Managing Your Mind in Elsewhere U.S.A

elsewhereusaSalon has an interesting interview with Dalton Conley, chair of the sociology department at New York University, and author of Elsewhere U.S.A.. Conley discusses how the texting, email, and social media culture has  “turned the 9/5 into the 24/7,”  and the cultural and economic factors underlying the change.

Not long ago I did an interview with Gary Small, author of iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind, who explores some of the issues Conley mentions but from the perspective of how these technologies are affecting our brains.  I’ll be interested to read Conley’s book to see how he takes this on from a sociological perspective.   The interview with Salon is a good place to get a taste of his approach. 

From the interview:

You seem ambivalent about some of these changes. But you end up saying you’re not telling anyone to toss their BlackBerrys or iPhones, and live in the moment. Well, why not?

If some people want to do that, great. I’m just trying not to sit on some high horse and lecture folks. I’m sure that 50 years from now, the struggles that we are going through with the lack of boundaries will look quaint and silly to folks in 2050, the way the Organization Man, and social life in the ’50s, look quaint and earnest to us now.

We can make choices about policies, such as paid family leave, which would change things for the better. But a lot of the forces, like increased individuation and technology, are going to dictate life, whether we like it or not. I do know folks who sell the business, pack up everything, move to rural Maine and build a log cabin. I think it’s interesting that for them it takes such a drastic act to regain control of their lives. The challenge for most of us is to manage these buzzing, beeping demands on us while being part of the mainstream economy. And at the same time preserve some things we value outside that sphere.

hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

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