Critical, creative and digital writingEcriture critique, créative et numérique

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You may not know it, but the etymology of telecommunication is a blend of Latin and Greek: Communicatio, in Latin, means "the process of sharing"; Tele-, in Greek, means "far off". Telecommunication, then, is the process of sharing a message with someone who is not directly in our presence. You may wonder how telecommunications are related to the notion of organism and environment. In simple words, I argue that the technology of communication at distance tends to make us forget our actual surroundings to the profit of a representation of an absent surrounding. That's what the tele- is all about, and it has been a huge advancement in the history of humankind. Think of the development of trade and commerce for instance, of finance, of entertainment and arts. All have substantially benefited from telecommunications. Now try to think of contemporary societies without banks, without television, without the internet, without factories in South Asian countries. Think of what you would not do without the telephone! The development of telecommunication epitomises the monstrosity of progress! And yet, despite all its advantages, telecommunication has one downside. It is not inherent to it, but comes from our use of it, or rather our lack of consideration for the impact of telecommunication on the organism-environment–also called the human-world–relationship. Because of the profusion of information related to absent–or virtual–environments, to worlds that we have no direct bodily access to (a profusion provided by telecommunication), our physical environments tend to lose attractiveness. We take it for granted that what we see on TV, what we read on the Internet, what we hear on the radio, are more here than the ground we walk on, the air we breathe, the walls we constantly see. Telecommunicated entities are "more here" because by definition they are things to be shared proactively (remember the definition of communication?), whereas our environment is not meant to be shared, it simply is. Telecommunicated messages form a simulacra of environment, a simulation that for many of us ultimately replaces the actual thing. This situation is not automatically a problem. It becomes one when we forget what is behind telecommunication, what telecommunication needs to function (think of the plastic and metallic components of electronic devices, think of the fossil fuels burnt for physical transportation and of the electric energy for virtual transportation) and what it does to the direct surroundings of many humans (think of deforestation, of the construction of dams, of electromagnetic waves, of nuclear pollution that we tolerate because they allow us to telecommunicate). It also becomes a problem when telecommunication is all that's left, when social interaction is reduced to pixels of light, when the stasis of the computer replaces the dynamism of outdoor games. In those cases, telecommunication is no longer "the process of sharing at a distance", but the simulation of living a life somewhere else. The removal from one's environment is the chief reason for the lack of care for it. Why bother watching what we do to our surroundings, if we don't even know what they are or if we unconsciously ignore them? That is why we must get to know the differences between the tele-environments of the age of communication and the actual environments that we continuously shape in the process of living. Telecommunication should remain a message shared over a distance, and should not become a simulated life of a would-be human in an immaterial world. Your physical environment should be the main focus of your attention, not simply the TV, the computer screen or the smartphone. It is only if we all re-become organisms interacting within a physical environment that we can really want to–and thus will really want to–care for it!