C. A. Bowers

In chapter 3, Bowers lays out the premise that “the ubiquity of computers in daily life now needs to be matched by an equally widespread public discussion of the cultural gains and losses associated with the mediating characteristics of computers.” The main arguments he presents are that computers (and the internet) are not objective transmitters of information but subtly modify both the information itself and the way it is communicated. While this fits in with Western ways of thinking and knowing (because it was designed, is used, and continues to be expanded by those in power), I wonder if computers and the internet can be meaningfully used by communities and cultures who rely on shared physical experiences and spaces. I’m not convinced that even efforts directed specifically at “Fostering Humanistic Knowledge Building Communities using Online Collaborative Tools” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oofti-tqxB0 will be able to overcome the hurdles that Bowers presents. 

That being said, I also wonder if and how those same communities could use computers for their own benefit without sacrificing their individuality or values. Communities have gained knowledge and tools from each other for time immemorial, so it is not outside the scope of possibility that people can take advantage of specific technologies without falling victims to its downsides. Of course, that would require a very intentional practice, and I don’t know if people in general are willing to manage that. Modern advertising is so effective that it reaches into the very biology of human desires. Even those of us who are exposed to it constantly are not immune. 

I would really like to dive deeper into this “double-bind” as bowers would say. Technology is such a powerful tool, and has such immense positive and negative effects that I think it is worth thinking about how its inevitable march towards all communities can be moderated towards the positive. But then, who is doing the moderating? The very people who invented the technology? The communities who don’t yet use it and will only be shown the shiny aspects? Who gets to decide what is positive and negative?

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