Monday, July 7, 2014

New Technology: A tool of Regress and Progress

After reading Sherry Turkle's "The Flight from Conversation" and viewing Michael Wesch's TED talk video entitled, "From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able," I view them as allies in their discussions of new media.  Turkle claims that humans are now "alone together," through their constant use of modern day technology.  She goes on to explain that people are sacrificing conversation for connection implying that conversation is superior to connection.  I feel that Turkle hits the nail on the head in terms of describing the new norms of technology.  To me, this is most obvious in larger urban settings such as Boston.   For example, on Boston public transit, everyone is plugged into their device and likely wearing ear plugs.  This behavior not only prevents conversation from happening, it screams, "DON'T TALK TO ME."  As Turkle accurately describes, we are all walking around in our own bubble constantly trying to connect with one another for fear of feeling lonely.  But this type of connection, as Turkle highlights, is lonely and absent of meaning.

At the beginning of Wesch's TED talk video, I originally thought that his views directly opposed Turkle's views on new media.  Wesch points out that, "different contributions can add up to create something meaningful."  He uses the example of a composer creating a song by using the voices of people around the world.  This is certainly a meaningful work and evidence that small contributions and connections can add up to make something significant.  This idea directly opposes Turkle who laments that small connections cannot add up to make something significant.  However, Wesch goes on to say that connecting, sharing, publishing and collaborating are really easy technologically, but to do this face-to-face is very difficult.  In this respect, his ideas align with Turkle's ideas.

Turkle and Wesch both recognize that technology is making collaboration easier and also more difficult at the same time.  Turkle views technology as an obstacle that has caused humans to regress in their ability to engage in conversation and to collaborate meaningfully.   While Wesch also argues for meaning and critical conversations, he, unlike Turkel, does not view technology as an obstacle to meaning, but rather as a catalyst to create meaning.

Ultimately, I feel that Turkle and Wesch both bring up important points and ideas about new technology.  They do hold similar viewpoints and I still consider them to be allies on the topic of new media.  However, I feel that Turkle's argument applies best to life outside the classroom; when we are  in public amongst strangers and when we are in private amongst friends.  Alternatively, Wesch's argument is best applied to the twenty-first century classroom where technology should be used as a powerful tool rather than be viewed singularly as a tool for socializing and entertainment.

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