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The digital now

November 10, 2013
Abha Dawesar is an Indian novelist writing in English.

Abha Dawesar is an Indian novelist writing in English.

According to my personal interest in terms of researching about information and knowledge society, I found in TED a quite interesting dissertation from Abha Dawesar, who tries to define a new concept called the digital now. She’s an Indian novelist who usually writes in English, and as she declared to a TED audience, she’s interested in the self and fiction. She told us she was one of the victims of Hurricane Sandy and for a short period of time, she got used to live without electricity and other accommodations of the modern and developed societies. According to this, she started to think about how important are new technologies in ours lives. She made an assumption: food and shelter used to be the most important things human beings always are worried about, but nowadays, in developed societies, the information and communication technologies are a real need for us. This is an extremely ethnocentric point of view according to the anthropological approach, but I think it is bound to be true today, so we are even a bit more mean than we used to be years ago before the digital revolution.

The digital now is a term that refers to the when and the where in the cyberspace in order to understand the present, the past and the future in the virtual world. She took notice that cyberspace doesn’t have physical places, so information flows around us extremely fast. According to this definition, we aren’t able to process all pieces of information that usually surround us in a normal day. It produces a new state of perception people, who see the physical world in a different speed than the virtual world.

This following text is the transcription I got from TED. The main idea is that ICT runs on its own speed and human beings are crawling it.

I think that technology has altered that flow of time. The overall time that we have for our narrative, our lifespan, has been increasing, but the smallest measure, the moment, has shrunk. It has shrunk because our instruments enable us in part to measure smaller and smaller units of time, and this in turn has given us a more granular understanding of the material world, and this granular understanding has generated reams of data that our brains can no longer comprehend and for which we need more and more complicated computers. All of this to say that the gap between what we can perceive and what we can measure is only going to widen.

Science can do things with and in a picosecond, but you and I are never going to have the inner experience of a millionth of a millionth of a second. You and I answer only to nature’s rhythm and flow, to the sun, the moon and the seasons, and this is why we need that long arc of time with the past, the present and the future to see things for what they are, to separate signal from noise and the self from sensations. We need time’s arrow to understand cause and effect, not just in the material world, but in our own intentions and our motivations. What happens when that arrow goes awry? What happens when time warps? (Dawesar, 2013)

I agree with her about how time is perceived in a different way between physical and virtual world, but everything that happens in the virtual world is directly connected to something which is real, so we should ask to ourselves the following questions first: Why are people involved in an information flow which is clearly overflowing the capacity of processing of individuals? We are able to process a lot of data coming from Internet, apps and others, but why are we so interested in aggregating more a more sources of information to our lives? Is perhaps a new form of greed in developed societies? Is perhaps that we feel insecure so we need to be aware of everything is happening in the world? As far as I’m concerned, time is the same in the two worlds, but in the physical world we have to deal with people in human speed whereas in the virtual world we have to face the challenge of discerning among lots of events which carry lots of decisions we should take.

Full video on ted: http://www.ted.com/talks/abha_dawesar_life_in_the_digital_now.html

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