Saturday, April 19, 2008

My mom called me as I was driving to work with a tech support question re: her new iMac that Andre and I bought her.  The way she went about describing her problem (by telling me what she had been wanting to do and what program she had opened and what option she had chosen and then what had gone wrong and then what the dialog box that kept popping up had said and then...) pushed some kind of instant irritation triggers in me that got me highly annoyed.  I wasn't so annoyed that I lost sight of the fact that this was not really at all her fault, and a detached aspect of myself began to try to understand why this had happened... as I asked her to tell me what, generally, this technical problem concerned before she gave me any more details.  

It turned out that she wanted to force quit Adobe Illustrator, which had gotten stuck in a loop where it couldn't do what she asked, but wouldn't let her cancel her request.  We went through the usual akward back and forth as I tried to direct her to the key combination needed, while brusquely suggesting the omnipresent help menu for future reference.  It occured to me that we essentially had become meat modems, as I tried to operate her GUI machine through a analog, voice interface where I imagined the state of the machine then directed her to manipulate it.  

It felt like a generational thing.  I could have happend to her if her great grandmother had called her up with a car problem: "I wanted to get to visit Willis in Tulsa, so I got in this metal box with doors and windows and sat down in there and shut the door and now I'm looking at this wheel in front of me and behind it there are a bunch of dials that say......."  

Its about internalization.  My mom's great grandmother, living out her twilight years on a farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl may not have been exposed to automobiles until well into her adulthood, and in a way they always remained unfamiliar to her, something to translate into another frame of reference, unable to separate the relevant information (the thing won't start) from the irrelevant details.  

So it is between my mother and I,  the machine she uses in her house is virtualized inside of me thanks to childhood exposure, while for her it is a thing, to be respected, feared, and misunderstood

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