28 December 2006

Homo Faber

So hanging out in the apartment alone is very conducive to blogging. This is a reply to Ben's post on technophobia in the older generation.

A factor you didn't list: a lot of older people don't see the need for computers in their lives. My grandmother is totally computer illiterate as in "can't check her email or use Word" illiterate. She does use a cell phone and she's a pretty active business person. (She and my aunt have a bridal store in Bountiful.) Lots of people in the family have offered to teach her the ropes, and she seems amiable to the idea.

However, I think the main factor that's keeping her from it is that she doesn't really see a need for it in her life. Email, you say? She already has a cell phone and more people over at her house everyday to talk to than she can handle. Photo sharing? The relatives bring over their scrapbooks or send her pics in the mail, and she can see everything else. News? That's what she takes the paper for. Specialized information? I think libraries are still in existence, with real, actual people to help you. No need for word processing or spreadsheets or blogging or games. There's simply no viable reason to learn how. In fact, I think the only reason my grandmother even contemplates it is that she would get to spend some time with her grandchildren as they teach her.

We young people are convinced that the elderly are missing out on something tremendously important, and maybe they are. But we forget that people got along fine before computers. Most of the things we do via computer can still be done by hand or by phone. What, in the end, are they really missing out on?

Really, the only true reason for the "older" people to learn computers is in order to land a job. Similarly to the immigrants-learning-English analogy, they will only learn what they need and nothing more. They don't need computers to have fun or be personally productive. They already know a rich, fulfilling way of life without it.

More and more I envy these people. I spend a lot of time on my computer, and I'm sure only 10-20% of it is productive. A lot of what I do on here is not very concrete. Wouldn't I rather be out in their world, producing tangible things? Cooking and sewing and crafting and making--this is one point where Karl Marx and I can agree. Isn't it more satisfying to be Man the Maker than Man the Thinker? Digital creation and data pushing just doesn't cut it.


Marisa VanSkiver said...

Hey, digital creation makes me $$, so don't dog on it too much. Hehe. I do like the feeling of creating something tangible, but w/o thinking we would be w/o a lot of the creation as well.

Liz Muir said...

Oh, of course we have to think, but the point isn't thinking for the purpose of thinking. It's thinking for the purpose of doing and making.

Ben Crowder said...

And here's my reply, also posted on my blog:

They’re missing out on eyestrain and carpal tunnel syndrome! No, really, you’ve got a good point. I suppose we need to divide “older” people into two groups here: the elderly, who you’ve mentioned here, and the younger “older” people. :) (And I should have been more specific about what I meant by older.) You’re right — many of the elderly don’t really need (or want) computers in their lives. And in retrospect, I’m kind of on their side. :) (Well, perhaps not really, but it would certainly be nice to get away from the computer more.)

As for Man the Maker v. Man the Thinker, computers can be a great aid to creation. Most of what I do creatively is on the computer (but I’ll add here that I’m branching out to more tangible media), and even then I can often get real-world copies of my creations — Lulu books, photographic prints, CDs of music, even 3D metal sculptures if I ever get around to it. But yes, there’s something wonderfully satisfying about working with your hands.

Attempting to summarize, I guess I’ll have to revise my argument to pertain to those who are using computers, but at a painfully basic level. For those who don’t care to use computers at all, well, more power to them.