(I took the header picture of a Common Loon resting on a pond in Utah on its way north in June of 2015. It was in transition from winter to summer plumage.)

Translate - I dare you. Then make a comment on the funny errors the translator made.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Short thoughts on technology

Back from Spring Break, from a whole week spent away from computers (ok, except for a brief internet log-on in a hotel) - someone organized a shutdown day on the 24th, but I've gotta say, a shutdown week is even better!

I don't have internet access at home - I have to use bits of spare time while using the equipment at my work. For that reason, I'll probably only be able to post about once a week in the future, now that I've put up most of the stuff I had previously written.

So far I'm glad not to have the internet at home, because I already feel dependent enough on it as it is. And I don't ever want to lose sight of the fact that the "democratizing" internet is still a privilege only available to people who have the resources it requires: the democratizing effects of this medium are only available to a small portion of the world's population. But among those, it seems too easy to fall into the same trap set by every technology: the attitude (often unconscious) that those of us who use this technology are the people that matter, and those who don't are irrelevant. Think of phones (not even cell phones): tell me with a straight face that you won't instinctively flinch somehow if someone tells you they don't even have an old-fashioned rotary phone in their house: what's wrong with them?

Think of cars: you may know someone who doesn't have their own and who relies on others for transportation. If so, you probably have sensed the embarrassment that surrounds such a situation, whether felt by the person who doesn't have a car (what's wrong with them?) or those who have to be bothered to shuttle them around.

Technology is never neutral. A tool might be "neutral" in that it could conceivably be used in any number of ways, but the overwhelming pattern in human history is that tools are used not as tools but as technologies: instead of a tool being wielded by humans in human/humanistic/humane systems, the technology shapes or creates the new system that the flesh-and-blood humans are expected, if not compelled, to adapt themselves to.


Dr. Croc said...

More, I would say that tools such as these are active markers of social status.
In the past it used to be art that marked out social status (wealthier and more elaborate clothing, for one.)
Now that we have a society richer and more full of conveniences than available to Alexander the Great, the currency of exchange is luxury technology (although for the very elite, it still is, and probably will continue to be, art.)

Kim Siever said...

Several of the first years in our marriage were spent vehicle-less, so I know all about this. In our previous ward, we were often offered rides from people who felt bad for us. Same goes for my mission in Utah.

CStanford said...

dr. croc, you make a good point.

I also think that since America is supposed to be a classless society, social status is seen as everyman's due - there is a widespread reluctance to really face up to the realities of relative wealth and prestige.

Think of all the "premium", "deluxe", "select" etc. brands of consumer goods that are more-or-less generic - you can almost tell how cheap something is by how hard it tries to pass itself off as special.

kim, thanks for your comments. I didn't have a car until I got married, and for a while I didn't have a phone either. I'm sure most people in my singles ward thought I was wack (I'm sure the beard didn't help :) ).