Monday, May 24, 2010

Devices for distraction?

With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations--none of which I know how to work--information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. 
President Obama.

I mulled this over today. I really disagree- it is a user issue- the human interacting with the device that makes it entertainment or something else. Have you watched any of the lectures on TED.com? I listened to the one on the kid from Malawi who built the windmill from scrapes to power his family's home (I also have the book)- I love that I can listen to stories like this on the internet via my device. I was inspired. That Happiness Project lady, Gretchin, her web site says a lot of what is in her book, but I didn't know about the website until I read the book. Admittedly, I am a bookworm & I really like to read books, but sometimes there are books that could have been articles or a lot of blog entries for free. That book pointed out she started with her blog. It seemed like it brought about a lot of changes and good direction in her life when she committed to doing some things in cyber space on a device. It motivated me to try. I wonder how I will see myself and this blog later. I have felt a lot of annoyance with FB (Facebook.com) even though I am guilty of prattling on there too when I get updates about other's headaches & ills. We have to play with technology before we can use it in a meaningful way.

It leads me to wonder what do these devices replace that make them so evil? It seems to replace TV which seems like a good thing- we are slightly less passive users when playing games, pursuing our own interests in endless searches, and tapping away our every thought to FB & blogs. Real life interactions perhaps get reduced as well, but I am not sure- depends on the user I think. TV is totally controlled programing, its brains on autopilot; TV is mindless entertainment & we all need some of that some of the time.

If we consider what we are replacing and what we are gaining then we can make a better choice. Too often it seems modern life calls us to upgrade to some way of living that is too consumptive, too unhealthy. Here I am thinking of one use products we can buy at Target that are color coordinated or all the prepared food at the supermarket. These knock offs replace real things we take care of and real food we prepare and cook ourselves. Information and ideas fester in us for another day perhaps, playing is good for the spirit (check out Stuart Brown on play at TED.com too), and all that fake food and plastic crap ends up clogging our arteries, rivers, oceans, and just generally creating waste. You can youtube the directions to making tofu, you can read the latest news the world over, and its all due to these handy devices that can obtain content for us and put them in very useful places to interact with- like our hands.

Maybe he was trying to condemn gaming? I can't really separate the condemnation of the devices from the internet as they are enmeshed and rely on the user for me. May we beware of how we use our time and technology especially under the guise of making life better. I will be distracting myself here a while longer.