Monday, October 7, 2013

Midterm #1 Prewriting: Charting a Path to Connectedness


Here are some quotes and initial thoughts for my investigation of connectedness and isolation through the lens of Melville's Moby Dick:
  • "It is a book which could only have been written in America" (vii-viii)
  • "Melville wants the whole world in--particularly the human world; hence the slightly improbable spectrum of the crew of the Peqoid" (ix).  --> ship as a microcosm of America
  • Sea as the new frontier
  • "Ishmael, the whale-writer, knows that the great Sperm-Whale, 'scientific' or poetic, lives not complete in any literature . . . his is an unwritten life'. [sic] . . . We must not expect to find Moby Dick in Moby Dick" (xiii). --> In some sense, maybe digital culture is not intended to show us humanity but is rather meant to lead us back to an appreciation of that which is real and present within our lives.
  • "Given the radically orphaned condition of modern man (Ishmael ends as an 'orphan', [sic] which is the last word of his book), a danger that Melville could see was the accelerating drift into disconnectedness of the non-affiliated contemporary individual" (xv).
  • "How, therefore, men might move from isolation to connectedness was a matter of great moment to him and it pervades the book" (xv).
  • "Cursed be that mortal inter-indebtedness . . ." (421).
  • "Each silent worshiper seemed purposely sitting apart from the other, as if each silent grief were insular and incommunicable" (30).
  • "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians" (55)
  • "cherished separateness" (xvi)
  • "[T]ruly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself" (47).
  • One man's monomaniacal quest pulls in everyone else
  • Internet puts you into another person's skin, allows you to experience their reality --> Ishmael trying on Queequeg's poncho, later comment about whale's poncho
  • " . . . Ahab stands alone among the millions of the peopled earth, nor gods nor men his neighbors! Cold, cold-- I shiver!" (489) 
  • "It is not down on any map; true places never are" (49).
  • Ishmael and Queequeg remain united ("wedded" (287)) only because of that first encounter, that moment of union. Ishmael never really develops the same kind of relationship with anyone else, despite their close proximity on the boat.
  • Pip driven mad by the isolation of the immensity of the sea. --> What about Ahab and Pip's connection?
  • "[B]ut as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts" (5) --> How to use digital media not to fragment ourselves but to find ourselves in the connections with other people
  • "How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair" (47).
  • "But as in landlessness alone resides highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God—so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land!" (95)

The reality is that the Internet in itself is but a tool. While there is certainly potential for both connectivity and isolation, in the end, the choice rests in the individual. People's paths are not, as Ahab asserts, set on iron rails and bound for some certain fate but rather each must decide how he/she will allow the digital world to shape his/her own reality. There will, undoubtedly, be those who will be lost at sea or driven to insanity by the immensity of the digital ocean or who are tossed about by the waves and winds--"dashed upon the lee" (95)--but there will likewise be those who will find in digital culture the connectedness that is sometimes lacking from the real world. Our task, then, is to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to brave the rough waters of the digital world and chart a path for those that follow after us.