Sunday, October 22, 2006

Responsible Technology - Chapter 1(b)

(Maybe I can actually post more often someday) The next part of this first chapter of Responsible Technology lists four reasons why we must understand technology with our heart as well as our mind.

1) The pervasiveness and power of technology. Do we see how technology can shape cultural values? Consider the effects of the television on politics (sick of the ads yet?), child-rearing, and evangelism. Consider the implications of the technology known as the automobile. Such technology requires roads and bridges to be built and maintained, gas stations, maintenance and repair facilities (and expertise), structures at our dwelling (driveway, carport, garage, etc.), and law and government structures (taxes, enforcement, licensing) just to name a few. That doesn't even include manufacturing them.

2) The value-ladenness of technology. This concerns not just the use of technology, but the technology itself involves valuing. This is focused just as much (if not more so) on the designers and engineers as users. An engineer makes decisions and trade-offs when designing technology, e.g., valuing cheaper materials over durability.

3) Conflicting opinions regarding technology. Some praise technology for bringing increased "progress." And yes, we do have better and faster communication and automation. We can do amazing things that could not possibly have been done without the technology (e.g., going to the moon). Some condemn technology for depersonalization (we can assign you a number for our records, and so we do) and destruction (not just nuclear weapons, but environmental damage)

4) The divergent nature of today's technology. The authors write some years ago, yet I think their claim still holds. The nature of modern technology has the potential to be oppressive & evil and can simultaneously be a very positive force. Example (from the book): a new strain of rice is developed that greatly increases production but requires harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. How do we determine if this is good or bad?

I think that's enough food for thought at the moment. Consider those four reasons for being sure we understand, design, and use technology not just in an intellectual, logical way, but also morally with our hearts.

New Job

I think I've told our immediate family and friends, so here's the "Public" blog annoucement. I've recently accepted a new job at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC (about an hour west of Asheville). I'll be the Assistant to the Dean for Instructional Technology and Curriculum in the College of Education and Allied Professionals.

The job will in many ways require the same skills I'm using here at A&M - making sure technology is integrated into an educational system in a Good way. I'm really looking forward to it. Of course, like pretty much all other jobs I've taken, I'm starting to get the butterflies - can I really do this? will I actually be beneficial? But things always seemed to settle down after a time.

We're moving soon, but need someone to take over our lease after we're gone. So if you or someone you know in the Texas A&M area needs a 3 bedroom 2 bath duplex, let me know.

We'll definitely miss our friends here but we'll be very glad to get back closer to family.