Technology Addiction is a Real Problem

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Mar 152018

As more evidence is emerging that our use of technology has negative effects on our mental well being, we might have to start thinking about how we can address some of the patterns of behavior and expectations about the way that we use social media and tech devices. Belinda Parmar, who was once a tech-advocate is now warning about the dangers of an unquestioned use of tech devices, especially as they have a negative impact on the developing minds of children.

Writing in The Guardian, Moya Sarner explains how for Palmer:

“Tech was a leveller,” she says. “You didn’t need money, you didn’t need status; it was an enabler of a more equal and more diverse society. This tiny bubble that most of us lived in had been popped and that was wonderful. That still is wonderful.” But certain aspects of her relationship with technology were not so wonderful. “I’d wake up and look at Twitter,” she says. “I had two small children, and the first thing I should have been doing was going to see the kids, but I’d be looking at Twitter.” She realised she was using social media for validation, to feed her ego. She began to think: “If technology is an enabler, why am I just using it for things I don’t like about myself?”

This is a detailed and evidence-based article that has a lot of strong ideas about our use of technology, and I’m sure it will provide plenty of points of discussion as we begin to question the role of technology in our lives more carefully.

Will 2018 be the year of the Neo-Luddite?

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Mar 052018

According to Jamie Bartlett writing in The Guardian, in our rush to embrace all things technological, we are failing to account for the human costs and the consequences of the development of automation, artificial intelligence and everything being networked. Jamie asks if 2018 will be the year when of the Luddite comes to prominence again?

“The downsides of technology’s inexorable march are ​now becoming clear – and automation will only increase the anxiety. We should expect the ​growing interest in off-grid lifestyles to be accompanied by ​direct action and even anti-tech riots.”

I’m not such a pessimist, but with every move forward with technology there is both a positive and a negative impact. Having open forums in which we can share our concerns seems to me to be the initial response to our anxieties, and learning to express our anxieties without fear of being shamed for them, however unfounded they may seem to others, should be something we use socialised media to achieve. Talk and learn is probably the best response to these anxieties.

Mary Shelly taught us two hundred years about that we have to learn to adapt to changes in our culture brought about by science and technology, the question is how and in what way we respond – as a Luddite smashing things up, or as an optimist embracing change as a way of promoting diversity and inclusivity?

LJMU Broadcast & Media Production

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Oct 182012

Travelling to Liverpool is always good for me, as it’s reassuring to see familiar sights and hear familiar tones of voice. This week I went for a training session as an External Examiner for the BSc Broadcast & Media Production degree in the Faculty of Technology and Environment. The training sessions was very lively, and there was a clear sense that some thought had been put in to looking after the External Examiners who had travelled to Liverpool for the day. Like any university the regulations, culture and expectations of the university are different, and the roles that External Examiners are expected to play show some local variation from a general theme.

After lunch we each had an opportunity to meet with the programme teams and to have a look around the facilities in the relevant department. Colin Robinson met me and we walked the short distance to the engineering buildings, just behind the Liverpool Museum and Walker Art Gallery. There’s a lot of Investment gone in to the redevelopment of Liverpool and it’s universities, and it show in the campus sites that LJMU occupies.

Colin and I got talking about our respective experiences running and delivering media production and technology courses. Both of us are keen advocates for Community Radio, with a strong belief in the transformative potential of course that encapsulate the hands-on approach that independent, tech-savy media producers will need in the future. Colin told me about the proportion of people who work at the new Media City in Salford and the proportion who are on contracts rather than staff salaries. It’s a staggering 80% of people out of the many thousands who work for the BBC and the cluster of media companies. We both shared very similar views about how we ought to prepare graduates to work in this environment by giving them opportunities to learn from real-world experiences and challenges.

I suggested that Media Production is something of a cinderella subject in the UK, and that we’ve not really got to grips with the idea that it’s possible to have a fulfilling and satisfying career as an independent media producer. Learners are too often seduced by the idea of easy fame an the point-and-shoot mentality of media. Often media courses are sold on the idea of the dream school potential, which is exacerbated with the X-Factor challenge, that you might be plucked from obscurity by a well connected Svengali who can offer you fame and fortune, rather than hard work, technical capability and skills that will last a lifetime.

There are a remarkable number of similarities in the approach we’ve both taken in our respective departments over the years, and clearly some of the same problems to be overcome. The feeling that pervades cautious engineers that the ‘media bubble is about to burst’, is a difficult one to shake, despite the evidence that technology enabled media production and practices are set to grow exponentially as more people acquire personal, mobile media devices. The need for a strong pool of graduates who have the essential STEM skills in media production is only going to get stronger and more urgent as more people become switched-on to the capability to produce their own social or community based media. We agreed that it’s all very well training people how to press the buttons in a radio studio, or point the cameras in a TV studio, but the real value comes from being able to set-up and design the studios, Outside Broadcast events and the on-line, networked exchanges of content that we now loosely think of as media.

I’m really looking forward to visiting Colin and his colleagues over the next couple of years. This form of media production – different from engineering or computing sciences – is an exciting area to work in. It draws ideas from so many different points of reference and it asks if we can come up with ways to use and develop these ever changing technologies to make even more engaging content. The independence and creativity that graduates in the media production and media technology fields are able to demonstrate gives me a buzz. I just hope that we can build the critical mass of others who are able to support this enterprise in as well.