Friday, July 27, 2007

Meta Day

Tech isn't usually my "beat;" I try to leave it for people who know a little bit about it. My years of reading 2600 barely make me conversant in the simplest subjects. And yet? Logic is logic. And a tautology is a tautology.

This article on MSN ( is called "How technology has ruined life for our kids." It's based on a survey whose conclusion is that those kids today take technology for granted. The tone of the article is both facetious (saying things that MUST be joking) and then throwing in how children are exposing themselves to predators, in a more serious manner. So I can't quite gauge what the author really believes. Somewhere in there, though, she does pinpoint (by accident? Can't tell) one of the contradictions with the techno-discourse:

"Meanwhile, the report goes on to comfort parents concerned about their gadget-infested children. Turns out, the most popular activities for kids under 14 are still things like “watching TV, listening to music and being with friends....Davidson also says, 'Talking to (young people) about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives – it’s invisible.' ” So how accurate can those answers be if, as Davidson seems to imply, using technology for kids is as natural and unconscious an activity as say breathing or passing gas?"

Okay, the easy one first. I was a teen in the 80s, and I think, if asked, my peers and I could have been pretty articulate about the role of the telephone in our social lives. How often do you use the phone? Does phone use cause conflicts in your family? (A common problem back in the days when one phone line was the norm, and no wireless, which you whippersnappers might remember from Nick at Nite reruns). I don't think it was invisible at all.

The difference between then and now lies more in their terminology, because the telephone is something specific. So is a park swing, or a bike, or the hours in a day you're logged into MySpace. "Technology" is an abstraction that may mean something different to everyone. This makes me notice how much of what I read on the subject is talking about "technology" like it's a monolith and we all know what we mean by it, when it's actually a general classification that includes a lot of things.

The irony of the whole "technology is unconscious" in the fact that it apparently always has been. What the heck do people think "watching TV, listening to music," or talking to the friends on the phone were? Right there: usually when I read articles about "technology," they don't mean all the tv everybody watches. They don't mean the phone that plugged into the wall. They don't mean the record player they had as a kid, or even the CDs; they mean that dangerous new Ipod. They don't mean a matinee at a movie theater. They don't mean our society's dependence on cars. They don't mean the printing press or the sewing machine.

Guess what? All technology!

I need some quasi-post-hypnotic catchphrase to remind myself, any time the subject of "technology" comes up, that nobody should be taking any discourse seriously until we know what the heck we're talking about. Then I won't waste my time clicking on pointless articles! Although I went into the "talk about this" area, and enjoyed the rant from the 15-year-old, reminding everyone that it isn't kids who make this stuff. I quote, "if your so mad because it's bad for us and were spoiled let me remind you YOU BOUGHT IT FOR US."

Ha ha. Too bad about his spelling, though, but it's not like all the grown-ups can spell. And there's a funny thought...I'm definitely not a kid. Oy vey! But I sure don't feel like a grown-up. I guess I like to feel I've had some Gnostic enlightenment that makes me see through such false demographic distinctions.

Boy, I am in a good mood today! That's what can happen when it's cool enough to sleep.

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