Synthesizing My Posts from This Semester
Upon re-reading my blog posts from this semester, the first thing that struck me was a common theme of skepticism and pessimism with regards to my attitudes towards technology. As someone who usually prides himself (perhaps unrealistically) on seeing the best in others and in things in this world, I realize that taking this course did expose me to the potential and actualized negative effects of technology more than I thought it would.
Of course, that’s not to say that every one of my posts was entirely doom and gloom. My first post was simply a snarky diatribe about being inundated with spam after signing up for a Davidson domain. However, my subsequent four posts were much more critical, attacking social media and technology giants such as Facebook and Google for perpetuating racial stereotypes, threatening American electoral integrity, and harming the self-esteem of many individuals. While all of my posts touched on some element of what we were reading/watching for class, I usually treated that material as a jumping off point for a deeper and more depressing look at how technology is capable of hurting our world. As the semester progressed and we moved past the history of technology and digital media to learn more about the actual societal effects that technology has had, I began to see the downside of technology and my blog posts began to reflect this heightened awareness through my increasingly critical attitudes towards many technological and digital media services and platforms.
That trend may be partly a reflection of what has been an academically, socially, and personally challenging and exhausting semester. It is certainly hard not to feel drained and demoralized after dealing with a lot of challenges in the classroom and in personal life, but I do believe my skeptical attitudes towards technology and media corporations were more than just a reflection of a tough semester. I genuinely think that, as I took a closer look behind the veil of technology and learned about the modus operandi of many companies such as Google, Facebook, and Instagram, the happy glow of technology’s promise to make our world better was slowly offset by the real, hard facts of how it has concretely made parts of our lives worse.
Again, this is not to say that I have become a Luddite and want to destroy all technology. I recognize the promise technology holds and many of the ways it has dramatically improved our lives. But I certainly have learned to cast a skeptical eye towards technology and recognize that there are advantages and drawbacks to any new platform, program, or technological service. I probably unfairly castigated Google and Facebook in the most extreme parts of my blog tirades against them. Sure, they both have royally dropped the ball on numerous occasions but they also have been responsible for connecting relatives scattered across the globe and making information and learning accessible to hundreds of millions if not billions of people. Despite their past transgressions, they have made tangible improvements to the world and I would be remiss if I did not say that those positive effects have to count for something.
All told, this course and my blog posts have focused on many of the drawbacks that come with a society defined by constant use of various forms of technology and digital media. After a semester in which I learned just how much racism, sexism, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and crime can be reinforced and spread through technology, it does not surprise me that my posts ended up being so scathing. In retrospect, the truth of technology’s effects likely lies somewhere in the middle of my idealistic notions of technology that I had before taking this class and the pessimistic depths I reached while blogging during portions of the semester. Beyond this class, I will try to acknowledge the promise that new and developing technologies hold but recognize that the real-life use of such technologies often comes with unintended and problematic consequences.