Friday, May 28, 2010

Simply Solitude.

Thoreau did indeed return to society. His two years spent at Walden Pond were not a cakewalk. Neal left a comment in the previous post that suggested I read Thoreau's First Year at Walden Fact & Fiction. Thoreau was never a hermit and he certainly He lived on his best friend Ralph Waldo Emerson's woodlot and welcomed the Emerson visitors and family members on a daily occurrence. The Hawthornes and Alcotts visited him during the two years there. Thoreau wanted to live a solitary life but that is not to be confused with "solitude". He did enjoy meals at the homes of family and friends. Thoreau lived at Walden for two years to escape society. He was productive in all aspects: farming, building, writing, contemplating, and meditating. The escape from the world is what he needed to accomplish a work so cherished by many modern day Thoreauvians. Thoreau did not shun society as seen how he welcomed it even as he lived a "solitary" lifestyle. Returning to live in the modern world was imperative. The social conundrums and confusions of the world were his muses. The problems Americans faced invoked him to pen one of his greatest revolutionizing masterpieces "Civil Disobedience" which has had a tremendous effect for over150 years.

I do not think that Thoreau would immerse himself in the world of technology, including having a cell phone or even using Emerson's for that matter. He lived a life free of dependence. The cell phone would be seen as how he viewed the railroad system:

If we do not get out the sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stay home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.

Technology helps us to move faster and more efficiently than ever before. They allow us to "get to heaven in season". However, as technology quickens, we must ourselves move faster to keep up with it. Honestly, what is the point of buying the new iPad right now or even a new iPod when you know that in a couple of months (seems like weeks) they have the new best thing out there and you're left jilted and craving the new one. Jack Johnson sings a song that speaks Thoreau's ideology "if we stay home and mind our business" singing "I got no time/that I got to get to/where I don't need to be" ("Breakdown"). Thoreau bemoans the railroad and yet lived a very productive life within and without society (hence Walden).The easy life, the simple life for Johnson includes living life on the waves, living simply. Lives lived simply, filled with meaning, and capable of supporting their lifestyles.

The two years that Thoreau spent at Walden Pond were not spent in isolation. They were years spent in solitude. And although solitude is a synonym for isolation, look at the meanings. He was not "isolated" because he had visitors, went into town, ate with Emerson's family. He lived two years in "solitude" because he was void of living in the society. James left some quotes in the last post Thoreau "had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." Living in solitude was a chapter in his life he needed. Escaping from society allowed him to return with new philosophy and ideas on the grandeur of life.

(I chose this picture to represent Solitude. Solitude can be spent void of isolation. Notice they are sitting on a bench, somewhat apart from eachother. It looks like there are forms of technology next to the girl on the right, maybe her earphones dangling from her backpack. Solitude: in society but not of society. I'm bending the definition a bit and defining it as solitude is "alone" and "removed from society" but could these two girls be representing solitude of the mind? Sitting on a bench, in silence, at dusk, thinking, meditating, questioning...a moment of solitude.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Twittering Thoreau? I Don't Think So...

Traveling back to rooting my paper with Henry David Thoreau, I googled (I love how this is a verb) "Twitter and Thoreau" and wound up with some interesting results. My synopsis: Thoreau would not have a Twitter account, nor a Facebook account, nor a YouTube account. A man of solitude who once said, "I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, then be crowded on a velvet cushion," enjoys privacy and a world void of clutter. He would view our world today as a world filled with noise and clutter. As a man who respected privacy and solitude, as written about in Walden, Thoreau communed with nature to find and discover life in its purest element. Thoreau says:
Our life is frittered away by detail...I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or athousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail....Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
Although Twitter and other forms of social networking do indeed "distract our attention from serious things" they also allow us to keep up to date with breaking news, participate as an activist, promote worthy causes, and assist in helping citizens fight for independence and freedom. These are serious things that are "improving means to an unimproved end" 140 characters at a time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Social Networking and Reality--Uncensored

In Iran, cyber-activism performs a key role in allowing citizens to virtually speak up against their current government. Proxy servers are Web sites that let people visit parts of the Internet that would usually be blocked. The proxy servers have been able to allow Iranians access social media sites that have been blocked by the government.

This article entitled: In Iran, Cyber-activism Without the Middle Man,, Twitter and Youtube are social networking streams used by the Iranian citizens to voice opinions that would be restricted by the Iranian government in the traditional media.

YouTube allows citizens to show video footage of what is really occurring in the streets. These things would be censored from public television. By using the web, we are not limited in what we can see in the world. Things are not hidden from us. The web tells it how it is and doesn't beat around the bush. And in this way, the citizens (in this case Iranian citizens) are telling the new stories, the new stories more coherent with their reality. Government places restrictions on what they want their citizens to be viewing and what they don't want their citizens to know. Thoreau as well as a pure democratic system of government believe that government ought to be run by the people.

Hearing, Tweeting, and Viewing the stories of citizens, of those being attacked or denied certain rights creates an appeal to unite and defy government civily.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Value of Social Networking for Action

My classmate Katherine suggested this article to me during the facebook discussions and I found it very intriguing.

The article discusses the history behind online civil disobedience. It discusses the begining of online computer activism and the benefit of enabling political activists to communicate with one another across international borders with relative ease and speed.

With the internet providing "privileges discourse, dialogue, discussion and open and free access," free public communication could be spread. People could discuss absolutely anything, find people to converse with about political issues. We are granted the right and freedom to speak our opinions and with the world wide web, this provided 0 boundaries, 0 confinements to voicing and sharing opinions and views with others. Think of what this could revolutionize into...forming political protests, virutal sit-ins (what we are seeing today) by using social networking media such as Twitter.

"The Internet infrastructure [now] is not only a means toward or a site for communication, but the Internet infrastrucutre itself becomes an object or site for action." A site for action, an opportunity to display Civil Disobedience. Taking advantage of this action provides people with the literal feel that ONE person certainly can make a difference and can have their voice be heard.

Electronic Civil Disobedience is "a form of mass decentered electronic direct action, utilizes virtual blockades and virtual sit-ins. Unlike the participant in a traditional civil disobedience action, an ECD actor can participate in virtual blockades and sit-ins from home, from work, from the university, or from other points of access to the Net." It is more easily accessible to use online. And as I said earlier, it allows an individual to really feel united in a cause when using a form of social networking to unite with others regarding certain causes.

So I am going to use the protesting of the Iran elections as my main example in using social networking to take civil disobedient action. The internet "opens up new possibilities for Net politics, especially for those already predisposed to extraparliamentarian and direct action social movement tactics."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


So this blog is a project to express my thought processes as I create my research paper discussing Henry David Thoreau's brilliant essay "Civil Disobedience" and the modern forms of civil disobedience demonstrated through online media.

After discussing in class, I think I'm going to plan to write this paper discussing how civil disobedience can be seen in modern times through using social networks online such as twitter. The Iran election is a hot topic right now and so I think I'm going to use this as my main modern times example and continue to tie Thoreau's essay into what I'm studying through the social networks.