Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thank You!

Dear Ian (Last Name?! Eek!),

Thank you so much for visiting our class last week. Forgive the fact that we aren't the rowdiest bunch; we are, after all, in a writing and technology class!

I enjoyed your talk last week due to the fact that it was both informative and informal. It's rare that a guest speaker visits one of my classes and sits (at the class' level) and talks with us about common interests as if we were having a conversation. Your approach to a sometimes confusing and alienating topic made it all the more inviting. 

The topic of writing and technology is an odd one in my mind. I must admit that I resent technology at times. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all that it has done and continues to do to expand the possibilities for every facet of life, but sometimes I wish I could cut out all the background noise--even the click of my own fingers typing--and just write. A pencil, a sheet of paper, and pure inspiration, I assume, would be all I need to create the perfect line, the most compelling story.

I keep coming back to a theme of both your talk and the material we have studied this semester, that technology is constantly evolving, being molded to fit the needs and desires of an ever-changing world. I am thankful, for example, that medical-technology advancements are being made to meet the rise in breast cancer in recent years (now one in seven women said to be affected), but I'm not so cheerful about all the new gadgets that are labeled necessities. My boyfriend, who used to be notorious for leaving his cell phone at home, recently purchased a BlackBerry and was instantly attached to its buttons. He doesn't leave home without it--in fact, he doesn't do much of anything without it. Now, in the evenings, a time which he used to spend reading or writing, he spends clicking and scrolling away on his BlackBerry. My point? I'm not sure I have one except to ask that these technologies help us, give us directions when we're lost, but how do they limit us? This was also brought up when we talked about security devices and monitoring devices, such as a the crime-trackers, as technology to be considered. When do we reach the point where we pause and ask if this technology is helping or hurting us. There may not be an answer, perhaps not yet, but I wanted you to know that your talk has propelled me to continue thinking about these things. 

I may not always be up-to-date with the newest software and technologies, but I do keep my eye on them. I will never stop asking questions, whether in my head or aloud, because I think they are important. In my opinion, there are aspects of our lives to be experienced without all the strings (or PDAs) attached, but at the same time, there are elements of technology that improve the quality of our lives in many ways. I feel a little bit like I am on one of those radio call-in shows--they would label me Weary of Technology in Wilmington-- but I simply want to challenge the notion that we always need to be "well connected" to get by. I hope there is at least a small sliver of hope for those of us who still like the feel of real paper between our fingers.

Thanks again for visiting! Good luck with all that the future holds!


Lia Kerner

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Posting Blogs and Taking Names: Obama's Fancy, Flashy "Cybergenic Edge"

I have to admit that I discovered ABC News writer Paul Saffo's article as a result of countless Google searches involving phrases such as "today's hottest technology" and "article on technology." Needless to say, I wasn't feeling too inspired or creative. When I found Saffo's "Obama's 'Cybergenic' Edge" I was immediately interested--most likely because John F. Kennedy's name appears within the first sentence, but because I felt the topic of technology should be a crucial issue in the 2008 election. It is nonsensical to suggest the leader of our country need not know how e-mail works, or how to conduct a simple search in Google. Paul Saffo addresses this very point by suggesting that Barack Obama has a "cybergenic edge" over John McCain.

Cybergenic, Saffo explains, is today's equivalent of what Kennedy and Nixon strove for in 1960-- to be mediagenic, the ability to "reach through a T.V. camera and grab the attention and votes of passive voters" ( As mass T.V. media fades, it is being rapidly replaced (heck, it was long ago replaced) by the media of the Web and cyberspace. According to Saffo, a political candidate now must be able to "surf, blog, IM and twitter their way into the hearts of activist "netizens."" A fact that hurt Hillary Clinton in her campaign for the Presidency. While Clinton's campaign was too heavily focused on mass media of T.V., Obama's campaign moved in swiftly, conquering "the world of cyberspace," a large part of why, in Saffo's opinion, Obama won the nomination. Saffo credits much of the record-shattering numbers in fundraising money leveraged by the Obama campaign to its web span--reaching to cyber-junkies all over the country.

The discourse of the importance of technology is also a study of the evolution of technology. In a section entitled, "From Firesides to Firewalls," Saffo discusses how each President has had his own personal technological shtick. For Franklin D. Roosevelt it was the the radio, for Lydon Johnson it was his "green vinyl helicopter pilot's chair with a built-in ashtray" that he used as his desk chair. History, then, reveals in plain speak that technology plays a role in the legacy of each leader, and in the 21st century, this idea cannot be more true. Even in his campaign, Obama has not only covered miles on land, but endless territory in cyberspace, spreading his name through the popular "Yes We Can" YouTube video, and his energetic and attractive website.

Some may cast the issue off as "no big deal," and true, it's certainly not as important as which candidate possesses the leadership skills to pull our country away from an economic depression. But the issue of technology should not be cast aside in this election. If so many forms of our everyday lives are being turned digital-- our relationships, our books, music, movies, all of our interests-- shouldn't the leader of our country be at least familiar with the jargon of it all? Shouldn't he be able to send an e-mail? When it comes down to it the real issue is that if one candidate-- who just so happens to fit the profile of John McCain-- is unfamiliar with these things, could he also be quite out of step with society, one that is teeming with talk of technological advances and their products? Saffo admits that he will be very surprised if Obama isn't elected President on November 4th, and I have to agree. "Let us hope," Saffo writes in closing, "that Obama's cybergenic instincts enable the first cybergenic president to govern as effectively as he ran" (