Media, Technology, and Education

Technology in our Lives

On a flight back from England recently, two college-aged women sat in front of me.  I overheard one of the women say to the other that she doesn’t like technology.  This seemed to me to be quite an ironic statement as we sped above the earth at an altitude of 40,000 feet and a ground speed of 450 miles per hour using technology that has changed the way humans live on the planet.

I’m pretty sure she meant that she doesn’t like information technology, not technology in general.  Pretty sure.  In any case, I think it’s become fashionable to dislike “technology.”  I think that when someone claims to not like technology, they actually mean that they dislike certain activities related to technology, rather than the technology itself.  Checking and sending email, for example, can be a tedious process, especially if you don’t really understand what you’re doing so that you’re kind of lost if things don’t work as expected.  In fact, I’d bet that much of the dislike of technology use has to do with situations when the technology gets in the way of what you’re trying to do. 

This has long been a pet peeve of mine, actually.  Technology should be a tool to help people accomplish tasks.  It should be intuitive to use and allow people to work in the way that makes the most sense to accomplish their tasks.  Too often, however, the technology drives people to complete tasks in ways that are counter-intuitive or difficult to remember.  For example, I have recently been trying to change my address for my bank.  It has taken me over a year, many phone calls and several visits to the bank.  The problem has been the software system that the bank uses.  There are several addresses stored for each customer, requiring duplication of information in a variety of places.  This kind of redundancy is a huge no-no in software design.  And yet, over and over again, we see it.  So when the manager of the bank changed my address in one place, she forgot to change it in several others and in fact, didn’t even know one of those other places existed.  On my third visit to the bank, another manager happened to know about this last place where my address was stored.  So I hope it’s now changed.  It shouldn’t have been as difficult as it was to make the change.  It’s stuff like this that makes people claim that they hate technology.

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I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.

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