virtual vagrant

Costa Coffee O2 Wifi registration page

This week began with our home broadband dying, making me a sort of virtual vagrant on my study day…I have to confess that I avoided the university library because 1) I needed to be able to answer my mobile and 2) undergraduates. I also avoided the office because 1) work. So where was I to go in the Durham snow? Coffee shops, natch. I’d already given all my personal details to Caffe Nero’s free wifi provider, but had some more to do online after I’d finished the coffee, muffin, cup of water… So I went over to Costa. It’s hard to take a picture of an iPad with a phone while trying to look nonchalant and not knock over your coffee…but someone else has done it, so here it is. After submitting, you are also asked for your name, birthdate, postcode and Costa loyalty card number. I faked the middle two, left the third blank and signed up…but the server was down. Sat drinking second large latte of the afternoon…checked email with husband’s 3G…tried wifi again…started writing this…coffee almost gone…wifi started working…couldn’t sit in full cafe any longer with empty mug. Gave up and went home.

I wasn’t particularly surprised by the amputated feeling that five days of no home internet gave this particular cyborg. I think it was more the non-monetary cost of getting online…exchanging information about yourself for a service seems more invasive than exchanging money (although exchanging money over public wifi feels pretty invasive too!), especially when the service is advertised as ‘free’ and the purchase of mildly overpriced, non-essential food items is required before one can avail oneself of the service to begin with. And this all assuming that you’ve got a wifi-ready device about your person…

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Strange Days

Strange Days is another one I wouldn’t really recommend, but has a couple interesting features. One would be its determination to date itself by being set merely four years in the future (as the trailer, for some reason, is really keen to highlight).

The other is the idea that you can experience someone else’s life. There are lots of sci fi movies where you can put yourself into a new situation, or play a character, or control an Avatar, but I can’t think of very many where you experience someone else’s life, including physical sensations and emotions. (Maybe Being John Malkovich…but this isn’t really tech-assisted…)

Strange Days also bypasses the ‘this new technology is great’ stage of similar movies and goes straight to the evil underbelly–i.e. it can’t be used to encourage empathy or compassion, but rather to breathe new life into the porn industry and give serial killers a unique way to taunt the police. Still, the idea of technology allowing people to understand better what it’s like to be someone else–along with the misgivings associated with letting people know too much–is certainly present in much discussion surrounding Web 2.0.

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