Monday, February 23, 2009

Spaces Between

The above video was one of two videos we showed near the beginning of our presentation for Northern Voice. Nancy White started off by having everyone draw pictures together. The idea was to have them feel a little uncomfortable working together. I did get upset with Barbara for making a squiggle where I didn't want one. :) The videos were meant to explore the discomfort of navigating digital and physical spaces and to explore the discomfort one might feel in doing that, or in Barbara's case, what her clients (citizens of small rural towns) feel.

We debriefed quite a bit afterward, and I'm still thinking about it. What Nancy was interested was the space between the different spaces we might occupy--virtual, digital, global, local. Whether we feel comfortable or not with whatever group, the movement, the transition from one to another is often quite difficult. Many of us are experiencing that transition today (or yesterday) by moving from the intense mostly like-minded environment of Northern Voice to our work and home spaces. For me, this transition was made all the more unsettling thanks to missed flights that led to my traveling all night. Really, it seems to me that it is this in between state that we occupy most of the time, a strange space where we can conceive of ourselves in different spaces and feel fragmented and whole at the same time. I'd like to say that for me this is when I'm at home, but that's not entirely true. I think I have this feeling that only part of myself appears in any given space. The idea of multiple identities is nothing new, of course, but living it so vividly by having these digital persona running around feels somehow disruptive.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, except to say that it's good when your own presentation makes you think. One of the things I said in the presentation was how difficult I was finding it to move as freely in the physical world I have access to as the virtual ones. The people I see at school and on the street (aside from my students) don't even know about the virtual spaces I live in much less use them. I can't have the flow I have with the people I knew online and then met this weekend or the ones I met this weekend and am now reading their blogs or following them on Twitter. When I see them again, it's not quite like we haven't seen each other in a while. We have some sense of each other's lives in between. So how do I build relationships with people offline and maintain them without technology? Seriously. That's my big question. The local friends I do, we follow each other via Twitter, keep in touch via email and blogs, and arrange the occasional drinking fest at someone's house or local bar. But where I'm stumbling is trying to make connections not just for friendship but to effect change. Now that the election is over, it's the little things we need to work on--school board budgets, PTA meetings, land development--that really aren't so little and my impression is that much of the connecting for that happens elsewhere, not online, but in the library and the coffee shop and at the grocery store. I just need to get my ass out of the chair and go to those places and "follow" the right people.

What about you? What are your in between spaces like? How to you maintain physical connections with or without technology?
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