The effects of technology-mediated experience: Rediscovering the ‘real’ world

[From Washington state’s Enumclaw Courier Herald]

WALLY’S WORLD: It’s amazing how fresh the real world sounds

By Wally Duchateau
Enumclaw Courier Herald Columnist
May 26 2011

Today I’d like to address the younger set, if any of them happen to read these columns.  Say, those men and women younger than 25 years of age.

Among the springtime deluge of rain storms, thunder storms and flash floods, you might have noticed — for the briefest instant — a trace of sunlight. During those dazzling moments, you may also have sensed a desire to get out of the house, your place of work, your car or whatever, and actually feel the sun’s warmth. Do it! And in so doing, leave all your technological goodies behind, including your cell phone. Should an emergency arise, this might prove quite inconvenient and even devastating, but gamble on this. Shed all your latest, high-tech devices and step outside without any intervening or secondary contraptions.

Walking about the world in such a naked state may come as quite a jolt, mentally and physically, but rest assured, you have nothing to fear. All your usual bodily functions (respiration, circulation, digestion, etc.) will continue to work.

One of the first things you’ll notice is how real everything is. There is no virtual reality; no near-exact images. Everything is, in fact, very authentic because it actually exists. Furthermore, the full spectrum of color and the entire landscape will come to you without any time lag and without 3-D glasses.

Of course, there’ll be no need to check the Google splash-page to see what the weather is like because you’ll be standing in the middle of it. The sun will actually bathe your face and cause you to squint.

It may take you a few minutes to adjust to the fact that everything is in real time. Not past time or virtual time, but real time. Here again, let me assure you that there’s nothing to fear.

You might wonder what you’re supposed to do with your hands since there won’t be a keyboard, mouse, touch pad or joystick to keep them busy. Some of you might be tempted to keep them occupied by having a cigarette. I suppose that’s OK, but it isn’t recommended.

The sounds you hear will arrive with such stunning clarity, it may be shocking. Your ears will detect a whole range of sounds – music, conversation, traffic, noise, whatever – and you won’t be carrying headphones, earplugs or speakers. Without a single amplifier, you’ll instantly hear all kinds of audio vibes and be able to pinpoint their direction of origin. It’s surround sound without speakers.

You’ll probably notice a barrage of unfamiliar odors, but in fact they’ve always been there. It’s just that you didn’t pick up on them before because you were hauling all that paraphernalia around. If you happen to be walking about in Walmart or Target, you may be over whelmed by the rather sickening scent of formaldehyde, so you might want to avoid those places. But if you’re in a garden or the woods or even your own backyard, inhale deeply through your nose.

You might want to talk to someone. That’s easily satisfied. Simply amble into any lounge in town and you’ll find people who’ll talk with you – and again, without any lag-time, but in face-to-face real time. Yet, be forewarned: this can be the most shocking thing of all. You’ll discover these people are warm and they can actually reach out and touch you! When you gaze into their eyes, you won’t find that cold glare of a computer screen; instead, there’s a deep and honest intimacy that can be quite unsettling.

Surprisingly, you could actually run across some of your Facebook friends who’ve also decided to leave their caves and venture into the outside world. Unfortunately, they may have brought their iPhones with them. If you hear one buzz, subtly express your disapproval. Frown and curse under your breath.

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