On route to the airport on Monday (in what seems like a month ago!) I thought that I had left my cell phone at home. We tried to call the phone and couldn’t hear it. I enlisted my Aunt Jill to go to the house to look for it. When she couldn’t find it, I called it again and this time, we heard it –muffled deeply in my purse. Twenty minutes of panic, during which I (not so calmly) contemplated how I could get the phone to Florida, and more importantly, how I could possibly manage until it arrived.
This wasn’t the first time that I have considered technology in reference to General Conference. In January, I stayed at the same hotel that we are staying now and learned that the internet connection is $15 a day (and then only available when you are in the room and it is WIRED so requires extra equipment to use wireless devices such as my IPad). The General Conference is offering wireless service in the plenary room, also for a charge ($50 for the entire 10 days). This, of course, is only available in the convention center. A few months ago, I purchased a wireless hotspot for which you can purchase data plans which run for a month at a time, and purchased the largest plan for this month. This runs on a 3G network, and seems to work pretty well, albeit slow.
All this is to comment on how dependent we’ve become on our technology. Text messages are how I know I’m missing a meeting, how I make lunch plans, how I find out what’s happening in another committee (because I don’t get twitter on my phone). So, the issue of commnication has been an important one – though not official — at the general conference. For example, delegates from Africa are very cellphone dependent. They essentially skipped the landlines and went directly to cellphone use. However, their phones do not work here and they are dependent on wireless communications. Because of the costs of wireless, they are really without communication.
We have been asked to make posts to the conference tumbler account, and I fully intended to, but not having easy access to the internet means that when I do have a chance, I need to answer email, and other assorted work tasks. So, my efforts to get something written and uploaded have been limited.
When I went to GC in 2008, I did not yet have a texting package on my phone. I’m not sure I even understood wireless. I did, however, have free hardwired internet in the room. On my ride in from the airport this year, a young delegate was complaining that the Commission had picked a place that didn’t have wireless internet. I reminded him that the selection was made in 2006. He told me (perhaps rightly) that that was early enough that we should have anticipated the need.
Years and years of General Conference went on with so few changes and now technology has us all on the edge. (To say nothing of our multi-media, multi-sensory worship experiences!) It makes me feel a bit old and way too slow.