I've been in California for three weeks now, and several people and books have already enriched my understanding of the relationship between technology, nature, and American culture. For example, loneliness had not been on my agenda, but some interesting readings have brought it into focus.
In 1980 Frederick W Turner wrote of his realisation that many people shared his own ignorance of the land and of how "a feeling of American loneliness began to insist upon itself, a crucial, profound estrangement of the inhabitants from their habitat …. it was as if those who had inherited the fruits of exploration and conquest had been left a troubled bequest, as if there were some unplacated, unmet spirit of place dividing them from an authentic and comforting possession here." (Turner, F.W. 1980 Beyond Geography: The Western Spirit against the Wilderness, New York: Viking p.5)
And loneliness afflicts not just the descendants of the invading colonisers, but also the invaded people themselves. In Wild Hunger Bruce Wilshire quotes from a member of the Omaha Tribe who describes how in his youth the country was very beautiful, with many forms of life which were "after their manner, walking, flying, leaping, running, playing all about… But now… sometimes I wake in the night, and I feel as though I should suffocate from the pressure of this awful… loneliness." (Wilshire, B. 1998 Wild Hunger: The Primal Roots of Modern Addiction, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield p.15)
I wonder where such loneliness appears in the history of computing and the internet? I wonder whether it is soothed by social networking and the digital village?
Postscript: perhaps that question is answered in part by an article I discovered just a few hours after writing this entry. Not sure if I agree with all of it, but it certainly adds to the discussion: The End of Solitude: As everyone seeks more and broader connectivity, the still, small voice speaks only in silence by William Deresiewicz in The Chronicle of Higher Education. January 30th 2009