Tech yes, tech no, it depends. While the news online stresses out that we have already gone from 1.0 to 4.0 in just ten years, the scenario is getting crowded with tiger riders, detractors, fake neutrals, distracted observers, avid fans and other animals.
According to many observers, this is too recent phenomena to draw a comprehensive and convincing conclusion: “making history while dying inside” let’s say (one of my most popular tweets, humble me, yes: let’s talk about autographs later).
And “dying inside” describes pretty well the condition of those who try to understand: keep up with the “technology” evolution, as well as sociological evolution, being shrewd, alert and informed about communicative, economic, and psychological development, trying to understand every single aspect of every single dynamic action of each single piece is exhausting and distracting, it takes lifetime and you risk to end up passing out on your computer (or Mac if you are a Jobs addict).
Certainly there is even quite a bit of verbal confusion: it’s just enough to throw 2.0 in the footnote of any syntactic string and who knows what kind of emended subject you can find in this case.
“Internet” has become a kind of undifferentiated dumpster that identifies modernity, innovation, democracy (!) in contrast with an unidentified pre-internet system, steeped in iniquity and insurmountable walls.
And while friends of marketing point out that “there is no digital marketing, there is just marketing, eventually declined on digital platforms and social networks” – thanks for precision, guys, I love you – I wonder if we can afford the luxury to understand certain processes only superficially and let them flow.
In the long run, will it prove to be a mistake just to stay there as impartial and bewildered observers, waiting to see what’s going to happen? And, above all, is it possible that as soon as we as much as just raise the eyebrow towards the network (and what revolves around it) we are being immediately labeled as old fogeys, ignorant, incapable to welcome the innovation?
In short, perhaps, owning a digital culture (and start calling things by their names) does not only mean being able to play around on Facebook or use a chat to communicate with colleagues.
Questions, questions, questions. Answers? Dunno. More than anything else, inspiration.
So, I drew a certain pleasure from reading Evgeny Morozov’s “Internet won’t save the world” and I think it depended mostly on the fact that I got a lot of cockeyed grins once I decided to tell about it.
The objection to the criticism of the others is, more or less, always the same: “she’s the one who lives being connected 24 hours a day, spitting where she eats”, topped by a poisonous spurt: “will you write a post? And do you know what you will write it with? And where will you share it? And do you know that someone will read it thanks to the Net? Thanks to technology? And that otherwise it would not be possible? Huh? Huh? You know?”
Relax: I know. I’m hyper-connected, but not totally dumb.
But will we ever overcome the logic that Technology (broadly) embodies some sacred and untouchable animal, donated by the cosmic entity, acting above the good and evil and, therefore, cannot be criticized, regulated, improved or stopped, otherwise the statuette of the Madonna of Civitavecchia would shed tears, and they’d pollute the saving spirit intrinsically made up of inalienable opportunity and freedom?
Well, calm down. (Morozov take me with you)
The text isn’t very short (452 pages) and was released in 2014 (in meantime the world, perhaps, has already changed ten times), yet, I have to admit, I found a part that I liked a lot: a certain “speech ethics.”
You can agree or not with the Belorussian philosopher, but it’s obvious that he is able to argue in a lucid, articulated, and smooth manner and not as acrimoniously as the title (sycophant) would suggest. In short, you can be sharp and irreverent without being a professional hater or angry pensioner sitting on the bench, and refusing any changes regardless.
And for me this is great news.
Since I deal (guiltily hyper-connecting myself) with training and communication, I’ll try to share an aspect of the reflection offered by Morozov that I found interesting and also applicable to an organizational debate: not being entirely convinced that the technology is neutral and that it all depends on how we use it.
Not exactly like this. Any environment or instrument, widespread and used, creates a frame of reference that inevitably influences the way we think about ourselves and activities we carry out.
“The technologies actively shape our conception of self and also determine the way and subject of our thinking process. They shape the contours of what we consider negotiable or non-negotiable. They determine the structure and frequency of our self-experimentation.”
What does this mean in a nutshell? That there may be a certain deviation between theory (good) that it is necessary to introduce certain innovations to save time, money, resources and a practical activity (less good) where not only this brings a few substantial benefits, but manifests a number of consequences that are inherent in the system itself, in how the system is designed at the very root.
Morozov cites several examples (mostly American), but the one that struck me most was the site Rate My Professor: “… where students can discuss their courses and their teachers, evaluating them on the basis of a number of criteria: availability, clarity, informality and Beauty” (because they are kids, and they are having fun, c’mon).
Here, according to the author (and other analysts) the choice (apparently harmless) of these criteria creates a distortion that affects the education of students: “why informality should be relevant in the evaluation of teaching? […] The clarity is certainly desirable in a lesson and its absence is often a sign of the confusion of the professor or his inability to extricate between academic squabbles and jargon of his discipline. Nevertheless, the clear request is the one to come to the point, that is how to presume the fact that there is always a conclusion. A learning program that starts from the assumption that in the discussion on ideas there must be a final word will serve perhaps to train the next generation of consultants, but will it produce good essayists?”
I already had goose bumps here, but I kept going, “these criteria aren’t objective and neutral ways of shaping the teaching, but have also the effect of forming and creating rules, based on which, any future teaching process will be judged […] It is worth asking whether it is possible that the same classification procedure according to a set of predetermined categories convince students of the adequacy in the evaluation of their training experience.”
Strong stuff, folks.
Imagine a scenario where a training offer is structured on the basis of what the learners appreciated mostly in the previous years (software could easily calculate it).
You don’t have to be a genius to realize that a communication course would be much more fun than the one on a balance sheet or on the Second Punic War. But what would be crazy is to think that costs optimization depend on the elimination of “what I like least”?
Meanwhile it is still to be shown that a learner has necessary tools or strategic vision to evaluate what he really needs (However, he placed his “like”, sparking off the arguments about the positivity of the training).
Second, it seems to be a dangerous shortcut, while the commitment and overcoming ostracism against certain content is highly educational (or better to say “half-training”) itself.
Finally, there is no cause-effect relationship between liking and utilities, nor between liking and effective application of know-how.
And I could go on like that for another three hours.
No wish to downplay the philosophical corporate cost-cutting reflection, but still two points attract the attention:
- It is not true that something is right (or good) just because it has been made easier by technology. More efficient does not always mean “better”, because efficiency is not the only indicator to that effect. We don’t want to become technologically enhanced but intellectually impoverished, do we?
- Understanding the less obvious implications of certain tools and being critical is not a sin, indeed, it is part of the cultural growth that serves to start using them, in a more suitable for different contexts way.
Morozov: “Instead of debating about the merits of individual technologies and developing appropriate policies and rules, we’ve given in to hotchpotch terms like “Internet” that only serve to evade any serious empirical discussion] …. [The alleged values of “Internet” – whether it deals with opening or participation – become inestimable basis for comparison to evaluate every field of human initiative, such as the purposes and standards.”
No, come on, Morozov: We are not that stupid. Or are we?
We’ll find out soon, and let’s hope it wouldn’t be too late.
Lights are fading, final curtain.