What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate*: Disconnected in a Connected World

March 19, 2010

For Saturday, March 20, 2010

Western society has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo:  not merely the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally, just because they are offered, without respect to their human consequences.
• Lewis Mumford

Technology is so ubiquitous in my world that it seems like access to anyone anywhere anytime is the norm. It isn’t. I’m away from home. I have a computer with me. I have an iPhone. And I’m only sporadically connected, reliant on the generosity of coffeeshops who stand ready to serve me a disappointing cup of tea and a piece of something marginally edible that I don’t really need to eat so that I can use their connection to swim in the everflowing stream of communication that flows into my life. Even my phone is affected by tall buildings and other features of the landscape I’m traveling in. It comes and it goes.

We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us.
• John Kenneth Galbraith

I’m posting this early since I’ve been off for too long and don’t know when I’ll be back on. When technology is easily available, I get used to the need to check regularly to see if there’s something I should be responding to. When I can’t be responsive, I feel off-balance. I resent this. I want to disconnect and feel comfortable about my failure to communicate. I want to let go of the expectations I impose on myself. I want to just stop and think without wondering if there’s something else I should be thinking about. As much as I love the ability to connect, I also resent the need to stay connected.

This is perhaps the most beautiful time in human history; it is really pregnant with all kinds of creative possibilities made possible by science and technology which now constitute the slave of man – if man is not enslaved by it.
• Jonas Salk

Does your need to stay connected impinge on your ability to connect with yourself?

Soon silence will have passed into legend.  Man has turned his back on silence.  Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation…tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego.  His anxiety subsides.  His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.
• Jean Arp

* Thank you, Cool Hand Luke, for the title quotation.


One comment

  1. The Need to Connect: Impinging on Everyone’s Ability to Connect

    As a student teacher I have struggled with the use of technology in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I think the clickers, LCD projectors, ELMOs, and interactive boards are all wonderful tools. They provide instant access to information, data, and more. However, the cell phones, iPods, mp3 players, and so on are destroying the ability for students, teachers, community members, and the masses to connect with each other.

    It is so disturbing to see the number of students that walk in the door with their headphones in their ears, trying to text during class, who walk with their heads down in the hall while listening to music, or who text the person they are standing next to in the hall. We are losing the ability to communicate with the technology that provides the opportunity to connect anytime anywhere. I see the lost of speaking, of sharing thoughts with the person in front of you, creating an environment that is lonely, egocentric, and destructive to learning.

    We have to stop the obsessive use of technology before we forget how to connect with concepts, with nature, and with each other.

    What technology habits can you change to improve your ability to connect with students, family, neighbors, and the person behind you in the grocery line?

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