Saturday, February 21, 2004

Cast A Way

ABC is airing Tom Hanks' flick where the FedEx executive splashes tragically into the South Pacific where he idles away several years with a volleyball as his only friend. It's a somber film--one I like for simple reasons: water dripping from the broken pager, the hullabaloo of corporate-career resuscitation when he returns from the isolated isle, the varied, impractical contents of the FedEx packages. It's easy to watch, easier if there weren't any commercial interruptions. To keep my media noise at a sufficiently entertaining level for a Saturday night working on course stuff (D. on her lesson plans, me on some web things, Ph. in bed at 9:30), I put on Rhythm of the Saints kind of low. It's been a wild party ever since.

On the plane Monday night (yeah, that trip, the one still at the front of my mind), I could see the variously shaped clusters of lights, towns and cities mapped by their luminance--a kind of social electricity, grouped filaments graphing the housing patterns of the northeastern American landscape. I was sitting in 1A, front and left in a row of one (service space for the attendant on my right, compartments for sodas and pretzel sticks in tiny bags); it was a Continental puddle-skipper, a low-flying model, which was nice because I could stare out the window and see more than the topsides of cloudvapor. Staring, I got thinking about the selfishness of my aspirations to take up a rigorous, demanding phd program. Like so much sudden turbulence, I felt a shudder of sadness followed by a wave of dread. I remembered telling Ph. that turbulence is normal when last we jetted as a family: to Detroit last Thanksgiving. And so it is.

To distract myself from a melancholy-mood hiccup, I pulled out the courtesy magazines. Sky Mall. Evacuation card. Oh, and what've we here? Technology Review (note: crap link--all for subscribers--cha-ching.). I started on the article called "10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World." Fair enough. I leafed through the profiles. The one that interested me most (no. 6?) was about bio-programming--using computer programming techniques to condition cell behavior. I guess it takes only a few chemical impulses and RNA encoding to get cells to form cell communities able to aid the normal functioning of the human organism. The short profile made all of this sound cyborg-ish, like there are fewer degrees of separation between humans and computers than there've ever been before, especially now that the human genome has been mapped and most cellular behavior can be neatly coded. Soon we'll have comparative genome assessments that will inform us about our predilections toward all kinds of things, and not long after that, we might be able to affect those probabilities (er, certainties?). I don't know a whole lot about how all of this comes together, but I am intrigued by the way cell behavior patterns are discussed like human behavior patterns. In fact, the descriptions of programmed cell communities and, elsewhere, synthetic gene networks (PDF) bear a surprisingly clear reverberation to emerging conversations about weblogs as social network construction (are weblogs programming humans into discrete, selectively knowing/performing/associative groups?). Timeout. I'm just wondering about all of this, watching what's taking shape at Network(ed) Rhetorics, and trying to play through some of it here. No conclusions tonight. Mad TV is on. In case that stinks, SNL is on, too.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at February 21, 2004 10:50 PM to Under a Bushel