Although perhaps more Luddite than some, I’m also more technically savvy than others. I’m part of that awkward in-between generation that didn’t grow up with much technology, but was introduced to it at an early enough age to be able to integrate it into an understanding of the world and the way things work. As such, I may be a bit reluctant to embrace new technologies, but sometimes also pleasantly wowed.
I despair that kids these days figure they don’t have to learn to write or spell or do basic math because there are machines to do these things for them. I’m not sure how they’re going to cope when the power fails. But hey, middle-aged fuddy-duddies have been wondering about the next generation since the Ancient Greeks and somehow we’re still here.
The Internet enables the spread of information-and misinformation-at previously unavailable speeds. This has opened the door to a whole new arena of enlightenment and potential frustration.
I’ve been trying to correct some misinformation that got online about my involvement with a series of books. When I’ve contacted specific offending websites requesting that they correct this information, they generally shrug and claim that it’s not their problem; their information comes from the distributor, who, of course, gets its information from the publisher, who was responsible for creating the misinformation in the first place. As an individual outside this loop, I apparently have no voice, even though it’s my name and reputation being misrepresented. Needless to say, I was forced to go a more formal route to seek resolution. Although the situation has improved, it still isn’t resolved. Why? Because misinformation replicates itself ad nauseum, just as information does, on the Internet. As Caleb Carr pointed out in Killing Time, on the Internet, there’s no differentiation between information and truth. There’s no consideration of authenticity or validity; there’s only endlessly streaming data.
Not all Internet errors are so annoying. I occasionally receive fan mail, even from radio stations, for Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh Mezzo Soprano. What I find funny is that these fans don’t realize that our names are spelled differently, so they end up on my website rather than hers. Then, even though my website is pretty obviously that of a writer, rather than a vocalist, they still go ahead and e-mail me. But hey, I’m a good person. I redirect them. If I get back to my music, things may become even more confusing. Of course, I’ve also discovered one, possibly two, other writers named Catherine Jenkins. While they seem to be in the UK, there’s still lots of room for growing confusion, thanks to the globalizing nature of the Internet.
On the plus side, the Internet has enabled me to locate numerous people I’d misplaced or even forgotten. I’ve reconnected with people from high school and my old hometown of Peterborough, people I’d lost touch with for fifteen or twenty years. E-mail allows me to stay in greater contact with friends who live at a distance. While I still write an occasional letter or make an occasional long distance phone call, this is a way of saying “hey” at the moment of that thought, with an immediacy that doesn’t have the disruptive effect of a ringing telephone. It allows people to mention the regular minutiae of a day in a way we generally don’t in letters. It’s a hybrid form of communication that supports the advantages of both telephones and letters.
Professionally, electronic media and communication have made things much easier and more efficient for me. Writing research is a whole lot simpler using the Internet-as long as one keeps a critical eye on the information source. I’ve also been able to track down and contact other professionals to request information, guidance or input into something I’m working on. The technology is great, as long as it’s used intelligently.
I’m also pleased that some literary journals are now accepting submissions via e-mail. From my perspective, that reduces the time and cost of handling, office supplies and postage. Electronic submissions are especially welcome when I’m submitting outside Canada. I gave up on International Reply Coupons some years ago; they’re expensive and I found that not everyone on the receiving end knew what they were or how to redeem them. Whenever I travel to the US or UK, I buy postage stamps, but the rates keep changing, so I still have to research current rates and figure out how to make whatever stamps I have add up. If a journal accepts electronic submissions, I don’t have to worry about return postage on my SASE. I’m currently compiling data to see if the turnaround time on electronic submissions is any faster than those sent the old-fashioned way.
So, as with most things, I can see both pros and cons. I use what works to advantage for me and critically consider the rest, accepting that the technology is here now and it’s here to stay.
© Catherine Jenkins 2007