Monthly Archives: December 2009

To engage or not to engage: tool choice and identity

I stumbled across the Technium, a blog by Kevin Kelly that explores technology’s impact on culture, or perhaps I should say technology’s encompassing of culture.  Kelly describes “Technium” as …

It’s a word I’ve reluctantly coined to designate the greater sphere of technology – one that goes beyond hardware to include culture, law, social institutions, and intellectual creations of all types. In short, the Technium is anything that springs from the human mind. It includes hard technology, but much else of human creation as well. I see this extended face of technology as a whole system with its own dynamics.

At first glance, his ideas seem similar to McLuhan‘s view of the media as deterministic.  Yet, his stance seems to take on a more ecological angle, arguing that technology is an organism, in itself … see interview excerpt below.

What I am most drawn to in this interview is his discussion of identity as a matter of refusing technologies. In other words, our choice to take up or engage with a certain hardware or software has just as much impact on one’s identity, if not more, than what we do choose to use. These ideas are further explored in the essay Identity from What-Is-Not.

This makes me think about my choices not to use Twitter, or Delicious.  While I find these software programs and the social practices they motivate to be very interesting in terms of collaborative construction and distribution of knowledge, I haven’t yet felt a strong enough need to personally engage.  This focus on the “process of refusal” is a fascinating and powerful line of inquiry for me to explore in terms of my interests in identity and student engagement with digital media.

Thank you Kevin Kelly.  I can’t wait for your book to come out.


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