Posted by: COSI | September 9, 2008

Talking through Technology, Good or Bad?

posted by Kim Kiehl

Technology is really pretty amazing. When I was growing up my dad was in charge of computing for Corning Glass Works and I remember going to visit him at work and walking into a huge room the size of one of COSI’s exhibition areas that contained the computer system. I used to draw and color on the computer cards and I watched in awe as these cards flew through the system to process the data. Now all of that technology sits on my desk in my laptop. Amazing, really amazing.

The stuff we can do with technology now is pretty cool as well. Blogs, wikis, instant messaging, tons of data at your fingertips, text messages…it can be overwhelming, but it can also be very cool. I wrote a column once about parenting by instant messaging (IM). My college-aged daughter lives away from home and she helped me set up my instant messaging so we could talk online. While I would be talking to her, advising her on things happening on her life, my dad would be instant messaging me and advising me on my life. Parenting by IM. You might argue that this is less personal than a face to face conversation (and I would agree), but I would argue that maybe there are some things that are easier to say with a computer or a cell phone between you. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think it is just a different way of being social.

In our exhibition area Progress, we talk about the combination of hope and fear that go along with any change in society and this is no different. There are things that scare us to death about all this new technology while other things
fascinate and delight us.

For example, I recently got my own Facebook page, something I thought I would set up and pretty much ignore, but it turns out that I really like checking in on it and knowing what my friends are up to. In fact, I think I know more about some of my Facebook friends than I would if we were not connected this way.

You know more about what is going on at COSI because you can read this blog a couple times a week. Does the fact that we are talking through technology make us less connected? I don’t think so. What do you think?

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Responses

  1. I think that technology makes us more connected, but possibly at the expense of being less deeply connected, and possibly being more interrupt-driven than purposeful, more information overload than quality knowledge, if you aren’t careful.

    But in many ways, technology improves communication productivity. It used to be if you wanted to talk with someone, you had to run into them at the store or church, or hope they were home when you visited.

    Then came telephones, and you could talk to someone without getting dressed and hitching up the horses. But if they weren’t home when you called, you were out of luck.

    Then came answering machines, so you could leave a message, which prevented dialing multiple times waiting for someone to answer.

    Then came email…you could say more than in a voice mail, and the person could respond without dialing.

    Then instant messaging came along, even easier than email, and you know the person is online.

    The end result is that the fixed-cost of communicating with someone has been far reduced. The amount of communication and knowledge transfer that used to require an entire afternoon can now be accomplished in a few minutes.

    This is also true of broadcast. The resources and time required to publish a post like this would have required a typesetter, ink, lots of paper, and a delivery boy.

    But of course with that efficiency comes the problem of being able to filter. If communication (and thus information transfer) is more productive, that means each person has a greater potential to receive that information, which makes filtering a greater challenge. And we didn’t use to have to worry about what was true or not because we had people (i.e. writers) who filtered it for us.

    Of course, I don’t have to filter your blog…it’s great stuff and I hope you keep it up! Thanks!


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