Thursday, August 2, 2012

You see the Headline "Internet is Debasing our Public Discourse"....

...and you already know it's John Waters.

Mind you, I agree with pretty much everything he says on this subject. Perhaps ironically, given my writing of this blog, I regard the internet (and the computer revolution in general) with little besides alarm and dismay.

This very week, my own workplace (UCD library) has become even more computerized than ever. Up until now, if there was a book you couldn't find on the shelf, or one you wanted retrieved from storage, you filled out a pink docket, with an actual ink-dispensing pen. Now you have to submit an eletronic form, online.

Once upon a time-- not so long ago-- library assistants in UCD stamped the return date on a label on the book's first page. Every day the stamps had to be set to a new date. The clickety-clickety-click of the stamp hurtling down on several books in a row was pleasing to the ear. And it left a legacy; you could take a book from the shelf and scan down the label, noting the dates it had been borrowed, reconstructing its library career in your imagination. There was a subtle but definite poetry to those labels.

Now, we print a "receipt" (one smarmy academic pointed out that it couldn't be a receipt since it wasn't acknowledging receipt of anything, but let that pass). People throw them away, for the most part. The history and the poetry is gone. And that is only example of many transitions from a friendly, cumbersome process to a cold, efficient, mechanical one.

For several years, I argued against this increasing mechanization, at departmental meetings and so forth. I knew it was vain but I rather enjoyed playing Don Quixote, the hopeless and hapless romantic.

But I don't even bother anymore. Nobody cares; not staff, not students, not anybody else.

Except for John Waters, of course. There's always John Waters, eager to lend his voice to an unfashionable and counter-intuitive cause. Long may he continue to do so!


  1. Completely new to this blog but have read this and most of the recent posts. All wonderful. I'm afraid I am not a prolific online commenter but rest assured this site now sits atop my favourites.

    One question though: what's the significance of the picture of the church?

  2. Thanks so much. The picture is the Holy Spirit church in Ballymun, and I hoped that the image of a track to the church door might have symbolic resonance! Really I just didn't want to use a picture I hadn't taken myself since I don't know the wrong and rights of copyright.

  3. A-ha. Thanks - but why does it Virgin Mary Church over the door?

    PS I will at some stage add a comment bearing on the actual content of a post though not sure it will stretch much beyond "Well said. I agree."

  4. Oops; I meant the Virgin Mary Church. Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary Church are twin churches in Ballymun and they look almost identical. Most people think they are hideous, banal and characterless but I like their simplicity.

  5. Thanks again. My local church is modern and on the plain side too. I work near Westminster Cathedral though. Am glad of both.