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Otium cum dignitate (or the joy of being disconnected)

Posted by fabriziogiudici on April 19, 2007 at 4:00 AM PDT

I've just read David's blog about the pleasure of staying in a low-tech contest. He contrasted Mexico with "no TV, no movies, no cell phones, no computers" versus the "getting connected" paradigm of San Francisco and the Web 2.0 Expo.

By chance, I've just had three days of vacation too. I escaped from the town and, as usual, I went to a little village in southern Tuscany. The targets were: wildlife watching, landscape photography and food. All of the three were successfully accomplished. Like David, I also turned off the mobile phone, didn't watch the TV, kept myself disconnected from the Internet, didn't read newspapers. Aaahh... just relaxing. Unlike David, I had my laptop and used it, but only for storing and processing my photos. This is just the right approach with technology: you are the master, you have the control of the power switch, you decide when to use it.

This stuff - and David's reference to Web 2.0 - leads me to a consideration. While Italy, and possibly Europe, is not as connected as the USA (but I'm wondering if you have pervasive coverage e.g. in Yosemite), and there are still cost-related problems, I could have been connected all the three days along through my mobile phone. This is a fundamental pre-condition for the Web 2.0 interpretation which says "applications should live within an Internet browser". So the technology might support this. _I_ don't want to support it. Being disconnected means to leave business and other constraints out of the door of your mind. It's what my latin ancestors called otium cum dignitate, the time subtracted to negotium (business) where you do things for the mere pleasure of doing them; or just sit down and think (hmm.... even thinking could be too much, "let your mind wandering free over the hills" is the best description of the thing).

So I was glad that my applications for photo processing are plain old, desktop applications (PODO?). And I think that Web 2.0, at least in some interpretations, doesn't work here. Are we just David and I?

PS. Somebody could argue that I could have just connected to the specific photo service, just keeping the mail program off and not navigating elsewhere. In other words, I could have connected only to the service I needed. This wouldn't have worked for me either. It's a psychological thing: the mere fact of having an IP address other than localhost bothered me. It's like the pleasure of reaching an old village where you can get only by feet, or through a white road. Sure, you might always choose the white road over a highway, but the mere presence of the highway would break the "away from the madding crowd" spell.

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