Friday, August 24, 2012

Accessing the Slow

Students are back at Humboldt State University here.  Perhaps the novelty of seeing so many on campus after the summer opened my eyes to noticing yet again how universally they are wedded to their cell phones--walking or standing anywhere on campus, they are either talking or texting or staring at them.

In June Margaret and I were down in Menlo Park, visiting her daughter, son in law and grandson who had just turned 1.5 years old.  Besides hanging out with him--even at this early age he demonstrated good taste in taking a shine to me--I spent pleasant hours at a fine cafe called Cafe Borrone.  Very good coffee, very good food, excellent staff and great atmosphere, especially in the large outdoor plaza area pictured above.  I snapped that photo in the lull before the late afternoon crowd, which I was around to see.  I was there at Sunday brunch time as well, so I saw a fair number of people. 

The cafe is close to Stanford University, and in the vicinity of Google and Facebook hqs, and lots of other tech related firms.  I'm sure some of the young crowd sipping beers or coffee were worth millions, or soon would be.  So this has to be one of the most tech savvy places in the world.  But what struck me was how few of them in that environment were plugged into cells, smartphones, tablets or laptops.  I saw far less of it than on the HSU campus.

I did see people reading newspapers and books.  I saw a woman using a pen and writing on a paper tablet.  The cafe is itself adjacent to a bookstore.

It seemed to me that these people had restored some balance to their lives.  Electronics have found a place, doing what they do best, but the slower media still have their functions.  I could be projecting here, but it gave me some hope that people who are most familiar with these devices are not enslaved by them.  And they can still enjoy simple conversation with people actually present, or a quiet newspaper or book with a cup of coffee in the sun, as have many generations before them.     

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