Some Random thoughts on Technology- (thing 5?)

Yes, I know I’m out of order here, but I’m way behind, and Deirdre’s post inspired me – as did rummaging around trying to see what I could do with the earlier Things! That was what really got me started. In order to join Flickr, I had to get a Yahoo ID. And I already have so many IDs on the internet! It gets difficult to keep track of them. Is getting a Yahoo ID equivalent to getting an email account? I already have quite a few of those, as well, and, after all, I’m only one person. Why do I need all these IDs? 


What I mean is that I’m finally starting to understand why some people are resistant to technology. I love the internet; I think it’s really cool, and I like to browse around, get and send emails, write posts, watch movies – all that neat stuff that you can do. But, in order to do anything creative (post pictures, movies, music, and so on) it seems like you need to get an ID – and how many IDs can one person keep track of?

I’ve also read about the anonymity of the internet, and how some people can be very rude to others because, after all, they are not talking to them face to face. And,since starting my first blog, I’ve actually experienced a little of that, though not here from my fellow librarians! But it is possible to create a second – or third, or fourth – persona for yourself on the web, and to react to people in a way you never would in real life. I’m not sure what I think about that. To me, one of the best and most powerful things about the net is how you can express yourself and share ideas with friends – and with strangers who may become friends. I also love the way the net can empower ordinary people by giving them a voice. Civilians reporting live from trouble spots, citizens (like AKM of the mudflats site and many others) blogging about politics – all of this gives us a new level of information to receive and respond to. But, if there are people out there putting out lies, or pretending to be someone they are not – and there are – that’s kind of scary. And, along with the empowerment and the freedom, we have a new level of responsibility to evaluate what we are reading and where it comes from. As librarians, we also need to teach our patrons to do the same. That’s a very big task.


Another thing that drives me nuts about technology is built-in obsolescence – especially the sort that gets us to part with more of our hard-earned money. I expect many of us, in the past five years, have had to either (1) buy a computer to do some of the things we wanted/needed to do, or (2) buy a new computer because our old one could no longer keep up with the demands we were making of it. Some of us may also find that we “need” to do things that, five or ten years ago, we would never had thought of. In my case, it’s filming and editing movies and writing songs. Those activities were definitely driven by software. Apple came out with iMovie about eight or nine years ago. ITunes began to be sold at the same time – and then we got Garageband, and then we got similar programs for Windows users. All of a sudden, a lot of us became directors and composers – and it was fun! Like being a kid again! Only, honestly, even in these high-pressure times, kids have fewer responsibilities than adults, and a lot more energy. 

And we need to think about what we really need any given piece of tech to do for us. Some of you have seen the little green notebook I bring to meetings. emateThat’s an Apple eMate – essentially, a piece of dead technology, except that a group of Apple Newton fans on the web won’t let it die. And why should they? The Newton was, and still is, absolutely terrific at what it was designed to do – notetaking, calendar-keeping, drawing sketches and simple graphs. The eMate was part of that platform designed specifically for schoolkids, and it’s really a great portable word processor. As with iMovie, the software gets out of the way and lets you work. The best portable word processor is still a notebook and pencil – yes, I’ve got one of those, too, and use it all the time. But, for situations where you need more speed (I type faster than I write), or where you know you will want to get information to a computer to email it to others, my little eMate still rules. It rules precisely because it’s so basic and sturdy. No frills, no fuss, nothing to break. An equivalent modern machine is the alphasmart, and thousands of those are being sold as I type this. It’s just a note-taking machine – that’s all it does, really, and that’s why many schoolkids and writers love it.

What I’m saying here is that I think we need to consider whether we are driving tech development, or whether we are letting it drive us. What, exactly, do we want to do with our technology? What technology has enhanced our lives, and what tech has made it more cumbersome and difficult? 

I’m not a luddite, really. In fact, I suspect some people might think me a geek! But I don’t believe in throwing out things that are still useful just because they are old. I think we need to be wary of doing things just because we can, or because they are new and shiny, or because everyone else is doing it. We need to drive the technology, and not let it drive us. 

(That said, I love iMovie and iTunes and Garageband – and, of course, blogging! But those things do take up a lot of time – especially if you go on and on the way I tend to. Looking forward to comments and argument-)


2 thoughts on “Some Random thoughts on Technology- (thing 5?)

  1. Brilliant post! And what bugs me the most about the built in obsolescence is the turnover rate. I mean, look at cars! You can still see some of them from the 1920s chugging down the road (OK, not very fast, but still….). These days, people seem to need new ones every five or ten years, because they just fall apart. And if they didn’t fall apart, tons of workers would be out of work.

    Something has to give — there has to be a better way!

    Oh, well.

    Great post, though (even if you are my sister!)

  2. Thanks! And yes, built-in obsolescence does seem to be speeding up. High tech things like computers break a lot more than they used to – I sometimes still think about Kate and Martin’s old Mac, which was working fine in 2006, more than 17 years after they bought it. I don’t think you’d see that any more; computers don’t seem to go for more than four or five years now, tops, without needing replacement or repair.

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