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computers (are not) people









after reading timothy druckrey's book electronic culture: technology and visual representation in which he discusses the use of computers as something more extensive than a mere tool, as an opportunity to be more human, and specifically to help people with their images of self and relationships, i began to ask the question why is the computer being used for this ? why wouldn't it be better to have real human interactions, either with trained professionals or friends or family depending on the sensitivity of the problem? i realized that i don't use computers in this way, not that i can think of, instead i use them as tools - tools to type, send mail, look up information, and generate artwork. i don't think of them as humans, i don't think of my interactions with them as self healing, at least not any more than i do when i may write in a journal or draw in a sketchbook or send a postcard.

elevating the computer from a tool to a healing machine is partly due to the fact that our society has changed from having support systems nearby, to families and friends being separated by distance and time. MUDs and email allow family units, friends and potential friends to communicate in a somewhat "real" way when they are apart or wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to meet. the kind of emotional support that listening friends provide is replaced by the simulated interactions. however, computers use words, words and images over time in a space to communicate. people use so much more. people in a room together can communicate difficult issues with very few words - fiddling with your ring, sighing, avoiding eye contact, slamming a book, these small but important cues don't exist in cyberspace, even if you interacting with full body simulated people, this cannot replace real human interactions. the actual experience of interacting with a person cannot be simulated with a mechanical interface.

in this light i can't see a future for myself of using the computer as more than a tool. a tool to construct and share my ideas, collect new information, be in communication with others and organize ideas. i have seen well-made multimedia cd roms aimed at helping people learn better communication skills. however, the static information is programmed by the creator, and the user responses trigger computer responses - there is not a human on the other end of the network actively interacting with you. there is not a potential for generating new insights or information. the same could be done with a worksheet or book.



ideally a computer can bring people closer together. through new technologies people can stay connected over great distances in a way that letters and phone calls have helped people in the past. i am hopeful that this website for example, will be a living object that at the very least the fifty or so people in my family will be able to experience a connection with another person. to learn about each other and their own backgrounds, to answer some questions and ask some more. by placing it on the internet i have made it accessible and hope to get responses, stories, photos, questions, requests, corrections, etc that will be added to the work. in this way it is not static. the people who interact with the work through their computer are reading information collected by me from a variety of voices and if they send me a response they will be adding to that collection. they are relating to me, through my use of the computer for disseminating information, but our interactions are not restricted to the realm of the computer. it is one avenue for sharing stories.

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