Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Human/Computer Interactions...good or bad?

I am watching the PBS Frontline show about Americans' digital lives. I am not entirely in agreement with the dire accounts about the dangers of being constantly connected. But am I kidding myself? I am not saying kids' brains are not being affected. I believe they are. Dr. Gary Small at UCLA has physiological proof. But I wonder how bad that is. People's brains changed after the printing press. Things change. Whether we like it or not, the current situation is what it is. I think our challenge is find ways to cope in this rapidly changing world. Bemoaning the trends is pretty pointless. I don't see this as something that can be slowed, much less stopped. We need to find balance in our own lives and teach our children to do the same.

Marc Prensky's thoughts on this topic are similar to what I was saying about change above. Information overlaod is just part of our world now. We are evolving.

I was feeling pretty comfortable in my views until the show moved on into WOW (World of Warcraft). Now THIS is too much for me! I will admit to discomfort about virtual reality. I am ambivalent about Second Life and totally turned off by WOW. People using Second Life say that the avatars serve as substitutes for real friends and colleagues. Not happening for me. But it doesn't alarm me that other people find these environments attractive.

Moving on to the military...it is interesting and maybe hopeful that servicemen troubled with PSTD can use experiences in virtual reality to overcome their symptoms. And of course we have heard for a long time about the virtual reality training for battle and survival. PW Singer's book, Wired for War, sounds like a promising resource for learning about this topic. Again, assigning labels like "good" or "bad" seems almost naive. This is our world and we need to learn to live in it.

The conclusion featured two quotes, one by Prensky and one by Sherry Turkle. I like her final statement, "Technology is not good or bad. It is powerful....Slowly we will FIND A BALANCE." OK that is what I have been thinking and saying all along, so I found the end quite satisfactory.

PS The link from the title is to the PBS site that accompanies their programming about this topic.

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