This week’s readings and multimedia discusses hackers, their culture, and their hacking. Part of their hacking culture is their code of ethics(or lack their of, depending on your own personal beliefs). One of their ethics struck me, Information on the internet should be free and accessible. I agree with this to a certain point. I especially agree with regard to free information’s applications to education and the liberal arts. Websites like Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg have greatly expounded upon the ability for personal education. Twenty years ago, someone had to go to the library to research something. I feel that people rarely would pursue an educational pursuit that just popped into their head. Admittedly, I would probably refrain from going all the way to the library just to look up what is “Moore’s Law” or what is a llama a closest relative to.
Today, our family dinners consist of debates on current events and completely random bits of educational gold. We ask questions and having a house of “know-it-alls” leads to bitter struggles for intellectual victory. Each night, the discussion ends with, “No, you look it up.” Rather than running to the nearest library, everyone pulls out their smart phones or tablets to search for the right answer. If one person finds the answer, the other people search to find that same source to discredit it. (Who knew that my younger years would accidentally provide me with a window into the academic world that professors find themselves in.)
I am able to remember a time before these smart phones, tablets, and computers. Our dinner discussions back then would end with “Dad, what is the answer?” Dad knew everything, or so we thought. Our nights involved reading books or going for walks. Now, we all sit on the couches with enthralled in our own devices. Every now and then, someone will email the other person a link to the article they were reading, but other times there is very little discussion. A recent article on Mashable asked the simple question, “Is Tech Too Damn Distracting?” The author answered yes, and I agree. At home tech is too darn distracting, but should we cast it out?
No. No. No. It will be impossible for society to turn its back on the new technology and everything that comes with it, most notably, an unlimited source of information. Tonight, I watched a video on TED by Liz Coleman, the president at Bennington. She discussed the new role of Liberal Arts in our society and the need for a broad understanding of knowledge. This broad understanding can lead to unknown answers to some of the greatest problems plaguing our country, such as sustainability and infrastructure. Liz Coleman believes that everyone has the responsibility to develop a broad education. This is the only way that their civic involvement can be helpful. How does the average person have access to Liberal Arts without going to a four-year institution like Bennington with a $40k tuition or the University of Mary Washington with a $17k in-state tuition? The internet is the easiest answer. Where does this leave us?
At home and in our daily lives, there is a proper place for the use of technology. We, as a society, cannot exchange social exchanges for a purely digital social media presence. We cannot exchange family time with engrossing devices. We cannot exchange information for knowledge.