Sunday, July 20, 2008

Technological utopianism

I had an epiphany the other day. I do wonder sometimes what's the use of being in the academia, of teaching those complicated theories that make my students sleep or the use of creating those complex researches that nobody -- besides you and your cohort of similarly indoctrinated peers -- makes any sense of. But every once in a while something happens and all the pieces of the puzzle finally fall in their place and you see it: those abstract theories and research become utterly important. Crucial. You see the power of their explanation. And it makes sense.

That's what happens to me the other night. I listened to an enthusiastic young man talking about how the Web 2.0 - or the new social software like this blog or Facebook - are changing the face of the world. About how they are constituting a new you, a new basis for economic activity, a new framework for our actions, thoughts and behavior. He was, of course, selling something: they all do, these enthusiastic young people who feel they got the future figured out (hey, I was one of them too!). Their energy is catchy, their vision is glaring.

But there's more to their story. Behind the optimism, there must be introspection. And we have to understand what is it that we do, and who gets to benefit from our deeds. In my case, I'm wondering how we build a technological vision of a social world which hides away the inequality, the oppressiveness, the divides. I wonder how technology is shaped by our values and visions, and how it comes to exclude, to tell us who we are or whom we should be. I remember a student saying that people are in Europe are technologically backward because they do not use Facebook. They only emailed, she said, and are not even doing this all day long... I wonder how come we do not see the economic interests behind these technologically driven visions. How come we buy into them and feel empowered, when we are becoming sources of profit - like the human bodies in the Matrix, providing energy for a society that develops at our expenses and in which we do not get to participate, but only to provide. I guess we need a new Marx, one immersed in the Web 2.0. lifeworld :)

Photo credits:

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites