Over the past few years, I have have been developing a profound dislike of information and communications technology (ICT). I see its potential as a liberating tool - facilitating access to vast amounts of information from almost anywhere. Allowing us to connect with people we may never have otherwise met and stay connected with people who maybe have moved away. We seem to have overshot its potential, though, and landed in a less desirable situation where ease of access has led to intellectual laziness, where connecting electronically has supplanted more intimate forms of interaction and where our sense of privacy, and our desire for it, has been lost.
I admit I don't have a lot of empirical evidence to back up some of my claims. Before I left work, though, I was noticing that cutting and pasting little factoids from online sources such as Wikipedia was creeping into the various documents that came across my desk. Rather than doing their own anlayses and trusting their own judgements many government professionals seem to prefer the pre-digested views available in cyberspace. As I say, this phenomenon may not be widespread, but it is creeping in.
I heard a story from an acquaintance recently about a university professor who caused an uproar among his students by refusing to post his lecture notes online, forcing his students to actually attend class and take their own notes. Of course, this relates directly to the intellectual laziness I referred to earlier, but I think it also speaks a lot about the growing sense of entitlement I feel is growing within younger generations, but that's a different topic for a different post. The great promise of accessing information so easily is tainted somewhat by the fact that any idiot can publish anything online (as this blog demonstrates so well) and people seem unable to distinguish the good from the bad. If any of you reading this teach, I would love to hear your observations about how ICTs are affecting the work and intellectual development of your students.
I also feel that the ubiquity of smart phones, tablets and laptop indicate a bizarre form of addiction. People seem to have a helpless need to be constantly connected - to the web, to others, to playing games. I look around and all I see are people's noses stuck into some electronic device - texting, surfing, playing. People text while they drive which is an unbelievably dangerous activity. I see people, presumably friends or family or at least acquaintances, sitting at the same table in a café not talking to each other but thumbing their respective smart phones. I see parents at their kids' sporting events engrossed in their phones or tablets oblivious to what their kids are doing. I always feel bad when I see a child do something great, look over with pride at their mom or dad only to see them clicking away. And, of course, cyberspace has become a valuable tool in the arsenal of bullies.
Many, and I include myself here, are living their lives online through social media with no regard for their own privacy. No more secrets.
I have to rethink my own use of technology. I'm just one red crayon and notebook away from moving into the woods and writing a manifesto off the grid.