New Computer

My university has given me a new laptop, with which I am writing this post. All faculty get a new machine every third year & it was my year for an upgrade, but most faculty just get a new desktop unit plunked in their office. Because I have been working to use online resources in my teaching & because I taught a course online this last summer & because I am a blogger, I was able to lobby for a laptop. It is a very nice little Dell XPS / M1210 that weighs just over three pounds. I've begun setting it up the way I want & I feel a little as if I'd been given a new fountain pen: I feel a new enthusiasm to sit down & write something! How one uses a tool is pretty individualistic, which is why it is often uncomfortable to sit down to check email, for example, at a strange computer. To some extent, I have left the computer in my office in a fairly generic mode these last few years, not doing much to personalize its environment since I have done the vast majority of my computer-based work at home. The distinction between home & school has become increasingly blurred in this context, especially as som many more files & programs now reside in the indeterminate space of the internet. This new machine also represents a shift in the way I -- & my dean -- think about academics & computing. My old laptop is one I bought for myself in order to keep separate my academic & personal uses of computers, but that distinction no longer makes sense. I do a great deal of "academic" computing sitting in my little study at home -- more than I do in my office at school -- & my personal use of the computer is much harder to separate from my academic use in any case. My university employs me because of my (modest) success as a poet. I have been writing poetry & related texts on computers for more than twenty years -- Did the poems belong only to my private identity, to be written on my "own" computer? No. The university sponsors my work in various ways. When I asked for the special dispensation of a laptop, I told the dean quite honestly that I would be using it for my personal weblog, email, etc. because it no longer made sense to artificially divide the two realms of my computing life. How do people in business handle this distinction? Is the company laptop also a personal machine? I do have two email accounts, one institutional & one personal, but beyond that, everything is pretty mixed together. This seems inevitable given the increasing presence of online applications. Netvibes, for example, is now my homepage. I use many programs that do not reside locally on this particular piece of hardware, though I use it to get to those programs. So, I will use the new machine for both personal & academic blogs, for communicating with friends & doing official business. Is this a new paradigm, or just a shift in my personal perception?

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.