Mini Portrait_K: The Global Finn and the Virtual Universe

Leave a comment

This is a part of a set of selected, wonderful and insightful, observations about digital living from our NYC pilot interviewees. Read their experiences of a digital diet here, and their visions of a digital future here.

Note that these mini portraits are just initial ‘samples’. There’s so much interesting material to be processed and analysed. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much, K!

The Global Finn, interviewed in NY, on his way from Vegas to Europe:

“The links [in today’s digital world] are so many that to build the real power you have to understand them.”

Crossing That Digital Border

“My digital life begun at the University of Technology in the late 80s when I was working there as a graduate assistant. I have used online banking since and that to me is a landmark. It’s also there that I begun to use email, as in a communication modality for a larger group of people. We had a great group working at the Uni and we would also play online games together.

So it was, like 1988, 1989 when my digital life shifted to a whole new level. The Internet wasn’t developed content-wise yet but it made my life easier.  And I was more daring then than today, I tried new things (laughs) and I remember I posted something on a bulletin board. So one of the other grad students, a friend of mine, sent me an email to congratulate me: “Great, now you’re on the map too!” 

I think that those bulletin boards were, like Facebook today… that you need to cross a certain border in order to understand the meaning and the seriousness, or the rules of how to act and not act.

I got my first mobile phone around 1991, through work. But GSM, texting and all that came later. At that point, using mobile phones was much more expensive… For me, that wasn’t so revolutionary. Needless to say, now it would be difficult to think a life without cell phones, so that you wouldn’t be reachable nonstop.”

When India’s Not Burning

[K works for an Indian company with a global presence. He lives in Finland.]

“I start my mornings (in Helsinki) by checking my emails on my Blackberry – at that point the day has already begun in India. If India’s not burning I can have a cup of tea. I don’t read the newspaper. The problem is that whatever is there I’ve already seen online, nothing’s new. Newspapers for me are Sunday afternoon entertainment. Actually, the first thing I do when I open my PC is to look at the news first. Both political and national, and then more like business related, so there are a few sites I’m following regularly.

I’m mostly following Finnish sites, and the reason is: I can trust them. It’s funny but there’s still this suspicion. I spoke about this with a (Finnish) friend who lives in San Jose (in the US). He says that his family, they are Swedish-speaking, they are reading Finnish and Swedish sites because they know who publishes the news. In that way, the old media have an advantage. I don’t know where my (teen-ager) son goes for news and whom he trusts, but for me the old media is important in this way.”

The Concrete, Virtual Universes

“Then I go to work and I do altogether 2-3 hours global videoconferencing, I also review presentations, I comment contract and proposal drafts, I send them back and forth (via email). I manage a team (for my company) but they are where they are. I don’t get to meet with them often, we may have one physical meeting with my European team a year.  But that’s also related to the Indian mentality (of the parent company) and their reluctance to finance lots of travel.

For leisure… well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sick and tired of reality TV and yet I follow a couple of them… I love cooking shows but unfortunately 80% is that reality stuff, and the rest cooking.

When I go to India (for work) I buy a lot of spices. Right now I want to buy the seeds and grind them at home because then the aroma is better. So, say, I have  bought these and these spices and the question is, what can I do with them. So then I google, say, garam masala, if I’ve made that spice mix, and chicken, if I want to cook something like that. And then I’ll find a lot of options. So at the moment I don’t use cook books at all.”

Digital Media and Structures

“I think that what digital media has done to structures is highly interesting. We used to live in a hierarchical world,with a clear structure. If you look at most of the first websites, or most of the corporate websites, they were hierarchies. Whereas… now, the way we finds things… I don’t know what to call that… It’s a chaotic mix to all directions. And what that is teaching is a new order for the world.

The Web is not a hierarchy, neither is Facebook, and I think this indicates a shift, how to widen your mind, your thoughts of the world. [The world] is not a hierarchy, there’s not a single point where, well, you could think that, “if I have this power then I’m the big guy.” So it may not be so. And the links are so many that to build the real power you have to understand them.”

Mini Portrait_DSS and Diminishing Geographical, Cultural Distances

Leave a comment

This is a part of a set of selected, wonderful and insightful, observations about digital living from our NYC pilot interviewees. Read their experiences of a digital diet here, and their visions of a digital future here.

Note that these mini portraits are just initial ‘samples’. There’s so much interesting material to be processed and analysed. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much, DSS!

Diminishing Geographical, Cultural Distances

Political Economy of a Life in Two Countries

“It’s been more than 10 years that I’ve lived in 2 countries that are far apart, India and the US. I came here to do my Masters in International Political Economy so I have a great interest in the world.

When I first came here (to the US) it was so expensive to communicate with my family, to make a phone call. And it was even more expensive for them to call, so we would have to ration calls, and they would call me and then I’d call back… But we would email a lot more.

But now that there are all these call centres in India and all the services that Indians do, so basically what companies did was they put up all these fiber optic cables to help communication. They made them also available to people to make calls. So now my calls to India are, well, it’s practically like making a local call (in the US). And it’s same for my family in India so now we talk all the time!”

Digital, Global, Professional Turning Point

“I don’t know if there was any one point in my life, I’ve taken up digital technology gradually… It (smart phone) gives me a lot of freedom, to run errands, and if something comes up I can respond immediately.

But in a way the turning point is coming right now. In my company, everybody’s paying more attention to what’s happening outside of America, especially in the high-growth countries outside the West. So they are very interested in me being the bridge between that world and this (US) world.I just completed a collection of article on China and am now moving on to researching and writing about Africa.

Because of technology  I can be anywhere and

send information here, or I’m here and in touch with a lot of people elsewhere and it’s all very quick and easy. We do a lot of videoconferencing, but now even that’s a little old, our offices have Skype…

So I’m feeling this digital change more in my career than personally – I still want to see my family. A Facebook interaction with them is not enough. But professionally, it’s great. Probably all this will allow us (DSS and husband) spend a lot of time in India, my husband has had similar conversations at work…”

Appreciation for Multicultural Identity

“I think companies have now great appreciation for people who can function in more than one culture. Because, you know, the previous generation of people who would come from places like India — where there was no economic opportunity there – here people would not understand anything and thing, oh, these people are just desperate immigrants. There was this pressure to assimilate all the time.

Now, there’s not. Now you can be your own person and it’s and advantage because people know more. They are more connected. In that way, I feel helped by technology!”

iPad Afficionado

(On being global, on being mobile …)

“Books and music are always the most heaviest… I’m thinking, when everything is in this (iPad), how easy it is!”


Mini Portrait_H: Constantly Responding and Receiving

1 Comment

This is a part of a set of selected, wonderful and insightful, observations about digital living from our NYC pilot interviewees. Read their experiences of a digital diet here, and their visions of a digital future here.

Note that these mini portraits are just initial ‘samples’. There’s so much interesting material to be processed and analysed. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much, H!


Constantly Receiving and Responding


“I’m on all the time. There’s a way that I’m aware of … I mean it’s either that I’m anticipating someone to communicate with me or I feel like I have to respond.”

Distance and Closeness, Technology-Driven

“I was really slow in getting into digital technology. I was the last one to get a cell phone… But when I moved to Australia (from the U.S., 1996) I wanted to stay in touch with my family and I would go to the library (to use the computer) and write letters, like really long letters, and through those letters my mom and I would get closer, become more interested in each others’ lives. And my mom has kept them all. They’re amazing.

So that’s when I started to appreciate email but it was still about writing letters. And when I moved back (to the U.S.) I was still slow to take up the Internet, but the speed was slow too. But now that I have the iPhone, I feel like (my internet use) has really magnified… And then I made a film about the Internet and now I’m really fascinated by it.”

Work and Leisure of Sharing

“I’m always watching things, like things that people send me. But that’s also kind of great because that’s how I find out about things that are happening. That’s a thing about Facebook: Now there are people I follow because I know they post interesting videos, links to interesting art shows…

It’s interesting how culture gets now transmitted through these channels, people emailing: ‘Did you see this?’ And then I send it to 20 people, that’s sharing and that’s exciting because there are so many wonderful things being made…

All over, people are using social networks for activism… I’m enthralled, but not only because of the Facebook aspect of it, but because of the organization, I guess that… they use these tools, all these ways of sharing, like in Egypt, they shared with the rest of the world this incredible imagery of revolution that was so positive!

I’m thinking (in terms of the U.S. and the Western world), if we would have more ownership of these (digital communication) networks themselves, if they were more local, like neighborhood networks, would that then promote more participation?”

Routines and Being Present

“I usually turn off my computer at 10 (at night), otherwise I get anxious… and so (in the morning), because it takes time I turn on my computer and make coffee.

I spend a lot of time responding to emails, like the past year, it has gone up so much. I think it’s my job, people communicate via email a lot, but also now I have the iPhone and people know I can be reached… I don’t have to respond right away, but I want to, like, ‘let’s get this out of the way’.

A part of this is useful, a part of it is that I always have something to do. If I’m sitting in a park I’m not really relaxing, I’m checking my emails…

So you’re always on, but not present, so your mind is in another space. That’s something I want to get better at, being present.”

Mini Portrait_S: Finding a Digital Balance for the Family

Leave a comment

This is a part of a set of selected, wonderful and insightful, observations about digital living from our NYC pilot interviewees. Read their experiences of a digital diet here, and their visions of a digital future here.

Note that these mini portraits are just initial ‘samples’. There’s so much interesting material to be processed and analysed. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much, S!

Finding a Digital Balance for the Family

Family Expertise

“It must have been 2nd or 3rd year of studies when I still wrote my papers with a typewriter, 1986, 87 when we did the 2nd year seminar… Maybe it was the next year or the following (that I started to do work with computer) it was actually a really long time before I took it up…

And it was 1993, when we started our cross-Atlantic life, then we had a laptop. But that’s because my husband’s father, he used to be a professor of computer science, and my husband used to be a computer science major… But that means I’m not capable of installing anything, I never had to do it! I code, I do all that (for my studies, field of expertise) but I always had the expert at home.”

Old and New

“We have a landline, and I’m not giving it up… We keep it because it’s cheaper to call (our families) abroad. It’s sometimes Skype but mostly phone. I just talked to my brother for 2 hours yesterday. He finally managed to get Skype but of course it didn’t work, he tried to chat with me on Facebook — I had it open but wasn’t by the computer —  so we talked on the phone.

I think I only got my first mobile by 1999 or 2000. At that point it was getting really inconvenient if one didn’t have one.

But I held to an old black-and-white screen one for the longest time, just because I didn’t give a damn whether I can listen to music with it. And it used to be such a joke amongst my students, I used to teach (economics) at the time, they would have all these phones that would do this and that, make cookies, and we would talk about necessities and luxury goods. As I mother of 2 I just needed a phone!

As for the school (of my kids), it’s staggering how much paperwork travels back and forth. We do get a weekly email from school. And to sign up for the Parent-Teacher conference online (that I just did) was a new thing. But the best way to reach my kids’ teachers is to send them a note with the kids.”

Joy of Virtual Prizes

At one point during the interview, the children are wondering what to do while the adults are talking:

Boy: “Mom, I can do that kid’s math thingy?”

S: “OK, we’ll do your reading response afterwards.”

Minna: “Is math better than reading?”

S: “Yes… they have this online thing where they do math and then they get online prizes.. and then they’re like, ‘oh! I did it! I got it!’ We’ll show you that. And it’s amazing, it really is such a joy when they get a virtual elephant.”

(…Logging in, in the study)

S: “What was the password? Let me ask my daughter…

They (my daughter’s class) are studying multiplication and she does it in class and writes it down and when she’s done studying she goes (online) and tests it and plays with it. I think we’ve had this (math) programme, it’s something we actually pay for, for maybe 6 months.”

(Boy is playing and makes a mistake, a typo)

S: “Oh no… it was just a typo, now it takes 9 points away… That’s the problem with computers. There’s no flexibility.”

Favourite Thing

“The thing for us is that, of course everybody has a certain amount of gadgets but actually, you know, I’m still reading regular newspapers, we have a whole rack of magazines, it’ll take a while before we’ll get a rid of bookshelves!

Just to go to a coffee shop with my New York Times, that’s luxury!”


Mini Portrait_EF: Connected and Collaborating

Leave a comment

This is a part of a set of selected, wonderful and insightful, observations about digital living from our NYC pilot interviewees. Read their experiences of a digital diet here, and their visions of a digital future here.

Note that these mini portraits are just initial ‘samples’. There’s so much interesting material to be processed and analysed. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much, EF!

Connected and Collaborating

Close Personal History of a Digital Native

“Well when I was in 2nd grade I got my 1st phone but none of my friends had one, so I didn’t really use it, but when I got to like 4th or 5th grade I found out there’s a thing called IM and that’s when I technically started chatting with friends online and stuff.

First I had the LG flip phone and then a Nokia flip phone and then the iPhone. Most of my friends have iPhones or Blackberries.”

Digital Day

“Right now, I’m in Computer Tech so that’s my first period of the day (at school). I just use the Internet during the day but my chatting begins exactly when I get home from school, or, maybe, on the bus I text.

There are a couple of friends who are online a lot, like me, so then I’m usually talking to them, about 10 people go online there (iChat) but at school texting-wise, maybe 25 +.

When I went on the media diet they (my friends) were like, ‘where were you? I missed you!’ One of my friends texted me like 200 text messages! She was wondering where I was, she was bored, and hadn’t heard from me… But I couldn’t do the 24 hours because I had to do my schoolwork.”

Connected, Collaborating

“(My friends and I), we do homework a lot together. We videochat and if we have a problem we try to work it out together.”

[Amelia notes: “Well, I guess I used to do that… When I was in high school the Internet was just starting and we didn’t have cellphones or anything but I used to call my best friend every night and we would do our math homework together.”]

“I feel connected. I just have to go to the kitchen and turn on my computer and even though it takes a lot of time, to do homework and figure out a problem (with friends, online) it’s easier that way, if my mom’s at work and can’t help me.

There’s a difference between here (the US) and Europe (in terms of media use). For instance, I noticed that here, even if you’re at the dinner table you could be texting, but there you wouldn’t be. But they still text. I don’t think they use iChat and stuff.”

Privacy and Time

“In the future, everything’s growing so fast now that we have the iPad we will probably be able to iChat on it, you can probably just do that on the bus or something.

As for Facebook, some people think it’s very easy to stalk people there so some people don’t use it so much, so they’ve gone away from it.

And also, just like spending the time (on Facebook)… Even though it has so many applications, like games or whatever, but the things you could do is to put picture on your profile and people comment on them, so it’s sort of getting like too much…”