A Techno-historiography

I’m writing this in a lobby at a car dealership.

The very notion that I’m able to write–that is–“compose” this piece at the car dealership is indicative of my digital history and my literacy. It requires my use of a laptop and my presupposing that the dealership would have wifi. It is also indicative of the “always going” “always working” environment that technology and a networked culture encourage.

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Here I am . . .

Looking around I see various levels of technological dependence. All but one woman is looking at a phone or computer. Though, that particular lady is looking at one of the three large flatscreen televisions mounted before her.

Technology is requisite for most social interactions in our networked culture. Through this computer and its connection to wifi and that wifi’s connection to the modem and that modem’s connection to the greater internet I’m connected, in a sense, to a network of people. I suppose my influence isn’t that great. If I were to post something pertaining to a poor experience I’ve had with Comcast, I suppose I’d only receive a phone number for their customer support line, if anything at all.

How is it that I’ve come to this point? How is it that we as a society have come to this point? Jenkins discusses the viral nature of media. It is participatory in that media is spread to areas by individuals who notice a lacking of said media within their network. I suppose that as a society we’ve established a means of getting what we need where we need it, and getting it there quickly. Now that I’m able to fulfill assignments like this from just about anywhere (I suppose I could’ve used my phone’s internet connection if there wasn’t Wifi here, and even without the Internet I could’ve saved this post for later) it isn’t so much what I say as much as how it is said, how it is spread.

I can remember a time before I was connected to the internet and all the networks therein. To a time before I had a cell phone. Of course, I had a computer before I had a cell phone. Perhaps in third grade, or maybe even before that I had my own Dell desktop. I got one of those thin monitors too. Before that my sister and I shared an old computer and played simple games on it–that one was large and heavy and sat in our crawl space until my mom threw it out this past summer . . .

When I first got my first computer I felt free. Of course I wasn’t free in the sense that a computer connected to the internet may offer. In that sense I was very much limited. But I was enabled access to a whole new realm and whole new atmosphere in which to manipulate things to my own liking. Aside for doing brief writing assignments for my primary-school classes, I used that computer to play games. I would play strategy games–ones in which I was opened up to yet another realm of possibilities. I still get lost in a sense of nostalgia thinking about it today. I was and still am proud of the cities and empires that I built back then. I can only imagine where they would be now.

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circa 2003

I gained a personal connection to the internet sometime in middle school. Around the same age when I attended a summer camp where we got to make our own computer games. There wasn’t much coding I can remember, it was all put together through some sort of platform–the name of which is escaping me. Middle school was also the time where I finally got a cell phone! That phone was the missing link in my educational experience. MY sister and I would stare with jealousy at those of our classmates who eagerly pulled out their cell phones in 6th, 5th, even 4th grade. Looking back it seems absurd that I felt the need for a phone that I felt a need to be connected to the internet, but I suppose as Jenkins notes, it is the collaboration of technology and people’s relationship with that technology that hinder the former necessity. If my classmates hadn’t been telling me how great it was to have a cellphone I never would’ve felt a need to get one. In the same way, I never would’ve felt a need to join a social network.

At Campus middle school the social network of choice was Bebo. Everyone asked if you were “on Bebo.” MySpace had been deemed passé I suppose. Bebo was what was cool. Just as the tangible experiences shared with my friends and peers determined my getting a phone, those same networks influenced my joining Bebo. To be completely honest I cannot remember exactly what Bebo looked like. There was a personal page, themes you could change and ‘friends’ of some sort. Just as Jenkins notes the corporate obsession with statistics all of us middle-school-aged ‘Beboers’ were obsessed with tracking who had the most friends on Bebo. This led to my happily befriending anyone who “didn’t look sketchy” though I did have a few sketchy messages that ensued shortly after friending some individuals.

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Bebo Looks very different today. It appears to be some sort of group/collaborative platform.

After seventh grade, Beboing died off as Facebook took over. As social networking interactions actually began to have an influence on actual interpersonal/face-to-face interactions the internet and technology use also began to take more and more significant hold on my life in general. School began to need computers more and more, it began to rely on collaboration and accessing information through technology. From there my technological roots were established and continued to evolve to the point that they are at today.

This is a very abbreviated account of my coming into technology as I use it today. The main thing that I’ve noticed though, is that after being introduced to social media “for real” that is, social media that has a tangible impact on my daily interactions, I feel that my life has been forever changed. There’s no reverting back to life pre-facebook. I suppose this correlates to Jenkins’ notion that media “invit[es] people to shape the context of the material as they share it within their social circles.”

And now I’m back at the dealership where I’ve learned that now I can watch a video of the mechanics checking my vehicle. I suppose all of those rumors of mechanics ripping us off may finally be set to rest, but now, after reading Jenkins, I feel that I understand more in the way of ‘why’ technology has come to be so critical. In the end, I guess that we’ve gotten to where were are now because we are all human beings looking to know the truth.

Today my use of technology is intermixed with most all aspects of my life. Jenkins writes “We must all be careful not to suppose that a more participatory means of circulation can be solely explained solely (or even primarily) by this rise in technological infrastructure.” And to an extent, I agree with this. In my own life I’ve seen how critical the role of other people’s voicing/making known the wonders of technology or a given media, but I think that it is certainly a dynamic landscape today where more and more interactions continue to be filtered through technology as people move away from those around them and into the devices that connect them to who they want to be connected with. I should know as I’m still waiting here in the lobby at the dealership and as of yet no one has struck up conversation with their neighbor. We’re all so fixated on getting to where we want to be that I suppose what lies before us is sometimes lost.

 

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One thought on “A Techno-historiography

  1. Hey Nathaniel!

    
I liked that you started with a personal reference and that it was about our accessibility to technology, rather than jumping right into how we got into this network culture. I would say that our posts are actually quite different. I focus a lot on how the vitality and exposure that the media allows us actually makes me nervous or shy, about not putting too much information online, worrying that people won’t receive my messages the way I want, etc. That’s intimidating for me, but you feel freedom. The complete opposite! But when you conclude, you steer away from that freedom it once gave you, and began criticizing the media (in your own way). I thought that ours concluded similarly in that we have started to become so focused, conscious, and even sometimes paranoid about the media and it’s purposes when we are missing the opportunity to focus on what’s present instead. I enjoyed your piece and always enjoy reading your style of writing!

    Like

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