I recently broke down, threw caution to the wind and purchased a new iBook and iSight camera. This afternoon I was hanging out in an ichat video conference with Jill (I was grading papers, she was working on her trial lecture — she was in her kitchen and I was in my dining room — we were throwing each other the occassional smile or question or comment) when JP, my 19 month-old nephew arrived with his parents. I introduced JP to Jill on iChat. The funny part, for me, amazed at this newfangled technology which allows me to visit with my friend in Norway via fullscreen (if still pixelated) video and realtime audio, was that for JP, there was absolutely nothing at all strange about saying hi to a woman in Norway. He interacted with her in his typical happy and giggly hyperway, speaking to her in one word sentences just as he would to any other human being. For JP, there's nothing miraculous about a person on a computer, nothing strange at all about talking to a pixelated head. Perhaps technology is now so weaved into everyday culture that kids like JP will see videochat and who knows what other technologies that will evolve in coming years as part of life in its everydayness.
Later, while the adults were still finishing dinner, JP was adamant that we go outside to see the moon — that is “Moon. Cott. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Cull Cott. Moon. Side. Moon.” Now, we're in a new moon, so while there were plenty of stars this beautiful night in New Jersey — “Jessy. Cott. Jessy. Jessy. Ducks. Moon?” — there was no moon in the sky. This fact was exceedingly troubling to JP. He could easily accept an Australian lady in Norway on an iBook screen in my dining room, but the concept of the phases of the moon is still to be learned, and a complex and frightening thing at that. The lack of a moon on a clear night is a more troubling concept than virtual presence. How wonderful and how strange.