Creating contours in the flat landscape of lockdown

In the midst of lockdown we have created a new household tradition that brings a highlight to the week. On Saturday nights we dress for dinner, enjoy our meal, watch Strictly on our new TV, and then push back the furniture and dance. 

With the household locked down, one day could easily look like the rest. To use Matthew Crawford‘s  language, the ‘affordances’ of one day look exactly like the rest: there are a fewer physical contours that shape how different parts of the week feel now that we are always at home. So you have to create that structure for yourself.

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New adventures with a television – part 2.

I wrote earlier this week about getting a TV for the first time in 13 years. It reminds me of when I took my first flight in seven years. Things have changed but there isn’t an instruction manual for the uninitiated.

When you are in a system it is hard to see it change, but when you step out and return, the changes are much more obvious. Television watching now:

  • Involves many more controllers
  • Is much more expensive with the subscription services
  • Involves a bewildering amount of choice.
  • Is now on demand meaning you can watch anything at any time.

Nobody we asked seemed to know if we could just have a TV with a few channels. If you type into a search engine how do I watch BBC1 on a television, the top result is how to watch BBC1 via the iPlayer on your television.

But I am happy to say we have, as far as I can see, the simplest set-up possible in the modern world: a TV plugged into an aerial that shows the free view terrestrial channels, and that’s it. No internet streaming subscriptions, no catch-up (no VHS!).

It means that if we want to watch something, we have to watch it at the time that it is on. A rediscovered pleasure is looking at the listing in the newspaper. If there is a clash, we have to negotiate. It’s the return of appointment TV, and I’m loving it.

Of course, Disney Plus is very popular these days but we’ve been experimenting with just getting Disney DVDs from the library. I call it Disney Minus, and it’s much cheaper. Actually we do have a subscription service – it’s called the BBC, and as far as I am concerned is the best value-for-money service out there.

Right, got to run, there is a 75 year anniversary screening of Brief Encounter starting in a few minutes.

Asking someone instead of Googling

What if you couldn’t look stuff up online? This is a question I keep returning to. One answer is that other people might become a more important source of information. You’d need to pay more attention. You’d probably look forward to the opportunity to speak to them more. And you’d remember more about what they said.

The premise makes me think of books set in a time before tv and radio (let alone internet) when the arrival of a new visitor in the house represented the chance to mine a new seam of experience. 

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A click of the ratchet from physical to virtual

Across all the of the projects I’m involved with we are working out what can go ahead and what must be postponed. A significant factor in whether to proceed is whether the activity can go ahead virtually. While the ability to move online is a blessing for business and job continuity, I think it represents an irriversible step for industry and society away from the phyical to the virtual – a click of the ratchet – that will have long-lasting impacts on our freedom and how we interact with other people.

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The horizon of existence | surveillance capitalism | the return of analogue skills

It’s hard to know where to start. So much has changed in the last fortnight and there is so much that I feel compelled to write about. But now that our house has also become a remote workplace, a homeschool and playground and locus for all entertainment and time-passing activities, it is hard to find the time to write in an ordered way, so I will capture things as they emerge and look to see the patterns over time. I hope you will bear with me, reader. On my mind today:

  • The shrinking horizon of existance
  • Surveillance capitalism and Analogue Skills
  • Everyone is the same distance away
  • Mourning friction
  • A great slowing

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The experience of distance

Marseille
A morning walk up the steep hill to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Gard granted me panoramic views of the city of Marseille and the sea. I love the peaceful hum that can be extracted from high up of a limbering up for a day of activity.

I underlined these words yesterday in ‘In Search of Lost Time’. The narrator is talking about how his perception of distance was changed when, instead of travelling by rail, he starts to go by car.

‘We express the difficulty we have in getting to a place in a system of leagues and kilometres, which becomes false the moment that difficulty decreases. The art of distance, too, is modified, since a village that had seemed to be in a different world from some other village, becomes its neighbour in a landscape whose dimensions have altered.’

Proust, M. (1921). In Search of Lost Time, Vol 4. Sodom and Gomorrah. (C. Prendergast, Ed.) (Penguin Cl). Penguin Books.
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