20 January 2010

On Demand

I have migrated to the land of iPod. I was reluctant, not a fan of earplugs, and uncertain why I would want to shutter my mind while walking when I might daydream or ponder the meaning of the universe, much as I love music, or why I might forego the pleasure of total immersion in a book while on a plane.

However, I have discovered the joys of the podcast and the return to my audio Spanish lessons, which, in 30 minute increments, are exactly the time I spend on the treadmill and thus extremely efficient use of time. And I have discovered the joys of podcasting. The opportunity to catch up on programs that I’ve missed while I’m working or simply because radio frequencies are often obstructed by hillsides is truly change I can believe in. Now, I can access my favorite shows whenever I want, via computer or iPod, and I’m hooked.

Although… I’ve been resistant in principle to the on-demand world. The natural outgrowth of my boomer generation’s determination for instant gratification, we now seem to have everything available to us whenever and wherever we want. I don’t DVR and although I have taken one step closer to this personal control of media, I still enjoy the idea, now and then, that I must get home to watch a special show. Remember the many Friday nights we went out late so we could first watch Mary Tyler Moore? I look forward to [some] award shows or Olympics or tennis tournaments and part of the pleasure is the anticipation, which has been neutralized in favor of the I-can-watch-it-later via the recording. Every show or event just another item on the playlist. The very idea of heading home to curl up with something wonderful or stay put to listen just a little longer, is already long gone. Ah, how my mother and I looked forward to Saturday operas broadcast live from the Met. Now we might get to it on Thursday. And I still enjoy the idea that it’s Tuesday night and tonight, when my eyes will no longer focus on a book, I can watch The Good Wife, one of the few decent dramas on TV, although, truth be known, I know own the complete West Wing on DVD [thank you Dana] so I can watch that brilliance whenever I want, and this is awfully nice to know. I confess that I am considering dismantling the television entirely in favor of Netflix and the few television shows worth watching on-line. Ah, the ambivalence.

My boss, a devoted football enthusiast, consoled herself recently with the inability to watch her favorite team in the playoffs because of a Board event, knowing she might watch when she got home, and still enjoy as long as no one snitched the outcome. I suppose it’s wonderful to know that what you want is always within reach, but what’s the trade-off? Certainly we are able to better manage our time because of constant access, but what do we, or more to the point our children, who are acculturated in this technology, lose in personal discipline. The ability to structure our lives and meet the demands as they come, not always as we plan them, is so important to their ability to navigate the world successfully. At least, the world as I see it, which may be the disconnect here.

We no longer have to manage our time beyond the daily work or school clock – what we want to watch or hear is always available, if we’re late we send a text, we can find directions on our phone so why even study the map ahead of time [another guilty pleasure of mine] and we can take classes at our leisure on-line, no worries about rushing to class on time. Will this younger generation fail to learn the fine art of time management and the meaning of being in the right place at the right time? If all or even most of our lives are constructed to our own choosing, how will we navigate through the construct of a larger world, increasingly beyond our control?

Perhaps it is simply that I am rapidly becoming obsolete, approaching life in a context that no longer exists. Which is odd because I am such a fan of technology and delight in its prowess… I’ll ponder this on my next walk. Then again, I’ve got a date with my Spanish teacher in my ear.

Next: The Joys and Woes of the Shuffle.

1 comment:

  1. Shutter your mind? Is listening to an iPod any different than being totally engrossed in a book? Hmm?