Sideglances
by SARAH GREENE
sgreene@tatertv.com
May 31, 2012 | 573 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CAROLINA Alumni Review, published for ex-students of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has in its current issue a story of particular interest to friends and kin of my daughter, Sally.

Her husband, Paul Jones, is profiled in a lengthy article titled "The Geek Poet Strikes Back.”

Paul was one of the inventors of email 30 years ago, but now he is renouncing it.

The story begins:

“Our man is at his desk, checking his social networking sites. His long, wavy gray hair —for which he was inducted into the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists—falls over his turtleneck, just one eye-catching sight in an office tumbling with books and monitors and forgotten computers and one large, stuffed, purple-and-green dragon.

“He has no windows to open…He does not require them. Enough portals already exist in his own mind to birth any alternative universe he wishes, including one in which email no longer torments the human race.”

CONTINUING, we hear that “Jones lets loose his devilish, throaty laugh. As a published poet…he loves the comedic irony of this wink-wink moment with the audience...”

Writer Beth McNichol calls Paul “a certified technological nerd” whose project is to abolish email in favor of what he calls “faster, more interactive, more efficient forms of communication.”

His automated response to emails lists 20 alternate ways to connect, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, phone, text, IM and YouTube.

IN EFFECT a biography of Paul, the story goes back to his childhood as the oldest of five children. He was inspired by his grandmother, a portrait painter who wrote poetry on the side. In high school he published his poetry in an underground newspaper he put out with friends,

Too poor a speller to be an English major at UNC, he attended North Carolina State U. at Raleigh and graduated in the second class to include computer science majors.

In 1977 Paul went to work at the UNC Office of Information Technology and became an early promoter of the new Internet’s possibilities.

BY THE EARLY 1990s Paul won a grant from Sun Microsystems to host a site where Sun could distribute free software for education and research.

He saw “ an opportunity to create something much more original and far-sweeping: a digital library in which contributors from all over the world could distribute information for free. Software, yes, but also books, articles, poems, research, an Elvis fan site, anything publicly available. In October 1992, SunSITE, now called ibiblio and still directed by Jones—was born.”

Sally entered the story when, we are told, she met Paul in a poetry class at UNC. They married in 1990 and In 1993 their son Tucker was born.

AFTER Sally received her PhD degree in English from UNC in 1997 the family moved to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

“But UVA didn’t take. Greene realized Jones’ career was in Chapel Hill, and they returned—Jones to his old job as a lecturer and the director of SunSITE, and Greene for part-time legal research. (She would later serve two terms on the Chapel Hill Town Council—2003-11—making affordable housing and the homeless the benchmarks of her career.)”

Sally is now associate director of the Chapel Hill-based Center for the Study of the American South.

Paul teaches cyberspace courses as UNC clinical associate professor of information and library science, and of journalism and mass communication, as well as director of ibiblio.org.

And Tucker is completing a 9-month “bridge year” experience in Serbia, getting ready to enter Princeton University as a freshman this fall.

One of the four color photos of Paul in the attractive alum magazine, which has a photo of blooming pink dogwood on the cover, shows him turning his back on a computer screen centered by a white paper envelope.

No more email? No, not for him.
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