From the Boidem - 
an occasional column on computers and information technologies in everyday life

July 27, 2000*: On the Road

This month's column is essentially an attempt to prove a point. The internet is supposed to be accessible anytime, anywhere, and if that's true, then even though I'm away from home I should be able to write a column and post it, and in that way prove that what's supposed to be actually is. But proving a point can be much simpler (and shorter) than writing a column. If all that I do in this column is FTP a few sentences that prove that it can be done, then there isn't really much value in writing a column at all. So with little more than an idea and a rather ill defined goal, I set out not only on a family journey to North America, but on a quest for a hopefully interesting column. What ultimately materialized was, at least in certain elements, something very different from the original picture I had in my head as I started conceptualizing this column even before getting on a plane from Israel. I hope that an examination of those differences makes for interesting reading.

I didn't intend for this column to be a journal, but rather something much more focused - an examination of the seeming insignificance of place (and time) in the writing of a column of this sort. I envisioned it as proof of the universality of internet use. But a concept is one thing, its execution another. As the writing of this column progressed I found myself proving an almost directly opposite point.

There we were, each day getting out of the house to visit some tourist attraction, or simply to play in the park, or, as all too often was the case, go shopping. And as we did so, we collected our experiences, registering them in our memories as any traveler or tourist might do. Meeting my pre-set deadline (that I set for myself, no less) became the least of my worries. Keeping the kids occupied throughout the day was a far greater task. And the only times I could find to actually get some writing done was when I might sneak a few sentences onto a page while under a tree in the park, if Hila wasn't falling out of a swing, or late at night when everyone was asleep. And late-night writing was pretty much the same as writing from home.

This column (if that's what it ends up being) was written in various venues, where the most accessible tool was pen and paper. It's a very basic technology, and one which invites a rather basic sort of expository, almost run-on, writing. Still, the act of putting it all together, of actually turning my various pages of notes into something that really looks like a Boidem column required the proper tools, which at a bare minimum meant a computer. Thinking hypertextually can be done anywhere and with any tool (sometimes stopping oneself from thinking hypertextually is the difficult thing), but actually writing a hypertextual document demands electronic media.

So there's the time factor, and the tool factor. Both of those seem to work against getting any writing done at all. What's probably most interesting, however, is what might be called the point-of-view factor. Does not having constant access to the tools I've learned to rely on (not to mention having them set up and accessible in the way to which I'm accustomed) make a difference not only in the way that I write, but also in what I write? I would answer in the affirmative, except that in some way that hints that when I write from home I have a constant style rather than one that's in a continual state of flux. It's probably (as is everything) a matter of degree: vacation pushes the envelope a bit farther than all the other variables that affect me when at home. Then again, that shouldn't surprise anyone.

And with that written, perhaps I've done it. These notes have converted themselves into something that definitely resembles, at least on the outside, a Boidem column; a column that got written while away, but also through converting that away to something recognizable and familiar. Now all I need is a snappy ending. But I won't get home until ten days after this is posted. That's not exactly snappy, though it will be an ending.

That's it for this edition. Reactions and suggestions can be sent to:

Jay Hurvitz

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