This weeks readings about the neutrality of technology had me reflecting on a lesson I used with my grade 8/9 technology class. The topic was media use for the advocacy of First Nations. Teaching to international students, I had to take a step back and introduce and explain what the terms Indigenous, Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit and First Nations meant. Many where unaware that their home countries too had Indigenous people. After a few background lessons, we then began to discuss the artwork of Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. We watched two videos of totem poles being made and then we discussed the following questions.
What relationship does environment have with with First Nations art?
How is First Nations culture and society represented in the artwork?
Is this artwork any less beautiful or impressive when using modern technology?
The last question caused the most debate because many of the students found that by using CNC technology, something had been lost. The majority of the students believed that carving a totem pole by hand was harder and more time consuming and therefore more impressive and for some, also more beautiful. I found this a bit perplexing as the Generation Z (iGens) have known nothing but a life of technology and constantly seek the fastest route of action for an outcome. I too have to admit, even despite my love for technology, that I agree with them and it’s something I can’t quite put my finger on as to why I feel this way. The counter argument made by the minority of students was that it was equally impressive and beautiful and that not only were they continuing a longstanding tradition but they were also learning new 21st Century skills that would help them in “today’s world”.
I see both viewpoints. Both take skill and knowledge that must be passed down from elders. But when technology is involved sometimes a gain also means there is a loss. Perhaps in this scenario it’s that deeper spiritual connection the artist has with his/her hands on the wood and the time and care it took to create their piece of art.
What are your thoughts?