18 February 2009

distributed personality

So I finally got round to watching that programme, Why Reading Matters. And what a joy it was. It told how neuroscience has shown the living brain in action, its modular nature, the connections it makes and needs to maintain. Fascinating stuff. Lots of little anthropological insights, like how reading skills developed from the observational powers tuned up from more primitive times. It also demonstrated how reading a novel opens up imaginative and empathetic abilities, which can be built up like any other muscle. I'll be slipping lots of these facts knowingly into conversations wherever I can from now on. It was also open-ended about how the internet and various technologies are changing the nature of reading. So then I couldn't help thinking about how my reading habits have changed in the last few years. At home I'm reading Watchmen and How to Win Friends and Influence People. On the train I'm reading Novel on Yellow Paper and various Twitter feeds. At lunchtime and just before I go to bed I read blog posts. If I went a couple of days without making a dent in some, if not all of these, I think I'd feel freaked out. All of which is interesting when you think about how our expressive abilities and desires may have changed. We are distributed personalities. I have my blog, my Facebook profile and my Twitter. I've not long been using Delicious, but I'm having fun with it. And there's my randombitsandpieces too. These things are micro self-commentaries, little fragments of personality gone webby. It's not easy to assemble that into a whole. That's why it's so hard to measure the way we engage with communications. But that's the whole thing, isn't it? When we're trying to think about engagement and intimacy, how do you understand what are they worth, truly? I'm not saying we couldn't or shouldn't try do this, of course not. But really, how intimate are we with the stuff we consume, even that we profess to love? And how intimate do we want to be? So, um, yeah. That's it really. (Pic courtesy of this person.)

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