Adapt or die

Brutal, Darwinian. Natural. Around the dinner table last night my family and I discussed life in the 21st century, digital native Junior marveling at how much technology has changed in his 15 years on the planet. An island boy, he doesn’t text yet but understands the appeal of the iPad. Me too. I’m getting tired of lugging my laptop around but it wasn’t so long ago that my iBook provided mobility as compared to my desktop-personal computer. We want it all!

A self-taught code warrior since the age of 14, Josef mentioned there are now laptops available for a few hundred dollars, but right away, Junior dismissed the idea along with their limited capability and RAM. Josef admitted that a USB port and word processing doesn’t cut it these days. People want to text, Tweet, iTune, email, Facebook, GPS, snap photos, shoot video, read the Globe and Mail and Google on the go. They want power, convenience. What’s so great about having a pound of newsprint delivered to your house so you can read one, or two, maybe even three articles, before running out the door? So wasteful, inefficient, messy and involves an errand- hauling it all down to the recycling depot. The other adaptation we’ve all made in this family is watching television on the Internet. We no longer have the patience to sit through network TV and its oppressive and boring commercials.

I’m slowly learning to text, with both thumbs, motivated in part by the way people communicated via texting throughout the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Good survival skill! Then we got onto the subject of text abbreviations, or acronyms to me. When Junior started talking about Leet Speak, my digital immigrant eyes crossed. He explained but I looked it up anyway: Hacker “Sp33k” for leet, or elite. Originating from 31337 “eleet”, the UDP port used by Dead Cow Cult, a hacker group, to access Windows 95 using Back Orifice, a notorious hacking program.

I recently had a conversation with my buddy, the esteemed poet Peter Trower, who at 79, is understandably old school. He does have a computer and email, though he never replies to messages. I was on him about his website which hasn’t been updated in six years! Pete is far from done. With a new novel and a memoir in the works and readings coming up I admire his drive nearly as much as his work. “People will think you’re dead.” This isn’t about ageism; it’s about being on top of your game, or rather, on top of the food chain. It’s probably better to have no web presence than a stagnant one. Adapt or die. Harsh, I know but I’ve offered to help. I suppose I don’t have much sympathy for blocks of this kind. As the founder of the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre, Telepoetics Vancouver and the Edgewise Cafe, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines, I had to get over my trepidation to learn HTML in the early 90s, determined to use the power of the Internet to advance art, specifically poetry. I reminded music lover Pete that drummers—who are often purists of one sort or another— had to learn to use electronic drum machines in the 80s and man, most of them hated it but if they wanted to work, they made the transition. If drummers can do it, so can poets.

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2 thoughts on “Adapt or die

  1. In one of the classes I teach, it’s all about the digital lifestyle. The majority of these adult learners are teachers, or soon to be. Some are tech savvy, many of them not, and they are all surprised by what is going on in the world re digital. Lots of lively discussion. But they worry about ‘learning’ all this new stuff. I stress I am not there to ‘teach’ them the skills, but just to make them aware where their students (will) come from, and so they must be prepared for the new learners. In the end they are greatly encouraged, and happy that the ‘mystic’ is revealed. Now, to get back to that text message that just came in…

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