Anybody who reads this with regularity has probably come across me proclaiming my love for the article links in Bookforum. I’m not sure how they dredge the web for their content, but they never fail to uncover something interesting.
Today’s thought pellet comes from an interview with Christine Rosen in The University Bookman, a publication from the Russell Kirk Center (an “old school” conservative…I learned a great deal from The Conservative Mind — so props to him).
Rosen, who edits The New Atlantis: A Journal of Culture and Technology, questions a utopianist view of new technology and engages the potential deleterious effects on families.
The biggest challenge our new technologies pose for children and families is one of opportunity costs: too many of us are spending too much of our time in front of the screen instead of with each other in face-to-face communication, and this has adverse effects for families and for our culture.
I’m of two minds on this. Before I left for work today, I set my daughter up on a site called Strip Generator a site that allows her to make her own comic strips (don’t worry, she’s under supervision: no calls to Child Protective Services). I think new technology allows for a flowering of creative expression and I try to expose her to experiences on-line that engage her in creative production. But I must admit to wondering about the costs. Do these new technologies create habits that undermine face to face engagement. A possibility that I’m especially interested in as a political scientist who thinks about social capital and civic engagement.
As we think about how we deal with technological innovation in our own world, Rosen encourages us to think about how the Amish approach technology:
The Amish are a good (albeit rigorous) model for this. They are not opposed to every technology; but before they decide to incorporate one into their community, they first ask whether it will bolster or undermine the core values of the community.
This of course greatly offends libertarian sensitivities. Who is “the community” to tell me whether I can use a new technology. But if there are great social costs to new technology, we need to make it apparent. The literature thus far doesn’t seem to suggest a decline in face to face interaction as Internet usage increases, but we’re still at an early stage in this scholarship. there’s more thinkin’ and researchin’ to do.
I can hear my Internet and Politics students groaning Stop hand wringing and let a 1,000 gadgets bloom! But I get paid to hand wring….so (not sure what the onomatopoeia for “hand wringing” is.