I’ve learned a lot from my time at The Temple News, but I’m not writing this column as the web editor. I’m writing as a student struggling to realize that yes, this is 2013 — the future. We are living in the future. We have all sorts of cool stuff at our fingertips. Facebook? Pretty cool. Google? Even cooler. Smartphones? Pretty damn cool. The Web? Need I even comment?
We’re surrounded by amazing tools. However, I’d argue that we, as citizens of the 21st century, need to start thinking critically about how we interact with these tools and how they affect and control us. Here’s the big question: Are you more in control of your computer or are you subject to the designs of some unknown software or web developer?
Of course, some balance must exist between the two, but, since we are living in the future, it’s about time we start taking some responsibility for our futuristic selves. In this column, I hope to address some things that can make your computer-assisted life easier, safer, fitter, happier, more productive, and dare I say, more engaging. But really, I’m more interested in figuring this whole thing out myself.
On a side note, it’s interesting to compare our relationships with computers to our relationships with our minds. Are we actually thinking our thoughts, or do they think autonomously? Are we actually controlling our computers, or are we just following pathways already laid out for us?
I should give a shout-out to Zack Scott, TTN’s opinion editor. He wrote a column titled “Gen-ed needs to power up students’ computer skills” in the Aug. 28, 2012, issue of The Temple News. In Scott’s column, he argued that Temple needs mandatory computer literacy courses to make sure students are well-equipped for digital learning and creating. I was happy to see this in the first issue I had the privilege of publishing on the web, and it certainly planted an idea in my head.
As a journalism major, it’s pretty clear that my future in this profession is incredibly uncertain. I’m reminded by my friends and professors every day that I’ll only find certainty in my own ability to adapt the craft and industry of journalism to current and developing technologies and anticipate future trends. That is, I assume that anything I’m taught in school about the future of journalism is either out of date already or not telling the whole story. It’s pretty frightening, actually. I think it’s safe to attribute most of my computer skills to my experiences outside of Temple.
My first experiences with a computer were with my grandfather’s Apple Macintosh IIsi in the early 1990s. My uncle, then an employee of the typeface department at Adobe Systems Incorporated, supplied me with a plethora of computer games, back when Macs had the best games. I remember that one of the things I desired the most was a CD-ROM drive so I could play “Myst,” even going so far as to double-check the back of my machine for the drive every so often. I even drew a picture of my dream computer, with a CD-ROM drive, in chalk on the outside wall of my mom’s condo in Ardmore. I think the drawing is miraculously still there. I should check on that. I’ll get back to you.
In elementary school, we had a class dedicated to learning how to use computers. I remember using Telnet and playing “The Amazon Trail,” a game designed to teach children about science and history while navigating the game world with CAD commands. In middle school, I joined the technology club and produced and edited videos for various teachers. While in high school, I convinced my mom to sign us up for America Online. This led to my continuing journey through cultural discovery, using sites like Allmusic, IMDb and Wikipedia to expand my knowledge of music, movies and everything else.
Without my exposure to cyberspace, the “consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators,” I would have no culture.
Now, to graciously spare you the details of my many college years, I’ll sum it up: I’m here, somewhere in between a curious web designer and a terrified multimedia journalist, writing this column not only to clarify my own thoughts on our use of technology but also to hopefully encourage you to get better acquainted with the digital world. When the governments of the future force citizens to accept cybernetic implants, you’ll be wishing you knew how to fight back.
Chris Montgomery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @montchr.