Living in the middle of a technological bubble, people like myself who own a laptop, iPhone or other mobile device often find it difficult to step back and truly appreciate the innovative devices we now consider “necessary” for everyday living. It’s even more difficult to objectively look at our tools and see how fast they are advancing, and in effect how they will be changing and enhancing our lives in the years to come. Kris Schindler, managing partner of Start-Thinking, has certainly done her research on mobile technologies. In her lecture this week, she touches on a few aspects of how technology is changing that allowed me to step back and reflect on those recent changes.
Schindler makes one of her first points by showing an imnage of the first portable device, the Sony Walkman. Her discussion of that innovation in 1989 to the first iPod in 2001, and now to the capabilities of the latest iPhone and iPad illustrate the rapid speed at which our technological world is moving. As stated earlier, the nature of living in the middle of all this change prevents me from seeing the bigger picture. This simple timeline, however, pulls me out of the bubble and forces me to realize just how each device revolutionized the idea of portable devices during their time, and how such products will more than likely continue to be presented to us, and we will more than likely adapt to them as easily or perhaps more easily than we learned to say “mama” or “daddy” as babies.
Not only that, but the statistics Schindler provided to demonstrate how we’ve immersed ourselves in mobile technologies, as well as how ephemeral the data itself becomes as the numbers increase each day solidifies the fact that the use of technologies are ever-changing, but indeed are also here to stay. This also means, as Schindler quickly pointed out, that our definitions of time, space and distance become ephemeral as well because of these technologies. An essay by Edward Wachtel in The Legacy of McLuhan makes three interesting points. He says that:
- Technological environments influence perceptual approaches to the world
- Different approaches also varies the forms of space and time we see
- Cultures encode their views of space and time into their art
While the essay focuses on how artwork of various time periods reflect that specific culture’s perception of time and space, Wachtel states that these perceptions become engrained in the culture, influencing every aspect of life and of living.
To relate back to Schindler’s presentation, she discusses third world countries and their quick adaptation to new technologies. With limited resources, technology helps them catch up to the world, while simultaneously redefining that culture’s perception of space and time. By nature, mobile devices and other similar technologies remove the barriers of time and space, making many more things possible. Schindler’s international view again helped me recognize that laptops and iPhones aren’t in use only in the U.S. and other more developed countries. The quick permeation of technology into many developing and under developed countries is another point that makes me realize the wonderful nature of technology.
Schindler also concentrated on the idea of diminishing barriers. A quote she provided by David Houle stated that (because of mobile devices and other technologies) the disappearance of barriers of time, place and distance call for new kinds of communication and opportunities to recreate and transform our realities. This is a point that I had never really thought about. As the barriers dissolve, the possibilities for new forms of more efficient and life-enhancing communication become almost endless. Thinking about this point makes me think of my very recent engagement with FourSquare and how it’s providing a new way of communicating my ‘live’ location to my family and friends. While it’s a fairly new communication platform for me, I have heard of about the ways in which it can be engaging and beneficial for some. However, I’m currently unsure about how I can use it to fit my needs, and don’t quite know what to think about the idea of being “findable” by friends and family. That is an overwhelming thought. It’s only the beginning of my involvement with FourSquare, so like many other technological platforms, it may be that after I’ve reached a good comfort level and my mind has adapted to it, it could be a very useful tool not only for me but for others who are involved in my daily or weekly routine.
A final key point that stuck with me after Schindler’s presentation is that technology is extremely pervasive, and if we succumb to it while at the same time learn to manipulate it, we can achieve so many great things. The human mind can create beautiful technologies, but they become most beautiful when innovatively used. As communication experts and students, it’s only fitting and fair to study our technologies from the inside out and understand them so we can use them to the best of our abilities.