Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Dangers for Posterity: Know it now.

A certain girl thought that 'lol' means "lots of love" and sent in the following text to her boyfriend; "sorry 2 hear about your mom's death....LOL.
      In the above statement, you can see that ‘to’ has been replaced with ‘2’ and ‘mother’ by ‘mom’. She even did well, some will write it in this manner, ‘sorry 2 hr abt ur mom’s death’
     The above encapsulates the dangers posed by technology to the future generation. The danger is grave and demands urgent attention. Our children are literally brainwashed. Let my use of brainwashed not constitute a point of critical attack as in the case of the American Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain who said that Black Americans are brainwashed. I mean that our future generation have lost a sense of direction and focus. I will give you some examples.
    These days, when most young teenagers walk on the streets, they cover their ears with a head speaker and look into their phones. Is it not enough to lose track of one’s direction or navigation? When they arrive at their homes, instead of concentrating on their schoolwork, they enter facebook. Now instead of facing the schoolbook, they face ‘facebook,’ or they face the phone book through either blackberry chat or what South Africans call mixit. Is it not a way of losing one’s focus and direction from future goals?
    Because they spend most of their time in these virtual spaces, they learn a new way of conversing in sign languages. That is why the above girl thought that everything is understood in sign language. We can therefore pardon her misreading of lol. But let us be more sincere here. Is the meaning of lol not actually ‘lots of love?’ who invented lol? Are they not those who tell us the meanings of the sign languages they invent online?
And why are the younger generation fascinated by these sign languages? The reason is simple: attempt to seek short cuts. There is an increasing desire to cut shorts in the present technological world and this is part of the bane of the younger generation. The younger generation do not want to waste time writing a complete word when they can cut it short. Some of them are so dexterous with it that you need to attend their lectures to be able to grasp. They cut the words short by the passing days. In one class assignment a university undergraduate student wrote in her work, ‘tkia’ in place of ‘take care.’ The lecturer, who incidentally is also well versed in the sign language, summoned the student and she did not see anything wrong in writing that. That is why I recommend this very interesting book by Theodore Roszak: The Making of a Counter Culture, Reflections on the technocratic society and its youthful opposition.
    By technocracy, Roszak means the ideal men usually have in mind when they propose a modernizing, enlightening, rationalizing, progress in the technological, industrializing society. I do not know whether technocracy derives from techno-logy. I believe it is part of the slogans of ‘specially trained experts.’  Goethe, according to Roszak,  believes that “nothing is more inadequate than a mature judgement when adopted by an immature mind”. Therefore the argument Roszak proposes is that the expertise of our experts has succeeded in disorienting our adolescents such that they have developed a revolutionary potential towards the new inventions. They have embraced the need for ‘unrestricted joy’ promised by the new technological world.  There is no stopping them. Any attempt to stop them will hit a brick wall. We only need to stop our technocracy, simple.
    One can argue that our youths have capitulated to the excesses of our technocracy. The consequence of this capitulation is a rebellious attitude difficult to deal with.  Multiple lives are being lived in the internet and it is sheer futility to keep track of your child’s attempt to circumvent you these days. She/he talks in spirit. Even when he/she is walking with you, she is conversing but, trust, you cannot understand his/her language. You are lost. 
    Assuming you have a teenage daughter and you think she is being mislead, you are, rather, the one that is being mislead. Constantly, through modern technological Social Network devices such as facebook, her ears are at work, as much as her eyes, her fingers, her senses, and so on. You think real stuff in the physical world, and she thinks funny stuffs in online world.  You want to read a good book, be it in kindle or anywhere, she wants to read sign languages in FB or phone. You want to do real shopping for valuable stuffs in, she wants to shop for phone or other funny stuffs in This is where the real ‘clash of civilization’ lies. You want to go to bed and wake up refreshed with robust energies and new, creative insights, she goes to bed very late, thanks to spellbinding sign language discussion in facebook. The consequence is her late wake and eventual loss of direction throughout the day. The above is equally true if your child is male teenager. It shocks me how these young people make it. They belong to so many Social Networks. They make numerous contacts: both humans and ghosts. They perform very poorly in their schoolwork. You wonder why. Now you know why.

Okechukwu Nwafor
University of Minnesota, October 8, 2011.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life in Minneapolis

I arrived Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 16 to resume duty as an Associate Researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), University of Minnesota. Since then I have been working on my dissertation and on Friday 16 September, I presented one of my chapters in the ICGC Brown Bag Series. The title of my paper is "Aso ebi and the ambivalence of Solidarity, Friendship and Oneness in Nigeria." It was well received.

I had struggled to understand the visual matrix of the city of Minneapolis. In just one month I have become acquainted with the road signs. Cecilia, one of the fellows at ICGC contacted her friend who lent me one of his spare bicycles. On October 1, I started biking. Biking made it easier for me to get to campus, from my apartment at 616 SE 10th Avenue, in just 6 minutes, a distance which usually took me 25 minutes if I walk.

I biked almost the whole of Minneapolis on Sunday October 2. It was an exciting experience. Since, as I thought, I cannot ride bike in my hometown, this is a rare opportunity for me. The reason why I cannot ride back home in Nigeria is not only because of the non-availability of the infrastructures for biking, including a biking lane on the roads, peoples' notions of bicycle in my place is skewed. Bicycle is not perceived as a means of  recreation but often as a means of mobility. Cars are, however, generally preferred. Again, cars are thought of as befitting of certain individuals and classes. But let us not go into that. The point is that my people abhor bicycle. So I will avail myself of the biking opportunity here before I go home.

                           My biking route in Minneapolis, October 2, 2011. (c) Okechukwu Nwafor

           My biking route along Heritage Walk in Minneapolis, October 2, 2011, (c) Okechukwu Nwafor

My biking routes along Heritage Walk in Minneapolis, October 2, 2011, (c) Okechukwu Nwafor

My bike. Coming back from a biking trip with some groceries tied on the handle, (c) Okechukwu Nwafor 2011.