I have seen quite an evolution in the way I study, work, consume information and interact over the years. I belonged to that generation that used typewriters to write term papers, then slowly progressed to WordStar and WordPerfect. I had a blue pager stuck to my waist band in college, and all I could do on my first cell phone was make voice calls. As a kid, our library at home had a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica from the 1970s (which never really got updated), and subscriptions to the National Geographic and Time magazines. It took a letter from my grandmother two months to arrive, and their barrio did not have access to phone lines, so I rarely got a chance to have a relationship with her growing up.
These memories came back as I went through the various readings this week. I could not help but appreciate how far we have come and how technology has changed the way we live. Despite the commentaries about how our current ways may lead to diminished meaningful interaction, I would have to say that my experience has been the opposite. The way I have used technology has made living on the other side of the world, away from family and loved ones, bearable, and allowed me to continue to engage in meaningful interactions with people I hold dear but could not physically be with. I cannot imagine not having FaceTime or Skype and not being able to talk to my family in the Philippines as often as I can for next to nothing through the internet; I would probably survive, but painfully so.
I have to admit, though, that despite the advantages and conveniences that are available through technology, I can still be pretty old school. I still like reading on paper and making handwritten notes (so I still print all my course readings); I resonated a lot with what Clive Thompson shared about physicist Richard Feynman – putting my thoughts and ideas on paper is my thinking process too. There is a lot to be gained with the vast amount of resources that innovation has made available to us, but how we process that information is still very much a human, cognitive exercise.
My personal preferences and experiences is probably why my favorite lines in all the readings are these lines from Clive Thompson’s piece: “Which is smarter at chess – humans or computers? Neither. It’s the two together, working side by side.” To me, this is very true, and is exactly how I prefer to use not just computers but all the conveniences and technologies that are available to us right now. In a very real way, I see and live Jason Farman’s point that there are “significant ways in which our mobile devices are actually fostering a deeper sense of connection to people and places.” There will always be pros and cons to anything and everything, and it is the way we choose to leverage what emerging technologies have to offer that ultimately makes a difference. If you will it so, technology will work for you and with you.