind are loosing opportunities (namely, those without internet access) but we can not feel it. Living the real thing, without being just a few days without access, changes a lot a persons perspectives and behaviours. Things so trivial like checking your email every minute (plus the expectation of the senders that you are on the other side and see it right away!) give way to a false sense of not caring enough with the sender to reply and/or act. The reality could not be further away from the true: not replying just because I'm not there to see the messages. So in the mean time, I've been sending and uploading on the go without the ability of receiving feedback, of engaging in the flow. To better describe what I feel, it's a lot like once in a while going out and talking to a machine with no one on the other side.
The saying that fish only knows they need water to survive, once they are taken from their natural element, seems quiet appropriate. Sometimes we need to be outside our (natural!) element to understand what's really important. The gigantic amount of information flow I was used to dealing with, gave way to, some could say, an information poor context. But, there where some benefits. Things where happening so fast that my time was almost spent for information attention and very little to information thinking and information production. Networks where becoming so huge (and unfamiliar, I might add) that a sense of friendly gathering disappeared and gave place to crowd gatherings with people speaking all at the same time and not listening to current and past conversations. The sense of information overload I was having, greatly exacerbated by the accumulating (unread) feeds I was subscribing, resulted in the ability of identifying the one's that really where important to me. Those where a few dozen, and not hundreds. During this time I've also discovered that to the people that really wanted to talk back, not having access to the internet did not stopped them to find me. They even reminded me of something that I wasn't aware of: in all the emails I've sent them, I had on the bottom of the message my automatic signature providing other means of contact, namely my mobile phone number.
So yes! During this last year, I may have lost a lot of events, new tools and great conversations. But, if they where really important they will persist and I will be able to reconnect after the information buzz. What do you think it was really important this last year that you would bother to leave me a link so I can start to recover once the Clix guys come to install my internet connection? I suspect the lake of answers will mean that I have not lost a great deal ;-)