Author Archives: Rob Cottingham

About Rob Cottingham

Political speechwriter for national leaders, provincial premiers and Vancouver mayors. Cartoonist behind Noise to Signal. Online engagement strategist since the days of dial-up modems. F2F humorist ("stand-up comic" for you old farts).

Rob Cottingham

30 Mar 2014

Why I’d make a lousy A&R guy: In pop music, “Let’s Do It Right Now (Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter)” charts, not “Whoa! I Think We’re Moving a Little Quickly. Let’s Slow Down, Take a Few Hours and Think Through the Implications. Can I Get You Some Mint Tea?”

The key to understanding me

Everyone has a different force lending direction to their lives. For some, a powerful sense of justice. For others, a yearning for deep personal connection.

Looking back on my movements over the past few hours, it’s hard not to conclude that the driving force in my life is a need to be near a functioning power outlet.

Mindful Technology Day, anyone?

Cave people with child. Man says: Sure, me think fire super cool. But me worry what it do to our brains.

A source request from today’s “Help a Reporter Out“:

In honor of March 7th’s National Unplugging Day, I am looking for the best ways for a family to unplug and also to talk to a therapist/ psychologist as to why it is so vital to a child’s development and for the family dynamic to go tech free as often as possible. Thanks in advance!

I’m not sure whether the reporter is pushing an agenda, or just takes it as read that Technology Hurt Family. Technology Bad. But geez.

By the way: which tech? How far back do we need to go before technology isn’t evil any more? Is the cut-off point the transistor, the vacuum tube, electricity, the printed word, fire…?

…Or is the question less technology itself, and more how we use it? That’s a more complex story, and doesn’t lend itself to short, sexy ledes. But I’d be happy to support a day devoted to using networked tech to strengthen our relationships. Mindful Technology Day, anyone?

Photo of an iPhone reading 'Me Me Me'

We’re a bunch of self-absorbed jerks, and it’s the Internet’s fault

I’m on the #22 Knight, heading downtown with a busload of fellow commuters. Nearly all of us have our heads bent down, staring and tapping away at our various mobile devices.

The isolation is striking, the few times I look up to notice it. This will probably be the largest crowd I spend this much time in today, and yet we’re utterly alone, once you discount the millions of people those devices connect us to.

It wasn’t always like this. Back when I was a university student, facing a daily commute of well over an hour, the bus was much more of a social venue. You’d strike up a conversation with whoever was sitting or standing next to you. Share photos from your vacations. Discuss, conceive and — on longer routes — raise children.

In the winter, there’d always be some resourceful scamp who would flood the aisle with a few inches of water, which (this being Ottawa) froze solid in seconds, and an impromptu skating party would ensue. In the summer, the bus would fill with the mouth-watering haze of passengers’ hibachis and kettle BBQs grilling burgers and hot dogs. Forgot to bring one? No problem — people always shared.

Some bus routes became known for their communities’ idiosyncrasies. The 25 Express was a philosophers’ cafe on wheels, with a series of guest lecturers paid through passenger donations. The 85 had a great street hockey game (and, rumor had it, was regularly scouted by savvy NHL teams).

But then came the Walkman, and then cell phones, and finally the coup de grace: iPhones and their ilk. Today most people can’t even remember a time when buses were abuzz with conversation, when elevators were the place to see and be seen, and when doctors’ waiting rooms doubled as ersatz discotheques. Projecting their Internet-era toxic isolation onto their own memories, they figure people just spent their time with their noses buried in newspapers, books or magazines. But I remember. I remember.

(I’d have more to say about this, but the jackass next to me keeps pestering me, asking what I’m writing. Some people.)

anger

So now I’m a meme.

There’s a lot I love about the web. And as passionate as I am about attribution and misappropriation, I’m still kind of smitten by the way an image can take on a life of its own.

Case in point: Back in 2007, my laptop was stolen. Mainly as catharsis, I posted these selfies from the webcam of the replacement computer: The five stages of grieving for your stolen MacBook. Continue reading