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Memories of Technology

August 31, 2012

In class last night, our instructor asked: What is your earliest memory of, or history with technology?

I’d already been thinking about HTML. It brought memories back of New Jersey Online, being an intern, and learning basic HTML with HTML For Dummies open on my lap. Putting those triangular pointy brackets into a SimpleText screen, the ffff# that made color. I remember a sherberty sort of purple-pink, and a lovely slate blue grey. But I don’t remember the numbers they were.
Towards the end of class last night, I started thinking about C++. I took two computer science classes my freshman year of college. To the surprise of many people who knew me and knew what I was good at. Those who were surprised were absolutely right. I have no natural aptitude for, or understanding of code, to speak of. But I do tend to like programmers and engineers in my circle of friends. They’re good eggs. I appreciate and definitely admire the fact that their brains work in code ways, and they understand things that evade and elude and mystify me. It’s like, they’ve got a secret decoder ring that wasn’t handed to me. So, I took two computer science classes in the hopes of grabbing that secret decoder ring. I’m moderately proud I passed both classes. Possibly, by the skin of my teeth. (There’s also a decent amount of pride from the fact that I crashed the C++ compiler, with code that the student assistant couldn’t see any mistakes in, that one time.)
I’m not sure what I could have, or should have taken, instead of computer science in college. Other than those two, I’m pleased with the mix of classes I took. I should have started anthropology sooner, of course, but I didn’t know that freshman year. And I should have volunteered in the library in college, but I digress.
Early experiences with technology. Social media wasn’t invented, particularly, until well after I graduated. There had been IM, and ICQ, and an all-campus Broadcast that linked up with the Apple computer network. And the web, of course. I remember how tantalizing the idea of “free Internet all the time!” was, as I was packing for college the first time. Though I wish college-me had had a blog, just so I could have something for posterity to cringe at. Most of what I kept as a journal was in giant long confessional emails I sent to people using Eudora mail, but those got killed when my parents erased the hard drive of my computer. I kick myself for not keeping a better journal on paper and ink.

Facebook, and Twitter and things weren’t part of my college life. I wasn’t even an early adopter of either one. Dad had to persuade me they were good and relevant. He got me to use Facebook by bribing me with online Scrabble. A move he later regretted, when I got obsessed, got good, and started playing words like “Banjax” on a triple word score. Now, he won’t play with me.

Learning to use social media platforms, and then using them with some deliberation as publicity tools, as part of my job, I didn’t see it so much in terms of numbers, as a way of learning a new language, a new set of implied social requirements for the online community (yes, I definitely should have taken anthropology courses my freshman year.) And so much fun, that I kind of felt like I was getting away with something gleeful every time I did blog work. Still working on understanding numbers and analytics, in  ways that I can best use them for getting a lot of eyes onto the things I’m posting, rather than relying on an imagined sense of the ideal person on the other end of the computer screen, reading what I post.

Every time class discussion turns to just how ubiquitous Google search is, and how search results are shaped by algorithms that track a person’s previous searches, I get a little uncomfortable. So many people are using Google search, accepting the returned results as valid and true, and not questioning the mix of sources returned. The Google Bubble phenomenon.

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