The Latest Generation Of 'Get Off My Lawn!' Books From People Who Don't Understand Technology
from the it's-a-tool dept
Adam Singer points us to a recent article in the Guardian about a spate of recent “technology is destroying society”-type books, many of which we’ve spoken about before. The main book it talks about, however, is Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together. This is a bit disappointing in the fact that, in the past, Turkle has often been an astute observer of technology and how kids are adapting to it in positive ways. As one person jokes in the article: “Alone Together reads as if it were written by Turkle’s evil Luddite twin.”
Unfortunately, like so many of these books, the criticism seems to be focused on a sort of “get off my lawn!” outsider’s view of technological culture, with assumptions about what constitutes “good” and what constitutes “bad.” For example, the fact that people check information on their smartphones is seen as bad, but that doesn’t take into account context or whether or not those people are communicating with others in a productive manner. As always, technology is a tool and there’s no doubt that some people use it in ways that are not productive or helpful to themselves, just as many others use the tools in ways that make their lives better. Trying to paint this all with such a broad brush is disappointing. Much of it seems based on the silly assumption that communicating with someone via a screen is automatically less human than communicating with someone face-to-face. Yet we saw the same claims when the telephone first came out and I don’t think anyone still claims that the telephone degraded societal communications. Technology is a part of the ecosystem and people have an amazing ability to adapt to it. Yes, some people will always overdo it, but blaming the technology and discounting the many positive users (as well as the likelihood that people adapt over time) is a huge mistake. It might sell books, but it does little to shed any real insight into how technology is impacting our lives.