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The Humanization of Technology

By Jo Rooks

I was thinking about how it is said that technology “dehumanizes.”  I think it does just the opposite.  As a kid on a farm, I remember getting a citizen band (CB) radio.  What technology!  It was amazing to listen to truckers and neighbors; and we even had our own handle, “Windy Hill.”   Rather than dehumanizing anyone, the CB gave us a window to other humans, within our “range.”

Speeding to present moment technology can be overwhelming.  We now have faxing, internet, email, scanners, smart phones, texting, social media, and navigation systems, to name just a few.  No need for a fear of dehumanization though.

I love emailing, texting…and smart phones in general.  I can “reach out and touch” someone instantly.  I can add smiley faces, winks, stick my tongue out, add zillions of emotions right in my message.  I can put LMAO and OMG to express my laughter and shock.  I can freak out when I think I am texting one person, it goes to a different person.  I hope I wasn’t talking about the person it went to!  There is that other major freak out moment when I sarcastically reply to emails and then accidentally hit “Reply All” which sends it to EVERYONE that the sarcasm was focused at rather than the individual I wanted!   “OMG…how can I STOP THIS” I think, as the email instantly goes to a boss, co-workers or family members; everyone I DIDN’T want it to go to, as I quickly try to think of an apology.

The voice-dialing option on the smart phones is great.  There is that nice female voice that helps voice dial.  I find it humorous listening to my husband using voice dialing.  He will say, “Call Will” and the nice lady replies, “Call Neale?”  My husband then annunciates clearly, “Call Waa-ii-ll” and hears, “Call Work?”  He then attempts to remain patient and says LOUDLY, “CALL WILL, dammit!”  Her reply, “Call Neale?” By now my husband is being very “human” and is expressing his frustration in a very, very human way!

Next are navigation systems.  Our GPS is a navigational genius.  We diligently put in our destination and press GO.  “Jill” magically can be heard giving us directions.  We are not forgiving when “Jill” is unaware of construction and gets us to a dead-end.  JILL…ARE YOU SERIOUS?  We both say, “If we hear Jill say recalculating one more time, that’s it!”  We end up feeling that “Jill” is annoying so we switch to “Jack.”  Jack is equally annoying and way too human when sending us on a short cut so quickly that we almost roll our car trying to make theturn! We end up yelling, making fun of Jack and Jill’s pronunciations, and we totally humanize our GPS voices. My husband then gets into the settings and finds “Lee.”  Lee is an Australian-English voice.  Lee can do no wrong.  My husband loves Lee’s accent and finds him quite humorous.  Lee is in.  He gets to stay.

I also love Facebook.  It is such an awesome way to snoop on friends and family.  It is a great way to be with them when you are miles, states, even countries apart.  You can see photos of their children, their vacations, and the beauty of it is that you can look at one photo without having to sit through albums of photos or even worse, slide shows!  Remember those times when you walked into a friend’s home and saw the projector, or now the DVDs sitting out, of their thousands of vacation photos!  HHHMMMM, time for that “forgotten appointment” I need to get to!  Seriously though, we enjoy social media, which eliminates the miles between  our loved ones and ourselves.

Skype is also awesome for allowing us to, not only talk to our loved ones, but SEE them at the same time.  I love Skype!  Skype is like having a mirror in the room.  Watch people when they are in a room with a mirror. They keep taking those sideways glances at themselves discreetly checking themselves out.  With Skype it’s those downward glances toward that little window with our image discreetly checking ourselves out!  It’s very hard to maintain eye contact while trying to sneak a peek at how we look!

Even though I know you can “shut me off” with a click of a mouse I am going to “shut me off” for you as I could go on with my love of technology.  My last thought is that technology allows us to be human. We can send or receive an unexpected text which is just what we, or someone else, needed at just that right time.  We can be human but eliminate the need to take our frustrations out on loved ones. After all we can be frustrated with Jill, Jack and Lee (okay, not Lee) and they don’t miss a step, they just keep on recalculating.