Technopoly: Blessings and Burdens

31 03 2010

I recently got carried away in my comment in response to Mlle. LeBlanc’s post: A New Take on Technology?, turning a simple comment into more of a blog post of my own!  Mlle. LeBlanc talks about the changing perception of Elders as holders of tremendous knowledge as information available through digital technologies becomes more widely available.  LeBlanc’s perspective is both thoughtful and thought-provoking.  It started me thinking about a conversation that took place in my EDFN class this week, which is outlined in the comment below.

Here is my response to LeBlanc’s post.

I agree with you Danelle…balance in everything is key.

A similar conversation happened in my EDFN class last week…haha perhaps we are even in the same class and just don’t know it! It seemed that almost the entire class of pre-service teachers considered the advance of technology scary and as something that they feel they cannot stop, but wish they could. One student brought up a book written by Neil Postman called “Technopoly”. I read Technopoly in my first year of University, as it was the main focus for an English course. The book was very interesting, and if only I hadn’t been a little bit disengaged with the class I probably would have found it even more riveting! The point, anyway, of Neil Postman’s writing is that ‘every technology is both a blessing and a burden’. I used to take the word ‘burden’ and turn it into ‘catastrophe’. So maybe I thought technologies could bring good things, but mostly I thought they were bringing negativity and unwanted change. I kept reading, and Postman helped me to realize that when we refer to ‘technology’, we are referring to all technologies, not just computers and video games. A chair is a technology. Houses are a technology, and toilets….even a spoon is a technology. So if we think of it that way, I think we could all agree that many of the technologies we use everyday we would not want to live without.

Now when I think of that phrase: ‘technology is both a blessing and a burden’, I think maybe ‘burden’ doesn’t necessarily refer to the catastrophe I once thought. Perhaps it is just the burden of adaptation and accepting change, which is not always easy but also isn’t always negative.

In the case you refer to, I definitely see the burden in the potential loss of a cultural shift in where wisdom comes from. Maybe we just need to separate ‘information’ from ‘knowledge’. So while students can find all sorts of valuable ‘information’ through the use of digital technologies, Elders can provide different types of ‘knowledge’ that cannot be learned on the internet. Perhaps then information becomes more like fact, and knowledge becomes more like wisdom. I don’t think I would be willing to say that every fact I read on the internet becomes part of my knowledge.

As I sat there in class and said nothing because I was in more of a listening mood, something interesting struck me. Someone mentioned a crisis in grammar and spelling because of things like texting, saying “some students might think that LOL is an actual word!”. I’ve said that many times before myself…but this time it hit me differently: to those students, LOL is an actual word. The English language has evolved tremendously over time, words and language structures changing to meet the evolving uses for language. Most times, words that were altered were altered in order to make them more efficient, or more convenient words. Perhaps this is just another example of that, and we don’t know it yet. I’m sure our grandparents and their grandparents and their grandparents had similar views about the advances of many of the technologies and language slang we use today…perhaps we are all just being stereotypical old timers of future generations.

…Just a thought :)

(sorry for getting carried away in ranting with what started as a simple comment!)

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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4 04 2010
Morgan Bayda

[…] post about how technology is changing how people perceive Elders inspired me to write about Neil Postman’s Technolopoly: Blessings and Burdens. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Send A Tweet, Brighten Someone’s […]

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