Techno Balance-ism

29 Jan

Techno Determinism, Techno Utopianism, Techo Dystopianism, and Techno Progressivism.How about Techno Balance-ism?

These differing ideologies or views of how technology is impacting our world – for both the good and bad, were the topic of our third #eci832 class with Dr. Alec Couros. Although I had never heard of the ‘formal’ names or definitions for these ideologies, I found myself relating to aspects of each one, and recalling times when I have felt technology is wonderful, downright horrible, or our biggest driver for the change we need to actively seek in our world today.

(If you’re lost with what I’m talking about, check out this quick read for some key points on technology utopia vs. dystopia)

The bottom line is that technology drives us, and our world. I have been thinking and reading a lot about digital health and wellness for my major project, and looking at the potential impacts of technology, social media, and ultimately the internet on our physical and mental health. I have realized a lot of the articles I have been reading have been from more of a techno dystopian point of view, highlighting all of the negative impacts of technology, for example on the teenage brain.

It seems that there are more and more people taking internet addictions seriously, and whether it be video games, Netflix, or posting selfies, a.k.a Selfitis, we are told as parents and educators we should be worried about our kids usage. But really, as we discussed in class, we have always been afraid of the impact of the newest and latest technology since long before millennials were born.  The telegraph, the radio, the television, walk-mans– all of these technological advances brought their fair share of fear and criticism for what they were doing to our children and our lives. Change is hard, and changing the way we communicate, do business, socialize, and share information through digital tools has been a change that we have been forced to accept, but not necessarily embrace.

Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit:                                    Photo Credit: 2pxSolidBlack
radio  tv        walkman                                             Photo Credit: wuestenigel

It was after class that Alec tweeted this article, by Zachary Karabell (seriously read it!) which re-iterated many of the anxieties we have faced throughout history from Socrates worrying writing would affect the ability to memorize, telephones causing people to no longer visit friends in person, television affecting our sleep, and video games causing aggressive behavior. This scrutiny has now landed on smartphones, and increasingly we see research linking (or trying to link) things like depression, rising cyber-bullying, and higher suicide rates to teens and their usage. What the article does point out though, is that we simply do not have enough data yet simply due to time, nor have there been any controlled study groups that could truly accurately measure these statistics in comparison to pre-smart phone days.

“No matter what we think we know now, we simply don’t know what the long-term effects of smartphones are or will be, any more than generations past could glean the effects of all of those earlier technologies on moods, relationships, and cognitive development.”          -Zachary Karabell

We really do not know what the long-term effects of smart phones and other social technology will be on our current generation of kids. I don’t think we should get into a panic about all the negative correlations and conclusions being drawn, and completely write off technology and ban it from our schools, but we do have a responsibility to our kids, students, and ourselves to think critically about what this technology and increased usage is doing to our health. If you are having a hard time sleeping at night, or waking up feeling exhausted, you might be told to try less screen time in the evenings. Less screen time in the evenings doesn’t mean the powerful lesson your teacher has created at school in which you use your device should be thrown out. It doesn’t mean that the picture your aunt posted from her vacation on Facebook is keeping you awake. The reason you’re not sleeping at night could be completely unrelated to the technology you are using. It just seems so easy to blame technology for our woes. Any maybe technology is the reason for some of our woes. There is still so much we need to learn.

“Information is not like drugs or alcohol; its effects are neither simple nor straightforward. As a society, we still don’t strike the right balance between risk and reward for those substances. It will be a long time before we fully grapple with the pros and cons of smartphone technology.” -Zachary Karabell

There are infinitely good things technology can do to improve our lives, and in the same breath, just as many ways it can be used to do harm. Is there a balance we can seek to find? Is finding humanity in tech – as Alec mentioned and explores – a key way we can begin to wrestle with this idea? Finding balance is a life long struggle in anything we do – home life vs. work life, healthy food vs. junk food, and now online vs.  offline? (Check out Jana’s latest blog post and this article by Nathan Jurgenson for more on that). But it is more clear than ever that that struggle needs our attention.

“Finding balance has never been a human strong suit, but it has never been more needed.” -Zachary Karabell

via GIPHY (Mostly because I love dogs)



5 Responses to “Techno Balance-ism”

  1. Luke Braun January 29, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

    Great analysis Katie! I think it’s very true that new forms of technology always seem to bear the brunt of society’s fears. It would be interesting to talk to our grandparents and their thoughts on limiting TV for our parents for example. As teachers, I think it definitely falls to us to present students with a balanced and objective perspective as well as strategies for achieving a healthy balance in life.

  2. msmoserclass January 30, 2018 at 2:49 am #

    Katie, I really like your stance: techno balance-ism. I agree with your perspective as I see both the positive and negative sides of technology, how it can help and hinder us. The idea that “new technology” (pencils, phonographs, etc.) have always caused worries for people and that it’s interesting how quickly we dismiss the power of cellphones and social media. I really appreciated reading about how you linked this week’s reading to your final project and I always appreciate your observations on the link between social media and health.

  3. wileywonders January 30, 2018 at 4:44 am #

    I have to admit that I have never heard of the term “selfitis” before reading your post. Thanks for linking to a post about it so that I could learn more about it. Reading about it reminded me of a couple years ago when the spread of lice was becoming a bit of an issue in some schools and it was thought to be due in part to students taking close selfies together. So not only were students dealing with the positive and negative digital effects of selfies, some had to deal with the live affect it could have on their hair. You are so right that change can be difficult and many are scared of it. I agree that we do have to accept that technology is going to continue to change things. I like your point that we don’t necessarily need to embrace these changes and I think it’s important to understand how to engage with changes in a responsible way.

  4. Brooke January 30, 2018 at 10:52 pm #

    Hi Katie, I enjoyed reading your post this week and your position of techno-balancism. I agree with you in that I see myself in several of the theories we discussed in class last week. I am looking forward to more of what you discover about digital wellness. I watched a video this week about parental anxiety of technology and how parents worry they will catch their kids “doing something bad” online when they haven’t considered if they have modeled appropriate online behaviour first ie. teaching empathy. The video is called “The Challenges of Raising Digital Natives” in case you haven’t seen it.

    • Katie Rosenkranz January 30, 2018 at 11:39 pm #

      Thanks for you kind words and for sharing that video Brooke- I will definitely check that out!

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