6B WednesdayMarch14, 2012 // The Statement
How Gchat can (dis)connect
By Jacob Axelrad
Friend: are you busy after 8 tonight?
Me:I can't do it today
I'm like doing some stuff
And by that I mean reading and sleeping
Friend:HAHAHAH it'll just take like 45
minIcan meet you infishbowl even
we need to get this taken care of
Me: Sleep is a thing humans have to do once
every four days
I'm duefor my sleep
Let's talk about how we talk.
Or, rather, how we "chat" here at the Uni-
versity, an environment where things are
easily pushed to the periphery - class melds
with work which melds with the party you
attended last weekend in a series of conver-
How do you gather the pieces, strike a
balance? Maybe it's right there, in the same
place you go while procrastinating on that
paper, surfing the web in lecture or killing
time at work: Gchat.
Constantly plugged in
You sign in to Gmail to check an e-mail
from a professor. All of a sudden, your friend
sends you a message:
Friend:I MISS YOU!
Just like that, you've inserted yourself into
the Angell Hall of the Internet, the green dot
next to your name in the lower left corner of
your Gchat page signaling your availability
to speak. You've opened yourself up to con-
Me: I MISS YOU TOO
sorry i couldn't go to detroit this weekend
i heard you saw emily
Friend: no worries!
come another time!!
yeah she came saturday
Me: i want to see you!
At times, it feels like half our lives are
spent sending e-mails for classes, for jobs
or for internships. Gehat prolongs that cor-
respondence into an endless stream of con-
versation, supplying the potential to talk to
whomever, whenever, about whatever.
Most of the conversations are unremark-
able - throwaway. They're about what you
want to eat for dinner and why you still
haven't started that Anthro paper.
But Gehatting also provides the arena for
intimacy, a place where one's deepest revela-
tions of love and loss are exposed in the com-
fort of one's own home.
"You can Gchat in bed," Elizabeth Gum-
port, a senior editor of the literary magazine
Friend:Hey how was your date last week?
Me: Um it was okay
Me: The conversation was kind of one sided.
Not a lot of chemistry
But who knows really?
It's probably too early to tell
Gchat fosters new relationships and sus-
tains existing ones. University alum Jeffrey
Domsic did not talk to his long-distance girl-
friend from Denver on the phone. He chat-
ted with her instead. For the three years he
was in Ann Arbor up until his graduation
from the University last year, the burden of
never seeing her was eased by Google Chat.
"Without social media, I don't think (the
relationship) would have worked," Domsic
said. "Without being able to stay in touch as
much as social media allows us to, it wouldn't
work. We don't have the personalities to be
able to handle it."
In her article "Chathexis," which was
published in n+l last August, Gumport likens
Gehat to a 21st century French salon - tradi-
tionally comfortable, informal gatherings of
intellectuals during the Enlightenment.
"The best Gehat conversations take place,
like those of the salon, with one or both
participants in repose, stretched out on a
couch or in bed. Tucked beneath our covers,
laptops propped on our knees - is this not
the posture most conducive to meaningful
Gchatting?" Gumport writes in the article.
In an interview, Gumport described Gchat
as a means to bring people together online in
a way that's reminiscent of more personal
On Gehat, the conversations are one-on-
one. They are leisurely. No one wears a title,
just a name. The participants are on an equal
"There's this sense of equality and possi-
bility to me that seems kind of unique,"Gum-
And late at night, Gchat returns philoso-
phy to the bedroom - the pallid glow of the
laptop screen becoming romantic and mys-
"Which perhaps is why so many of us feel
our best selves in Gchat," Gumport writes.
"Silent, we are unable to talk over our friends,
and so we become better and deeper listen-
ers, as well as better speakers - or writers .
We have time to express ourselves precisely,
without breaking the rhythm."
Hoarding the past
We can return to these conversations, the
evidence of the day you were craving Thai
food archived in a neat tab on your browser.
Gumport's second idea is the theory of
Gchat as a secretaire, a locked 17th century
writing desk used by women to store letters.
The secretaires served as private reposito-
ries of correspondence, proof that the dia-
logues between individuals existed. But
in order to access these conversations, the
secretaire requires a password, a secret key.
Gchat operates in much the same way -
the passwords acting as key grooves inserted
into a lock; a quick search of your conversa-
tion partner's name retrieving entire dia-
logues from your inbox. In a sense, we are
hoarders of the ephemeral.
But what happens when the data exceeds
the storage capacity, when we can no longer
return to those conversations with friends
we've come to rely upon? What happens
when Google employs the first major use of
the delete key?
As School of Information Prof. Paul Con-
way says, you can only hold onto the past for
so long. Sooner or later, something must give.
Citing a study carried out by the market
intelligence firm International Data Corpo-
ration, "The Diverse and Exploding Digital
Universe," Conway explained that the model
of "saving everything forever" is unsustain-
2007, the year the study was performed,
was the first year in recorded history
where the total amount of digital informa-
tion exceeded the digital storage capacity,
according to the study. And almost half of
the digital universe was projected to be inca-
pable of being adequately stored by 2011. In
a follow-up study in 2011, IDC reported that
the world would create 1.8 zettabytes of
The study also says the amount of personal
data that gets stored, like the kind generated
on PCs and MacBooks, "exceeded all expec-
tations in 2007." In essence, consumers are
just beginning to understand the need to
preserve information when it may already be
Conway believes this phenomenon will
soon affect users of social media such as
Gehat and Facebook.
"Its kin d of like
being under house
arrest. What could
of Gchat? Kind
of nothing, right?
Because all your
friends are there,
your work is there,
there's nothing out-
side. And that's sort
of the sour side of it."
-Elizabeth Gumport, n+ 1 senior
"We've passed the point at which digital
information that's created exceeds the abil-
ity to store it," he said. "We're getting to a
point where a decision has to be made about
what gets stored and what doesn't. And then
the question becomes 'Well, who makes that
decision? And under what circumstances?"'
In a manner similar to the practice of
accessing old banking records, in the next
few years you may be required to put in a
request to access old photos and online con-
versations. This means childhood memories
won't necessarily be stashed underneath
your bed at home, Conway said. They may
very well be locked away in a database.
"You write your mother for fifth grade,
but you write Mark Zuckerberg for 2004," he
said. "He's got it. It's over there in a folder.
He'll send it to you if you want to see your
(Facebook) posts from college.
"You'll get them. But you're going to have to
ask. And worse, you're going to have to pay."
The external self
But is this necessarily a bad thing? When
faced with the choice between keeping every
Gehat conversation and wall post in your
See GCHAT, Page 7B
Wedneday, 012 - - en- 3
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To honor Peyton Manning, at Starbucks this morning I
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a week of daily stories
learning about pride week
[status update] by jordan rochelson
Tell me about the rally on the Diag that happened
last Monday for Pride Week.
it's on annual event just to kind of bring excitement to the
campus community and be a visible presence as LGBT
students on campus.
Do you feel like you have the student body's support?
Last year, with the whole Chris Armstrong debacle, it
definitely felt like the student body was behind us, but
a lot of times that support isn't necessarily visible.
Are people on campus aware of LGBT issues?
In Ann Arbor, we like to think of ourselves as like "Oh
Michigan, a really liberal campus." But that doesn't mean
that things don't happen.
If you were running for president, what would
your slogan be?
TH E ruleS
The Michigan men's basketball team
received an invitation to the NCAA tourna-
ment Sunday. Their first game will be against
Ohio Friday night in Nashville.
Last Thursday, Bothaina Kamel, an Egyp-
tian presidential candidate, visited campus.
Kamel focused her address on female equal-
ity and activism.
Historian of LGBT Commission, CSG
know more about
the history of St.
Fratty's Day than
St. Patty's Day.
The Holy Grail is
easier to find than
a paid summer
The kid writing on a"
tablet with a stylus
will most certainly
make more money
than you one day.
The Michigan hockey team swept a two-
game series with Notre Dame to earn a trip
to the ccHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena.
SHEI Magazine held a fashion show at Sava's
State Street cafe last Saturday. The event
raised over $1,500 for the Women's Center
for Southeastern Michigan.