Monday, May 3, 2010

The (Power)Point of Technology

Ever wonder what happens when technology ceases to be the means and becomes the end?

Last week, Elisabeth Bumiller recently wrote an article for The New York Times called We Have Met the Enemy and He is PowerPoint about concerns that the military has grown PowerPoint-dependent. Here are a few points of note from the article:
“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”
Commanders say that the slides impart less information than a five-page paper can hold, and that they relieve the briefer of the need to polish writing to convey an analytic, persuasive point. Imagine lawyers presenting arguments before the Supreme Court in slides instead of legal briefs.
If you put on your analytical thinking cap, you might notice that the article's comments are not relevant only for the military. What about the byte-sized news we devour from the talking heads on TV? The bumper sticker slogans that become substitutes for a conversation? The textbook answers that shut down instead of initiating discovery? The computer programs that fool us into thinking human interaction is optional for learning? The calculators that allow us to forget how to calculate a tip?

We as a culture are entertained by science fiction about out-of-control technology, but isn't there a similar risk involved when we allow our tools to do the thinking for us?

Just think what a great conversation starter that could be!


TheGeez said...

I think there is a place for both five page papers and "bullet points." Because technology increases the amount of information we can absorb, sometimes it is necessary to take in soundbytes. But small chunks of information should be the starting point... they might be the "pegs" we start with and that inspire further research. :)
It can then be discerned which medium would be appropriate for further communication.
Also, soundbytes make it possible to "weed out" unnecessary information.

1 Smart Mama said...

Good point! As long as they are a starting place, not an end, small chunks of information can then be a helpful way to organize knowledge.