A Final Note on the use of the Digital – For Now

I have previously discussed how the use of modern technology, and the internet in particular, have become a very normal part of the lives of significant sections of the global population. I would like to discuss this topic a little bit further, hence this blog post.

People are on their phones all. The. Time. This is not some article written by a Baby Boomer about ‘those dang kids and their phones’ (complete with angry fist-shaking and yelling), it’s just a simple observational truth. And let’s be clear; this is not isolated to the younger generations. In fact, in some aspects the older generations are even heavier, or at least equally, big users of phones, computers, smart-systems (TV, watches, etc.), and the internet. Whether the benefits of this life style, the accessibility and ease with which information and communication can be obtained in particular, outweigh the detrimental aspects, remains to be seen. This latter point has been a heavily discussed issue, and will likely continue to be one for the foreseeable future.

One of the more interesting things about this modern lifestyle, is how machines have effectively become an extension of ourselves. People (myself included of course) reflexively pull out their phones and/or open a web browser when they don’t know something and care enough to want to find out more. It has become such an automatic process to immediately look up information whenever and wherever we want, and being unable to find it feels outright frustrating rather than an acceptable outcome. Being unable to access the internet feels even more frustrating, as you are effectively cut off from the modern hivemind, and remain ignorant in your digital isolation. Personal computers of any variety are less and less regarded as tools, and more and more as necessary parts of being ‘you’. Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto plays with this idea of a person not ending at their skin, but rather inventing and using methods of communication as extensions of one’s being. Despite having been written in the early 1980s, significant parts of it have become more applicable and more salient over time, rather than less so.

That said, it is important to be continually aware that many people and many parts of society are walking a very fine line between controlling their machines and their machines controlling them. Instantaneous communication technology is great, but do you really want to be available at all times? Being able to voice your opinion in a public way on lots of different things is a great outlet, but you have to be careful not to post your entire train of thought online, both for the lack of privacy you will be left with, and the risk of some of the ‘less intelligent’ thoughts coming back to haunt you later. Remember; once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever! There are plenty of examples like the phenomenons described above, and finding the balance between the digital and the analogue will be an increasingly important part of our lives going forward.

The following excerpt seemed poignant and related to this topic, so I have included it in this post. Enjoy.

“The machine is not an it to be animated, worshiped and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they” (Haraway 1985, 38).

Referenced Work:

Haraway, Donna. A Cyborg Manifesto. Socialist Review, 1985.