Sitting at the living room table some days later, Janei and Henry (who had long been her guide through life and was now her long-time best friend) were discussing what to do with the mobile technology that Henry had recently bought. He was thinking of working with dual-sim (two simcards in one phone), so that non-professional contacts would not use his work phone number to reach him. Janei fostered the plan as it would enable her to reach him, in private and over the phone, dialing her own number.
Through her studies as a communications major, she knew enough about mobile technology to think actively about issues with integrating the personal into the professional. She had made some mistakes with mobile technology and social life earlier, and had learned from it. In building it up too intensely, she forgot that life had passed in between. ‘Media’ were not responsible for that in her eyes. Rather, her memory of something she was unconscious of (the in-between time) was in fact happening right now.
By way of solution, she felt she wanted to side with Foucault in his critique of societal control mechanisms passed from members of the church to psycho-analysts, and that Freud’s ego-alter ego distinction is not very far from Descartes’ distinction between thinking and being. More concretely, that meant making things simple again by throw out all of the own heuristics we necessarily build together with the garbage and let surface a self again – however different than before. As such, throwing out heuristics to her was nothing else but part of continuous interaction with self-others within that same system that adapts to language so smoothly that we forget to mediate (=annihilate) its symbols with attention.
“If after one month it turns out you don’t want to use this anymore,” Janei said, “you can either switch back to using two devices, or purchase a new device – I haven’t used it myself before – a dual sim…”
– “Yes, there seems to exist phones with a double card…but I have especially gotten this extra device with the new contract.”
“I don’t think you’re able to figure all this out on your own, to decide each time before you make a call which number you’re going to use, so that the phone knows that I call via your work…I didn’t think so. Moreover, what’s the use, anyway?” She couldn’t help but take a skeptical stance to issues of integration.
– “That’s a different thing entirely. I think it’s easier than one thinks, to be honest, what he means, I know, is calling with colleagues only, free calling with colleagues, that’s the whole point. Transferring calls is relatively expensive. That free calling among colleagues is of course meant to stimulate conversation amongst colleagues.”
“I know that, but it’s just about calling people that are not colleagues now.” She wanted him to gain an eye for the personal, the more important issue in her eyes. “There is no sim inside here…,” she said after having opened and inspected the back of the device.
“Oh darn, where did I put that now…?”
“Yeah, those phones..”.
– “What? Yeah, this is not going to help either, this extension chord…you can use it for in the car, a hands-free thing or something like that…useful?”
“Yeah, you can plug this in your ears…”, she said, approaching the realm of ridicule. “What is the password for this device?”
– “2022.” After punching in the digits, the phone beeped, then ringed, apparently for no reason.
Suddenly referring to the home computer that she cleaned up a little while earlier, Henry mentioned that it started up really fast now and worked really nice now. “…Only it still shows this window…” It was an explorer window showing where the printer was installed. For some reason the computer had decided to open this window every time it performed a start-up. Helping Henry integrate his technology actually became like a hobby to her and she even told her uncle once that she was interested in wireless power installations and that she wanted to do more with building electronic stuff. For some reason she thought this kind of knowledge and activity would automatically trigger a more natural connection with the material self in mediated communication: something has to be in media that makes it metaphorical, so why not take electricity ‘sec’ as the metaphor? But, seriously, why she would have the feeling that without this link she would not develop a fulfilling, allround mediated character, formed a problematic thought. She had read Herbert Marcuse’s work and took the step towards electronic computation as making the big difference, since this could get the mind to adapt to its rhythm. Friedrich Kittler, another one of her favorite scholars, focused attention on conscious as having been turned around since the gramophone turned into a digital machine and owned by the binary system that controls one thought more than humans – since the Turing test. However, spending the day with technology had made her tired of the subject. It had occupied so much space in her mind that she couldn’t think outside it, couldn’t think about valuable integration issues.
“We’ll do it tomorrow, yes?”
The pan on the stove made a hissing noise, proceeded by silence. Outside they heard a loud bang.
“What’s this now, is somebody being shot?“ Henry said. It were bangs of fireworks. “(sigh)…They should criminalize that…(sigh).”
– “What’s your new number?” Janei wanted to know in a last attempt to make everything alright.
“Na, common man,” Henry exclaimed, in reference to the phone. “This just will not slide, will it?” He was trying to open his phone again.”
– “No, it will not slide at all.”
“Strange, isn’t it…now I have to keep this other device separate, right?”
– “Separate from what?“
“Well, not…you will use that other one, won’t you?
– “…(clicking sounds)…”
“Let’s see how that one goes”, Janei said as though with patience, “…first the upper part has to come loose..”
– “I dropped it once and everything fell apart just like that…you’re going to use that other one, right?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
– ”I will keep that simcard separate, this one is from 15051276…but you’re not sure yet.”
“Yeah, can’t I use that other one instead?” Why did she want to use one of his phones? She didn’t know. Maybe she wanted them both to be conscious of which devices they both used when calling each other.
– “That silver-colored one?”
– “Sure. You like that one better?”
“No, not that.”
– “This one is flatter, you see?”
– “We’ll look at it tomorrow, then.”
“…(beep)…(Nokia start-up tune)…”
Freedom of Information
Around dinner time, that same night, Henry and Janei were sitting at the living room table again. It’s silent. Suddenly a cheering audience and then a guitar and Leonard Cohen singing Lover Lover Lover…
“I asked my father, I said, father change my name, the one i’m using now it’s covered up with fear and filth and cowardice and shame, yes and lover, lover…” Cohen murmured.
– “…(loud hissing noise)…”
“What are you doing?” Henry asked.
“…(strange noise…)…(coughing)…I want a face that’s fair this time, I want a spirit that is calm”, Cohen continued, “…(sound of glass being put on table)…(burping)…I never turned away, it was you who built the temple, it was you who covered up my face”.
“That wine tastes like firecrackers.” Janei was in a funny mood now, she wanted to make silly jokes. “Did you ever hold a firecracker in your mouth, with gunpowder?”
– “Ah, gunpowder taste in general you mean,” Henry replied, ”I see what you’re getting at. That typical taste. Is that wine from New Year’s Eve, or something?”
“Heh? I thought we were out of red wine?” Janei wanted to know.
– “No, this one was opened yesterday.” They had had their neighbor Emanuel over the day before, for a drink.
“Did we drink wine yesterday, then? Oh, you discovered that one, I remember.”
– “There was one bottle left, I think.”
“Ja. Did Emanuel drink beer then? Or something stronger?
“…(silence)…” Then, Cohen’s song Bird on a wire. “…(paper crumples)…”
“Martin Bormann’s eldest son…
– “Martin Bormann? Who’s that?” Janei had heard the name, but knew no more than that.
“He became a priest. And is caught by the police because of sexual abuse of children.”
“At the Elite Gymnasium of the Lord Jesus…Salzburg.”
– “Ah, Austria.” She loved fragmented conversations like this. She could almost hear her unconscious work to ‘pop’ the origin of this name into her head.
(Willie, Henry’s wife, enters)
“Have you stayed for dinner, Willie?” Henry asked, referring to Willie’s friend’s house. Willie’s friend is 78 years old. They have known each other for many years and got acquainted through a local country dance club. Even though not directly their responsibility, Henry and Willie care much for Willie’s friend, sometimes going a little too far.
– “No, she had no sleeping tablets anymore, so I had to get them from the empty house.”
“Why didn’t you call?”
– “She was already in sackcloth and ashes.” Willie replied.
“Does she have trouble going to sleep?” Janei wanted to know, who wasn’t as up-to-date about the situation as Henry.
“Yes, always. Her whole life.”
– “So that’s nothing new. She’s basically addicted to those pills…” she said, attempting to secure a respectable position in the conversation.
– “Yes. And she will never get rid of that either…so you had to go all the way to the new house?” Henry asked, he knew that Willie had gone back and forth Willie’s friend new place, where she could live together with many friends in a home.
“That’s something else entirely.” Willie answered to Henry’s first remark.
– “One has to prevent her from going to bed all the time,” said Henry. “The only thing she wants is to go to bed, that will be no different in the new house…the moving has yet to really get started, by the way.”
“Hey, Bert on a wire.” Janei said. She once did a safari tour in southern India and the group guide had called birds berts. Because of his Indian accent. She still thought it was funny to pronounce the word bird like her guide had done.
– “Bird on a wire.” Henry said.
“How was it again?” Willie knew Henry was a fan of Cohen. They once talked about the meaning of the bird metaphor in Cohen’s song. “The bird is on the cable, and Cohen thinks he is the bird, no he thinks his wife is the bird?”
– “He was with Marianne, I believe,” Henry replied, ”on a small island, and the only thing that connected with the world was a telegraph wire.”
“Yes, and there was a bird on that wire, and that bird was symbolic for…”
– “Come and go. And the bird had to convey his message.”
“Oh, but he was already in an atmosphere of freedom?” Janei joined their conversation as she felt intrigued by the metaphor and somehow thought she could touch on a deeper layer. One that would tell her something about the integration of issues in her life. “On that island he had no communication, he was completely free, he was not among the people and the people could not reach him, apart from through that wire. And that wire is…looking at the wire one realizes that in some way one is still connected, forming the only way in which your freedom could possibly be taken away from you again. And then he sees the symbol of the bird, who can still fly wherever he wishes. So it’s actually about the moment at which he makes the link to unfreedom, and then the bird that can go anywhere, and thus forms an extra confirmation that one is free.”
– “Yes. Free.” Henry replied. “Birds are often described as the ultimate freedom. They don’t use ducks, for instance, always only birds.”
“But aren’t ducks birds?” Willie wanted to know.
“Yes. But…are we going to eat yet?” Henry avoided the question.
“Did you want to eat something, still?” Janei joined him.
“Let’s see. Bring the plates over here?”