Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adrian Higgins and Robert Harrison on Technology's Domination

Adrian Higgins has a terrific piece in today's Post (here) ruminating on the degree to which humans are getting lost in their electronic devices and losing touch with the physical world.

This is right. There is something changing in the way that people relate to each other (and to their physical surroundings) that is rooted in computers, cell phones, etc. I know it's not all bad, but it's not all good either (and the irony of me writing about Higgins's article on a blog, which I would never have envisioned even two years ago, is not lost on me).

Higgins captures in a short article (you could write a long book on this topic) the problematic aspect of the increasing domination of electronics. For me, this trend is the biggest cultural change / evolution of the past couple of decades.

Here's an excerpt:

Technology has drawn us into our interconnected webs, in the office, on the street, on the park bench, to the point that we exist virtually everywhere except in the physical world.

Robert Harrison, a professor of Italian literature at Stanford University, laments that when students pass through the school's visually stimulating campus, iPhones, BlackBerrys and all the evolving devices and apps draw them into their blinkered personal realms.

"Most of the groves, courtyards, gardens, fountains, artworks, open spaces and architectural complexes have disappeared behind a cloaking device, it would seem," he writes in his book "Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition."

The ubiquity of the computer is changing the very essence of the human animal. We are in the midst of a historical change in "our mode of vision," Harrison says, "which is bound up with our mode of being."

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