Listening To Those Who Loathe Technology

itunesMartin Krzywinski’s photostream

I have had the privilege of working with many people who would consider themselves digital refugees. A digital refugee doesn’t care to know an iTune from an iGoogle and may demonstrate animated disdain for an answer that includes the phrase, “Oh that’s easy!” from the digital zealot who clicks the mouse button thirty-one  times to complete the “simple” task.  Digital refugees are sometimes frightened, threatened and/or  alienated by technology and they usually resist the prospect of using a computing or technology tool.

People who are ambivalent about technology have a lot to teach us. They are the barometer for which we should measure our assumptions for digital tools that are reputed to be intuitive and web environments that boast a seamless interface.

Digital refugees snag considerable  judgement both professionally and personally for not being riveted by the latest technology gizmo that frequently squanders our precious time with the promise of maximized efficiency. The question they often pose is, “Why would I want to do that?” A reasonable question that is frequently answered in condescending jingles about strategic plans or “enterprise value added deliverables” (sound familiar?). When I  expend the energy to listen to the opinions of one who is disinterested with technology I am often challenged by their insightful perceptions and the conversation usually becomes much more extraordinary than just merely discussing the tool. Questions such as, “What matters to you? What is an expert? What does it mean to learn?” often permeate the dialogue and these foundational ideals not only become the central inquiry but also form the neutral zone with which we can explore the purposeful use of technology.  When we don’t provide the environment for critical opinions to be heard about technology we have to readjust our notion of just who is the digital refugee in that situation. A humble reminder that technology does not alienate individuals – people do.

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