I was at a workshop in urban gardening. In this collective of people sharing an eagerness for ecological and economic sustainability, I experienced a situation that would have required a similar interest in cultural sustainability. In the break, with mint tea and home baked cookies, one of the facilitators – a 2 meter tall man – was engaged in a vivid conversation with one of the participants about home gardening, herbs, and other important issues. They stood right in front of the table with tea and cookies leaving very little space for the participants to serve themselves. Someone with basic skills in reading analogue information would now experience a flood of messages about potential movement and intention emanating from the participants fighting there way to the tea and cookies. The central characters noticed nothing, engaged as they were in ensuring the world’s food supply through urban gardening. Why didn’t they make room for the 10 – 12 people having a clear intention of getting to the table? And why didn’t anyone supply their analogue communication with a digital one, emitting the following line of phonemes: “excuse me, could you maybe step back, so that we can all get to the table?”. I suppose it’s because of shyness, or maybe nobody actually noticed anything?

In our culture, we use the body as a vehicle for bringing our brain to where we need it to engage in digital communication. If another brain-vehicle comes in our way, we either wait until it has moved by itself, or  – when pressured – resort to digital communication. “Could I get by, please?”. Our incapacity in reading the intentions and potential movements of the other is an example of what I would call analogue illiteracy.

“I have never experienced anyone belting before I have put the little divider up, but I can not abide people that feel the need to go heel-to-toe with me in a queue!

I have terrible anxiety and any sort of crowd or claustraphobic enviroment makes me pespire, shake and feel nauseous.

More than once I have had to dump my shopping and walk out because of some one literally breathing down my neck as if it is going to get them served any faster!

Claire L(571) on netmums.com

Not being aware of the other’s physical space, because you cannot read the other’s potential movements, is parallel to lacking awareness of the other’s mental space. Analogue illiteracy is threatening the physical and emotional well-being of people. It means wasting a lot of energy on unnecessary actions and detours. Being unable to attune to the situation, we develop overcompensating behaviour, and we all end up like Claire L.


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