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What it means to own different kinds of technology

I guess most people own at least one pair of shoes, and some people own other kinds of technology for mobility — such as bicycles or cars. Many many different kinds of technology exist, and owning each particular technology has a particular kind of significance. For example: owning a bicycle means that the owner values fitness, and also a particular kind of attitude towards nature and the natural environment experienced while riding a bicycle.

In this post, I wish to focus one particular kind of technology — namely “information and communications technology” (ICT). My late father, who was a quite well-known econometrician, was responsible for forecasting the economic conditions for a wide variety of technologies and / or economic sectors, and also quite specifically information and communications technology in particular. He would often comment about things like how it could be quite difficult to differentiate between what is a calculator and what is a computer. I guess there may very well be some people today who have never even seen a calculator, let alone things like a slide rule or an abacus.

Today, things that are usually classified as ICT come in a wide variety of shapes and forms (and “functionalities”). I don’t think I have ever seen a pen or pencil and paper classified as ICT (and I suspect they never will be, even though there have been quite a few handheld devices which included a stylus quite reminiscent of such writing utensils).

Rather than attempting to survey the vast plethora of technological gizmos in the present-day intricate multitude of ICT-space, I now wish to abruptly take 1 giant step back (of course without falling off a cliff 😉 ) to make a sweeping statement about owning any particular ICT gizmo — which will probably be quite general, but also (in my humble opinion) quite significant.

As you might perhaps be able to guess, I am at the moment writing this text using a keyboard (it’s a “wireless” gizmo which is “attached” via a USB thingamijig). I sit reclined in a comfy chair, watching my words appear on a screen usually classified as a “monitor”. At some point in time (probably later today, I will publish this text “ON TEH INTERNET” [as yet another chapter in my ongoing “Social Business” book project] ). One consequence of all of these steps is the more-or-less “finished” text you are reading right now.

Although it is not impossible to publish this text on a handheld device, it is so uncomfortable to do so that it is very impractical. This is (in case you didn’t already notice it) the significant difference between e.g. “smartphones” and “laptops” (and the space in between smartphones and laptops is actually somewhat of a battleground between the two philosophies of these two camps of ICT owners). Although the presence or absence of certain physical features (such as a keyboard and screen size) undoubtedly play significant roles, perhaps the most significant difference is the owner’s ability to control the installed software on the devices.

In the smartphone camp, the owner’s ability to control the software is very limited. These are by and large “consumer” machines (which are used by and large in a fashion quite similar to the way old-fashioned television sets have been used by previous generations). In the “laptop” or “computer” camp, the ability to control the software is normally quite extensive (note that in the “battleground” area, the physical features may be more conducive to writing, yet the ability to control the software usually remains quite limited [1] ). In contrast to the consumer orientation of smartphones, laptops are by and large (at least capable of being) “producer” machines. This capability is something the owner generally actually pays for — whether with money or simply via their willingness to lug around a larger (and therfore more cumbersome) machine.

This distinction between “consumer” machines and “producer” machines can also be observed in so-called “cyberspace”. There are many “consumer” users of cyberspace who willingly accept and even almost hunger for “automatic” streams of data and being willing slaves to menu-driven programming. In contrast, the number of “producer” users is quite small … and perhaps they are so few and far between in large part because the literacy requirements are relatively difficult to acquire (these skills are generally — even in the most “technologically advanced” countries — not a part of a general primary education curriculum).

[1] These limitations usually have to do with the “business model” of the companies which manufacture these devices. For more background, see “Collaborateurs” as well as e.g. posts tagged “propaganda“.

By New Media Works

I'm just a regular person ;) If you want to know more, pls send me a msg -- thanks! :D

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