Archive for February, 2012

Our reading for week one in our Communications and Technology course was chapter one of “Technology Matters: Questions to live with” by David Nye. I admit that it was a comprehensive and interesting introduction into the concept of what, exactly, technology is (in essence, any tool we can use – and are we shaped by these tools or vise versa?). It was a bit on the dry side and I found myself a bit disappointed that my technology course was literally starting out in the stone age! This concept of technology as tools, and whether we shape them, or they shape us, was by far the most interesting part of the chapter and it definitely made me think – which I assume is the purpose! All in all, fairly mundane with a little bit of awesome sprinkled on top! Kind of like a boring doughnut….

Some very not boring doughnuts! Courtesy of Examiner.com

References

Nye, D.E. (2006). Technology Matters: Questions to Live With. Available from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/camosun/docDetail.action?docID=10173620

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This week’s reading was an interesting foray into the social and political consequences (or lack thereof) that come with technology.

One major theme was whether the political power that is undeniably associated with technological advance is inherent, socially constructed, or a combination of both. It reminded me of the Thomas theorem which I have heard of in many contexts (such as racism and homophobia) and it states that something doesn’t have to be real to be real in it’s consequences. That is to say, while technology may not come with power or politics in and of itself, society attaches meaning to technology in a way that says it does – and thus the power and politics become real. A little hard to wrap your head around? It always reminds me of the Matrix movie for some reason. There is no spoon.

Artist Unknown - (Human Crops, n.d.)

Ironically enough, that brings us full circle to technology having inherent power or politics if you think about the plot of the Matrix, with machines and technology taking power away from human beings completely. Scary stuff!

How do we deal with this threat of technology holding political power and advancing the interests of some while denying the interests of others? Winner (1986) states that “[t]hose who have not recognized the ways in which technologies are shaped by social and economic forces have not gotten very far.” Humans become forced to adapt and evolve with technology, such as owning a computer in order to conduct business or have a social life, or they are threatened with having less access to society. With that comes the fact these technologies may be designed with that very interest in mind – to oppress certain people or populations and in effect “leave them behind”.

(Oppression, n.d.)

Technology can add yet another layer to oppression by bestowing power and privilege on the few at the expense of the many. Yet, technology can also break bonds of oppression and silence and give people a platform such as social media to gain support for their cause.

I believe that it is how we use technology and the meaning we bestow upon it that create it’s power and politics. From an existential point of view, we always have a choice. With the choice to use technology, we must take responsibility for political imbalances as a society and individuals.

If learning more about existentialism interests you, I found a great video on Vimeo.com:

Existentialism from Jeanette Seah on Vimeo.

Also, while I was searching for supplementary material for this blog post I found a great website concerning privacy rights on the internet, and how to opt-out of “online behavioural advertising” by the Network Advertising Initiative: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp

Critique of the Winner (1986) Reading: Do Artifacts Have Politics?

I found this reading, along with Building A Bridge to the 18th Century by Postman, my favourite readings so far because of how interesting they were to me personally. As a social work student, I found it very interesting to read about the socially constructed politics and power imbalances that can be created with technology. Who has access to what? How is technology being used by those who distribute or control it to oppress people? (Like the example of the fellow who built the bridges too low in New York for buses to go through, who would most likely be carrying “poor” people). A very interesting read!

References

Seah, J. et al. (Producers). (2009, December 2). Existentialism. [Video File]. Retrieved February 15, 2012 from http://vimeo.com/7936437

Winner, L. (1986). Do Artifacts Have Politics? In Fernyhough, L. (Ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package Winter 2012, (pp. 15-25). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from The whale and the Reactor: A Search For Limits in an Age of High Technology, 19-39)

[Human Crops]. Retrieved February 15, 2012 from https://shaketheshock.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/matrix.jpg?w=232

[Oppression]. Retrieved February 15, 2012 from http://liveaction.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/oppression.jpg

Posted: February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

A great blog post about digital literacy and how teachers are changing their approach in order to facilitate knowledge with the use of technology. With every invention comes a price to pay. In this case digital technology might increase teaching efficacy, but is it at the cost of overburdening our already overworked and underpaid teachers? As of March 6, 2012 they are struggling to even maintain their collective bargaining rights. Something my own union [Hospital Employee’s Union] actively supports protesting against. How many services can we cut before we see what harm we are doing to our society by trying to save money in the short-term? Does the pressure to maintain digital literacy contribute to this problem?

Reflections from Room 22

Last semester in EDUC 404 – Literacy, Language and Culture I was involved in an inquiry project on digital literacy where we discussed how technology is changing the context of literacy learning inside and outside the classroom.   Our group was interested in examining how schools were addressing this shift in literacy learning by looking at the diverse ways teachers were incorporating digital literacy into their classroom practice and using it to personalize instruction for their students.    In classrooms where the teacher was comfortable using technology,  students were involved in a variety of different ways of expressing their learning through Smartboard activities, blogging, podcasting, video production,  and digital story booking.  Not all teachers were jumping on the technology bandwagon though and this is unfortunate, because students need many opportunities to develop these tech skills.  Some of those reluctant teachers expressed a concern that the learning curve was too steep and…

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Think about the last time you broke up with someone. Or, for that matter – the last time you got dumped! Did you find out face to face? Over the phone? In an e-mail? God forbid – in a text message?

The message may have been the same using all these forms of communicating, but which form was used says something in itself.

A couple of months ago I interviewed for a job, and then I sat patiently at home waiting for a phone-call. When I hadn’t heard anything for a couple of days, I checked my work e-mail – it turns out the manager of that department sent me an e-mail almost as soon as I walked out the door to tell me I wasn’t the successful candidate! I’ve been turned down for jobs before of course, but in every instance it was over the phone and I had a chance to ask questions. An e-mail felt heartless, devoid of any emotion, and quite honestly like a slap in the face. Their message certainly reached me in a different way than it would have had I received a phone call, which I assume is the courteous thing to do.

With technology comes the many adaptations we have to make in our lives in order to accommodate it. Like creating roads for the purpose of delivering mail, as Mcluhan talks about in Understanding media: the extensions of man, we have created etiquette about how to use specific technology to communicate messages.

A hilarious parody video about a text message break-up:

Critique of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Roads and Paper Routes) by McLuhan:

I did not find the reading this week by McLuhan particularly inspiring or informative. Obviously different students have different interests, and perhaps those with a background in history would have found something to “sink their teeth into” within Roads and Paper Routes. I am more interested in how technology affects society currently, and I did not find information about the history of trade and how technology has evolved in order to communicate better particularly helpful. What I did find interesting was thinking about how we currently evolve in terms of the etiquette that comes along with different forms of communication, however, that is more relevant to McLuhan’s infamous statement that “the medium is the message.” A reading more about that concept would have been much more interesting to me personally and I would have engaged in more critical reflection of the course material.

References

McLuhan, M. (1965). Chapter 10: Roads and Paper Routes. In Fernyhough, L. (Ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package: Winter 2012, (pp. 5-13). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 89-105).