Technology, Identity & Nintendo-Legs

I can recall a couple of years ago, an old lady friend and I were out having some lunch.  It was my first day off in a few weeks, and I just wanted to spend the day relaxing and didn’t want to exert myself too much.  But like my old man always says, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”  This lady

Your texting skills are no match for Cell Phone Girl!!

friend of mine dropped her phone, splitting it in half.  It was obviously broken, and my day of taking a breather, I knew, would turn into a day of desperation and working against the clock.  Oh the calls, texts, emails, facebook updates she’d miss!  How would she survive!?  I on the other hand would be thrilled to be cut off from the world…but not her!

I feel technology has become such an intricate part of our lives, that for some, actually it seems that for many if not most, technology and digital literacy is more than just a simple way to communicate.  It’s shaped us and our identities into who we are and how people socially perceive us.  Do we define technology, or does technology define us?

British Sociologist Lord Anthony Giddens, who’s written more books then some people read in a lifetime, has done extensive research in regards to the relationship between social identity and technology.  Modern individuals have to be constantly “self-reflexive,” making decisions about what they should do and who they should be. The self becomes a kind of “project” that individuals have to work on: they have to create biographical “narratives” that will explain themselves to themselves, and hence sustain a coherent and consistent identity (9).

It seems that technology is doing more than just making the world and information more convenient.  It’s also defining and creating peoples identities.  Myself for example, am one that really only uses technology when I need to and when it’s convenient for me.  When I have to write a paper, write an email, look up the score of a game, when my two weeks are up and I have to call my parents, etc.  I’m one of the few people that I know of who doesn’t have facebook, I’m slow to respond to texts (by choice) and don’t really use technology to shape my identity, and because of this and various reasons I tend to avoid technology, I’ve become somewhat of a recluse in the eyes of many.  What ever happened to just picking up the phone and giving me a call the old fashioned way?  It makes me wonder what people did before cell phones and the Internet.  Were there people as stark crazy about staying in constant contact with others 24 hours a day back then like now?  If so, did they use to sit at home by the phone, and wait for someone, anyone to call?  Did they constantly check their mailbox, a dozen times a day to see if anyone wrote them a letter?  Or, was society way back when, not as caught up with maintaining today’s theme of being an active member of a communicative society?  What were people’s identities like before the technology boom which seemed to occur over the past 20 years?  Were people judged by how many real life friends they had as opposed to today when some judge others by how many facebook friends they have?

Also, has technology made our world any better?  Some say yes, and I’d have to agree to a certain extent.  We are now at an age of the “net-generation.”  One, which utilizes the computer and the world-wide-web for their instant source of news and commerce. “N-Geners” are “hungry for ex- pression, discovery, and their own self-development”: they are savvy, self-reliant, analytical, articulate, creative, inquisitive, accepting of diversity, and socially conscious (13, Buckingham).

We are able to get various accounts of news from all over the globe at the click of a button, so to say.  It has, made the world a lot smaller and has created a more open-minded society.  A medium for social awakening,” which is producing a generation that is more tolerant, more globally oriented, more inclined to exercise social and civic responsibility, and to respect the environment (14, Buckingham). And according to Brant and Myers, the emergence of technology has allowed us to get away from the global superpowers and has given the smaller countries a voice in the world (664, Hawisher).

Nintendo-Leg’s Fearless Companion!

But at the same time, it is worrisome.  Is technology making us lazy?  I recall when growing up, my best friends little brother was a lot more in tune to technology than we were, but we didn’t say that, we called him lazy.  He’d spend hours upon hours playing video games and surfing the net.  We use to joke that he had “Nintendo-Legs,” a wretched disease which causes one’s legs to be extremely thin and brittle due to long hours of sitting on one’s keester and playing too much Super Nintendo.  Now though, Mr. Nintendo-Legs has a job where his technology skills as a kid have made him into an adult with savvy computer skills.  He just bought a fancy car and his older brother rides a bicycle to work (and not because he’s thinking green).

Technology has radically shaped our lives and our society.  I feel it’s created more people such as myself to become more reclusive, but I really don’t mind.  In the past, I might have consulted my friends and family in regards to deciding where to possibly go on a weekend get-away.  Now, I just Google where to go, “best weekend get-aways near me.”  I’ve become more independent as have many others thanks to technology.  Is all this a good thing?  I’d say it’s still up for debate in my mind.  I’m not sure people really are as social as they once were, at least not in face-to-face interactions.  Why go to out and spend my whole night finding the right girl to buy a drink for when I can just parooze Match.com, or hell, even craigslist!  All technology and literacy’s have life spans, it’s just a matter of time before we’re on to the next, so I guess we had better prepare for the worse…er, I mean best!

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4 comments on “Technology, Identity & Nintendo-Legs

  1. As I was reading for this week, I spent a lot of time toiling with the chicken-egg question of technology. Certainly, how we live and what we desire shapes technology, but there is this other side where how we live and what we desire is shaped by technology. This give and take relationship is kind of baffling to me. Like the serpent eating it’s own tail, I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins.

    This question seems ultimately relevant in the world of creating identity. It seems easier to distance your identity from technology the older you are, but for our students who are growing up flipping pages on an iPad, technology must be a deeply engrained part of their identity. It kind of is for my personal identity and I remember AOL dial-up.

    I don’t know what this means for the classroom, and frankly it hurts my head to think about Ouroboros nature of the whole thing. One thing I do know is that most students are immersed in online culture and technology, and they relish the chance to talk about it in some way. At least, my students did recently. And that within itself seems like a sort of victory.

  2. The issue of identity and technology which you raise reminds me of that view of evolution which says that animals committed themselves to bodies that incorporated very specific tools while humans didn’t. Thus a cat’s paw is the tool called a claw. It is very practical for the cat, but the cat can’t put the tool down. It is wedded to it. In contrast, a human hand has not committed itself to a specific tool. This is an advantage in terms of power and survival because it means that humans can pick up and use any number of tools, including claw(hammers), because they can then put them down.

    Is technology the same kind of tool? You ask if technology defines us or do we define it? Aside from the fact that both might be true, I wonder if it is the kind of tool we can pick up and put down, in a sense or to some extent being peripheral like the clawhammer. But then it gets confusing when I try to think about whether or not technology is changing our ways of thinking–and our neuron pathways. Does that mean technology is not peripheral but part of us, like the cat’s claws are part of the cat?

    Hmmm.

  3. Flexing my digital claws for a moment… I am one of those for whom technology was quite the boon. It broadened my horizons and it pulled me out of the malaise of 80s culture, big hair, and broken dreams. When I cast my lot with computers, absorbing and learning, my horizons expanded. I gave up on looking for Mr. Goodbar and focused on myself. Learning about computers, digital graphics and TV tech challenged me and gave me something to *do* with my life. I’d crawled out of the secretarial swamp and evolved.
    Twenty years later, though, and I’m finding myself agreeing with you on some fronts. Yes, you can have too much tech vying for your attention. I watch some of my students and they look at me as though I’ve asked them to cut off a limb, when I tell them to turn off the phone and put it in their pocket, and take out the earbuds. Granted this is in a multimedia class, and I expect even novices in this discipline to be a little more connected than average, yet at the same time, what does this mean for the comp class I will teach in the not-to-distant future? Will I be battling for my student’s attention with Nintendo and iTunes and Facebook? If I include these techs in my class, does it dilute the purity of comp? Is there such a thing?

  4. Pingback: The World Has Gone Hybrid | Teaching Writing in a Digital Age

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