We are tools of our tools…

My understanding of the word technology continues to expand and that is a good thing. Being asked to distinguish between text and technology through these postings has been a challenge. I think I said something to this effect about text, as well… At this point in time, my conception of technology is that it is the manner (i.e., medium) in which ideas or emotions or a state of being is communicated or constructed (and by manner I am invoking the broadest sense of the word, one that would, for example, also include not only how the tools were used but also the tools themselves).

The following video has been very influential to me and has helped expand my thinking about Web 2.0. I chose this video for this technology post because it demonstrates how developments in technology (i.e., affordances) influence the texts contained therein. In this case, it demonstrates how words, images, video and so forth on the computer screen, accessed via the web, is evolving. Specifically, it shows how content and form have been separated in the code of web pages. And, above all, it captures exactly what Thoreau said, as paraphrased by Postman (1992) on page 3, that we have become tools of our tools.

Video by Michael Wesch.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Going back to the example in my text post… the communicator is bound to a certain way of communicating based on his choice of medium. If he is using written words, say in the form of a poem, to describe a beautiful meadow, I will have to understand his meadow using these words. If he uses paint, brushes and paper to create an image of the meadow, I will understand his meadow using that image. But what if he is a terrible painter but a talented poet? Or… vice versa? The communication of his conception not only depends on the medium he chooses but also his competence using the medium. Additionally, my competence with the medium is also invoked in making sense of the communication I have received (this provides the rationalization behind curricula in which students are expected to create a variety of “media texts” with the assumption being that one can interpret and deconstruct texts better if one has had a number of experiences creating texts in various mediums… I think the assumption is valid).

I think the video above, by Michael Wesch, exemplifies a case in which the author of the text has chosen the best medium for his message about digital text. I have a difficult time trying to imagine a more effective medium he could have chosen to get his ideas across. I know I am risking hyperbole in saying that I think his video is as much akin to expressive virtuosity as is an accomplished concert pianist’s performance.

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