Look Around: Thoughts on Mr Turk’s proposal

“Look up”. A motto I rather liked whilst watching a video written, performed and directed by Gary Turk. What I found more interesting though was the rather emotional and divided responses that the video generated. Over the last few days the video was shared several times on my Facebook page, posted from various originating sites, yet each time the reactions of viewers seemed fired with power of the nine realms of hell (if you believe in those things). On the one side Turk’s supporters and on the other technology’s storm troopers. Some agreed with the video’s message to ‘put down’ technology and engage in more meaningful human interaction while some criticized the video’s ‘one sided’ view, highlighting the numerous benefits of technology and bearing witness to how technology makes their lives better. From the ample responses and comments I have come to the following conclusion… that maybe it isn’t about looking up, that instead, people should be encouraged to ‘looking around’ more.

For example, after watching the video, when one leaves a powerful messages regarding the evils of technology and how we should all refrain from living through our displays, one should possible not leave that message on a social media site (technology), uploaded from ones smart phone (technology) and enter into a long debate with other viewers, again, using said social media site and smart phone. Would your real support for these ideas not compel you to switch off immediately and go for a walk? This contradiction, I think, may be born out of our desire to be heard and comment. Technology has allowed us to have an almost global voice through social media, blogs and other interactive platforms.

From this comment you may assume I support the pro-technology side, however I have my own reservations. I’m privileged enough to spend most of my days with design students, by also required to make sense of their writing and presentations which seem to move further and further away from the English language – as I understand it. Many ascribe the (de) evolution of language on instant messaging, word processing software and social media. Fabio Massimo Zanzotto and Marco Pennacchiotti (2012) in their article Language evolution in social media: a preliminary study noted that:

 Today we are leaving a new “Social Media” revolution, that is once again, and with a faster pace, changing many languages. Social media such as forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and MSN Messenger, allow people to write their stories and ideas and share them with the Internet community. From a linguistic perspective, this is a much bigger and radical innovation than the Web itself. Indeed, the introduction of the Web in the early 90ies allowed people to read content from different sources, such as media organizations and companies. Most of the information flow was therefore one-way, with people acting as readers. On the contrary, Social media allows a two-way communication. Common people become content producer and, ultimately, language creators.

I’m not sure how I feel about technology enabling language support but I do use the smiley face with vigour. It is important to ‘look around’, to listen to other opinions, explore different avenues and ultimately make a decision. Turk’s idea of ‘looking up’ seems to imply a definite decision, a move away from the over use of technology or an embrace of this practice. For me, ‘looking around’ proposes an honest and personal evaluation of ones context and a decision based on personal reflection. How much is too much? Can one person ever decide for another? We view the use of technology through our own understanding and our own experiences. My main problem is passwords; I sometimes think all the complexity in the universe has been concentrated in a small room of merciless people creating password requirements and protocols. On a good day I remember my first meeting and to have breakfast, memorising rows or numbers, letters, special characters and other bits haunt my existence. Technology does offer me a solution – applications like Authy and Google Authenticator will send special codes to my phone instead of me having to remember a password! Fantastic, however, there is no single authentication programme used universally. So, I may have to resort to having number of apps doing the same thing. I’m sure the more technological orientated people in the world can offer a plethora of solutions to my problem, but in truth, I have never asked. I have simply looked around and weighed up the situation… the benefit of remembering my passwords allows me to be my own banker, my own travel agent, my own long distance communication provider and my own alarm. One day, when I decide the situation does not weigh up in my favour I may change my mind.

I hope though that when I reach that point I will simple get up and take a walk, instead of Tweeting about annoyed I am. I believe that when we look around we will find that there is a space in the sun for the acolytes of technology as well as the naysayers, and all of us in between 🙂

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