Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is boredom on its way out?

Boredom other than in my classroom, that is.  No, it is not me who is bored, but apparently students are. We are just about completing four weeks and I have already seen quite a few heads dangerously nodding.  Many eyes seem to stare vacantly. Some students take off during the break and do not come back.  I have enough and more evidence that my classes are awfully boring places.

But, in the world outside of my classroom, it has become one app after another that competes for our attention.  We do not have enough time to keep up with the text messages, Facebook status updates, Twitter conversations, Instagram, Netflix, television, ... and the real world of people.  Ask yourself when it was the last time that you sat down feeling bored out of your wits.  Again, a reminder--bored when you were not in my class!

I have blogged more than once (especially this and this) about how it has become a luxury anymore to be bored.  The subject fascinates me to no end.  When waiting for the flights, for instance, I am very happy to walk about or to merely watch people coming and going.  But, most of the rest seem to be fixated on their gadgets. With their ears also plugged into their gadgets. When there is quite a lot of life and drama happening all around them.  Why are they so afraid of not really doing anything other than while away their time?  What is the rush--we are all going to die anyway and, as far as I know, there is no prize for being the first to exit this planet or if one is the last from the group.  We may as well take it all in at a leisurely pace, right?  The gadgets are changing us, and changing us rapidly:
Virginia Woolf famously said that on or about December 1910 human character changed. We don’t yet know if the same thing happened with the release of the iPhone 5—but, as the digital and “real” worlds become harder to distinguish from each other, it seems clear that something is shifting. The ways we interact with each other and with the world have altered. 
 "All the world’s an app," yes.
what about our changing perceptions of time and space? In The App Generation, Katie Davis remarks that her younger sister has never had the experience of being lost, and probably never will, unless she loses her phone. What does never getting lost do to someone’s experience of the world? With GPS everywhere, is a forest still a forest or is it just a collection of trees? And how many other states of being are vanishing? Boyd (refreshingly) insists that “the kids are alright”—but her book also suggests that they are never really alone. Are boredom, solitude and aimlessness on their way out, too? ...
For Martin Heidegger, the feeling of profound boredom—which he felt while waiting for a train at a provincial train station, for instance—brought one closest to the kind of active attention that separates human beings from animals.
 There's something happening here But what it is ain't exactly clear.
We need more writers thinking deeply about the way the internet reorders our experience of everyday life. Not just the ways it makes tasks easier or changes the way we socialise and communicate with one another, but the way it shapes our wants, our fears, our way of thinking and talking.
I don't understand why more people aren't engaged in discussing the changes.  Instead, we seem to be more and more eager, than ever before, to wait for the next big thing, or at least the next big update.We wait in lines in the dead of the night in order to get our hands on the latest gadget.  During the break in the classes, the room gets very quiet--even quieter than the library.  Because students are busy with their smartphones. Quite a contrast to the old days when the break would make the class one awfully noisy place and I would have to yell to get their attention and remind them to pause those conversations and allow me to talk.  Maybe all that conversation was why a few years ago, it was a rare student who fell asleep in my classes?

Wait a second; you read until here?  Oh boy, you must have been really, really bored! ;)


Ramesh said...

Yeah, I am bored and I did get to the last sentence of your post :)

Every technological game changer - agriculture, language, writing, printing press, telephone, and now internet, have all had profound effects on the way we humans live. Who knows what more is in store. It is the natural order of evolution. We will evolve - remember species that have been static often go extinct. Yes, we should muse more about it and yes, we don't and it is always good to remember that all evolution is not for the best.

Thankfully I am not on Facebook, I am not a Twit :), I don't do Instagram, Netflix is only for you lot and I don't switch on the TV ; so I have plenty of time to get bored which is probably why I read your blog :):):)

Sriram Khé said...

In the notoriously immortal words of US Rep. Joe Wilson, "you lie!" ... you don't switch on the TV? How else do you watch all the sports programs that you watch--everything from cricket to curling to croquet? ;) ;)
Whether you watch TV or not, I am glad you are bored enough to read my blog posts and engage me in discussions!

True, things have changed, ever since we humans invented settled agriculture. But, changes back then were slow. The rate of change now is at speeds that are seemingly beyond human comprehension. We don't think about that, for the most part, because we are all too busy keeping up with the changes, or at least trying to keep up. Am not sure if this approach is ok--perhaps it is such unthinking approach and embrace of changes that will lead us down the path to becoming slaves of the computer overlords! Oh well, I will be dead way before then anyway ;)

A salute to boredom!

Ramesh said...

Only a small lie. These days I have lost interest in watching sports on TV , although I follow it closely in the press and will go for any live game.

The concept of slaves of computer overlords is an old one, and very real. Both Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, who wrote science fiction as opposed to fantasy examined it in some detail and both felt it very likely.

On the concept of boredom and technological evolution, I would heartily recommend the Songs of Distant Earth a brilliant book by Arthur C Clarke.

Sriram Khé said...

You have lost interest in watching sports on TV?
Who are you, and what have you done to Ramesh???? hehehe ;)

Will keep an eye out for "Songs of Distant Earth" ... maybe this summer when I will sing the songs of a distant America ;)