Technology: one step forward, two steps back?

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After reading Howard Rheingold's except of "Look Who's Talking" in Writing Material, I was immediately intrigued by Donald Kraybill's response to Rheingold's inquiries on how the Amish people of PA view the telephones. Kraybill replied that he "believes taboos about telephones are 'a symbolic way of keeping the technology at a distance and making it your servant, rather than the other way around.'" Despite the fact that the first images to surface in my paranoid mind at this statement were the mission of Terminator robots and the Borg's motto of "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated," it made me think of how dependent modern society is on technology.

Telephones can be useful yes, but what about those often annoying telemarketer calls? I know people who have plans set in place and entire commentaries made out to duck out of talking to telemarketers. It sometimes makes you wish you didn't have one at all, except maybe out in an outhouse that everyone could use. Wouldn't it be nice to get through dinner and not feel compelled to answer a ringing phone or worry about what e-mails are sipping into your inbox? With the advance of technology I think we've voluntarily chained ourselves to it, especially now that cell phones seem to have become sewn into our very clothes they're so vital.

But I often wonder what it would be like to physically receive a personal letter in the mail (a disappearing art form in my opinion), go out for a walk and not worry about who might be trying to get a hold of me via the phone, or just sit down by the firelight and read a book. Technology is something that has allowed us to move forward in productivity, though we might be sacrificing character building events like having a broken down car on the highway, walking significant distances, and enjoying time with friends and family without a screen of some sort as the medium. So for all of the "English" out there, I suppose we'll have to figure out where our individual technological immersion limits are, being consciously aware of what kind of a person we may become along the way. After all, I'm always on the look out for Skynet even as I think that remote controlled drones could be useful.

Take a look at what my colleagues have to say on this reading on our course website.

2 Comments

Tiffany Gilbert said:

First of all, I miss getting letters and cards in the mail. My great-aunts used to write long messages in my birthday cards. I thought it was because I turned 18...because they all basically stopped coming, but now that I think about it my younger cousins recieve E-cards for their birthdays.
Second, you make a great point about wondering if emails are "sipping" in your inbox. I know that each time I sit down at a computer, I log-in to my email. It never fails I'm sure that will not ever change. I have just come to accept it is the fastest and most efficient way of communication (along with cell phones). We won't ever go back to hand-written notes and faxes. So perhaps the Amish are living in the stone-age, but I guarentee they can converse, debate, and interact so much better than we could.

Erica Gearhart said:

I was thinking the same thing about letters as I was reading. Every year, my family displays all of the Christmas cards we receive on the glass paned doors in our dining room. My sisters and I would love to get the mail every day to see how many cards we could hang, and then we would count how many more were needed to fill all of the panes. In the past, we would always have far more cards than panes. This year, we had three empty panes. It actually made us a bit sad. There is something special about the actual object of a letter or a card: the handwriting of the person, the stationary they used or the card they picked out, the stickers they put on the envelope. I still write letters to people, though not as many as I used to, and am lucky enough to have relatives and friends who do the same for me; however, like you Maddie, I think that letter writing “is a disappearing art form.” And I agree with you Tiffany when you say that we are losing some very important skills through our use of technology. Maybe the ways we are being taught, or not being taught, to use technology is part of the problem? Perhaps we need to find ways of incorporating more positive, academic, or useful technology use into our lives rather than falling back on the uses of technology that we rely on, such as texting, checking our emails, or checking Facebook for no real reason?

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This page contains a single entry by MadelynGillespie published on January 31, 2010 1:58 AM.

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