"Destiny uncovered when we double click1": Poems about Technology

Terri Kimiko Oda
oda@spacesim.org

A note about the works cited.

My generation often gets called the "net" generation. We are the children growing up in a world where you can send a letter to a friend across the world in less than a minute, just with a click of the mouse. We will never understand how long it took our parents to type a thesis on an old typewriter with no spell-checking or easy revisions. Everything becomes faster and faster, with the old things going obsolete much faster than ever before. When you buy a car, it might last ten years before you need a new one. When you buy a computer, it becomes ancient history before it even comes out of the box. Relationships are forged with complete strangers across the continent, entire societies of people who never see each other, just read each others words. Everyone becomes a number in a way which science fiction only hints at.

It is nearly impossible to get on the bus today without hearing someone talking about their new computer at work, or the server backups that failed, or the email they got from a co-worker yesterday morning or something related to our new technologies. News programs now all seem to contain a segement where they offer up recommended web-pages for browsing. Thousands upon thousands of books are being printed to help people cope with whatever new electronic gizmo has just come on the market. Listening to yet another person on the transit system got me wondering: If we, as a society, are so obsessed with our new technological toys, what kind of poetry do we write about them?

The media protrays only the black and white of the "internet." Either it is a wonderful, connectivity-bringing tool that joins together people who might never get a chance to meet, or it is a horrible place filled with pedophiles and teenagers with "no life" who talk about sex and bad television shows all night long (evil internet people, of course, sleep during the day and come out at night, like comic-book criminals). However, by looking at poetry it should be possible to glimpse this "society" from the inside and get an impression of what people see in their "new world".

Poetry about technology can be divided into several different categories:

  1. Poetry re-writing the words to famous poems or songs
  2. Original Poetry

So obviously there are many different types of poem about technology. What makes the poetry about technology differ from the media-hyped technology information? The major difference is the sensitivity and depth with which subjects are treated. Poets typically treat subjects differently from their prose-writing counterparts, and the move to electronic media has not changed that.

What do people write about when they write poetry about technology? They write about the same sorts of things that people write about when not referring to technology: Love, oppression, faith... but rather than keeping those poems hidden in a notebook somewhere, they can put them out for the world to see. It seems that poetry benefits nicely from technology[see note], even if the poets are divided on whether humanity benefits or not.