All the Ghosts in the Machine
All the Ghosts in the Machine

All the Ghosts in the Machine

Table of Contents

if your formative years occurred well before the mid-1980s, you can consider yourself to be a digital immigrant. Being one of their number, I can sketch you the profile of someone in this category with intimate familiarity and no small amount of nostalgia. Digital immigrants remember keeping address books, writing the names in pen and the addresses in pencil, as their mothers suggested. They remember when a letter being returned as ‘sender not known/no forwarding address’ meant that you might never find that person again. (Location 238)

death in general, and death in the digital age particularly, is an uncannily useful vehicle for thinking about choices we make in life, considering what’s important to us, and adjusting our actions accordingly. (Location 274)

Tags: death

Note: .death

Chapter One The New Elysium

Itaru, a gardener from Otsuchi, Japan, who happened to have a beautiful piece of land overlooking the Pacific. To satisfy his craving to connect, he installed a whitepainted telephone booth in his garden. On the shelf inside he placed an old-fashioned black rotary telephone, which connected to nowhere at all. Itaru knew that actually plugging in this phone would be unnecessary for his purposes, for he didn’t need to speak to the living, he wished to speak to the dead. ‘Because my thoughts could not be relayed over a regular phone line,’ he said, ‘I wanted them to be carried on the wind . . . so I named it the wind telephone’ – kaze no denwa.13 Holding the receiver to his ear, gazing through the floorto-ceiling panes of glass at his brilliantly coloured flowers blowing in the breeze, and at the blue of the sky and the distant shimmering of the sea, Itaru spoke his innermost thoughts and feelings to his cousin, comforted by his conviction that the ocean winds would bear them to their intended recipient. (Location 378)

Note: Wind telephone to speak his innermost thoughts to his dead cousin

Cleaner water, better hygiene, and eventually vaccination made us less vulnerable to infection in the first place; antibiotics and other advances in medical science rendered many ailments minor inconveniences rather than death sentences. (Location 437)

Chapter Two The Anatomy of Online Grief

wherever I go, especially when I’m speaking with digital-immigrant audiences, I still encounter some level of concern about going online to grieve. Radio and TV presenters express their reservations in exaggerated, emotive ways, turning up the provocation to keep the audience tuned in: isn’t this all a bit creepy? I mean, it’s pretty morbid, talking to dead people online, isn’t it? Everyone asks questions that pull for binary, black-and-white answers: is it good or bad to mourn online? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Should we be worried or not? (Location 876)

Note: Presenters dial up and exaggerate emotions to grab audience atention

matters of grief, little is predictable, and nothing is definitive. Ask whether interacting with digital remains is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing, and don’t expect a yes-or-no answer. (Location 953)

Tags: grief

Note: .grief there is no right or wrong

Human beings struggle mightily with those things we cannot predict or control – it’s not coincidental, then, that unpredictability and uncontrollability are two of the main ingredients in the mix when we experience stress and trauma. (Location 982)