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Two small girls in pink next to one another looking at pink phones.

Doing it Alone

I was doing it alone
I was doing it alone
I was screaming in my car
In a twenty-mile zone...
He was doing it alone
He was doing it alone
He was screaming on his bike...
We were doing it together
We were doing it together alone
In a twenty-mile zone

Dory Previn (1974)


Previn’s wry and perspicacious song, written long before cell phones were invented, is reputed to have had a personal target. Then lives lived adjacently, but separately, were no doubt more common than observable. Now the sight of friends, families and indeed even mothers with toddlers, walking alongside one another, faces absorbed in small screens, is commonplace. Can we explain such a wonder drug? Group of people livily raising their glasses in toast.
Another drug, not unrelated in its effects.

Maybe it tells us much. It certainly reminds us of how solipsistic our mental lives can be, for here it is clear (whatever we persuade ourselves) that we are alone with an image. But a more fundamental dynamic is at work: our conscious experiences depend on the tension between this world we create, Model of south Iceland glacier wiwth inset of real thing. To a page which introduces Jeffrey Gray's Comparator model of consciousness. and the information about what is happening independently of that world. That disjunction is change. Ferris Wheel and statue.

On the fundamental nature of change.

Change demands that our models be updated; indeed our survival depends on this: the heart of consciousness. Mother, son, and health worker posing for photograph. On the way consciousness has evolved from conscience which was to be found in the world. So cell phones can keep us in thrall, tapping the sweet spot of enough change to hook, but not enough to alienate.

Myth has it that Previn’s song was written after her marriage broke up with Andre Previn. Her nimble, penetrating style offers endless thoughts on people, relationships and their shortcomings. The quote is the last lines of her song Twenty Mile Zone which appeared as track nine on the album On My Way To Where?

The photograph was taken in Hà Giang Province, Vietnam, at a market in the winter of 2007 when cell phones were a novelty.

Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 20th January 2024

Murphy on duty to this site