11 December 2010

An hour later: The technology and time conundrum

Anecdote A
While adding a page to this blog, I noticed that the title was flush up against the top edge. It looks bad. I wanted to fix it, and I know how to in the code. But then I got sidetracked. I saw a new feature and wanted to add it. Clicking the correct buttons didn't work, so I searched Help. Turned out, I needed to add some code. But the base-code I needed to adjust didn't even exist in my blog. I abandoned the effort after an hour.

Anecdote B
I telephoned with my mother recently as she had just finished not setting up paperless banking. Something went wrong and she didn't want to talk about it (the technology). I had however called to check in and see how she had fared getting DSL and wireless set up. So I pushed the theme anyway. That was a fiasco too, she said. Her frustration was palpable in her high-pitched, elevated voice that cracked into almost-tears at one point, trying to describe the process.

My mother is 71, self-reliant, smart and open-minded. I suggested that the complexity of what she was doing and her lack of experience with the hardware and software played a role in her frustration. She understood that. And while she uses help hotlines and is starting to attend classes at the Apple Store, she's resolutely repeated that she "does not want to spend a lot of time on the computer."

These two examples of what I'd call technology time-suck experiences are pretty common. The underlying assumptions go something like: "Why is this taking so long? Why isn't this simpler?" 
I've talked myself, and others into believing that the time invested to learn technology will over  time build knowledge and skills that result in you needing less time to do stuff,  and perceiving technology as "simpler" to use. I've experienced both of these personally, with a few qualifications. The more I know, the more I attempt to do. I work faster, so I can, of course, do more. I understand the complexities of technologies, so I can steer away from them, or plan for them. In both cases, I'm more able to adjust my expectations, something I try to help others learn.

But one's experience of time isn't generalizable, which makes the technology/time conundrum a discursive mine field. Time in capitalist societies is a commodity. Efficiencies are what the majority of educational technologies are used for.