Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 3/11/2008 [Archive]

Wiki, Wiki, Wiki

Wiki, wiki, wiki

By Martha Randolph Carr

I tend to approach technology with a certain amount of trepidation, particularly if it's compact, can fit in my hand and yet, still has a thousand options. I don't like that but it embarrasses me to admit to any befuddled behavior so I try to cover it up with piles of anxiety. I'm sure no one has noticed besides my son, Louie. He tends to grab things out of my hands and start pushing buttons, which raises my levels of panic. I'm not worried he's going to break anything. I'm concerned about what he might be activating, setting loose for me to deal with later. He knows this and for his own amusement tends to leave funny pictures or turn on accessories I don't really need but can't figure out how to turn off. Right now, on the rare occasion he calls me a picture of him pops up posing as a thug. That one I actually like and have shown it to friends by dialing his number. I can't figure out any other way and I know there's a better than odds chance he won't answer anyway. Louie, who is 20 and lives in Chicago, has said he uses my phone calls as a way to know I'm doing okay in New York City. He doesn't need to talk to me but so often. It's a system.

I've also never taken a computer course of any kind, which I smugly consider an attribute. Back in the old days, which would have been the early 1980's, I had a Macintosh before there was an Apple and it had no internal drive but was the latest model. It sat right next to the new, oversized dot matrix printer. There were two external drives sitting side by side and it was necessary to plug in the program and then the disc with the file each time I needed to work on something. No bells and whistles, not an option in sight. Wrote my first novel on it and a thousand feature stories, which had to be driven in to the editor. That was the rough part, just ask Louie. I tended to procrastinate in those days and that led to a few late night drives with Louie sleeping on the back seat of the car. Of course, when I missed a deadline I was able to say it was dropped off, look again, I'm sure it's there. That only happened that one time and I was very gracious about driving all the way back down there again.

A very fast forward and now we're in the age of options everywhere. We take it for granted that there are hidden benefits to everything and we immediately start asking, scanning, pushing, shaking, rolling across. Technology as new age electronic jack-in-the-boxes and we are Pavlov's dogs. We maneuver through our day knowing that there are an endless range of possibilities of how we could be doing something, and also knowing we are going to stick with the same four ways we figured out already. Kind of like the way we choose what to eat for dinner.

However, there are fortunately always a few who are willing to read the directions and expect to figure things out, so they do for the rest of us. One great example in my city is Carolyn Townes, who this week is going by author, advocate and animators and has created an on-line phenomenon, a wiki devoted to women bloggers you'd want to know that can be found at http://wmagicallist.wikispaces.com/. A wiki is an on-line encyclopedia with a theme that can be added to by users. An everyman's list of stuff. This one started as a simple list of women in the marketing business who weren't showing up on the mainstream lists. The list started getting passed around and then blogged about until one prominent blogger, Toby Bloomberg, challenged somebody to create a home, or a wiki, for the list. Carolyn, who reads and posts at up to 30 blogs a day, saw the request and decided to open up the wiki to women bloggers of all types. It's been gaining attention worldwide ever since.

This is the best side of technology. Previously closed off worlds used to require a lot of stomping around and shaking of fists, possibly a new law, before segments of society were fully embraced. But now, we can push a few buttons and maneuver ourselves into the mainstream. No more complaining, at least about this. We can all empower ourselves. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, is available wherever books are sold. To read more about Martha and her books go to www.martharandolphcarr.com.



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