Network: My Technology: - Why I prefer to pick up my dog hairs by hand

The science of technology is geared to perfection. But what's wrong with human failing, asks John Hegley
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The Independent Culture
Someone heard me singing a poem about how much I love picking up dog hairs and sent me an advanced dog hair retrieval system. As it gets the job done quicker than Sellotape, you can say it is a technological advance. But it's a mockery of technology. Same with the dust buster; it's a bit stupid and a bit imperfect. Technology seems to be geared towards perfection and I like its failings. They will get perfect, but I think in imperfection lies our salvation. The science of technological perfection doesn't necessarily create human perfection.

I get contemplative joy from picking up individual hairs. I am not saying that technology can't be a thoughtful experience, or that there isn't a Zen of working on the Net. However, it seems advances in technology are more in the area of human development than human communication.

However imperfect, the process of picking up dog hair is very enjoyable. Perhaps people can relate to Sellotape, certainly they can understand its role as a tool. The same with a pen. There is something charming about the dust buster. I like the word and it makes a good noise. One should have some love for it because it throws up an interesting word.

But I don't understand how a computer works, so to some extent I'm alienated from the process. Why haven't I got a computer? If I wanted to write something now, I can. I don't always set out with the idea of writing, it is not a formalised action, it chooses you. If this happens, I might buy a pen and paper, but I couldn't carry around a computer. Maybe I am just being stuck in the mud. Although there must be certain advances one should accept, I look for a middle way.

It's not necessarily about whether something is more efficient, or even artful. Take me not using a computer, it means I often lose bits of paper. However, I have not tried writing on a computer because the old system seems to work. It's not unlike using a computer when I am writing a poem- I cut out words and paste. Are people to lose the ability to handwrite? Is the only thing they are to do to sign their signature? It seems to me a loss of identity.

It's good to know you have put some work in to the production of something. When I was in Lancaster the other day, there was an old coaches trip advertised, and you just knew it would take a day to do a journey that now takes an hour and a half. There is something more significant about being aware of the physical space of the journey. A journey that takes longer is more significant, but it takes longer, so you do less journeys. You have to weigh it up - quality not quantity.

I am not dominated by the technology. For instance, I have a mobile phone I don't always answer. I try to be very discreet and not annoy people. It almost feels I am being an example by talking quietly. There have been occasions when I have been playing a song and not been able to use my tape recorder, instead rung up on my mobile and recorded it on to the answering phone.

That seems like messing around with the technology. I suppose the common end is sitting on the photocopier and copying your arse. In general, however, I think people don't consider enough. People tend to take it on blindly, adopting what is there unquestioningly.

John Hegley's latest book of poems, `Beyond our Kennel', is published by Methuen

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