I went to school back when technology was something people knew a lot about or a little, depending on what they did for a living. For example, the scientist, mathematician, artist, doctor or chef knew next to nothing about technology first-hand. Instead, they deferred to the philosopher, psychologist or economist to explain to them what tech was and where it was relevant. This may explain why doctors still know less about using technology than, say, a graphic artist. For the latter, like the architect, knowing how to use the latest technology is critical to what they do. For the physician, what is critical is what they know — what’s in their brains and how good they are at utilizing what they’ve learned/remembered from ‘practice’.
So tech has changed a great deal in 30 years. Even those of us who use all kinds of electronic tools or toys each day, and that’s everybody here, know very little about the back story to technology as we now live with it. Here is where a little animation might fit in nicely, if you’ve not seen some of the RSA animate talks on YouTube, check out the links at the bottom. Not to digress much, technology has provided a means for people to calm themselves, to feel a part of the bigger thing that’s going on and to have that sense of being in the know. But when you just check yourself out in the morning or evening or afternoon quiet, do you really believe you know what’s going on and what you are a part of? The reason why many of us don’t (if we’re honest), is that tech was never meant to provide these things to you. The objects of technology are meant to be treated objectively as a proxy for real experience–a surrogate. In that sense, a music and video player provides me with a substitute for the experience of sitting in front of a person playing a tune with people running around doing things while the music is playing. It’s stimulating to sit by a creek and simply hear the movement of the water rumbling along its path. All of my senses are stimulated by it. Not just my eyes and ears. What about my sense of touch, or smell and taste.
You know, space has a lot to do with technology. If you don’t have any space to stretch out in, you can make believe you do by just playing with a pocket device, like a portable game or music player. These provide a false feeling of ‘ok-ness;’ but then there’s the let down after using up all of the songs, the levels, the minutes, the something that is measured and usually priced. Unlimited minutes and data are great, though, aren’t they? That should do it. Why doesn’t it? Remember, I started by writing that technology is not well understood by those whom you would think use it the most. The artist, which I am not, understands the limits of technology quite well. She knows that tools extend her reach onto the canvas or with the raw material which she is about to fashion into an image that expresses … something. The computer and a program enables her to render more from her imagination than mere sticks and oils ever could. But she knows there is a creative cost for her excursion into the realm of surfeit tools and processed manipulations. Technology says what you can do. But who or what says you should do it? Did you get the memo; were your parents or mine asked whether we wanted easy access to friends and neighbors with the click of a button or the flip of a switch? There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it. It’s just that I did not order it or know it was on the menu.
Until now — or let’s say 20 years ago, we could see most things coming and decide if and when we wanted them to arrive at our doorstep. As it is today, we don’t know what is coming next; and if it arrives tomorrow in our inbox or as a tweet or a scroll on our wall, we will only be able to say OMG, right. Maybe because I’m old, I don’t see the value in having my sensibilities attacked constantly in this way. When you turn on the TV, you must have the remote handy or you are likely to be experience emotions that you aren’t prepared for. You must protect yourself, because we’ve lost control over the things that have been made. And our privacy is compromised, big time. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. People are not as comfortable with themselves as we used to be. So many may feel like they don’t particularly want to be alone, have waking time to themselves. The phone rings, there’s a text, a twit, a message all of the time. Makes you feel kind of special, until you look at it objectively. Look, I think it matters that you feel good about yourself. Go ahead and utilize all the tools and gadgets tech has provided us with to maintain that comfort. Just don’t forget that the thing is not the thing. Friends on face book are not friends in my living room or at my kitchen table or next to me on the beach. The latter folks never ask to be my electronic friend. They visit, call, and touch me in the old-fashioned ways.
Be like the artist. Use these fun things to get serious work done–for your school, your town and your planet. Check out websites like Open Culture, Kevin Kelly and TED to find out about real stuff. I mean, tech is great for looking out of your window (your eyes) and seeing what is happening everywhere. Then we have to decide how we are going to make a real difference in the real world, because the surrogates won’t.
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