Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Different Experience of Technology

Sister Edith OSB who teaches Sociology at St Scholastica and blogs at Monastic Musings is on vacation in an abbey located in a remote part of Colorado where her internet service is greatly limited compared to what she is used to.

Serendipitously, this is extremely relevant for me this morning since I have been without my regular email service for about 20 hours now, and they still don't seem to know when it might be fixed.

When you live alone, even spam sometimes remind you that somebody cares. Fortunately, I have Google's GMail as a back up so I can still communicated with the outside world, but all those normal messages that I get are just piling up somewhere in the big database in the sky.

For a few hours it wasn't much of a deal, then when it got to 9:00 last night and they still didn't have it fixed, I started to get concerned and then when it still wasn't fixed by 8:00 this morning, I was ready to explode. What earthshaking events have I not been responding to? And even worse, when I called my internet provider, customer service wasn't even aware that it was a problem still. Nor did they know when it might be fixed.

I was pretty shook up for a bit. Then, since I still had internet access, I realized that I could use my Gmail address, that few people have. So I'm not totally isolated, and somehow, knowing that, I've calmed down.

Thinking about it, most of my emails seem to be my comments and reactions to things going on in the world that many recipients probably don't really care about any way. Maybe I waste too much time with my emails? I'll have to start cancelling more of the newsletters I subscribe to. I rarely use the information they provide anyway.

I'm staying for a week at the Abbey of Saint Walburga. It is located in northeast Colorado, about 4 miles from the Wyoming border. The Abbey moved from Boulder 10 years ago when the town had grown around them, making their monastic lifestyle difficult.

This is a secluded location. I'm connected by a 24 Kbps dial-up connection (I didn't know such still existed) which is, in fact, the fastest thing available unless they were to install a satellite dish.

There is no cell phone reception here. It's not because the companies haven't tried. It's because the Abbey wants to be a place where people are not constantly, instantly available to each other. They use a system of bell tones to notify people if they get a phone call; they have a fax. The slow modem line makes e-mail communication possible. But the pace at which our graphic-intense email systems load means one is unlikely to engage in idle chatter, or read a lot of blogs. No one here quite knew what a blog was when I said I had one. In my time here, I've found myself only responding to e-mail that seemed important. On the day things were particularly slow, I only opened one email whose subject line was "HELP!"
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