Putting technology in its place

By | June 5, 2012

Digital technology is a odd thing.  We’d like to be able to do without it but we are strangely in its spell. Enchanted by the iPad or captivated by Facebook. In my ideal world we would be on a beach somewhere or on a mountain top with a few chosen friends enjoying the absence of all this.  But it gets interesting, and paradoxical to think we might be using technology itself as an escape from technology.

I like the idea that we can use the internet to explore the world as a kind of prelude to actually doing it for real (or vice versa);  Online relationships are nothing if people never meet up; Explorers aren’t explorers until they set off on foot and smell the landscape.  Media fills a gap (by definition) but when there is no gap then there is no need for media.


When I worked at the BBC we advertised a handful of jobs as “creatives”.  We had about 3000 enquiries and did about 70 interviews.  It struck me that for such a technical environment we asked very few technical questions.  Many applicants worked hard to demonstrate that they had wonderful technical abilities but in fact the score sheet did not favour these answers.   What we marked most highly was curiosity and creative thinking together with the ability to work with people – the rest could be picked up.

Time devoted to learning the details of technical systems and endless software packages should not be at the expense of more fundamental technologies.   The reason we live an breathe is to experience the world through each other – each of us offering insights and perspectives that can only be accessed by engaging and encountering other human beings.   We do this in conversation, though art, film, or writing and occasionally some of this is online.    Some of the greatest tragedies are when people, hurt by human encounters, use technology to engage with things that are not truthful and as a separation from other people.

Interestingly, there has been a lot of fuss about the possibility of Facebook being open to under 13 year olds.  While there are big dangers a widely held view is that the children who are most at risk are infrequent users with little awareness of risk.

So perhaps we should be thinking  about how we can improve our understanding of technology and the media – putting it in its proper place and then going off to do something real.

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