New Year is a relative concept, not the same reality for all. The signs of its arrival would be different according to each individual perceiver’s nostalgic memories.
I am fascinated by the attention-versus-distraction theory upon which Davidson builds the initial standpoint of her work. The idea that whatever exists and whatever does not exist in our current consciousness is a result of lifelong interactions between attentions that are marginalized by distractions and distractions that succeed in becoming attentions attracts my attention, or in other words distracts me from another attention! I would accept that my mind and my world are continuously constructed and deconstructed by two apparently opposite forces playing the leading roles of the same game. Whatever is considered to be my valuable intention today has once played the role of a deceiving distraction from an everyday life. To choose a human science as my major could be a kind of distraction when I look at it from the dominant intention of the surrounding world. However, when one spends some years inside a deliberately chosen distraction and dominates it and calls it specialization, the second level of the game shows up, when anything beyond that specialization would be estimated, or underestimated, as a distraction. This is not really a rule; this is what an educated mind accepts as a rule to get rid of the constant invasion of uncontrollable distractions that remind it of all human limitations in mastering a vast territory. Life is short, choose your path and forget about other journeys. The path is your attention, the attention is your intention, and all other journeys are distractions.
Following the current academic tendencies in the humanities, I would equalize attention with specialization, and distraction with whatever beyond that specialization. “Without focus the world is chaos” (Davidson 2) but how are we going to preserve our small order, or focus, and be satisfied with that in a world that is decentralizing everything by interconnecting infinite centers to each other. Now that in the digital world many apparent boundaries between attentions and distraction are passable by a simple click on an unrelated link and “everything links to everything and all of it is available all the time” (6) how could we draw a line around a territory and call it our field of specialization without being concerned or curious any more about anything that exists beyond that hypothetical line?
“Attention is about difference” (49) but if it is not challenged by new distractions I would call it a sign of indifference rather than a prolonged difference. I would like to go beyond the secure boundaries of conventionally defined fields that justify exclusions before inclusions. I believe in interdisciplinary approaches and interactive projects in different levels of education as the dynamic patterns of keeping balance between attentions and distractions in a world that does not draw any absolute boundaries between various subjects any more. Through interdisciplinary approaches hypothetical boundaries are pushed away and what used to be called a distraction would function as an essential component of the central attention; and that would be in harmony with the basic structure of the digital world.
To keep going through the tension of attentions and distractions, is to dance among the illusionary boundaries of lights and shadows. I have always tried to move forward through that tension, if distractions do not entrap my attention anymore, that means I have lost my ability of intellectual survival , and the game is over.
I’m concerned about poetry. I have always been concerned about poetry. Poetry was that white muse who held my hand when I was so young, took me to a white land, entrapped me in black words, and we never came back. I grew up to grow my own manifesto of poetry: a real poem would carry all its needed instruments within itself. A real poem needs neither camera, nor light to be projected in your mind. A real poem creates images, music, shadow, light, pauses, rhythm, pains and joys out of words; nothing but words. They only exception for me seems to be the voice of the poet. I think a poet’s voice is a part of poetry. I have believed in pure poetry. Am I too old to revise my manifesto? Do I even need to revise it? I still want to think about poetry, as I still want poetry to think about me.
Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate of the United States , in his amazing Ted Talk Everyday Moments Caught in Time explains why he has decided to present some of his poems in a new visual medium , with animation, despite his initial resistance, as he always thinks that “poetry can stand by itself.” I am amazed by discovering a huge harmony between my own view of poetry and Collins’ standpoint. “If you are reading a poem that mentions a caw, you don’t need on the facing page a drawing of the caw”, absolutely true, I say. Now the same Billy Collins announces that he is going to present poetry-animations or animated poems to his audience, that he has been trying to take poetry to public places, “poetry on buses, poetry on subways, on billboards” and let it “happen to you so suddenly that you don’t have time to deploy your anti-poetry deflector shields.” This idea is totally strange to me, to let poetry happen suddenly to the resentful busy audience of a crowded world. Collins presents his animated poems, and the experience turns to be unbelievably unique. I can explain it as a conceptual visualization of visual concepts or something like that! What he presents is different from the hasty juxtaposition of poems and random pictures that usually make me stop the clip before the end to avoid letting the beauty of a pure poem be ruined by some mediocre visual supplements. Collins introduces the possibility of creating new forms for presenting poetry in digital age. Poetry needs new weapons to take part in digital revolution, and digital revolution needs that call for new weapons to still be revolutionary.
The fourth chapter of Tom Standage’s Writing on the Wall indicates that poetry, along with other genres, has also been used as an available social medium, but as a minor participant in an ongoing act of communication. The historical stories of this chapter talk about “the circulations of poetry within court circle” (77) and how poetry was used as a hidden messenger of forbidden desires or “as a way to amuse friends, win the favor of patrons and advance their careers” (82.) Poetry in this chapter is not depicted as an art but as an available means of communication, “self-expression and self-promotion” (69) which existed before and naturally enough continues to exist. Poetry has been taken for granted. This pervasive underestimation of a super-sensitive art makes me remember once more that we should really think about poetry. The question of poetry’s position in the context of our contemporary creative and communicative world is as essential as any other primary concern that we might have today. Poetry is not really a circulating self-expressing method to be generated, replaced or adapted easily. Poetry needs to be helped to survive our new world;and our new world would need poetry to survive.
A Better Pencil is a constant reminder of the crucial fact that throughout history, each new medium of communication and writing has been doomed to severe resentments before conquering the world. Dennis Baron takes us to funnily specific moments in past when printing, telegraph, even telephone and computer were opposed by certain groups or individuals. He assures us that there is nothing new in the nature of contemporary doubts about the revolutionary technological changes, as human being has “greeted each new writing technology with renewed suspicion” (13). Therefore, nothing is new under the sun, specifically the experience of facing something new, no matter how apocalyptic it might seem.
Baron’s thorough investigation depicts digital world as a new medium for writing coming after all previous mediums and like the other ones neither ignorable nor stoppable. However, I believe -and Baron’s examples strengthen my belief- that this new medium is not just a new container for the same old material which was used to be called writing. What we call writing in digital world is not really writing in its historical sense although it might apparently bear the same linguistic codes. Digital writing is a fragmentary genre recording the world’s stream of consciousness in a globally accessible virtual space. The fact that “on the Internet everybody’s an author, every scrap of prose a publication” (157) to me does not really mean that everybody suddenly becomes an author. I would say everybody is capable of expressing her/his personal views through words and recording them in a shared space to be heard or read randomly.
It is tantalizing to think that “we have all become Prousts externalizing our thoughts” (9), but what would be the place of Proust himself in the digital world with digital readers? How could this new medium shelter a work like À la recherche du temps perdu when each potential reader who is expectedly browsing several websites and blogs simultaneously would spend few seconds on few words of one page before jumping into the infinity of all other available offers. When a fragmentary reading of fragmentary writings becomes the habit of mind, it is not only the medium but also the nature of writing which is being radically transfigured.
The world is thinking aloud, commenting aloud, and reacting instantly to almost everything through the global dialogue of endless pages, users, and entries which are minuscule components of a giant fragmentary being. This fragmentation might be a natural offspring of the postmodern era. The children of digital age might be quick and smart enough to feed themselves by fragments and make a whole out of it. However, when everybody tends to play the active author, who would remain patient enough to play the reader?
Privacy; it might not be the meaning but the notion of privacy that is being altered or redefined through the magical capacities of digital age. Private diaries that were used to be kept in the locked closets are being replaced by constant messages trying to share the most private moments of each individual’s existence with a group of known or unknown audience around the world.
Tomorrow, everybody should know what gift you receive today for Valentine’s, if not, you might not enjoy the gift at all. Moments are being shared before being lived. Feelings are being thrown away at the nearest or the farthest available distance before having being digested inside , to be liked, ignored or shared immediately. A collective public privacy is being created out of the collage that we are all making by contributing few seconds of our everyday lives. Right now, I might be thinking about the photo that I will share of my Valentine’s dinner, though I’m not feeling hungry yet.