Technology: The Friend & Enemy

I find myself a fairly good multi-tasker, which I believe could be because of the long hours I spend on laptops and search engines, having multiple tabs open working on each one simultaneously. But at the same time, I have a short attention span, and can never finish reading a page from a magazine without looking at the pictures, flipping the pages, drinking coffee – which funny enough could be due to the same reason of using “technology” intensively.

My point is, every emerging technology has its advantages and disadvantages, and to benefit from those advantages, you will need to sacrifice something else. Personally, I taught in a college that prevented the usage of technology in class, and that was a policy. Mobile phone usage was also considered disrespectful to the instructor, so it was not allowed either. Face-to-face interactions are important as they build confidence, social skills, and spark interesting topics, but the idea of stopping students from using their laptops now might not be the best idea. Allowing them to use it continuously could also be distracting them from the teaching, or as Farman, J. (2012) says, “limits our ability to engage in meaningful dialogue and produce true knowledge”. So, what do we do?! After having experienced both scenarios, I can argue that there is a need for moderation in technology usage. Ultimately, usage can be limited to certain times of class, or in certain classes that require note-taking. Consequently, students will not be completely disconnected from class, and will be benefiting from technology when needed.

Technology could be a distraction, could be the reason we’re losing our attention quickly, and possibly even losing our friends; but at the same time, it will continue to advance, and no-one should be left behind.

Power and Google

Jason Farman’s brief genealogy of the distrust between humans and their own inventions is a telling illustration of how special our time is. We are witnessing the adoption of new modalities of being social as the fusion of physical and digital is completed within our relationships to the internet. The capacity to pluck information from the air at will has, as Nicholas Carr notes, forced those in the information age society to consider the ramification of living with technology and coming to grips with the changes in social organization it can produce. Websites like Second Life and Gaia Online offer new ways of existing as a social being through the extension of the internet. Carr recognizes that the Net is a medium of mediums comprising textual, visual and auditory ways of accessing and decoding information that are different from the unitary communications channels of the television. The ability to interact and ‘be social’ through the digital medium is aided by the introduction of a dialogic communication loop through which users can influence each other in real time spread across the larger informational ecology of the web. The potential to influence the lives, emotions and well being of users is roughly evenly distributed across information networks as users can converse and interact through social media sites.

The formation of a digital identity is aided largely by the habits of users and the algorithms within the void that track the movements of physical persons through the digital network. Largely the product of information gathering activities by commercial interests, the websites, clicks and keystrokes help define notions of persons by reducing them to an image of information that exists through the digital. The emergence of the digital self and the increasing anxiety about one’s privacy and life information recursively influences user behavior adding to the emotional and affective connection to the digital self by the physical self.  The establishment of the digital self effectively augments our understandings of who we are in the face of technology.  Exporting our memories to social media outlets, and the digital paper trail of blogging, emailing and posting helps define the self in terms of memory and action that is always-already accessible to other users. Our histories are more than our browser histories.

The connection between human and internet reshapes our notions of possibility opening new expectations for being social. Redefining productivity is aided by the prevalence of the physical infrastructure necessary for interaction such as smartphones and other portable devices. The possibility of reaching any one, tracking their movements and evaluating their trustworthiness is now easier through tapping portable digital infrastructure. Augmenting the possible and refining the productive allow us to place new expectations on labor, friendships and romantic relationships while we are constantly bombarded with information that needs to be sorted quickly. Glancing at your phone’s email notifications is a precursor to the urgency of the moment with each successive buzz or ping as another user reaches through the digital to touch and move the physical.

The question is how the power to move and influence the physical through the digital will be used as we discover more about our selves as social beings. What should be on everyone’s mind with each successive triumph of the techno-utopians is whether we define technology, or if technology defines us? Each time we advance into a new technological epoch, we must concern ourselves with how we should relate to each other rather than how we can relate to each other. The nuclear age brought new relationships between people and states. The digital age is bringing the same.


The Sea, The Waves and The Ocean

Not a single day goes by I hear and talk about the strategies to cope with the expectations of the present and the concept of time. In an effort to be present at the moment, we surround ourselves with the socially induced prescriptions of self-care techniques such as yoga, meditation, and herbal and natural remedies to reduce stress or medical prescriptions, which enables us to basically function. We face with the force of the expectancy of efficiency and speed in replying e-mails, preparing course materials, keeping up with our research and courses. And there is the rest of our life as well… While we are required to navigate between the actuality of our past knowledge and potentiality of the knowledge waiting to be grasped by us in the future, the present imposes its own priorities on us. As we move on to one black screen to another, we juggle with images, models, texts, applications, websites, to do lists, calendars, taking notes, and etc. How well are we wired to juggle? What do we do in the gap between focusing and multi-tasking?


In his article Is Google Making Us Stupid Carr discusses the impact of the NET as a universal medium, which has been shaping our lives. Carr argues that while the NET is subsuming different mediums, it re-creates them in its own image, allowing multiple distracting elements to scatter and diffuse our attention.[1] Furthermore, the good old media seems to be forced to comply with the thresholds set by the new media[2]. Before this radical change, Carr refers to a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick to address the contradiction embedded in the way efficiency shapes our lives in somewhere between human and machine. As the line between the human and the machine is blurring, should we be concerned about our intelligence as Carr underlined?


Farman problematizes the way we interact with the black screens and argues that the anxiety triggered by the effect of disconnection with the “real world” is not a new phenomenon[3]. Referring to Plato’s denunciation on writing, which causes an interruption in the “meaningful presence that comes from face-to-face interactions.”[4] Is the effect, which digital media creates, similar to that of writing? Or is it just a naïve reaction to a new and mesmerizing gadget such as a kaleidoscope?

Reviewing the responses to Carr’s article, I realize the diversity of opinions concerning our relationship with the digital world. Thompson presents an optimistic perspective focusing on the benefits of collaboration between the human and the machines[5]. Addressing the monumental chess game between Kasparov and the computer Deep Blue, he argues that the result of this game paved the way for a new form of intelligence in the making, rather than the beginning of a dystopic future.


I agree that we need to come up with new ways to talk about the digital world and breaking the monopoly of the companies, which are shaping the aesthetics and the politics of this new social realm. Furthermore, in order to access to this new territory, we not only rely on economic means but also our social and cultural capital, which enables to create strategies to experience the benedictions and the maleficence of the new world.


Digital media users across many oceans back and forth countless times every day. What have we been doing before sailing in the ocean? We taught ourselves how to swim, we built canoes, boats, sailboats, ships, catamarans to travel from one territory of thought to another. As we explore the ways to reach the open seas to grab our surfboards to enjoy gliding on bigger waves. As we reached the oceans, we started building better equipped and faster ships to map this limitless world, which made up of imaginary units.

I believe what we deal with is not the questions concerning digital media or how we adapt to this change or whether it is bad or not. I believe the real issue is the pervasiveness of the idea of what we may become within this new realm. Remembering not to forget the historical link between discovery, territory, and domination, I suggest that our desires should not be fixed on being the captain of a grandiose ship. We should allow ourselves to enjoy watching the ocean, to have the joy of swimming, to experience the serenity of spending the whole afternoon in an old boat anchored in the middle of a beautiful lake. I found these moments to be the mediums, which we can create to fill the affective gap between the necessity to pay attention and to multi-task.

[1] Carr, N. 2017. Is Google making us stupid?

[2] Ibid

[3] Farman, J. 2017. The myth of the disconnected life.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Thompson, C. 2013. Smarter than you think. New York: The Penguin Press.

Was going to take the week off from blogging, but here we are…

When I read the article on CNN about the 11 year old boy who committed suicide because of a prank played on him via texting, I was absolutely sick to my stomach. Therefore, I shall blog about it.

That’s really part of the argument, right? That we have access to this incredible amount of data and information from a young age, but does it help us? More specifically, is there a threshold age in which we should restrict this access? In my opinion, there is a moral obligation here to allow children to grow and learn in a “child’s world,” so to speak. They are inherently curious, and active, and passionate, and inquisitive. AND WE SHOULD ALLOW THEM TO BE THAT. But, at what point do we take a step back and say, “privacy should be an adult luxury,” or something of the sort? Are we blinded by our own outrageous EXCITEMENT over how the digital age is exploding and “information is everywhere” and “let’s use lap tops in the classrooms instead of books” and “what’s the worst that can happen when you allow young children to freely explore and interact online without oversight?”

I don’t want to write much. I’m angry. Information is sacred. Privacy is sacred. “Globalized digital worlds” are sacred, or whatever. More importantly, though, life is sacred. Children are sacred. Our peers are sacred.

I leave with this final question: What good is information sharing to a population of people who are in the process of navigating their own viewpoints on their own little worlds. As adults, we cheer and rejoice at the idea of information sharing and globalization, but let the children be children, and perhaps begin worrying about their “ability to excel in the social media age” after they hit puberty. Or after they get a driver’s license, for goodness sake.

I’m so angry. I’m so, so angry. I don’t want to talk about the importance of staying connected today.

Farman said, “Beyond developing a deeper connection with places, using cellphones to foster deep connection with the people in our lives is a common, everyday practice.”

“Cellphones…a deep connection with people.”

I am so angry.

It’s the convenience, stupid.

There is no doubt that the Internet as a medium of getting information has changed the way our mind operates. For instance, there was a time when mediums of information, such as books, were hard to find. Oftentimes they were censored or banned, depending on the prevailing ideology of the state.

In the span of a few years this has changed. Now, we have an abundance of information. An abundance of digital books, the sum of which could make up an entire library, are now located inside tiny hard drives. Now the problem has boiled down to filtering information. Indeed, an entire market industry is being developed for this problem. Sophisticated programs and algorithms have been developed to find what we are looking for more efficiently, time wise.

Is this a problem? Are search engines making us really stupid? Well, if I was a philosopher, I would ask “define stupid”. But I am an economist, with a deep interest in history. My answer is no. They solve problems. However, as in most cases, we need to adapt ourselves to make use of these new marvelous tools without harming ourselves. I imagine Mesopotamian farmers laughing at the first people who begun using a plough. I reckon the first attempts were not very successful.

I tried to keep my blog post less than three paragraphs. Increasing the length might have been “too much to absorb”.

I don’t think google is making us stupid

Below is my response to “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” By NICHOLAS CARR


First of all, this was an extremely long post from someone who said that people generally don’t like reading things more than 3-4 paragraphs. I was half expecting to get to the end and have him say something about how “if you actually read this whole post you have proven me wrong” or something like that. I even skipped down to see if there was anything in that last paragraph but there wasn’t, so I actually read the whole thing. And it was painful…so I guess he kind of did prove that point. Maybe it’s just because I am extremely tired and it’s been a long week already (yes I know it’s only Tuesday) and also probably because I am already late on writing my blog, but I really did not understand why the author would write such a long post about how people have a short attention span because of the internet. Truly the only thing I can think of is that he is trying to show that this is true, but honestly if it is true most people probably wouldn’t read this post, I know I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to for this class.

Now back to the title of the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” I would say no it is not. While I agree that the internet may be creating a culture where we prefer to get our news in little snippets rather than lengthy stories, I don’t think that makes us any less smart, if anything it makes us more efficient. Now that being said, I grew up having google at my fingertips so maybe that makes me bias, but I feel like google is actually just another tool that can help you learn. I will say that students now a days don’t have to rely on memorizing everything that they have ever learn in school. Most basic facts can be looked up online so if you forgot something you learned in the previous year then you don’t necessary have to go back and sort through all your old notes, you can just go online and find what you are looking for, which I don’t see as a bad thing. I can’t see myself being in an emergency situation where I need to know the solubility product of Calcium Carbonate and can’t look it up. Now maybe this isn’t the case in a field such as medicine where you have a patient right in front of you that you need to treat right away but for me I don’t see why I need to waste my time memorizing information that I can easily look up. Instead it is more important for me to spend time understanding the fundamentals of chemistry and how to use the constants that I can just look up. As with everything, there are some downsides to google, (1) you need to make sure the source you are using is accurate and reliable, (2) there is definitely opportunities for students to miss use this resources, for example looking up solutions to homework problems and not actually working through them on their own.

I agree with Larry Sanger’s response to this article, I especially liked this quote at the end “to pretend that you can blame others (programmers, no less!) for your unwillingness to think long and hard is only a sign of how the problem itself resides within you. It is ultimately a problem of will, a failure to choose to think. If that is a problem of yours, you have no one to blame for it but yourself.”

Does technology hurt more than it helps?

One of the topics brought up in a reading this week is that people are using the web so much that their brane is acting like it is the web and jumps from task to task. As crazy as this may sound I notice that I do this sometimes. I will be working on something or reading a paper/article and then I’ll quickly jump to another task to come back shortly thereafter. Now usually this happens after I’ve been working on one topic for about an hour or so and am having trouble concentrating. A second topic that was brought up was that people prefer to read short statements and that this is due to the web training them to work that way. I wonder if some these ‘new’ methods of reading and parsing through information is not due to too much web use, but instead because of how busy people are today? I know for me I don’t typically sit down and read a full article or paper unless I find the information intriguing or somehow helpful to what I do on a daily basis and this is purely due to the amount of time I am able to devote to activities like these. If I had more time and was not constrained by tight deadlines on activities I would be more prone to spending more time actively reading and not scanning documents. Now there are individuals that are scared that not just the web is changing us, but new technologies in general (computers, cell phones, automobiles, etc.) which to me is a bit crazy considering how useful those technologies are and how much they improve our quality of life. I do understand that there are a few cases of new technologies that are not useful or do have a ‘negative’ effect. For example, look at what Jaron Lanier had to say:
It is certainly true that particular technologies can make you stupid. Casinos, dive bars, celebrity tabloids, crack cocaine…
But, at the same time there are more new technologies that are super helpful. I mean look at Google Docs, WordPress, even different Microsoft and Apple programs. There are new technologies being developed every day that allow for individuals to complete tasks quicker and easier than before and these new technologies should not be ignored and dismissed as making people dumber. Instead they should be looked at as a tool to free up individuals for working on new and more engaging ideas. Now, I do need to say that I firmly believe that there is a time and place to use technology. For example, I find Google extremely helpful when I’m somewhere and am trying to remember a random fact, name, or phrase but just cannot fully remember it. Also, just saying, being able to order food or use self-checkouts is pretty nifty for those that don’t enjoy having to deal with annoying or employees that just don’t care. However surfing Facebook or Twitter while in class is not a proper place to be using new technology. Everyone deals with technology different, there are those that love and embrace it and there are those that adjust their tin foil hat and scoff. It is important for educators to realize that their are these differences and try to find a common ground that works for everyone. Thus, forcing everyone to Tweet their homework assignments may not be an ideal middle ground just like completely removing or limiting the use of phones/computers is not an ideal middle ground. So finding a good balance is key. Also, that balance is not going to be something that is set and not touched for the rest of your career. As technology advances the balance point has to be re-evaluated and changed as necessary.  

Should there be an age requirement for the use of technology? A time limit?

I think we have discussed and agreed about all the benefits technology can provide in terms of access to large amounts of information in little to no time. It can also connect us to friends and relatives who are far away. But as with everything else, it needs to be used responsibly. Going through the reading assignments I kept thinking about this issue in terms of how different generations use technology. In Carr’s piece he presents the notion of our brains being rewired by the way we use and relate to technology, mainly the internet. Even though I do see the point of habituation to receiving information as headlines and snippets of writing as a problem long-term if it translates to us not being able to focus on a particular subject long enough to truly immerse in it and create new ideas of our own, I agree with one of the comments on the piece that as adults with more knowledge on the importance of certain activities (e.g. reading literary works) and their consequences, either positive or negative, we have more control over making the right choices. We can choose a healthy balance of reading information online and immersing ourselves in books the old-fashioned way. My concern is directed at young children and how they interact with technology.

I was able to go home over spring break and spend time with my family. I was a little shocked to see how much my niece and nephew have grown but even more shocked when I saw the change in their behavior when given a cell phone or tablet. My niece is six years old and my nephew is two years old; they are both usually very active, always running around while playing, but once they were handed one of these devices the change was almost 180 degrees. It was as if they came with a dose of sedatives as well; they were glued to the screens, almost unresponsive.

I get the benefit or “break” the parents might get from having their otherwise energetic kids be slowed or calmed down by these devices. But what are the lingering consequences of too much indulgence in these types of entertainment? Especially at such a young age when the brain and motor functions are being developed constantly by every interaction with the world around them. I believe Steve Jobs was quoted saying that he would restrict the use of technology by his own children. Even someone who dedicated most of his life to the development and continuous improvement of technology, saw the importance of limiting the use of these devices, of using them responsibly. I don’t know if his concern was more targeted to a specific age range or to the total amount of time any individual is engaged with their electronic devices in a day. Maybe we should consider both. Since technology is moving at a much faster rate than we can properly process or assess its effects, we definitely have an increased responsibility on how we allow kids to interact with this digital media.

The Attention Span of 140 Characters or Less

I have noticed a trend with my students. It seems as if they are not doing the readings I assign for class. Or it seems as if they don’t understand what they’re reading and unwilling to ask questions in order to understand the material better.

How dare they not read the material I assign? I should give all of them zeros for participation. I’m not spoon-feeding the information to them. They have to learn how to think for themselves.

These are just some of the thoughts that have raced through my mind regarding this matter. Then a random conversation with one of my undergraduate students last year made me realize that I was wrong in my reading of my students. They were doing the readings. I was not engaging them properly. I was asking questions that required longer answers than they were giving me. I learned to correct the way I ask questions and made sure that I could fire off follow-up questions to get to the material that they needed to know. I also made sure that material was covered in more of a conversational style rather than a Q&A. The Nicholas Carr piece is useful in helping me formulate into words what I had experienced with my students.

“‘We are not only what we read,’ says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. ‘We are how we read.’ Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts ‘efficiency’ and ‘immediacy’ above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become ‘mere decoders of information.’ Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains.”

I understand my students capacity to digest information in small bites in order to piece together the whole picture. They are saturated with small bites of information daily. From Twitter to Snapchat to Instagram, these are the ways the current generation of traditional students receive, interpret, and export information. No wonder the shorthand notation of tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) was created. It is is an internet slang expression commonly used in discussion forums as a shorthand response to previous posts that are deemed unnecessarily long and extensive.

Earlier this semester I had decided to enact a no electronic devices policy in my classroom because I wanted my students to truly engage the material I was teaching. I didn’t want the computer screen to be a barrier between them and me. I wanted my classroom to be a place where my students could practice how to formulate ideas, present them to their peers, and get feedback in person before they get into the working world. Since then, I have changed my view on electronics in the classroom. My students can multitask. I have watched them take notes on their computers, answer my questions, and be in conversation with each other almost simultaneously. This is something I would like to improve upon as there a times I feel that I cannot walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.



Cons with Evolving Technologies

The article, “The Myth of the Disconnected Life,” by Forman raises many good points concerning the cons that comes with technological advances. Even though some technologies are designed to improve our quality of life and benefit society, some negative implications include disconnecting with reality and people, increasing environmental pollution, and compromising humanity.

Technology, like cellphones, certainly fits the mold of causing disconnection from reality and people. It does make our lives easier, but it has also cause us to constantly be in our phones, not paying attention to where we are walking or even driving, and not appreciating the people in front of us, especially at the dinner table.

Environmental pollution is also a major concern. With forever evolving technologies, it also comes with endless technological waste. Most aging technologies end up in landfills or shipped overseas for disposal. Additionally, the batteries used to power our devices contain toxic heavy metals and often end up polluting our environment, especially water ways during production.

What I mean about technology that compromise humanity is that many technology companies contract their production overseas where workers are paid poorly and forced to work in poor conditions. Furthermore, lots of the waste from electronics end up in underdeveloped countries where regulations are more lenient.

Thus, I totally agree with Forman’s statement, “While historical comparisons are important to contextualize our culture’s reaction to emerging technologies, there is something unique about our digital devices, especially the ones we have on us at all times like our smartphones. These technologies seem to offer a more compelling example for those who want us to disconnect from technology.” But will we be able to give up our cellphones all together? Highly doubt it.

1 2 3 4