The World 2.0 Gets Dave All Wound Up
A perfect confluence of bizarre events nearly brought my brain to its knees recently, but luckily I have this blog where I can mix metaphors and spew detritus and then continue with my life: Cat and I finished Mad Men earlier this week, and that had me thinking about changing times and how hard it is to adapt-- and, then of course, there were the Paris attacks and the resulting technological controversies raised: metadata programs and electronic surveillance and privacy issues, and this dovetailed with what we were investigating in class . . . my students listened to The Modern Moloch, a podcast on the history of the automobiles in the city, and how corporate lobbying changed our relationship with the car from "death machine" to "love affair" . . . and we used my Neil Postman's warning that technology is not neutral, that every piece of technology is "a burden and a blessing" to link the podcast to Leon Neyfakh's excellent article on texting and driving-- "A Deadly Habit"-- and Neyfakh and Roman Mars seem to agree that certain pieces of technology are beyond our control, and actually control us-- whether they psychologically override an already engaged prefrontal cortex, making us unable to make a good decision about using our phone while weaving through traffic, or make us change the way we relate to and coordinate with people-- including ability or inability to encrypt "personal data"-- which could contribute to terrorism but could also protect people's digital information . . . or past technology could control the infrastructure and architecture of our cities and suburbs in the future, this was the power of the car in the 1930's, after auto lobbying groups ensured that cars would have the right of way in every corridor of our country . . . these groups made us change our perception on who is to blame in an accident (instead of reckless drivers operating a dangerous vehicle it became the fault of those damned jaywalkers, walking like rubes where they shouldn't ) and while all this changing world stuff was rattling around in my brain, my son Ian's friend came flying down the street on a hands-free motorized scooter . . . and if you don't have a ten year old son then you might not know that these things are all the rage and my son Ian is now begging us to get one, and they've gotten pretty cheap and they are neat and they do work, but when he asked me if he could get one, I really had no answer for him . . . I told him he would have to wait for me to think about it (and then his friend did some lobbying and he's an eloquent little kid, he said: "my parents were skeptical too, and they took some convincing, but it's really cool!") and while I'll probably cave in on this, I'm not sure I'm even equipped to make the decision-- I don't know if a ten year old should have an electrically charged hands-free motorized vehicle which travels fifteen miles an hour and I don't know if I'm even capable of ever figuring this puzzle out-- it might be safer than his long board, but then it might not . . . and are they street legal?-- anyway, to add to this technological existential breakdown, yesterday our principal made an announcement to remind the students that though we are a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school and though kids can use their cellphones in the halls between classes (one earbud policy) that they cannot take any pictures with their phones or record any video (I think this was in response to a fight in the hallway: kids were taking pictures and video of it, which is bad for two reasons-- these images may come back to haunt the kids at a later date and the school promises parents that their kids images won't be taken in school and used anywhere unless unless permission is granted) but I don't think the two rules are compatible-- I don't think you can let kids have phones and then tell them not to use them the way they primarily use them . . . to take pictures and video of things . . . I don't think humans can handle having the device and then not using it in all sorts of ways that are habitual and generally socially acceptable, prohibited or not, so I think we should take all the smartphones and put them in a pile and run them over with our cars . . . and our hands-free motorized scooters.