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e-fiction: Chrome Contact   > J. Corrado
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Essay: Information Sickness  > B.R. Krasnoff
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The New Yorker

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A young, alert student and a zany professor
team up to decipher the first messages
from the Chromes.

e-fiction by Joseph Corrado

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A Prayer for the New Year

In this new year, a new age of loving kindness and generosity of spirit, I imagine living in the fullness and richness of my Being. I imagine experiencing the World through a Being that is Whole and self-contained, manifesting Love and good cheer, living in Truth, surrounded by Beauty. I imagine expressing my Soul through Poetry and Music and Dance. I pray for the willingness and capacity to embrace God's great gifts and to share them in laughter and song.

Dear God, help us to sing out the love in our hearts and to drink in all of your Blessings with gratitude and acceptance. Please dear God, grant us a beautiful voice to sing your praises. Dear God please grant us a tapestry of contentment—the inner wisdom, strength, and creativity to weave the tapestry of our lives that we so yearn for.

As we dance into this new era of joy and peace in harmonious contentment, may God fill us and our loved ones with mirth, with health, with all the amazing graces that this magical world offers us.

B.R. Krasnoff (2001)

Winds of Change

I seem to remember a feeling like this
from long ago…
vague, like a strain of some ancient melody
still carried by the wind.

Straining to hear it,
to discern its colors,
I begin absorbing waves
of undulating emotions
that draw me out,
beckon me close,
envelop me like a skin I once wore.

I caress myself back into that skin
knowing it to be the self I once was.
Look! It's me, becoming Myself once more.

— B.R. Krasnoff (2001)


Surely there is something to be said about the kind of day
when an old dog lies content in the dooryard dozing,
his arthritic body in autumn sunlight stretched full length
across the faded rag rug, ears and tail flopped over on the cool stone;
          the kind of day that brings an occasional bird to the feeder
          a breeze that carries the fragrance of late-blooming herbs
          and from someone's open window the sound of a well-practiced violin.
Surely there is something to be said about that kind of day,
but what?

Sulima Malzin


The woman sits alone, waiting.
Her tired feet like loaves of rising bread
spilling over their pans stretch out
in front of her at rest on a wooden crate.
The gate to the lane stands part way open
as if to beckon the darkness, its peeling paint
and rusted hinges reflecting the day's last light.
Not accustomed to engaging with twilight
the old woman feels its clouded tension creeping
into her gnarled, folded hands
while in her mind a dozen limber arms
flail desperate for something to hold on to.
Behind her the house looms in shadow
familiar yet vaguely undefined.
She shivers, reminded that hovering
darkness carries its own chill. Pulling
her sweater closer she feels illumined by the glare
of headlights from the car coming to take her
to visit him at the place where those who leave
all have the same destination.
The woman struggles to her feet, clutching
her worn black pocketbook and today's communion
vessel, a small jar of carefully strained
homemade applesauce.

Sulima Malzin

I Looked at a Man I Had Known for a Long Time

For an in-moment I saw

The flame

Buried deep within those dark convoluting caverns

Which lead to the inward man.

There was a loneliness there

Like the dead grays and browns that scrape

Along the winter gutter—

It was saying: "Where? Where?"

He melted to a Van-Dyke

Shade, leaving just an inward shape

Which I should have seen sooner.

Somehow it was like…like…

Just as in a sudden thaw,

The frame

Of the thing snow-buried (in unsuspecting guise) yearns

For the fullness of its plan.

Joseph Corrado (1966)

Just the Beginning…

From the murky depths
  she rises
  radiantly light
  luminous white
  voluminous bright
  altered image
  in continuing rhythmic movement
  emanating from within
  and without.

  she greets with grace
  clear, faceless face
  formidably announcing
  her presence.

Her music sounds the space
  and reverberates
  in sweet cadence
  creating harmonic tones
  the ever-present changing place
  where joyful beings
  breathing as one…each
  and as we…one
  in constant dynamic motion
  toward renewed realities
         restored seeing
         the relativity of Being
  and the universal promise
         forever freeing.

Lorraine Marcus (1982).

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Information Sickness

by B. R. Krasnoff

Error Haiku
by Dave

You step in the stream
but the water has moved on.
The page is not here.

These are days of outrage and conspiracy theories. Everywhere I turn, I am bombarded with high pitched whining about the latest "soon-to-change-my-life-for-the-worst" revelation. It's not easy to step out of the way in this age of sound bites and digitally altered video images.

Ever since the fiasco of election 2000 coverage, I cannot sit through the evening news without alternate feelings of outrage, paranoia, and despair. Instead of giving me information from alternative points of view that I can critically consider, the media seem to present the most provocative, seductive, or threatening take on any story. And everything ends up seeming somehow sordid and perverse.

Then, there is the Internet, the great equalizer. Just about any zany with a theory can inform me about it at the speed of light. My daily routine now includes sorting through and trying to make sense of a hefty volume of electronic-mail warnings about ever-so-brief opportunities and ever-so-immanent dangers. I have found the adage of pundit Esther Dyson to be true: "the Net is great for conspiracy but terrible for propaganda."

While the information frenzy on the Internet might give the impression that the pace of change has accelerated, it's more likely true that the Web has simply removed natural barriers between people and the information they would otherwise never see. It's always been out there, but now it is easily accessible. As we lurch from one bit of info to the next, we must keep reminding ourselves that just because it's available does not mean it's important, accurate, useful, or valuable. Because anyone can and seemingly everyone does publish on the Internet, the responsibility for quality control is on the receiver. What is particularly frightening to me is that some people readily accept information obtained through a computer screen as somehow more reliable than that from any other source.

Paradoxically, for others, the attraction of the Internet is its independence from authority. The lack of centralized quality control and the expansion of access may nurture the democratic process, but it requires a degree of responsibility and a commitment of time on the part of users to judge the quality and accuracy of sources. It is through deep reading and thought that we discover the truth in information. The Web encourages breadth over depth. As with any information source, critical information literacy is vital.

Is ready access to all this information improving the quality of our lives? In his landmark book, Data Smog, David Shenk, considers the dangers of information overload. He says, "At a certain level of input, the law of diminishing returns takes effect; the glut of information no longer adds to our quality of life, but instead begins to cultivate stress, confusion and even ignorance."

According to some psychologists and researchers, "data smog" is the newest culprit in brain drain. Research suggests that the "data smog" that bombards us every day may be making us ill by interfering with our sleep, sabotaging our concentration, and undermining our immune systems. David Lewis, Ph.D, a British psychologist, calls the malady "information fatigue syndrome." He says that the fast flow of facts motivates people to a point, but once it pushes past a critical threshold, our brains rebel and we experience "paralysis of analysis."

Neil Postman, chairman of the department of communication and culture at New York University, thinks that what started out as a liberating stream has turned into a deluge of chaos. Way back in October 1990, in a speech to the German Informatics Society, he said he thought we were "informing ourselves to death."

"Everything from telegraphy and photography in the 19th century to the silicon chip in the twentieth has amplified the din of information, until matters have reached such proportions today that for the average person," Postman argues, "information no longer has any relation to the solution of problems. The tie between information and action has been severed."

Information is now a commodity that can be bought and sold. It is used as a form of entertainment.. It comes indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, disconnected from usefulness. We are glutted with information, drowning in information, have no control over it, don't know what to do with it.

Dr. Postman posits that there are two reasons we do not know what to do with it. First, we no longer have a coherent conception of ourselves, and our universe, and our relation to one another and our world. We no longer know where we come from, where we are going, or why. That is, we don't know what information is relevant, and what information is irrelevant to our lives.

Principles of Technorealism

1. Technologies are not neutral.

A great misconception of our time is the idea that technologies are completely free of bias -- that because they are inanimate artifacts, they don't promote certain kinds of behaviors over others. In truth, technologies come loaded with both intended and unintended social, political, and economic leanings. Every tool provides its users with a particular manner of seeing the world and specific ways of interacting with others. It is important for each of us to consider the biases of various technologies and to seek out those that reflect our values and aspirations.

2. The Internet is revolutionary, but not Utopian.

The Net is an extraordinary communications tool that provides a range of new opportunities for people, communities, businesses, and government. Yet as cyberspace becomes more populated, it increasingly resembles society at large, in all its complexity. For every empowering or enlightening aspect of the wired life, there will also be dimensions that are malicious, perverse, or rather ordinary.

3. Government has an important role to play on the electronic frontier.

Contrary to some claims, cyberspace is not formally a place or jurisdiction separate from Earth. While governments should respect the rules and customs that have arisen in cyberspace, and should not stifle this new world with inefficient regulation or censorship, it is foolish to say that the public has no sovereignty over what an errant citizen or fraudulent corporation does online. As the representative of the people and the guardian of democratic values, the state has the right and responsibility to help integrate cyberspace and conventional society.

Technology standards and privacy issues, for example, are too important to be entrusted to the marketplace alone. Competing software firms have little interest in preserving the open standards that are essential to a fully functioning interactive network. Markets encourage innovation, but they do not necessarily insure the public interest.

4. Information is not knowledge.

All around us, information is moving faster and becoming cheaper to acquire, and the benefits are manifest. That said, the proliferation of data is also a serious challenge, requiring new measures of human discipline and skepticism. We must not confuse the thrill of acquiring or distributing information quickly with the more daunting task of converting it into knowledge and wisdom. Regardless of how advanced our computers become, we should never use them as a substitute for our own basic cognitive skills of awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.

Second, we have directed all of our energies and intelligence to inventing machinery that does nothing but increase the supply of information. As a consequence, our defenses against information glut have broken down; our information immune system is inoperable. We don't know how to filter it out; we don't know how to reduce it; we don't know to use it. According to Postman, we are suffering from a kind of cultural AIDS.

Is the world in which we live very nearly incomprehensible to most of us? Is it true that we are willing to entertain the notion of almost any fact, actual or imagined, because we have no comprehensive and consistent picture of the world with which to compare it that could render it an unacceptable contradiction? Do we believe because there is no reason, no social, political, historical, metaphysical, logical, or spiritual reason, not to believe? Perhaps the computer just distracts us from facing what we most need to confront, i.e., that we live in a world that, for the most part, makes no sense to us.

In her book, Release 2.0, Esther Dyson points out technology has, and will continue to, fundamentally impact our lives and institutions, but it will do little to change our natures. Even as dependence on, and addiction to, our machines has increased exponentially over past 100 years, our need for community, family, meaningful work, and dignity has changed little over the past 1000. In fact, it could be argued that most of our societal ills could be traced to the loss of these things, not on our lack of access to gadgets and gizmos.

So what are we seeking? The truth is, what ails us, what causes us the most misery and pain, at both personal and social levels, has nothing to do with the sort of information made accessible by computers. The computer and its information cannot answer any of our fundamental questions or provide an organizing moral framework. Maybe what we are seeking is a way to make our lives more meaningful and humane. The computer cannot tell us what questions are worth asking and using computers will not make us wiser, more decent, or more noble. In this age of vast and instantaneously available, digitally-enabled information, the highways to knowledge of ourselves, each other, and our world apparently are still the ones less traveled.

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