By Erica Wong |Staff Writer|
Kansas State University professor Michael Wesch spoke last Thursday to a full-capacity room about the impact technology has had on our lives.
Wesch began by defining wonder as a sense of elation, which leads to a sense of wanting to explore the world around you.
“Wonder is harder to achieve because of the technology around us, but technology may also be used as leverage,” explained Wesch.
The purpose of technology is to open people up to each other, but instead has alienated and closed us off from each other, according to Wesch.
“If you’re totally immersed in media, it’s hard to see media’s effects,” said Wesch.
As a graduate student, Wesch lived in a New Guinea village with no plumbing, no technology, and no Internet access for eight years.
They were deeply immersed in each others’ lives and with this shared vulnerability also comes empathy.
Wesch asked the audience, “Empathy is on the decline. Is wonder on the decline as well?”
Ubiquitous computing is something that we should be concerned about because there are computers doing things humans can’t do, according to Wesch.
Algorithms dictate what content we consume. For example, Netflix will predict what movies or shows a user may want to watch.
The changes brought on by this new technological revolution results in a change in media, which leads to changed relationships, and then ends up leading to changed habits, and ultimately changed values.
The result of this is the generation of college students today, named “Generation Me” by Jean Twenge, which according to Wesch, search for identity and recognition in a new media landscape.
The villagers in New Guinea don’t have this problem because their “Identity comes from relationships, not how they present themselves to others,” explained Wesch.
“We are not born with identity and recognition, that’s why we go to college and struggle through our twenties to figure that out.”
Today, we live in a world of infinite choice.We become less and less happy and doubt ourselves as more options are presented to us.
Wesch coined this as the “Vicious Cycle of Whatever.” To combat this social dilemma, we can utilize technology in more humane ways to make a better world for ourselves.
Wesch offers an example from his own campus. K-State Proud is a student-led campaign at Kansas State University.
Their motto is simple: Every dollar donated helps a student at Kansas State when they need it most.
A clip was shown to the audience of students paying for other students’ textbooks, handing out cash, even helping someone parallel park.
Leveraging social media in a positive way demonstrates the best of what the digital landscape can be – to find our voice and share it with everybody else.
“Our voice sounds so much better within the context of other peoples,” said Wesch.
There is a darkness to technology, but there doesn’t have to be if we understand how it affects us.
Wesch concluded his presentation to a thunderous applause with, “We can’t allow technology to shape us. We have to shape it.”