I have a love/hate thing with technology in general….or maybe love/ambivalence is more accurate. I’m very curious by nature and always interested in learning new things, so I’ve often been the first among my friends to adopt a new technology (I got my first PDA about fifteen years ago). It’s only since becoming a librarian (about five years ago) that I’ve been regularly exposed to people who are way more up on the latest technology than I am. I have one librarian acquaintance, for example, who tweets about new technologies multiple times a day. When I read her posts I think I must be falling far behind and I wonder if I’ll be able to learn all the new technologies quickly and efficiently enough to stay competitive in LIS alongside digital natives. It’s funny that I have that fear though, because my aquaintance is at least my age (mid 40s). While I will always be operating in a “second language” when it comes to technology, she demonstrates that it’s possible to become almost as fluent as someone who’s grown up speaking technology.
The other issue for me is that there is some tension between my own interest in learning all the latest techie tools an my aversion to spending so much time glued to a computer living a “virtual” life. An example: last Friday I went to 4th of July fireworks in South Hadley with some friends. I took pictures on my iPhone and uploaded them to my brand new Flickr account today. It’s fun to be able to share my very amatuer snapshots that way, and to be able to manage my photos online in a way that allows me to use all the cool tools we’ve been exploring in this class. But as I was taking the pictures, it occurred to me that trying to get good pictures to share with anonymous people online was forcing me to watch the fireworks through my little iPhone screen and distracting me from interacting with the friends who were right there with me. When I worked in Harvard Square a dozen or more years ago, I regularly saw tourists walking around Harvard with video cameras glued to their eyes. The thought of being disconnected from the immediate experience like that turned me off. Yet I did the same thing at the fireworks. On the other hand, my brother’s serious mountaineering accident a few years ago dramatically changed my ideas about bringing cell phones into the wilderness. After falling over 40 feet and shattering his leg in the mountains north of Vancouver, BC, my brother was able to use his cell phone to call for help, enabling a helicopter rescue to get to him at least a day sooner. If he’d had to wait for his climbing partners to hike out for help, he may have lost his leg.
So while I could list and discuss my favorite tools – and even get very excited about some of them and the possibilities they offer for creating and sharing our experiences with each other in new ways – the big question about technology for me is more philosophical. Will I, as someone who didn’t grow up with computers and cell phones and digital cameras (or even answering machines or cable television for that matter), ever reach a point where I feel technology can fit seemlessly into my “real” life? A point when choosing to take photos of fireworks or tweet about a lecture I’m hearing doesn’t distance me from the actual experience of it? A point when I can embrace relying on a cell phone or GPS in the wilderness instead of seeking wilderness in part as an escape from technology?