Being turned upside-down – how technology changes our identity

“The world turns upside-down in 10 years, but you turn with it.”
Spider Robinson, 1977.

The devices such as IT systems and social computing systems, that have been released during the Information Era has revolutionary transformed the way we process and consume information, the way that we trade and purchase, and the way that we connect to our fellow human beings. Professor Michael Weach from Kansas State University, says that these devices, or machines, has been transforming our culture, and causes us to reconsider our ideas of our facets of human culture. One of the facets that we need to reconsider is the way that we educate ourselves, and how we educate in the university. As students, the devices of the information era has had a positive and negative effect on the way that we study and relate to one another.

In the past year, my life has changed quite differently with the introduction of a smart phone for Christmas last year and a kindle e-reader for this semester. In fact, my normal routine for each day is now quite different. I will first be wakened up by my alarm on my phone which has also checked and downloaded a small collection of technology, news and religious podcasts for me to go through throughout the day. This allows me to be more aware about recent news developing in the fields that I am studying. While having breakfast, I’m either listening to one of those podcasts, or I am listening to an audiobook that I am going though, and I’ll continue listening to that show or book while commuting to university.
During the lecture and the tutorial, I may have both my computer out to take notes, and an e-reader with the textbook for the unit open. After Lunch, I would have a meeting with some of my university students over a unit project over Skype, instead of meeting in person. This is done due to the fact that we were all across Sydney at the time and that we cannot meet in person. I may send some files via a cloud storage drive, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, for everyone on to share and edit. After a day, I would drive home again listening to the podcasts or audiobooks.

Finally, for an essay, I may read up upon Academic papers via Google Scholar to understand the research done in these areas. Because of the availability of academic materials online, the quality of work done has allowed me to understand areas of, for example, the impact of recent cyber warfare attacks in a more comprehensive way than if I was to only to understand the issue from a selected group of papers.
A lot of these resources that I use to learn about my area of study are available to me for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and because of this I can study at any time of the day or night. Not only that, many of the resources are resources that I can use for further study after being a student at university. Albert Harris, from Appalachian State University and Alan Rea from Western Michigan University, also include other advantages in using these resources such as the fact that in a classroom environment, students are more likely to collaborate and compete with one another, and has been shown to increase learning. (Harris, A. L. & Rea, A Web 2.0 and virtual world technologies: A growing impact on IS education. Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 20(2), 137-144.) Not only that, but these classes can, and has allowed to be used for other classes across the world.

However, some of the disadvantages with using these resources in a much broader context have become the fact that these computing resources must be available, even to the few who do not have internet access at home. Not only that, but these resources must be secure enough that they cannot be vandalised or sabotaged which is easy to be done with these resources. Finally the temptation to plagiarise is also a disadvantage to this form of learning since it is easier to copy and paste paragraphs into essays and reports which then can degrade the quality of work that is being done within a student’s body of work.

These devices and IT systems has also transformed the way that we relate as human beings. Social Computing has allowed for interactions that would have not been able to have even a few years ago. YouTube, which is a video sharing site, has been also used as another Social Computing service in the form of video-blogging or vlogging. The trained video-blogger may feel more relaxed discussing issues in front of a camera, the vlogger may discuss sometimes the most private issues on a very public forum, online. Due to this, the discussions can get quite personal. There also seems to be longing for authenticity within this culture of vloggers. Jeff Jarvis believes that this is a good thing, as the awareness of the private issues being made public makes it easier for us to understand and, if it requires, do something with that information. (Harris, A. L. & Rea, A Web 2.0 and virtual world technologies: A growing impact on IS education. Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 20(2), 137-144.)

The effect of these devices of the Information Era has definitely transformed the way that we connect and understand the way that we connect to other as well as the way that students educate themselves. Overall, this seems to be a positive effect on the survival of humanity.

This was an essay for a uni unit about the effect social networks have on society. References are in the comments below.

By day, I work in Technical Support, but at night, I write on a mishmash of things. But mostly on #churchwebsites.

One thought on “Being turned upside-down – how technology changes our identity

  1. Wesch, M., The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version) [Video] “”
    Wesch, M., An anthropological introduction to YouTube [Video] Retrieved from

    Harris, A. L. & Rea, A Web 2.0 and virtual world technologies: A growing impact on IS education. Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 20(2), 137-144.
    Parameswaran, M., Whinston, A.B., Social Computing: An Overview. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, Vol 19, 762-780
    Jarvis, J., Public Parts: How sharing in the Digital age improves the way we work and live. New York: Simon & Schus

What do you think?