My love/hate Relationship with Technology

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Hello from the #Fog and Flame,

Before you even begin to read this, I will note that it sat for two weeks as I have been trying to keep my head afloat as I noted in the last posting. It has taken me two weeks to get back to this and the number of things I need to accomplish this weekend to manage the coming week seems a bit daunting, but I need to clear my head, so I back. This was on the 11th of October that I wrote what you will begin to read. . . . I am in this morning trying to do work, but I have my Mac rather than the PC, and BOLT refuses to let me log in because I am using the Mac. I thought this was something that had been remedied, but obviously I was mistaken. I know there have been issues this Fall, but I thought they were managed . . .  and it seems that it is not merely a Mac thing, so it means I cannot do what I need to do for grading today. Then it seems that my exchange for Bloom on my Mac is not working again either. I will have to take the Mac into tomorrow. It will not send what I have responded to students, so I am going to have to go up to school and see if they are there. I am not ignoring students. I will say that I have been overwhelmed the past couple of weeks, or more accurately since school began, but I do try to manage things reasonably well. Now, all of the sudden, and as I told Haley it must have been her power as she was standing next to me, all the emails sent. It is my struggle with technology. Intermittent problems are always the most difficult things to understand because they seem non-sensical and unpredictable.

Most of my students will tell you that I am a technology geek, and while I understand their perception, I really am not such a person. I remember when cell phones (the shoe box type) first came out and I was living in NEPA then. People told me I needed to get one of those things and I responded, “It was one of the few times I could get away from the phone, why did I want one in the car?” When I got my first PC in 1987, I did it out of a sense of fear rather than a sense of I wanted a computer. Most of my grad school colleagues had one and I felt like I was going to be so far behind in my writing. I did not type well at that time (not that I am an expert now, but I can type without looking at the keyboard) because I had never taken typing. I do not think I really got to be computer literate to a reasonable extent until I worked for Gateway Computers in 1999. I was forty-four years old and most of what I have learned about technology has occurred since then. I am always sort of amused when my students tell me that they have to help their parents or other relatives with some pretty simple things. That is not to say I have it all figured out. Sometimes I do not know the simplest things (ask Melissa!!). She will just roll her eyes and I must admit, she got me a birthday present to help me keep from losing things – like my keys – which I have managed to lose yet another set in the past two days. Somehow on Friday afternoon, I lost yet another (and, of course, this is not the cheap key!). Her father noted I must not have put the little things she got me on things yet. Indeed, I have been so busy that it did not get accomplished and so she has yet another reason to merely give me the look and say something like “I have no words.”

My Writing for the Internet students have a paper due tomorrow evening on this very thing. How has the use of technology changed since 1984? That seems like a simple question that one can merely answer, dramatically, but I want so much more than that?  The fact that students cannot leave their phones, cannot function reasonably without them, expect that everything should be available for them through those little devices speaks volumes about their connections, their insistence, their dependence on technology. If one is that dependent, (or if they are going to make the argument that they are not) how do they understand that device as a tool? What are the expectations of, for instance, their professors, their university, or their world about the inter-reliability they have in maintaining contact, for instance? What are reasonable expectations of the different subjectivities with which they are required to have contact? Again, some of the same people are included, but there is also the issue of social networking and the consequence of that interaction. It seems that seldom does a day go by when someone of some sense of import does not find themselves in hot water for what they have tweeted, Facebooked, or whatever else it is they did. The photos that will come back to haunt (and I have done some of that, unfortunately). Are we accountable for whatever is out there in the ether about us? What sort of control should we take? What sort of control should we be “required” to take? Where can we expect this technology to go? How invasive might it become for us as we move forward? How invasive are we willing to let it become? I think we have allowed much more than we actually understand, and once we have gone down that road, is there any reversing it? As much as I like technology and the industrial nature of it (I mean that it is a tool that is there to make our lives more manageable), I do realize the invasiveness of it. I think, probably like most, I choose to ignore it, but that is a choice and it has a consequence. What is that consequence and what do I think about it? That is something we all need to consider.

While I do have my allegiance to things Mac, I do have PC things too. I have noted before in this blog that Steve Job was a genius for a variety of reasons, but the thing that made him most amazing was his rhetorical ability. When you consider the information that Google, Amazon, or Facebook can compile on us through algorithms, how much are they like the Big Head (big brother) in the movie, 1984. Will they overcome or prevail, or ironically, contrary to the Super Bowl commercial from Mac in 1984,  will 2014 (and beyond) create, through our iWatch, our iMusic, our iPad, our iPhone, that we are part of the bushel? I am certainly not content to be merely another Macintosh . . .  I am not content to be connected to my technology by necessity. I want to use it as a tool. I want to be able to use it or not, as I choose rather than by the choice of the other. The fact that I have bought into the idea of technology so much has certainly affected how I manage my job, my communication, and pretty much my life. I do believe that I could be more comfortable than many realize backing away from it. It is much like when I go to my home at times. I love that I can shut the door and there is no one where to bother me. I appreciate the quietude of the place; I appreciate the solitude of that somewhat monastic space. I am supposed to do some things later today, but the problems with BOLT have made my day a bit more unscheduled that I had planned. I think I might have to hide away and work. The fact that a Packer game is being played at the moment and I am not in front of the television says more than this sentence can begin to dramatize.

. . . It is Tuesday and I think we are headed for about a 36 hour marathon. Tonight I have a midterm scheduled in my Bible as Literature class (you are now at the 13th of October), but that is the easy part of the day. I need to make serious progress on my to-do list or I am going to be very unhappy. I have had a number of meetings with students. It is midterm time and that is always a time for panic, or so it seems. It is interesting how the semester has seemed to get away from both students and faculty. I do not think I have ever felt this harried or somehow behind all at the same time. . . .

It is now the present, which is Sunday, October 25th; this past week I went to NYC with students from the #COBLLC once again. It is a good group of students and I think they managed to absorb a great deal of what we hope will happen. I visited the site at Ground Zero for the first time and it was moving. It is hard to imagine that this is where the two buildings collapsed and so much devastation occurred. It was humbling to look at the reflecting pools and to see that is where the towers where. This week I will chat with some of the students about that. This morning as looked at the news, I saw that once again the community of OSU (Oklahoma State University) suffered another tragedy. It is hard to imagine what they have gone through in the past decade. It touched me in a different way because one of my closest colleagues here at Bloomsburg is an alum of that institution. It also reminded me that I read the names of over 50 students in the local paper who were cited for some sort of alcohol violation during homecoming weekend here. The role that alcohol has in our society is troublesome to me. I say that as a person who has a lot of wine and liquor in his house, but does not actually drink that much. There was a time where I was certainly irresponsible (or just plain stupid) in how I managed alcohol, or more likely how it managed me. I am fortunate that I did not end up in treatment and I know that. I do know how to enjoy it responsibly at this point. One of my former colleagues is struggling in their attempt to learn that lesson now. It is a sad story.

Back to the idea of technology . . . the newest piece of technology I have was actually given to me as a birthday present and it called tile. It helps me manage my keys more than anything. All the way back to when I was married to Susan, she would tell you that I am notorious for losing my keys. I have a place to hang them. I have learned to leave them sticking out of the lock in my door in the office, so I do not lose them, but have managed to, more than once, leave them hanging in the door overnight. It is rather pitiful. I have misplaced, possibly thrown them away (or someone did it for me), or simply lost them in a pocket or some other ridiculous place for months. I have had to change locks, call AAA, and the list can go on, but I think you get the picture. This present of tile might be the most helpful birthday present I have ever received. I can now connect my keys-various sets of them-to my phone and vice versa, or my iPad and vice versa. It is the best thing because after my keys, the phone might be the next most illusive thing I own. What I know is I need to get into my other technology now, which is BOLT and get some things posted. I have had things graded, but not posted. Time to step up. In spite of the disjointed nature of this blog, I hope you find something worth reading. Remember you are in charge . . . this is what I need to remind myself of daily. The technology is a tool to help me with that work.

I hope this finds you well and thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

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