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

February 25, 2001*: Nothing but ... but not the Whole.

Over the years numerous personal asides have crept into these pages, until at some rather amorphous point they stopped creeping in surreptitiously and instead barged in bravely and with raised heads. Through those asides (and frontals) a reader of these columns (if there are any) would probably be able to draw up a relatively accurate picture of who I am, what my tastes and interests are, quite a bit about my family and professional life, and more. But as accurate as that picture might be, it's also a very limited one, and perhaps even a purposefully deceptive one.

Personal web sites permit us a glimpse into the world of their creators. By definition they are a highly autobiographical genre, though that doesn't mean that they're necessarily interesting. Some people lead dull lives, and even those who lead exciting lives don't always succeed in transferring that excitement to their web sites. Luckily, the Boidem doesn't promise adventure or excitement so it probably can't disappoint those who don't find them here. (To be honest, I doubt that there are many Boidem readers who seek these. There may be some who read for the personal information I sometimes, perhaps too frequently, scatter throughout them, but there are countless sites that both promise and deliver much more titillation.)

Although these columns contain many personal references, they don't exactly fit the more traditional definition of a personal web site. I don't post photographs of where I was on my vacation (what vacation?), or a list of all of the CDs that I've purchased over the past year (also a null set). Still, photographs of my children do show up every so often, and I have posted various lists. But though we rather naturally tend to think of personal web sites as being "autobiographical" and "revealing", what they really deal with is the construction of a persona. We choose to reveal certain aspects of our lives and personalities, while withholding others. We present ourselves to others not as we are, but as we hope they'll perceive us.

This is, of course, territory that I've covered before. What's different this time is the extent to which my own manipulation has become so apparent. Since September of 2000 Israel has been in a political upheaval, leading up to, but undoubtedly not concluding in, elections held earlier this month. During much of this period the television news usurped much of all other programming and the political situation, and then the elections, became the main, if not the only, topic of discussion. Yet during that same period of time five Boidem columns were posted, none of which even hinted that something "outside" was having such a profound effect on our lives.

Perhaps even stranger is the fact that in the past I've been considered a highly political person. This involvement found expression not only via taking part in distinctly political activities such as demonstrations and election campaigns but also through an outlook that saw overtones of the political sphere in even the smallest actions of our personal lives. If that's the case, how should I explain such a total absence of political issues in these columns?

Though politics are most conspicuous by their absence, it's not only politics, that aren't (yet?) part of my online persona. I'm very rarely ill, but if I am, I don't mention it in these pages. My almost daily drive to Tel Aviv and back has become (to my dismay) a rather central part of my life, yet I can't remember having related to that experience in these columns. On the other hand, family references show up here frequently, yet they almost always do so within the framework of an examination of the influence of the internet on our lives.

So what's the point? Very few people step outside without first carefully choosing the clothes they'll wear throughout the day. They know that they're presenting themselves in public. Even the person who picks out the torn jeans and T-shirt has purposefully picked them - it's definitely a fashion statement. And the same is true for web sites. I don't lie about myself, but I carefully choose what the impression is that I want to create.

Yet here I am, at what seems to be close to the end of this column, and I still haven't really said anything about my own political opinions. Do they have a place in these columns or not? Can they possibly be left out? Can I relate to the internet and to its influence on our lives without also relating to the honest and real concerns of people who inhabit not only cyberspace, but tangible physical space as well? I doubt that it's possible, or even advisable. Yet it would appear that certain pre-internet conventions, like keeping your political opinions to yourself, have survived into the digital age. It seems as though it's easier for Lorie to take her clothes off on the web than it is for me to outrightly express my political opinions.

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

Jay Hurvitz

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