Thursday, May 11, 2006

Incompetence



Photo http://www.voltairenet.org/article128994.html

Opps! The other night I had a bad dream. In it I drove out to visit some very dear friends and in the dream they were none to happy to see me. As I said my goodbyes the hostility was only thinly veiled. As I attempted to start the vehicle I discovered that I had put the door key into the ignition, but when I looked the ignition key was not on my key ring!

Thankfully I don't have bad dreams often and I'm not particularly adept at dream analysis. One take on this particular dream might be: "close but no cigar." Certainly I feel that way often enough.

Via this post at Atrios and by way of The Washington Post I was alerted to a study, Unskilled and Unaware of It:
Incompetence at the extreme is a double-whammy, the authors declare: "Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it."
Oh my,are they talking about me?

At various times I've written essays as The Incompetent Gardener. As an aside I Googled "Incompetent Gardener" to see if there already were others. About the only reference I found was in a definition of deflowering, yeah that's what the incompetent gardener did to his lady's flowers. Really the idea is not to suggest how bad a gardener I am, but a relaxed approach to gardening akin to cottage gardens of yore.

No doubt my garden is weedy. Among the serious competitors to what I attempt to grow in it is Agropyron repens commonly known as Quackgrass; although I call it Witchgrass, and so do a lot of people in Europe, but here Witchgrass more often refers to this annual grass. Quackgrass develops rhizomes, roots that are actually horizontal stems growing under the ground. It's almost impossible to get rid of the stuff by digging because even a tiny broken pice of rhizome will quickly sprout a leaf and the grass grows rampantly. That my garden is infested so has given me a small appreciation of the metaphor of the rhizome among anti-capitalists and social software enthusiasts among others. The metaphor refers to a work by Deleuze & Guattari which I haven't read, and probably wouldn't understand anyway. Nevertheless, the Rhizomat Portal is worth a visit.

The impetus behind this blog is the idea that the Internet allows people from all over to collectively work together in a self-organizing fashion, Web 2.0 and all of that. I really feel incompetent when it comes to computers and the Internet.

This week I was helping a friend, a retired academic move. Yes, you guessed it: mountains of books! The day was almost comic in it's compelexity, as if anything that could go wrong did. My friend is a mentor to a teenager and late in the afternoon he helped us out. At the new apartment my friend has contracted with the local cable company for telephone, television and Internet. Before he accessed the Internet via Dial-up so he couldn't get online because his computer settings hadn't been changed yet. I don't know anything about older Macs but I located the setup wizard and tried my hand. However I couldn't get the ISP disc to run because the computer was missing some necessary files. The teen arrived while I was in the middle of fooling around with the computer. I went out to introduce myself and asked him to come back in to the computer room.

Whenever I run into computer issues of my own, I wistfully think how nice it would be to have a teenager in the house. This teen wasn't any more informed than I about Macs and he didn't know what to do any better than me. But it was so much fun solving this little puzzle with the guy. We talked about approaches and fooled around. We didn't succeed 100%, nevertheless were able to get online, download the missing file to run the ISP set-up disc, so things were working well enough that my friend could at least check his email.

Maybe I would have done as well if the teenager hadn't shown up, but I'm sure I would have been more anxious about the whole process. As it was, we were two guys both admitting knowing hardly anything about Apple-Macs, but shared the confidence that we could probably puzzle out the problem. I bet kids seem to be so good figuring all these modern conveniences out that so often baffle people my age, not because they are so competent, but rather that they don't fear incompetence so.

1 comment:

pingting said...

pingting calls the dream:

the mix up of the house key and car key is significant.
house keys open doors which we know everyday.
the house is permanent and fixed. it always stays
in the same place. a car is a "vehicle". it takes us places.
it moves around. it moves us around. the american ideal: home is where the heart is. automobile equates freedom. movement. independence.

generally it is thought, at least from the Jung school
of dream analysis, that everyone (person) in a dream
represents a (part) of self.

i liked your definition of imcompetence, as it pertains
to gardening. an imcopetent result is in the eyes of the beholder. one man's mess is another man's perfection.