For myself, the phrase 'wild nature and the digital life' raises many
conflicting thoughts, because I feel that 'wild nature' and 'the digital
life' are two discrete things. I can walk to the beach and look across at
the mountains. Directly east is Vancouver and I can sense the city
pulsating, more so at night of course when the lights shimmer low on the
horizon. I can imagine the wires and the wireless connections. But,
northeast from here, civilization clings to the shore and beyond that
narrow strip the mountains march for hundreds of miles, range after range.
Every hundred miles or so you come across a road or a rail bed. But you
could head due northeast and see absolutely no sign of habitation until
you reached the Arctic.
If I could transport myself 200 miles into those rocky ranges and stand on
a ridge looking around at wild nature, what kind of digital information
would be bouncing through the clear air? I suppose radio signals,
especially if I had a GPS tracking device in my pack, translated somewhere
through digital mapping software. Maybe I have a mobile phone and a
laptop, too? If I had none of these devices, the night sky would still
reveal any number of satellites and highflying planes as they pass before
the stars. But I still cling to the idea that these things are intruders
in the wilderness.
It's been years since I've camped in the wild, but I used to do it
regularly - walking for miles each day along a creek bed, or a game trail.
The only unnatural sounds being the bear bell on my pack or the click of
the shutter on my old, fully manual Nikon F camera. If I were to embark on
such an adventure today, I would carry with me a decade of memories of the
digital life. But those memories would commingle with memories of my home
in the city and the people I love, books I've read, and whatever other
thoughts I carried. As the days passed, memories of home and the digital
life would diminish as I became attuned to the wilderness. Through
exertion I would reclaim my body. My ears would open again to the sounds
of wind and animals. My eyes would again savor the symmetry and chaos of
I can imagine using a tree as a metaphor for a database, or clouds to
describe the internet. In the same way that I can imagine thoughts being
like tides. But I cannot turn that around and liken a tree to a database,
or a cloud to the internet. It could be my Canadianess, because the idea
of wilderness is a part of our identity, our psyche. I want, with all my
being, for wild nature to remain discrete from the digital life.
Ah, what a hopeless romantic, eh!
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