Are we too connected?

WHO TV (Des Moines) aired a special report, Are we too connected?, on last night’s news broadcast. Among others, they interviewed me and Dr. Michael Bugeja, Professor and Director of Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.

I have interacted with Michael a couple of times. He’s a very good guy and a fun guy to talk with, but he’s also a nationally-visible technology critic who is interviewed often by the media. His technology skepticism is probably understandable given that his entire profession is struggling to reinvent itself because of the impacts of these new digital tools, but it’s also at least a little ironic given that he utilizes multiple web sites to publicize his work. He and I often fall on opposite sides of technology issues. I really need to read his book, Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age.

Here are a few quotes from the special report:

All this really does is send a message that someone somewhere else is more important than the place we are and the person we're with. [Bugeja]

That's not a loss of connection, that's a gain of connection compared to where we were before the technologies existed. [McLeod]

There's a time and a place in society for all manner of communication. Former platforms define those areas with real boundaries. But this has no boundaries. It blurs the boundary between home and work, between school and home, between church, temple, mosque and school. It blurs everything. Why? Because it's programmed for revenue generation. ‘We want to make money off you at any time of the day.’ [Bugeja]

Happy reading!

8 Responses to “Are we too connected?”

  1. I suppose we are too connected for his business model of static news. It must be difficult to watch your professional slowly become less and less relevant. (Notice I did not say unnecessary.) Besides, last time I checked every digital communication device I have has an off switch.

  2. Well, I am just glad to see you are not ALL techies there at Iowa State.

    The funny thing is most of what he said was true, about blurring the lines and whatnot. It is just how you perceive that blurring. He clearly has a default negative view (and I am sure many Iowa residents do too, which is why he got more airtime). Of course, after watching those anchors play their little texting game at the end of that segment, it is hard to see how most viewers wouldn’t have a default negative view.

    Really liked your backdrop by the way – that was a good room to shoot in.

  3. There are other technologies, most of which are not digital at all, that are more damaging to a sense of local community than those technologies that digitally Inter-connect humans.

    For example…

    The central air conditioner brought people inside during hot summer nights instead of spending time in the streets with their neighbors.

    Developers who have built entire cities and neighborhoods without sidewalks, making it difficult, in in some cases unsafe, for neighborhood walks. It is on these walks that we often see people, say hello, and have some friendly conversation.

    Cars – cars have extended our range of travel in our areas of residence…we spend more time in our cars than we ever have, which detracts from time spent building community.

    Books – it is possible that the tradition of oral and community storytelling was impacted quite negatively by the mass production of books via printing press technology.

    To say that digital inter-networking is a key reason for the break down of community is absurd.

  4. Great post Matt…I haven’t thought about examples as you have outlined them and it makes a lot of sense. Change is happening to all of us and we are going to have to deal with it or be put out to pasture with the horses, who used to pull the buggies, before those darn cars were developed.

    Does Dr. Bugeja think that we’re going to go backwards with the trend towards greater technological communication? Are people going to stop getting instant access to the news via on-line sources and start buying papers from the newspaper machines again? Am I going to completely stop my 8th grade daughter from sending text messages to her friends instead of calling them or inviting them over?

    We need to embrace the technology and figure out how to keep the personal contacts important…however, a teacher at Omaha Westside High School, during a Mac Learning Institute a couple of years ago (“selling” their one-to-one initiative) actually said he was against putting a computer in all the students (about 2100 of them) hands because he thought that it would reduce the communication between student and teachers…and just the opposite has happened…there is more communication, even face-to-face, than ever before because the shy kids who don’t want to ask a question in class in front of their peers are now doing that via email or chat and finding that they do have something to say and the teachers are making them feel important by validating their question or comment in a safe and secure way. This has led to greater confidence by the students to talk to the teacher in person and so communication has improved (one teacher’s example but it seemed pretty powerful and likely to be true for more).

    Keep pushing the envelope Scott…we all need to be challenged to keep moving forward in the digital age!


  5. Matt great post!!!
    I guarantee that technology is not going to be surrended by the masses, they like it… get a clue.
    They also like air conditioners.

  6. Interesting topic…I am a high school teacher and I address interpersonal communication skills with my students and we have great discussions on whether technology enhances communication skills or may diminish communication skills. Does being connected equal better communication? This discussion has also taken place in my grad classes.

  7. Every working mother makes the following experience on each day and on each day thousend times: She has to decide to whome she should listen to right now, to whome she should speak to; to which information, to which attraction she should care … and so on. And she has to make these desicions very quick. It’s all about judging the situation and about personal sense.

    If I would feel determinated by my WOW guild or by my twitter community or my google reader, if I won’t be able to decide to leave WOW or twitter alone for hours and days in order to spend and enjoy lots of time offline whith my children, my colleages, my friends, I would have a problem. But it won’t be a problem of media, it would rather be a problem of missing skills of judgement and decision making. In other words: It would be a lack of ability to make my personal sense.

    We had this problem in the historical societies before the Information Age as well, but it didn’t become as clear and as severe as it is today. In previous times, the society has defined and given the sense by providing clear societal meanings. Now, since there is no homogenous sense (or meaning) to be given at all, every single individual has to define it by itself (of course in his/her cultural historical contexts and by negotiation with his/her social surroundings).

    The key competencies for the living and even mor for the next generations are the cometencies of judgement and of defining the personal sense in every situation and in any subject matter which is meaningful for the individual.

    (Please excuse my bad English).

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