Can I find a metaphor that helps me understand technology's role in my life? I'm not sure that I can. It's my sister's area of expertise, and she can be quite eloquent about it. Me? I just know what I know, and mostly wait for someone to mention new possibilities to me.
There are conflicting thoughts bouncing around in my head. First is the truth that people eventually adopt their last technology -sometimes intentionally. I remember my father-in-law (He was my father-in-law at that point, may he rest in peace) saying that he just wasn't going to bother to upgrade to DVDs. He fancied himself an early adopter of technology, but he just wasn't adopting another one. It was totally his call, and inconvenienced no one. But I've also seen quite young (relatively speaking) people do this. What happens if you quit adopting new technology and you're only 40-ish? Such a person becomes less employable on some level, less connected to other people, and has to work harder to get mundane tasks such as banking done. The world gets sort of ossified into a previous state, and I don't want that.
Or, does that person preserve a kinder, gentler, more old-fashioned and sweet style of interaction? And incur fewer risks to her personal information, to boot? Both can be true, of course, but which is better?
I'm getting an iPhone in a few days. I've figured out how to make inexpensive international phone calls on my cell phone. I no longer have a land-line. (What a weird idea -a house phone. Why would my house get phone calls?) I pay all my bills on-line. I order my clothes (and would order my groceries, if I could) on-line. I'm on twitter and facebook and academia.edu and flickr. I watch movies and television programs on-line (legally, thank you very much) and download my music from iTunes. Clearly I blog. I'm at the point where I can hardly manage my multitudinous on-line accounts, and am trying to coordinate them through chi.mp.
And yet, I still use a paper planner. I've tried the electronic ones, assuming that they would work for me, but I've had no luck. I make hand-knit clothes, which surely isn't the most up-to-date technology for getting that done. I ride a bicycle, when obviously a car would be faster.
I thought at first the distinction was "appropriate technology." Why zoom when a stroll is sufficient to the task? Why muscle through a task when grace and finesse will work as well? Why wait until the last minute so that speed becomes essential? (If I figure out that last one, my life will be significanty improved.) And then I thought perhaps the distinction was artistry. I write in a paper journal with a nice pen because the process pleases me; the outcome is no different. My thoughts are no nearer to brilliant because I wrote with a fancy pen. But the design of the iPhone and the iPod is a kind of artistry -one I can appreciate but not imitate.
Maybe it's just that new technology can be fun. That's what gets it in the door. If it doesn't remain useful, it falls by the wayside -replaced with the next fun and potentially useful thing. So what's the next fun thing? What am I missing?