How We Make Technology, And How It’s Making Us

USB TypewriterSometimes we create the products that we use, but most often, we find ourselves in the
position where the products we created, are in turn recreating us.

Shane Hipps writes in Flickering Pixels:“The belief that media are neutral tools is only half right.” Marshall McLuhan, the oracle of the electronic age, reveals the error of this assumption when he says that “the medium is the message. Technology both gives and takes away, and each new
medium introduced into our lives must be evaluated. In the same way, when we
remember that technology is simply an extension of ourselves, it takes much of the
power away from the medium and returns it to us.”

The more we make technology part of our everyday human lives, the more we get
moulded and shaped into a different kind of people. Probably the most ironic thing about
our innovations, is the fact that the products and services that were intended to bring
humanity closer to itself, in many instances creates insurmountable barriers between
ourselves and those we love.

In his book What Technology Wants, author Keven Kelley states that technology will
inevitably create more of itself, as the human sense for comfort and ease tends to
gravitate towards more of what makes life trouble-free and bearable. Jaron Lanier also
points to this reversed relationship between tech and people in You Are Not A Gadget,
when he says “When developers of digital technologies design a program that requires
you to interact with a computer as if it were a person, they ask you to accept in some
corner of your brain that you might also be conceived of as a program.”

But not everything is bad. There is also a massive positive impact that technology has
made on our lives.

When managed correctly, technology acts as an enabler, catapulting our physical,
emotional and spiritual lives to the next level.

Technology commentator and connection evangelist Don Tapscott writes the following in
describing the nature of an emerging generation who grew out of the technological

“Eight characteristics, or norms, describe the typical Net Gener and differentiate
them from their boomer parents. They prize freedom and freedom of choice. They
want to customize things, make them their own. They’re natural collaborators, who
enjoy a conversation, not a lecture. They’ll scrutinize you and your organization.
They insist on integrity. They want to have fun, even at work and at school. Speed
is normal. Innovation is part of life.”

Building on this, Leonard Sweet adds:
“We are now raising the first generations of children that do not need authority
figures to access information, but mentor to asses the information we already have.
The reversal is that, now, adults need their children to help them access

Locally in South Africa, we haven’t been excluded from the influx of technological products
and services. Currently ranking at number 32 worldwide, South Africa has 5.1 million
registered Facebook users, which amounts to about 10.1% of the total population, and
92% of everyone with an internet connection!

The most active age demographic is currently the 25-34 age group, with the 18-24 year old
next in line.

The most active age demographic is currently the 25-34 age group, with the 18-24 year old
next in line.

The most active companies online include Mxit, Woolworths and Vodacom, with almost
700,000 users that have linked their accounts to the brands.

These numbers are growing exponentially. Fuelled by increasingly available digital
cameras, cellular phones and computers, connection to a whole new online world has
become easier and more affordable than ever. With everyone from 8 to 80 year olds
discovering new ways of connecting, we are living in a world where creating, sharing and
conversing through the airwaves has become the new normal.

Whether you’re a shutterbug like me who takes pictures of everything and everyone on
your digital camera, or if you have thumbs of thunder that can text at 100 words per minute
on your smartphone, the world of technology has opened up a spectrum of previous
unimaginable possibilities.

Technology is neither morally good or bad. At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide
its impact on your life, and the lives of those who share your living spaces.

Use your new found technological superpowers to create positive connections, to share
life, giving hope, and to bring people closer together.

In the process becoming more human, not less.


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Saskia Meintjes

Hyperactive, extremely realistic and addicted to reading can best describe me. Life is all about the good memories and sitting around will not create them.

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