Technophobic Professors Make Academia Look Passé

There continues to be a slew of those who cling to the past not just in the media and marketing world, but sadly also in academia. And yet, with the spread of any new technology: from the introduction of the telephone to the advent of the car, there have been those who freak out because they misunderstand it.

Typically, they pick out singular negative examples vs. the incredibly greater number of benefits and positive stories. Or they share an elitist, out of touch viewpoint for how “the world should be.” According to who? Stuffy old academics in their ivory towers. Do they seriously not realize a constant in our society is change, and that tomorrow never looks like today?

A recent piece in the Guardian ties together several technophobic professors seemingly upset the world is changing. It’s worth reacting to because the themes presented are just so quaint you have to laugh at them. They are modern day versions of those who were afraid of science during the age of witchcraft. And the crazy part is, they are in education! Although I guess back in the days where the world thought some people were witches, those in academia were teaching it too.

This time, we have MIT professor Sherry Turkle who (of course) has a new book she’s trying to peddle. Predictably, it is yet another anti-technology tirade without much data to back up her points, just conjecture:

Turkle’s thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.

Sherry is of course wrong. Technology allows us to become infinitely more social. Personally, many of my best friends I’ve met due to the web. Professionally, I have had literally every job I’ve held due to connections forged over the web.

Because of the web, not only was I able to self-publish an album and go direct to consumer – but due to social networking I connected with Erik Soderquist, a designer and musician thousands of miles away who created my album art. And another local musician, DJ Stryke, who I also connected with due to the web, mastered it.

The web enables creatives to connect and has been so overwhelmingly positive of a tool for me personally I can’t help but get a little frustrated when anti-technologists bash it. Especially when nearly every one of my peers has similar stories of connection with other creatives, seeing these stories of “the sky is falling” from academics or politicians seems completely absurd, like those afraid of cars when whips and buggies reigned supreme.

More from the article:

But Turkle’s book is far from the only work of its kind. An intellectual backlash in America is calling for a rejection of some of the values and methods of modern communications. “It is a huge backlash. The different kinds of communication that people are using have become something that scares people,” said Professor William Kist, an education expert at Kent State University, Ohio.

A “huge backlash?” Really? According to who? What data points are presented? Exactly. Maybe they should get out there with real people and see how they’re using technology, particularly social communications tools to connect. I’ll argue the other way: those sitting in their ivory towers are viewing the world through a lens that is no longer relevant and I fear their students infected by their backwards viewpoints will be ill prepared for what awaits them.

Also what’s with the “technology scaring people”comments? Please, that’s a joke. If technology scares you, you likely have a deeper rooted neurosis and should seek psychological help, because we are a culture of technology. If you are afraid of technology, you are afraid of our world.

Further, there is another ridiculous layer to this whole premise. Consider nothing is more isolating and intellectual devoid as television. And yet these academics are berating technologies which inspire a generation to take an active role in communications?

As Brian Solis sagely notes:

Evolution is evolution – and it’s happened before us and will continue after we’re gone. But, what’s taking place now is much more than change for the sake of change. The socialization of content creation, consumption and participation, is hastening the metamorphosis that transforms everyday people into participants of a powerful and valuable media literate society.

Digital fluency is the new literacy, whether you want to bury your head in the sand: this is the world we live in. Embrace it or ignore it at your own peril, but society will look back with disdain on those who pessimistically fight the future.