online: 29 july 2004
modified: 29 july 2004

6 july 2004 an ancient mariner (of new technology)

15:32 He reminded me of The Ancient Mariner*, a man who detained me today for perhaps 10 minutes - not to tell me a story but to make a general complaint against new technology, and against digital cameras in particular - how astonishing is their magnification and how vast is their price.

The one he was protesting against costs 8 (or was it 40?) thousand pounds. He went on and on, inserting the f word between every 3 or 4 words, standing too close for comfort, and looking straight into my eyes, and even moving his position to stop me continuing to walk along a narrow pavement...

...Unable to escape I decide to stay and look for what I like about him and to listen to what he is saying... He has fine pale blue eyes and much spirit and looks as if he's lived a hard life. Some of his front teeth are missing (and I'd just come from having an artificial front tooth replaced after it got loose).

He seems to be affronted by all the cameras, mobile phones, professional or amateur, that he sees on tv and everywhere. He kept speaking angrily about the price and the inexplicable circuitry, the vast magnification, and the minute size of this new kind of equipment - and how people like 'you and I' can't afford, understand, use, repair, or otherwise partake of it... But he said it in ordinary speech without technical language and with f words.

Eventually I told him that thinking about such things is my occupation and that, though I agree with his complaint in the short run, I believe that in the long run the protests of ordinary people will be heard and will change things. I don't know if he believed me but he ceased to be quite so insistent... I was sorry to leave him but I could see no sign of him stopping.

Afterwards I wondered about the evident truth of what he was saying and about his natural intelligence - and the rightness of his protest about the intrusiveness and the mismatch between new technologies and ordinary people who are not adapted or trained to I.T. as we call it. Yes, he is another living element of what I am calling 'creative democracy'.

*S T Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere ('who stoppeth one of three'), in Lyrical Ballads, With a Few Other Poems by William Wordsworth and S T Coleridge, published in Bristol, 1798. It is reprinted in many collections of Coleridge's poetry.

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