Sunday, November 06, 2005

My name is Dara and I am a slave to technology

Tomorrow I have a two-page due on why, "New technologies are not improving the quality of our lives, they are making us slaves of technology." I'm not really sure what this has to do with mass communication theories, but I will leave that to another post. Of course, I don't believe the point of view that technology is evil, but I do believe in making an A in a class. G, one of my classmates, read the paper and thought I did a good job of meeting the paper requirements, but proving my side. For this reason, I thought I'd share.

I am a self-admitted technophile; almost 10 years of working with technology companies will do that to you. I think of most things in terms of technology. If I need to talk to my sisters about the holidays, I email them; if I want to check a local move time, I look it up online. It doesn’t help that I live in a city that is a technology hub and that most of my friends are also techies. I strongly believe that technology is a positive force in our lives. Still, I realize how easy it is to become a slave to technology.

Today we can be plugged in 24/7 and communication is at our fingertips. We can access email from work, school, home, and even the local sandwich shop, but this isn’t always a good thing as often we forget to unplug. I get home from class after 10 p.m. and my first urge is to check my email and see what I missed in the last four hours. I wake up in the morning and grab my laptop and get online before I get out of bed, reading the morning headlines and checking email. With my laptop and wireless Internet, I can be online anywhere at any time and when I’m not, I feel disconnected. In this way I have become a slave to technology.

The ease of accessibility and the immediate nature of technology is what make us slaves to it. When I started my career working at the corporate offices of Wal-Mart, we had a strict “sundown rule” which said all telephone calls had to be returned before leaving work. The thought was that if it was important enough for someone to pick up a phone and call you, then it was important enough for them to receive a call back. The Internet takes the thought out of communication. For example, I often get email questions from students that they could easily have found the answer to themselves by looking on Blackboard. This is not unique to students – in general, people would rather email someone for an answer instead of finding it themselves. Unfortunately, the receiver often feels that it is necessary to respond immediately. As I am working on this paper students email me with questions regarding their class projects. Not wanting to slow down their progress, I interrupt my writing to answer their questions, which actually slows my progress. Yet because it was a personal message to me, I feel like I have to respond now. This is another way I am a slave to technology.

Sometimes technology can become a crutch, becoming so engrained into our way of thinking that we can’t possibly imagine doing something without using technology. Last Thanksgiving Doug and I went to Little Rock to see my family. Doug was contracting for Dell and had a project report he had to finish that weekend. His laptop was configured so that he could only access the Dell network through a wireless connection. We didn’t see this as a problem because we thought that all bookstores and coffee shops had hot spots and we could just spend a day there. Unfortunately we found that there were very few hot spots in Little Rock. Even when we found one, Dell’s external network connection crashed. We cut our trip short, driving back to Austin late at night so Doug could go into the office to complete his report.

I am old enough to remember the days when we had only four television channels, microwave ovens were science fiction, and telephones were rotary dials. Maybe that’s why I appreciate it that now I can take my laptop into a coffee shop and sit for hours chatting with a friend on the other side of the globe. I believe that technology has allowed us to become less isolated and more connected to the world around us, but it is that convenience and connectivity has also enslaved us. It is almost too easy for us to communicate and allow others to think for us and provide us answers. Because of the immediate nature of technology, we are more likely to respond to communication as though it is urgent when it is not, and it is difficult for us to imagine completing a task without technology. Still, we must remember that the rise of technology has taken only a few years; perhaps if we give it a few more, we will learn how to make technology work efficiently for us instead of us working for technology.

1 comment:

Rusko Elvenwood said...

I enjoyed this 'paper'. I am not of the belief that technology itself is evil. We use it to our advantage as much as possible. At my office I don't even have a file cabinet anymore. All forms and papers are electronically archived and backed up daily. Think of the trees we're saving!
I wouldn't say I'm a slave to technology, but I am posting this from my bathroom on my laptop ;)