Monday, March 22, 2010

Ooo….Shiny….

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Yes, I use a laptop. I love it to the point I can’t even type on a “normal” keyboard anymore, and while I do think the use of certain high-tech tools has made our job as writers easier in many respects, I also think there are dangers in having an overreliance on it.

One of my favorite methods of procrastination – uh, research is Google Maps. When I was working on my creative thesis in grad school, I needed to research an area of downtown Denver, Colorado. Although I’d lived in Denver for a few years, it had been nearly a decade since I’d left the metro area. A lot of changes can happen in a decade. Shops close. Buildings are torn down. New businesses move in. Streets change from residential to commercial. This was when I discovered the “street-level view” in Google Maps.

Street-Level View is exactly what its name implies – a 360-degree panorama of a street as seen from a pedestrian’s point of view. I loved it. It allowed me to see the streets, pick out a few details and focus on them, and gave my thesis the edge of realism that it needed. It also had the added advantage of being a huge time-suck. I played with Google Maps and the SLV for hours and nearly missed a class because I was having fun “walking” through familiar stomping grounds.

For me, distraction is one of the biggest dangers in relying on technology. Yes, it’s great and it makes research a lot easier, but the potential for distraction is huge. Especially for someone like me. I’m from Mississippi…a Southerner…and as Jeff Foxworthy has pointed out we’re easily distracted by shiny objects, hence our innate attraction to beer cans and UFOs.

Technology of any kind is the ultimate in...shiny…uh, objects. Therefore, it is the…ultimate…dis…tract…

16 comments:

Kay Thomas said...

Ah Jeannie,
You made me laugh even as you gave away all this Southerner's secrets! The bumper sticker over my desk reads "Easily distracted by bright shiny objects."
I console myself with the fact that research is important to writing and therefore my curiosity is a good thing....even if I am, like you, very easily distracted. Hadn't considered the UFO angle. Hmm...maybe I need to go look that up.

Sophie Littlefield said...

yeah, googlemaps can eat an afternoon, easy. i think i skipped all of World Geography in high school, so i have no idea where anything is - but that just makes it more fun since it's always a surprise. "holy cow, who knew they stuck the Red Sea over there!"

Gabi said...

Jeannie,

I'm from the Midwest and not only are we distracted by shiny objects, we use cow tipping as a distraction. You're doing great sticking with the plan.

Gabi

Jeannie Holmes said...

Kay -- I love the bumper sticker! And fret not, there still many secrets I have yet to reveal. ;-)

Jeannie Holmes said...

Sophie -- I loved geography in high school & college. Maps can entertain me for hours. I especially love finding unusual place names, such as Hot Coffee, Mississippi. (Yes, it's a real town.)

Jeannie Holmes said...

Gabi -- Ah, cow tipping.... We used to Be able to go cow tipping when we were younger, but there aren't that many cows around here now. I think the UFOs abducted them all. ;-)

Joshua Corin said...

Jeannie, I read your subject title and was reminded immediately of Joss Whedon's "Firefly."

Actually, like fireflies, technology can be pretty and exciting and buggy (sorry, sometimes I just can't resist a bad pun).

Shane Gericke said...

But bright shiny objects are so cooooool, how can we resist them?

Terry Stonecrop said...

Funny post! Don't feel bad, I grew up in the heart of Yankeeland and I love shiny objects too. What can we say?

Jeannie Holmes said...

Josh -- I love Joss Whedon's work. And there's nothing wrong with a bad pun. :-)

Jeannie Holmes said...

Shane -- We can't. It's a conspiracy. Just like UFOs.

Jeannie Holmes said...

Terry -- I love shiny things. My husband and I live in Mobile, AL and there is a gem & mineral show at the local fairgrounds every November. My husband hates going with me. Not because he dislikes seeing all the interesting fossils, gemstones, and stuff but because I'm like a cat in a catnip factory. I. Want. It. All. Sooooo...shiny.... Lol!

Kelli Stanley said...

So shiny objects and coffee are the lures we need to get you out to San Francisco for Bouchercon, huh Jeannie? :)

We've got Pete's Coffee here--some great brews--and there's the Golden Gate Bridge, which is kinda shiny, in an orange sort of way. Actually, just take a look at your Google Map, and ... oops. Sorry. :)

xoxo

Jeannie Holmes said...

Kelli -- Coffee? *perk* Did you say "coffee"? ;-)

Uh...bridge...that's over water, if I remember my maps correctly. Sorry. Don't do concentrated liquid death. Not even for shiny objects and coffee. Nuh uh. No way. Not gonna do it. Nope. No no no no no no no no no.

So, basically, what I'm saying here is the bridge is out. :-)

xoxo

Kelli Stanley said...

Well, I'm gonna have to come up with something shiny enough to lure you ... though unless we throw you your own toga party with scantily clad male RT cover models (during which you can channel Madeline Kahn in History of the World, Part One) I don't know what will work ... ;)

xoxo

Gary Corby said...

Ummm, I don't think that's a BSOD in the photo. Not that I'm a pedant or anything...