Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Remote Digital Life

For the last few weeks I've been living in the future, leading what amounts to a remote digital life. I'm in El Paso, my wife is overseas, the students I'm teaching are in France, and the colleagues with whom I'm working on a grant proposal are scattered across the USA. So over these weeks, most of my interaction with people has been via Skype, over the telephone, or via a wiki. The people with whom I spend most of time--my family, my students, my colleagues--exist primarily as disembodied voices and as arrangements of pixels on my laptop computer. Technology has made this kind of life possible; I never would have been able to do all this without these Internet-based interaction and collaboration tools. And the fact that this life is now possible has also, in a way, made it inevitable; were the tools not there, I wouldn't be in a situation where this remote digital life was necessary.

Because I'm in El Paso and my work is in Metz, my schedule has had to accommodate an eight-hour difference between time zones. In terms of El Paso time, I'm teaching twice a week from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. and twice a week from 4:30 to 6:30 a.m., plus office hours and other meetings with students. These odd hours, combined with the digital nature of my interaction with people, have produced a feeling of dissociation akin to long-term jet-lag. Susie and I expect to be able to get back to Metz by the end of February. I'm looking forward to again connecting directly to people, places and times by moving from my remote digital life to a present real life.

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