The globalized world is strange at times. You can be sitting in the same room as someone but feel completely disconnected with them. How many times have you seen people out for dinner or coffee constantly on their phones?
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my room, updating my blog when the houseboy walked in to start dusting the room. Two minutes later his cellphone rang. He picked up to answer a call from home and began happily chatting away in his local dialect to perhaps an old friend or relative. Meanwhile I got busy facebook chatting my friend who I study with in Boston who was in Brazil. A few seconds later my blackberry beeped, I received a few texts after which I went back to blogging, trying to juggle between the various virtual worlds.
It amazes me how fast information can spread. You don’t have to step out of a one foot radius to find out what’s happening all across the world. Yet you can be oblivious to what’s happening right in front of your face. You can switch off from the real world so easily. Or then you could say that reading the news online is part of the real world too?
Arjun Appadurai an Indian sociologist talks of ‘scapes’ to discuss how different sites are connected on different imaginary planes. What these scapes connect you to, are unrelated to the physical environment, but pertinent to the flows of globalization. You can be sitting in a taxi but be checking your email on your blackberry or updating your facebook profile. You can be sitting at the dinner table with your own family but be more engrossed in texting your friends about homework or the latest movies. Such are the planes that connect us in today’s world, essentially making physical proximity irrelevant.
So I experienced what had been nothing more but arbitrary abstract concepts confined to classroom talk and textbooks. But it’s true and it happens all the time. And apart from realizing that sociology is actually a pretty profound subject, I continued to update my blog and the houseboy continued to clean the room, and I was busy on my own “scape” while he with his, distracted by our own interruptions about 5 feet apart from each other but miles away in reality. It really is a strange world.