Wednesday, 28 May 2014

"We Shape Our Tools And Then Our Tools Shape Us."

"We shape our tools and then our tools shape us."
- Marshall McLuhan

Funny thing, how humans are. I like watching how the tools people shape, in turn shape them. The how and how fast they...we...are reshaped by the trappings, incisions and sculptings of our own instruments and devices. It's organic. It's fascinating. Correction: I love watching it.

Sometimes the reshaping unfolds with such organic poetry in motion, drawing us in with stealth and charm, we don't see it coming and, too soon, we can't look away. It's not always poetic, however. And, I imagine, that'd depend on the kind of poetry you're into. It's not always in motion - I'm thinking rhythmic. But, it is always organic.

Our new tools shape us and compel us to take on new norms. And, especially when these tools are tools of communication, and space abounds to interact with other humans, the new norms and unwritten rules grow quickly.

The premise upon which these norms and rules are built is simple - simple and strong and timeless. They are borne of, and rely on, the distinctiveness and predictability of the human condition. We need to belong; to be a part of something or someone. We need to feel we matter. We need to know that what we do has value - and so on.

Enter, Social Media. Specifically, those spaces that give users opportunities to vote/like/fav others' posts/images and what not. I imagine that's, like, all of them, right? I'm here, and on Twitter. Two platforms. That's about as much input from folks in cyberspace I choose to allow in my sphere. I've popped over to Instagram to check out pics when a few tweeps share an IG link - and I care. I'm no longer on FB - too psychologically demanding. (We've talked about that, yes?) Even comment sections in online newspapers allow readers to rate the quality/value of their fellow readers' thoughts. At every turn, if you wish to express an opinion or share a thought, you may expect to be rated/judged/marked.

Some rely on this. Some - it would seem - live for the sort of adulation showered upon them in these open spaces. The struggle for validation is real. It is such a waste of the person one is, but, it does happen.

What fascinates me, though, is that the rules are made up and applied as we go along - and how. We start using the tool and we institute our own rules - unknown to anyone else - regarding how we're going to "do this thing." Soon, as interactions and fans/friends/followers multiply; as we note their own rules and interact accordingly, something begins to happen. A general consensus and understanding begins to take shape about how we interact and why we now interact the way we do. A quick example is the fav/star button on Twitter. In the beginning, it was used primarily for that. You hit the star if the tweet was a favorite. Over time, people began to fav tweets for many reasons. I now do it for three reasons: I want to read it later. (It's easier to find in your favs than to go hunting it down in your tweep's, or, worse, some stranger's timeline.) I want to acknowledge someone who's mentioned/tagged me, but I don't want to have a convo. I want to end a convo with a tweep but without words. So, again with the acknowledgement bit. Oh, four. I actually like the tweet. Heh heh.

Look, there's no Twitter commandment that says thou shalt not steal tweets. Yet, people copy others' tweets and tweet them as if they were their own all the time. And if someone repeatedly does that, persons will not like it and they are likely to unfollow or block that user. Why? For the same reason you'd not want to associate with a thief, or someone who plagiarizes, in real life. It may be an online space, but associations and interactions are real and moving - for the most part. The bots and spammers get no love whatsoever. We get in. We pick up on little cues and norms. We figure out what's what, perhaps with some guidance along the way. Pretty soon, we find our comfort zone in how we want to "do this thing." Who people are in real life is what they come to the online space with if they are genuine in their interactions. Just give 'em time. It'll all come out in the wash. That's why the norms are so easily established. And the new norms - unique to that particular online space - arise partly because "the medium is the message" (McLuhan) and also because...humans.

What's also interesting is how some folks, over time, move away from their, well, their "original persona" as followers and such, grow. After all, one is now popular and has influence. Some go the route of commenting in a more, 'ow you saay, responsible manner. Others, not so much. It is true that these spaces can and do entice us to assume a different persona from the one we started out with, especially when we're chasing popularity. Who's to say which are the true colors?

I just recalled a lil quote by President George "Dubya" Bush during an interview after he'd left the presidency: "If you chase popularity, you're chasing a moment. You're chasing a poof of air." Thought I'd share it. You're welcome. :-)

The Quiet Zone
Several months ago, GO Transit introduced the Quiet Zone on the top floor of every coach of all their trains during rush hour. Now, prior to this designated Quiet Zone, any car of most GO trains were near deathly quiet. Well, I understand there was one line that had folks talking loudly in the evenings. Looks like people complained. GO did a pilot project with that particular line. And the rest is what we have here.

Before the Quiet Zone, on the Lakeshore West in the mornings - and evenings, come to think of it - you could hear a pin drop. There was the occasional conversation but these were few and far between and in hushed tones. The majority of commuters were plugged in or reading or catching a snooze.

Then came the Quiet Zone. Signs went up. The Customer Service Ambassadors (CSA) included it in their welcome announcements. All was mostly well with the world. That is, until a newbie or two, oblivious to the signs and announcements, would start talking. I'd sit in amusement as I watched other passengers squirm or give the person the look. As a matter of fact, I've even seen folks who could no longer contain their angst triggered by someone having a quiet phone conversation, get up from their seat, or turn around in their seat, and direct the talker's attention to the sign. Or, say to the transgressor, "This is the Quiet Zone, you can't be talking on the phone." Yeah. That happened.

Fact is, the sign in the QZ says short telephone conversations are okay; use your ear piece to listen to music and make sure it's not loud enough for anyone else to hear. That sort of thing. But, you know, now we have become accustomed to the Zone being deathly quiet. The least bit of interruption of the silence, and folks will get up and leave the Zone. I kid you not. I have seen that happen, too.

GO Transit created the Quiet Zone tool for the comfort of passengers, when most of the passengers were already comfortable and accommodating of a bit of ambient noise. Now, passengers have been programmed to expect Bose headphones quiet and many are now easily irritated when they hear a pin drop.



Friday, 23 May 2014

Inside the Mind of an Island

Inside the Mind of an Island

Battles are fought
And won
Or lost
In the mind.

In my mind
And for my people
The struggle is real.
The epic battle within 
Good vs. The Greater Good
Manifested daily
Demonstrated mainly
In the choices we make.
The actions we do 
And do not take.

Here is the environment
In which I must exist
In whose surroundings I must
Live and breathe
If at all I can.
Encumbered by fumes of waste

Here is my environment
That component of
My and my people's element 
With which we must be content
Before we even talk about Development.

Some days we take one step forward
The next, three steps back
And back to the drawing board
Or some other board
Chaired by one of two or three.
Apparently, the pool is limited
But always big enough to form
A committee.

Some days we go around in circles
Dancing to the beat of
A different kettle of fish
Nothing but red herrings
It is futile to simply wish
It all away.
To reboot
Unbreak my island heart.

My past.
My future.
My present.
This present is no gift
This present is well tense.
No recompense is near 
For those who work hard
And grin and bear

The birth of a nation
What a lovely idea.
Forefathers and foremothers
And foresisters and forebrothers
Had my interest at heart.
For the most part.
Now my people scheme 
To live the American dream.

Can I blame them?
I see them leaving
Left, right and centre
Let them go.
I cannot contain them
Little hope in the Vision.
Reality is a nightmare
On every street.

Years of mismanagement
I keep giving my leaders a bly.
I tell myself it's not easy
And they do try.
Over time, it gets easier
To believe the lie.

When they take my name to foreign
In North America and Europe
I'm presented as a lady 
Assuring all who will hear
Of my paradisiacal climes and beaches and wares.
Really, Massa, we just need a gift or two
When we get back, we'll know what to do.

They try to win the confidence
Of lenders and investors who
In their right minds would agree
That something's awry
And the people aren't free.

They're enslaved in a thinking
That handouts are better
And the love of a leader
Is the thing that matters
That goods from foreign
And such accouterments
Are indisputable signs of development.

How can they not make a killing
From people who are willing
To take loans for entertainment?
Either a cruel joke or
Human experiment.
Who is sitting aside to track it?
Caviar taste
Tin mackerel pocket.

So, foreign lenders lend
Foreign investors invest
And bet.
But they ensure theirs is a winning hand
No way will they lose
And my people must understand
That promises made must be promises kept
So, investors get two or more islands for the price of one.

Back at home 
In the not so comfortable zone
The bed that has been years in the making
Is there, ready and waiting.
I know what to do
Lie prostrate and spread 'em
There's no fight left to fight 'em.
Politicians come and go
Room for rent they apply within
When one set runs out
The other runs in.

This environment is a mess
Leaders – some thirty years in – still clueless
Where are the leaders, we ask
Who are willing to walk the talk?
To usher us into the 2030 space
At a more efficient pace?

Do we have to make a choice
Between a welcome environment and
It’s food for thought
But let me get past
Today’s headline horror
I’ll think about that question...


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Settled in. Now, where's the remote?

Ever get that?

Snack? Check.
TV's on? Check.
Favourite couch? Check.

Depending on the time of year, you might also want to have the throw over your feet. Or not. Your call. Everything's in place.

Everything - except the remote.

Of course, having settled in, the remote has to be all the way over there. The fact that it's "over there" means you have to dismantle the little fortress of comfort you had so carefully built moments ago, to take three or four steps to get the darned thing. You look around a bit for a ruler or something you could use to nudge it toward you. (A ruler? Really?) Frustrated with yourself for being so stupid (how does one draft a carefully-laid-out plan and forget a critical component?) you fume, thinking of the steps you're going to have to re-take to rebuild the comfort zone.

Unless there's someone else in the house. And you don't mind being on the receiving end of "the look". The like-seriously-you-called-me-from-all-the-way-upstairs-to-hand-you-the-remote-that's-in-the-couch-two-feet-away-from-you? look.

Or you could wait, suffer what's on in silence, then, at the right moment, pull a "while-you're-up".

All the best with that.

Another of these little inconveniences occurs when you obey the Enter sign to join a queue to purchase tickets of some sort. You know? The maze that begins and never seems to end as you bob and weave following the queue barriers? Never mind that there's only one other person in the "line". You'd feel terrible releasing one or more of the barrier ropes to make a shortcut. Just as you complete the maze and find yourself behind that one other person, what happens? One of the customer service agents comes by and rejigs the whole thing! So, now, the entrance is much closer to the front because they have realized - after your marathon - that there's no need for all those curves and turns. When that happened to be recently, the Customer Service agent simply chuckled as she moved the post.
"It figures, eh?"
"Never fails," I smiled back.

Then there's the moment when you let another driver ahead of you. As you approach the next light, the amber changes to red. You are turning right - and can do so on the red. But the guy who's now in front of you just sits there - because he's going straight ahead.

It figures, eh?


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Political Limericks

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning I awoke. For some reason, a few of my thoughts turned to Jamaica and the latest political scandal to plague the current administration. It's not that I was having a nightmare from which I woke up. No, the nightmare is already being played out in real life in Ja. It's just that...I think I'd retired much earlier than usual the night before.

Anyway, the thoughts began to morph into limericks! And moved from one topic to another. As I figured they would not leave me alone until they were penned, I turned on the light and put pen to paper. An hour later, the last of the early morning creative juices were poured into last one.

Later that day, I tweeted them. Well, bounced them off sis, @MizDurie, first. Then, I put them on the TL.

(Articles on the 381-megawatt energy plant/EWI/PNP brouhaha may be found here, here and here. And, of course, there's Google.)

Here, as in below, are the limericks from the wee hours of that morning:

There once was a Min'ster named Paulwell
Slicker than Squealer in Orwell
Cried, Jah know, I try!
Stop trying, and go! Mr. Paulwell

Paulwell told CG, do over!
Change ur mind, we do need the funds, sir
The CG said no
I can't do it bro
I'd be a scoundrel of highest order.

Corruption we're fighting too long
We're *on it* PM sang the song
Then came Azan
With his marketing plan
Seems she spelled *lovin it* wrong.

Prime Minister P SimpsonMiller
What's there to be said about her?
She hails from Woodhall
I guess #thatisall
Oh! And she'll fly out at dinner.

The legacy of the Prime Min'ster
Will be the awards on her dresser
Female PM and such
Hm. Not too much
Some people in foreign do rate her.

Career politicians galore
Their ideas we've heard all before
Take folks for a spin
Then they put them back in
It seems we can take much more.

In other news, Ontario's election will be held on June 12, 2014. The platforms are slowly taking shape. Can't say much more on that. Really.

Decisions. Decisions.