The first formal assignment for the Philosophy 105: Technology, Values & Science course I’m participating in this winter is a “case study” that requires abstaining from digital technology for 24 hours. While I’m not technically, as an unofficial interloper, required to carry this out, it wouldn’t feel right to sup from the digital table while everyone else was voluntarily starving, so I’m in.
Thus, as of of 4:00 p.m. Atlantic Time today, January 24, 2009, I’ll be offline.
What offline means is, of course, an arbitrary thing, and the case study guidelines make it clear that figuring out where to draw the line is part of the activity. Do I need to shut off the furnace at home, for example, because it uses digital thermostats? If I was a purist, yes. But I won’t (it’s going down to -20 degrees C tonight!). However I’ll unplug the TV, the clock radio, the computer and the phone. I’ll shut off my mobile phone, leave the car parked, and try to convince Oliver to leave his Nintendo DS turned off (after an initial bout of enthusiasm that involved running around shutting off all the lights, Oliver has turned negative on the whole idea; I’ve got 4 hours to bring him back around).
My jury is still out on the espresso maker — it seems pretty manual, but I’ve a suspicion there’s a chip in their somewhere. And while our oven is clearly out — it has digital-only controls — I’m considering ignoring the fact that the range, which has seemingly analog controls, may also have digital wizardry buried inside.
My original thought was to sequester us away for 24 hours in a primitive cabin but that seemed to ignore the spirit of the case study — it’s easy to shut off when you’re outside of your home environment, a lot harder to confront your dependence on the digital when you’re faced with its stark absence. So we’ll try to maintain some semblance of a normal life and see what it is we miss.
See you on the other side.