Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On the Internet No One Knows You're a Dog

Peter Steiner’s famous cartoon appeared in the New Yorker back in 1993. The fundamental point that the internet allows us to appear as something we are not goes much further than people who lie about their sex, age or social group. Sometimes, we can hide something without ever really meaning to. This means that a trait that is central to our everyday lives totally evaporates when on-line. That implicit identity change can be very liberating for people who are treated as more normal on-line than off.

Actually, I’m not a dog. And I’ve never said anything about myself on-line that is untrue. But I have concealed something that would be immediately obvious if you ever met me in real life. I am, in fact, profoundly deaf.

So, why mention this now? I do have a good reason. It’s not that deafness is the current disability a la mode. Admittedly, David Lodge has written a novel, Deaf Sentence, based on his own experience of deafness (although he’s nothing like as far gone as me). If you are curious about what it’s like, his recent article in the Sunday Times is reasonably accurate. I too sat squinting at Shakespeare’s text in a dark theatre many a time, but now captioning means I can enjoy plays much more easily. Also, the actor who played Jesus in the BBC's recent The Passion was deaf which meant he starred intently at people to lip read.

The truth is, deafness is a bore and I’d rather not write about boring stuff. I bring it up now because mine may, shortly, become quite interesting. On Friday, I am due to have a cochlear implant fitted. God willing, it will considerably improve my hearing. I’m going to blog here, in addition to my usual wonderings, on the experience of the implant in the hope that it might be helpful to people who are considering having one fitted. It might also be of interest to anyone else who is curious about what it might be like to hear again after not doing so for a few years.

In later posts, I’ll give a bit of the inevitably boring background to my own deafness as well as the fascinating technological miracle that allows an implant to work. I hope this won’t lose me too many readers and perhaps it may even gain one or two.

In the meantime, any prayers for a safe operation would be much appreciated.

Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.


TJW said...

The story of Graeme Clark, who played a role in the development of the implant, is also fascinating. I was listening to him on the radio a month or two ago and he is a deeply committed Christian.

jack perry said...

I'll say a prayer. Maybe two. I'll have to find the relevant patron saint. God bless!

Bjørn Are said...

Intriguing how much the Internet
facilitates communication!

And great to realise again how it may help us to see people more for what they are, think and believe, without being distracted (which is so easy) by differences or difficulties.

Does this mean you've had a hard time following lectures and such, or are there any special help in such situations?

You will be in our prayers, James!

Bill Merlock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Merlock said...

Long time reader, James. You have my prayers for a successful procedure. And, since I'm here, my eternal thanks for all you've written.

adude said...

Ditto, on the prayers, dog. (:D)

Nate said...

James, I've got to admit that my response when you said you were deaf was a bit of a shock-- this guy who is so insightful and seems so well-grounded has a physical disability?

Then I was immediately disappointed in myself.

It's made me think hard about how finding some hidden part of someone's life can make me have completely wrong perceptions, even when my impression of the person started out positive. Do other people think like that? Do they even notice if they do? Do they care? Have I ever thought something like that before and not realized it? Can I be that bigoted without noticing? Why did I even think that thought?

My prayers for a good recovery. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this portion of your life and I know I will continue to learn from them.