The Irony of Technology

If only that button didn’t ring my phone automatically…..

My day job, and the least favorite of the three…is in IT. I manage the basic on-site needs for a school. There are days when I don’t get to sit down long enough to have lunch, and other days where I’m one cup of coffee away from falling asleep in the office, surrounded by the soft hum of machinery.

Schools are rapidly trying to get out on the forefront of technology. Integrating the latest technological advancements into curriculum gets people extraordinarily excited. Distance learning classrooms, smartboards, iPads, schools leap onto these ships as soon as they come in, and that is a wonderful thing….except for one minor problem.

The end user.

I’ve written before about how individual users will push hard against new technology while the school as a whole seeks to plunge them into a terrifying world of star-trek like techno-wizardry, and this causes problems for me as a technician because most of my work tickets involve me turning on power strips or hitting F-keys to exit browsers from full-screen mode.

The most amazing thing for me though, is that while people seek ‘thingys’ to do anything they need and access anything they want at any given time of day, they’re not USED as such, especially when there’s a question regarding its usage or capabilities. We live in a world full of virtual field trips, satellite access to almost any place in the world, constant, immediate contact with anyone and everyone across the globe, and a galaxy of information that takes seconds to access.

If you have a question about the Ming dynasty, metric conversions, isotopic properties of palladium, Emily Bronte’s love life…its all there, in seconds.

But as soon as there’s a TECHNICAL question? Apparently this creates a paradox, and the entire world of technology itself shuts completely down, and the user is back to banging on rocks with sticks hoping to make discoveries.

“Hmm, let me see. How long did Fiorello LaGuardia’s mother breastfeed him for? Hello Google…ah, yes…here it is. Fourteen months, three days. Thanks internet!”

“Hmm….let me see…my menu bar is missing from my web browser? ABORT! ABORT! F*ING ABORT! CALL THE TECH GUY, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, I NEED A NEW COMPUTER, WTF IS THIS? MY COMPUTER HATES ME!

Apparently, the idea that you can use your computer, tablet, or smartphone to help you with your computer, tablet, or smartphone is such a mind-blowing concept that it hasn’t occurred to people. Or, if it has, the experience is akin to someone teaching themselves how to swim, and having it not go so well the first time.

“Whelp, I damn near drowned, so we’re never going into the water again.”
“Whelp, My answer wasn’t at the top of my google search, so I’m never doing that again.”

This amazes me, because the majority of people are willing to turn their attention to the web for damn near anything else, INCLUDING health inquiries.

“Hey, google, why is this wound oozing, and what can I do about it with a bottle of whiskey and some electrical tape?

You can be talking about using the internet as the first line of action when it comes to potentially life-threatening medical conditions, but heaven forbid you can’t figure out how to take a screen-shot on your new iPhone, because there’s no way the internet can solve THAT particular crisis.

A massive portion of what I do on any given day is use the web to search for specific problems and their solutions, so I know the information is out there. Maybe some of you are scoffing at this saying “Come on, AD, it ain’t that bad. Just yesterday I had to look up how to reconfooble the energy-motron on my latest gizmo to prevent it from overclocking when I have to program the databases for our integrated inventory and ticketing system at my corporation.”

But I guarantee, if this is your reaction, you are the minority. More often than not, if confronted with a technological issue, rather than use technology to solve it, people outsource the issue to “My nephew Gary, he knows about computers.” (Newsflash, Gary googles it) Or, alternately, people will flat-out give up on the issue. When I was in college, one of the residents on my hall had someone screw with his monitor (this is back in the days when we all used desktops) and turned it sideways. Rather than look up how to fix it….he PHYSICALLY ROTATED THE MONITOR AND LAID IT ON ITS SIDE.

I have no idea where this phobia of using computers to fix computers comes from. Perhaps it is a deep-seated horror that if we teach computers to fix themselves, it is one step closer to having them control us down the line. Perhaps the idea simply doesn’t occur to people.

I also know I shouldn’t be mewling about it because as of right now, this IS my bread and butter, and I sort of need you to call me so I can hit F11, or hold the power button down to shut the computer off.

So….disregard what I’ve just said. Call me.

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