One cannot dispute the fact that technology is at the center of global affairs and is causing panic, excitement, intrigue, and fear among others across the world. These emotions span many languages and transcend all geographical boundaries. With this rapid advancement and a clear uncertainty of where and when it will end, Postman’s article “The Judgment of Thamus” zooms in on how new technologies are transforming cultures and dramatically altering the way humans operate. Such is the nature of this take-over that Postman termed this phenomenon as “Technopoly”, vividly presenting how culture is being surrendered to technology. After close analysis, I think the arguments presented are valid and therefore I am in agreement.
The infusion of new technologies in our daily activities is certainly changing the global landscape and just not merely adding and subtracting; more of an ecological impact rather than just mathematical (Postman, 1992). What makes the colonization of our thoughts and actions disastrous is that it is manifesting itself unnoticed. According to Postman (1992), it is not always clear in the early stage of a technology intrusion into a culture who will gain or lose most; because the changes are subtle, mysterious and unpredictable. I certainly endorse this view even though I am seeing clearly who the eventual loser will be. The fact that many persons are caught up in the technological euphoria, they are overwhelmed and partially blind to the undermining effects and impending disaster that awaits our present and future generations.
New technologies have captured our most valued asset; our cognitive faculty, and therefore have us operating as devices with external hard-drives or attached thinking gadgets. For the shortsighted individuals, this invasion of culture is termed as progress and development; but how can the regression of one’s thinking capacity and ability to operate independently with confidence be considered as progress? During my daily interactions with students and colleagues alike, the ecological impact of technology is always evident. The ability to make basic calculations and solve simple problems is slowly eroding as the dependence on technology has far outweighed the urge to think and activate one’s cognitive structure.
If this is the road we intend to travel, what will become of our children and the future generations? Are we planning to have a set of brainless machine driven thinkers taking charge of the world we are trying so hard to build? It would be sad if one turns a blind eye to the inevitable. As a result of new technologies, some students are no longer able to use pens or pencils to produce a composition or any written piece. They are unable to spell and construct proper independent sentences and paragraphs as a machine does that for them. According to Gallaghar et al (2003), new technologies pose real danger to students and as a result, a great deal can and should be done to protect them from these machines and applications.
Education, whether formal or informal, by its very nature is a moral activity in which choices are made to direct the path of learning to socially valued goals (Pea, 1985). It is obvious that humans are social beings and learn a great deal from social settings. For centuries humans have been maintaining a sense of community and togetherness through direct interaction. Sadly, new technologies are altering the nature of community; that is, the arena in which thoughts develop (Postman, 1992). If such an institution is being altered, isn’t this a clear indication of self destruction manifesting itself ? The intrusion of new technology, is not adding to or subtracting from this ideology; but is changing and revamping the socialization process in and out of the classroom. This has resulted in the creation of virtual spaces where persons no longer see it fit to interact with their kind, but instead find more pleasure in electronic gadgets or merely sitting around a screen and text. Do you remember the days when students would go to school, interact in classrooms and on the games-field during break? Though not on a frightening scale yet, this is changing. Online learning is slowly but surely eroding this past-time as students are now privy to stay in the comfort of their home and take classes. Is it that we are progressing in a regressive manner?
Gersten (1995) surmises that computers are but another in a set of educational innovations that have largely ignored the cultures of schools. With the belief that computers will automatically solve our educational woes, computers have been forced on schools in a top-down fashion thus ignoring the various demands and routines of a teacher’s day (Cuban, 1986). In addition, this lack of sensitivity to the realities and routines of classroom learning has resulted in a revolution that has been temporarily derailed ( p.22). It is no wonder why some educators are so fearful of these new technologies and tend to avoid them at all cost.
Also, as it relates to oral cultures, people who are apart of them have every reason to be fearful of what new technologies have done and what they will do in the future. Oral cultures are dependent on the use of words to represent sounds due to the lack of graphic representations (Ong, 1982). As a result, the cognitive structure and to a greater extent the memory is of utmost significance. However, with the invasion of new technologies and the accompanying sophistications, these cultures are becoming a thing of the past as there is now no need to rely on the memory as a machine can do that; destroying in a short period what took centuries to develop and perfect. This is just like cutting down a 200 year-old tree in 10 minutes.
Additionally, new technologies in some instances are leaving persons without a choice as old ways of doing things are being totally replaced without any form of consultation as to what percentage of the potential users are in a situation to afford the technologies or trained to use the technologies. This takes me to the banking service where the act of composing print has been wiped out by machines even though many persons cannot use the technology. It’s not a matter of choice; it’s more like take it or leave it. It’s no wonder Postman’s (1992) article emphasizes the notion that “new technologies alter the structure of our interest: the things we think about, the character of our symbols: the things we think with and also the arena in which thoughts are developed. Therefore, if all these critical features of of human development are being eroded, isn’t it clear that it is not a matter of adding or subtracting; but rather, a total frightening change?
Gallagher, B. (2005). New Technology: Helping or Harming Children? Vol. 14: 367– 373 .DOI: 10.1002/car.923 .
Howell, R. (1996). Technological Aids for Inclusive Classrooms: Theory to Practice. (35) 1.
Ong, W. J. (2002). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Routledge.
Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. New York: Methuen.
Pea, R. D. ( 1986). Beyond Amplification: Using the Computer to Reorganize Mental Functioning. New York: Center for Children and Technology.
Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Vintage books.