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Accepting a Digitized World

— After which I embark on a Soul Shelter sabbatical —

microcircuitThanks to my twelve-year-old son’s craving for action flicks, in the past week I saw two extraordinary movies: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Despite mind-numbing chains of battles and explosions (Transformers was essentially a two-hour-long fight scene), I found both movies, in their own ways, to be strangely soul-affirming.

Wait! Don’t give up on me yet, there’s some explaining to do.

In terms of story and pacing, Transformers was, well, awful. Watching it was like listening to mindless, high volume, fast-tempo disco music for two hours nonstop. While the kids stayed riveted to the screen, I got bored and my wife went to sleep, despite the racket.

But! The movie’s effects, or rather the virtual worlds it created, were absolutely mind-boggling.

In one scene, for example, two giant robots battle atop one of Egypt’s great pyramids as viewers take in the action from aboard a helicopter circling crazily above. Watching the pyramid crumble as the battle crescendos is breathtaking – it looks completely and perfectly realistic.

This marriage of computers and animated photo realism is astounding, a huge leap from just a few short years ago. The use of digital technology to tell beautiful lies (or at least visually spectacular lies) has reached new heights. Bravo to the people who make this possible.

Last night we watched G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. This Hasbro-sponsored vehicle, squarely aimed at jumpstarting the toy giant’s line of action figures, is surprisingly good: well plotted and paced, with a clever, sequel-inducing ending ensuring that in coming years kids will continue to clamor for toys featured in G.I. Joe II, III, and IV.

And once again, the effects — or rather the landscapes, seascapes, deserts, and icescapes portrayed — are dazzling in their depth, realism, and detail. It seems filmmakers have reached the point where they can literally create full-motion digitized worlds, limited only by their imaginations.

I’m eager to view this digital re-creation as some sort of soul-crushing form of techno-culture. But I cannot. It’s entertainment, and while excessively focused on ridiculous super-warriors fighting with outlandish weapons, it’s also thrilling, and beautiful. Surely at some point more film digimeisters will, like Miyazaki Hayao, turn their formidable talents to creating new worlds and fresh story forms not driven by relentless action and violence.

Maybe my aversion to techno-culture has been softened by the rapid digitization of an art form closer to home.

As a proudly amateur musician, I’ve been inspired in past months by an amazing piece of software that helps users practice, learn, and perform by creating digitized “virtual” accompaniments.notes_and_keyboard

The results this software produces, like the movies my son favors, are extraordinarily realistic. For example, this past weekend I recorded a tune with six instruments (live, no overdubs): trumpet, guitar, keyboards, strings, bass, and drums. In this two-minute clip (MP3 weighing about 2.6M), every instrument — except one — is computer-generated. Can you guess which instrument is not digital? (Hint: it’s the one least expertly played).

So I’ve rethought my stance on techno-culture, at least where the arts are concerned, and now embrace my music-dedicated laptop almost daily.

With respect to person-to-person communications and work, though, I still believe that protecting the soul against the deadening effects of techno-culture remains one of the defining issues of our time.

Which makes it a good time to announce my sabbatical from posting at Soul Shelter.

Here’s why I’m going to take a rest from the writing: First, I’m in the home stretch of completing a doctorate in business administration (DBA). My theme is entrepreneurship, specifically business models, and even more specifically, international business model portability (why some business models transfer overseas more readily than others).

Here’s the challenge: Writing each of my Soul Shelter posts takes me takes me a solid four hours, plus extra hours agonizing about writing the post, or about not writing the post. Then there’s monitoring the blog, responding to comments, plus lots of related e-mail reading/writing. It all takes a lot of time, and a sizable chunk of mental bandwidth.

SoulShelterRightWhile tremendously fun and satisfying, right now I’ve got a very big Homework Assignment for which I need weeks of free, wide-open time/psychic space to complete. So for the time being I’m going to take a rest from my weekly Soul Shelter posts, and stay away from the work computer, blogs, and e-mail as much as possible.

In the interim, Mark will continue his excellent weekly missives, and we have some outstanding guest writers lined up to fill some of my Wednesday midnight post slots. Also, Mark tells me you’ll continue to hear Tim Clark echoes throughout my absence as he periodically delves into the Soul Shelter archives to unearth a few of my early posts.

I hope to return around mid-February of next year. And in the meantime I hope you’ll continue to look to Soul Shelter for the inspirational, fun, and soul-nourishing weekly posts you’ve come to expect from us.

Cheers to all!


You may also enjoy:

“Beautiful, Soul-Affirming Untruths

To Recharge, Unplug

A Hymn to the Library

7 Comments to Accepting a Digitized World

On Nov 12, 2009, Rick Boyer commented:

Can you tell me who did your layout? I’ve been looking for one kind of like yours. Thank you.

On Nov 12, 2009, Dwight commented:

Hey Tim,
Thank you for the articles you’ve already posted.

Thoughtful articles take time to write. We understand why it’s hard for a busy person to make something new every week, go to school, and still have time for a life.

On Nov 12, 2009, by Tim commented:

Thanks, Dwight, and stay tuned. I look forward to reporting next year on my adventures over the coming months!

On Nov 12, 2009, John Bardos - JetSetCitizen commented:

Hi Tim,

Enjoy your sabbatical but hurry back! :-)

Technology is not so bad. It is not a substitute for real, physical contact but there aren’t too many days when I am not completely astounded at how the Internet has enhanced my life.

The ability to connect with like minded people, learn new things, research and access information, hire workers, collaborate, etc. have all had huge impacts in everything I do.

On Nov 13, 2009, by Tim commented:

I hear you, John.

The other day I talked by phone with an associate who was on assignment overseas. We revised a document and e-mailed it back and forth in real-time, examining and editing it on our respective screens as we kept talking by phone.

We couldn’t help gushing about how amazing the Internet is, and how what we we were doing was unthinkable back in the day, etc. So I’m a believer, too — and a skeptic :-)

On Nov 14, 2009, grover commented:

Enjoy, Tim!

I hope that we will get to share in your very big Homework Assignment when it is complete. Your perspectives on business are always illuminating and enjoyable.

On Nov 15, 2009, Mark commented:

@Rick: Reese Spykerman designed our look here. She’s at http://www.designbyreese.com, and we can’t recommend her highly enough. See her link at the bottom of our main page alongside the copyright.

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