An Insomniac in the Mix


I like to think there’s an insomniac in the Mix.

I get emails. In 1993 this would have been a boast but in 2013 it’s a pretty redundant statement. Emails are such an ever present reality in 21st century Scottish culture. Emails are flying all the time over our heads at dizzying speeds. Often like many of us, I get emails from big companies and brands promoting new deals and special offers. And often these emails come in the middle of the night, or the small hours of the morning.

Now I guess the likelihood is that these emails are part of complex algorithms ricocheting through various machines and time zones. That’s one story.

But there’s also another story.

Eugene can’t get to sleep. He’s had a long day at the office but he just can’t seem to switch off. The thing with Eugene is that he cares a little too much or at least his girlfriend, boss and pottery tutor thinks he does. Eugene simply cannot get to sleep without letting me know that there is a 50% sale on scented candles.

He knows I’ve been going through a rough time recently and he thinks that a scented candle would be just the thing. He also knows he should put this off until the morning. He can deal with it later. And yet it keeps nagging at him. James HAS to know about these scented candles! This will not wait. He leaps out of bed and is careful to not make too much noise so as not to wake his girlfriend, boss and pottery tutor (they are in fact all the same person, although he does have an additional pottery tutor so as to sharpen his skills so he can impress his girlfriend with how well he is doing and give her the confidence to go part time at work and set up a pottery class of her own) and switches on his computer.

Once he has sent the email he tip toes back to the bedroom. He can rest now. Both in the comfort of sleep and the assurance that he followed his heart and informed me. I now know about the candles. The rest is up to me.

Now however it actually works in reality the story of Eugene illuminates a truth often missed. The technology all around us and the media in between us are all the result of the sleepless nights of pioneers who cared a little too much.

People who couldn’t wait until morning.

Email is now an unremarkable part of life like many of the media forms that preceded it. We see it as mundane and inevitable. But emails are not inevitable, emails are incredible. The only reason any of us get any emails at all is because many people lost many hours of sleep thinking about new ways of connecting people. We have grown detached from the insomniac innovators who persevere exploring and experimenting with ways of bringing us together.

Eugene’s story stops me and make me think about the phenomenon of our technology, glimpses of where it is from and where it is heading. Marshall McLuhan describes media as ‘extensions of man’. Our media are extensions of our senses. It all has a genesis in human effort, hope and sleeplessness and will lead to many revelations which inspire in turn a new genesis which leads to new revelations.

So why the picture of the dog? Well in the photo the dog is looking up at you expectantly. Of course on one level he isn’t looking at you.

He’s a lump of metal.

Like Eugene he doesn’t really exist. And yet looking at his engaging features moves you, just like Eugene’s thoughtfulness of recommending the candles. On one level Eugene and the dog don’t exist, on another they point to bigger truths. When I walk or cycle past this dog it cheers me up. He has such a look of anticipation. He’s not terribly lifelike and yet he completely captures the enthusiasm for life and adventure that dogs have. He is not that much like a specific dog but he’s a lot like all dogs. He’s looking up and asking ‘Where next?’

It’s the same question that Eugene and all the restless innovators before him have asked.

So yeah.

I like to think there is an insomniac in the mix.


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