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FLASHBACK: Can Communication Technology Bring Communities Together?

copperkettle_johnsonburg

View of houses along 219 from inside Copper Kettle Restaurant, Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, 2008.

This morning’s dream I was revisiting one of the locations where I was sourcing data for my Penn State University graduate research. What played back was the moment I visited with an informant, an octogenarian, a lifetime resident of the town, and his face when I entered his living room. He was standing, but you could tell it was difficult for him to remain standing, so I insisted we sit after he clasped my hand in greeting. You could tell his wife at this stage in their marriage had succumbed to full-time care-taking, as she shook her head at him and told him to stop staring. But his face, dear reader, it was the most awesome face I’ve ever observed! His blue eyes were wide and brilliant, the lines around them were lifted, his smile was half mooned and fixed in awe. Although his skin was liver splotched and Northern Tier pale, there was a glow. I’ve never experienced such genuine appreciation for my presence, and I doubt I ever will again. The glow, his glow, was what woke me up this morning, necessary after quite a tumultuous week.

So I was motivated to look up Ye Olde Thesis, the first work I published as an adult. Mom has a hardback copy, the other, for whatever reason, my ex insisted on keeping. But it is a public work, and accessible on the Webby Web, and if you are in need of a Dostoevsky-esque work to help you get to sleep, feel free to download: https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/paper/8320/

Appendix C has all the phenomenological aspects of my research experience, but my fave part is the thesis conclusion. I’ve cut and pasted it for you here, and bear in mind, this was my mindset seven years ago as of this post. My writing style is much sharper and I’m less idealistic, but the question, Can communication technology bring communities together? is still very much fresh in my mind:

Thesis Conclusion 

I don’t consider this research as “work”. It is and ultimately this is merely
data collection. But for me, this thesis is insight to the rural way of life, the
culture of PA and an overall validation that I’m doing my part to positively
contribute to a rural dweller’s well-being.

I kept a thesis journal the entire time at Penn State University. When it
came time to prepare this reflection, I sat and read all my entries. It was
humorous and insightful and depressing all at the same time. I found the entry
that described this idea about communication technology and its impact on
society. To read it now after the research experience is humbling. Where my

mind was at then and where my mind is now is the same, except now I can run

my mouth and use science to back it up!

I close this thesis with the actual journal
entry:

May 20, 2007: Discovery. I haven’t really accomplished a damn
thing in the realm of this MS other than realizing how frightened I
am of people that are genuinely smarter than me. As much as I
avoid competition I find that it’s essential in order to get things
done around here.
I’ve whined and moped enough. Feigned interest and appreciation
enough. There’s plenty of people leaving this institution that truly
deserve the degrees they are awarded. I, on the other hand, am
sitting here waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Let’s face it: the two things you are good at is 1) telling people what
to do and 2) running your mouth as if you know what you’re talking
about. How transparent do you want to continue to be?
What do I like? I like the way I was raised; amongst different
groups of people within a very isolated community. I like to
interface with people, and I seek out those that have something
strikingly different about them. I like to fix things and situations
because I tend to be the one in the room least likely to panic. I want
to help. I always want to help, to the point where I sacrifice my
efforts for the greater good.
I’m a fan of technology related to communication. The Internet,
cell phones, GPS, GIS; it’s all useful. I don’t care to know how it
works; not anymore anyways. But I have this notion that of all
technological advancements afforded to us, communication
technology has helped a good majority of us to connect with one
another.
So can communication technology bring communities together? I
think of how I grew up on base and had to correspond via letters
and anxiously wait for a response. I listened to local radio stations
and we watched European and AFN channels on TV. Now, with the
advancements in technology, the means of communicating have
garnered a quicker response time and have brought separated lives
much more closer [sic], even if in all dimensions except physical.
I figure that I’ve learned more about rural communities to respect
them and to certify that these areas are enriched by many aspects.

I think by investing in rural communities, by making communication 

technology more assessable, community and economic growth can
occur.
But of course, what is most cherished about these neighborhoods is
that there is low reliance on mechanisms that speed processes
along. Even in that one reading where the guy had to invest in
another phone line since his ordering system was upgraded by his
distributor, people are really ambivalent of investing in anything
that changes their way of life. So how do you “sell” communication
technology in a tradition-heavy, low maintenance community? Will
the investments benefit a few? How will local government and
businesses assist in this investment? What would it do to a
community’s culture?
I feel that collaboration has proved in many dimensions the
capability of people to change for the greater good. I think people
that dwell in rural areas are afraid of what they do not know, and
naturally shy away from strange technology. We also are
experiencing a population aging and thus contributing to the local
economy by lesser and lesser means.
Communities that have similar issues but are only limited by
distance can develop a grass-roots e-organization with the ability to
talk to each other on how to manage similar problems. I think
about the distances that female Australian farmers travel just so
they can carry dialogue and not feel so alone in the world given
their regional isolation. We need to know that we aren’t alone in
this big world. We can shatter barriers by promoting dialogue
across shoulders without the stigmas of physical features. And I
think when people are given an opportunity to learn from one
another without working thru a middle man (like extension offices
or government agencies) we feel a sense of empowerment and
capability. And from there, anything seems possible. And
communication tools like the Internet can help.
That sounds about right. –IMES

Anything to declare? Don’t Go To Punxsutawney

Because I love you, I’m gonna save you some dignity. Trust me, you’ll understand after you read.

Back in the yearin Oh Seven, I had me a curio bout the Nordie folk tale of a rabbey en him magick hole. (Shouts to David Mitchell, yo) This was the beginning of Spring semester 2007. A fellow cohort in my Science Technology and Society graduate minor program, Jenn, a lifelong Pennsylvanian, said she and her brother may be planning to go up to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day. I said, hey, if that happens, count me in. Doubt I’ll ever be up in these parts again, sounds like a thing to do.

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The only thing you miss out on is scoring a bawse G Day shirt like mine.

Early, I’m talkin’ errrrrrrrly that 2nd of February, we leave from State College after a very necessary stop at Sheetz for brekky and coffee up on 322W towards the town of that very spirited tradition, the witnessing of a ground rodent’s shadow to predict if the winter continues longer. I knew of it from the Bill Murray classic, Groundhog Day, and I remember our February school room calendars decorated with Punxsutawney Phil along with hearts and cupids and head shots of presidents.

I figured a place with ‘Punx’ in its name would be, by default, cool. It ain’t. Alright, first, the early morning call is because the crowd gets thick around 5am. If you want a good view of the ceremony, you have to be in town, up the hill (there’s a hill), in position, and you cannot leave that position lest risk losing view. There’s no stadium seating around the hole, go figure. It’s an hour and a half drive from State College, so I figure we’re relatively okay.

We smartly filled up at Large Grocery Store Complex with snacks and sandwich goods in a cooler to keep with us as we hold position. Sure, there’s tents set up for hot cocoa and street food and artisanal wares, but again, risk losing optimum rodent viewing. Interesting was the moment Jenn mentioned, ‘you have to look out for my brother. He’s a little strange.’ Like, grab girls’ butts as they pass him in the crowd strange, or has a sniper rifle in his long coat and plans to take Punxsutawney Phil out strange? Before I could ask for clarification, she hits me with, ‘oh, and… No alcohol allowed on the hill.’

WHAT???

It’s Six Degrees Fahrenheit at 5am. Whiskey needs to be in my life, as a survival tool. She coulda mentioned this before we left, so I could’ve had my flask at the ready. But they check bags and monitor the crowd for such things. As they say up in dem parts, criminey!!

So alright, early ass morning, no alcohol, trapped like sardines til The Big Show. Just when the sun starts making its way up, signaling time for Phil to do his thing, Jenn’s brother is nowhere around us. She casually says, ‘He escaped.’ Escaped? That’s the verb we’re using? Someone escaping in a large crowd on purpose can only mean terror/disaster/hysteria. At that moment, not my problem, cuz here comes a bunch of old, White men wearing top hats, waistcoats, coattails, spats, I mean, they’re into this. And the fact they’re only wearing that and no furs or thermals means they’re dedicated to the game. Super Bowl XLVIII ticket holders have nothing on the Committee, or whatever they’re called.

The crowd clusters, I crane and crook into a clean view of the tree stump Phil’s gonna do the observation from. Then with much applause, a HUGE dirt rodent is hoisted in the air by the Committee Head. Then he’s placed on the stump. And then…

and THEN…

…every member of the committee enters into a huddle OVER Punxsy Phil! Blocking out the sun with their bodies! Really??

To which one steps back and proclaims whatever Phil saw, which I couldn’t hear, because I was screaming out, ‘DIS IS BUUUUUUSHHHEEEEIIIITTTT!’ If it wasn’t for the fact there was a pancake breakfast on the Main Street immediately after, I may have snatched Jenn by her pretty brown curls and shook her body with them.

Miraculously her brother showed up, with no explanation as to where he went. I housed about six to eight pancakes, a low number, because I wasn’t thawed out completely. The Main Street was lined with tents, activity centers, booths, street shows, all that you would expect for a holiday celebration. The local movie house played all day, you guessed it, Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. You can tell the local chamber and officials put a lot of effort into providing entertainment for all us shmucks who just got conned by Marmota Monax and his well-dressed henchmen.

Jenn made up for the lackluster show by taking us to a winery she knew about off of 322W on the way back home. Years of cell damage limit me from remembering the location, the owner’s name, or the name of the fantastic blush I had, but it sure did make up for the farce that is Punxsutawney Phil’s Big Day.

Finals Schminals!

The Pennsylvania State University

The Pennsylvania State University

It’s finals week at ye olde alma mater (see what I did there?). Remember finals? FINALS. Mind, body, and spirit just wigging out to appease the professor.

Take a break, Sojourner of The Optimal Grade Point Average. I invite you to indulge in a bit of escapism. Enjoy my top 3 popular posts of the last week:

FOOD PORN: This British Divorce Party Ain’t Over!

FLASH FICTION: Eviction Number Four

FEATURED BLOGGER: How To Lead Infantrywomen in Combat

GOOD LUCK WITH FINALS!!!

Permed, Pulled, Puffy: A History of Von’s Hair

Reinvention and Reciprocity

I Come From The Water

Original Post Date August 14, 2013 at 01:32 PM

Von finds the answers to her editing problems underwater. Dive in!

swimmingThe story goes, my siblings and I learned how to swim by being tossed in the deep end of the pool, and the goal was to reach the awaiting parent on the opposite end before sinking. The story goes, we each were initiated while still in diapers. I can only assume this strategy was deployed during a time when we wouldn’t retain any trauma. Thus, I don’t concretely know when I started swimming, I just know I’m a natural swimmer.

When my family was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas during the early 80s, the parents would entertain us three hooligans by visiting the Thomas Pool or the Blue Pool quite regularly. On one visit, my father did something so amazing, it blew my five year old mind. He plunged into the deep end of the pool, and he sat at the bottom, cool and collective, sending up a bubble on occasion to my perplexed face hanging over the side. He seemed to be down there for hours. He’d surface, just as cool and collective, as if he was breathing underwater the entire time. I had it in my head to learn how to do that.

A few pool visits in, and I figured out how to manage my air intake so I can manage the pressure against my body and keep myself from floating. When the lifeguards would blow the whistle to clear the pool for break, I used it as a signal to submerge and sit on the bottom of the deep end. I thought it was hilarious when the duped lifeguard violently blew his whistle from his comfortable post at the sight of me popping up. The other kids found this spectacle entertaining, and encouraged me to keep doing it. Of course, the lifeguards caught on and my mother, needing to be spared any further embarrassment, made me stop messing with them.

The interesting thing was, on the rare occasion a lifeguard did see me underwater, he or she never came in for me. So it became affixed temporally that underwater is a safe zone, a place where I can separate from someone annoying or something bothersome. During my graduate years at Penn State University, I regularly visited the campus natatorium with fellow swimmers from my department, and, as I carved out lap after lap in that NCAA pool, I was able to clear out bottlenecks related to my research, revisit issues with my thesis, or curse the name of certain professors giving me a hard time.

Last week, while reviewing my notes, I realized a certain sub-character was making herself more relevant. I had a direction for her, but she seemed to want another trajectory. It halted all my activity. I looked at my bikini hanging on my bathroom door, and knew I had to take it to the water. It took a few rounds to deconstruct and reconstruct the storyline, scenario by scenario, but once I finally broke the surface, it was figured out.

 

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