PHOTO BY BRIT KOVACS / THE CORD PHOTOGRAPHY
Disclaimer: This post is taken from Waterloo campus’ student newspaper The Cord and is also featured on their website https://thecord.ca/.
The other week I had my first technical difficulty with online learning. While I’m lucky to have gone a month with no problems, it caused panic and frustration when trying to attend my Monday morning lecture via Zoom.
The internet company notified the residents in my neighbourhood that they were conducting maintenance on the phone and internet lines in my area, and that there would be outages for a few days.
While my roommate failed to mention this to the rest of the household, I became instantly annoyed with the internet company when my WiFi dropped mid-lecture, scrambling to get back online, and blaming the internet company for poor service.
After learning about the scattered internet outages, I got a headache, downloaded as much material as I could to work offline, and cursed our society for its dependence on technology.
I don’t dislike or discourage technology—I love its opportunities and capabilities that benefit our daily lives—but our dependency on technology can be inconvenient, or even detrimental. Relying on wireless internet, battery chargers, or even access to a phone, laptop or “necessary” technology, does not prove easy for everyone.
Our technology usage is highly interconnected, and when one device does not work, it affects the entire chain.
It’s convenient to think about technology as a chain.
For instance, post-secondary students are often required to have a laptop for their classes; however, a student needs money to either buy or rent a laptop, something which isn’t always financially possible for some individuals.
When a student has their laptop, it’s most basic need is electricity to charge its battery. Things get more complicated when students can only access their courses via the internet, so the student is also required to set up and pay for a dial-up internet line (run through a landline telephone,) or wireless internet.
Tech companies like Microsoft and Apple (for your device needs) and Rogers and Bell (for your internet needs) have made it easy for consumers to access these resources if they have the money. However, there’s always the potential of a power outage from the hydro company that could leave you with no internet connection and depleted batteries.
Even though I think it’s convenient to have an abundance of technology during a time where we shouldn’t be conducting business in-person, it can be extremely inconvenient when one of the systems in the “technology chain” stop functioning.
My professors were understanding of my difficulties to attend their Zoom lectures for which I’m extremely grateful. But what happens if (or when) technology prevents me from completing an assignment on time? What happens if my internet cut out during an online test or examination.
How many hoops would I have to jump through to prove my case?
These are not my primary concerns—I really just want to finish this whacky year and move on—but when technology hinders my abilities to succeed, my first instinct is to blame our technology-driven society.
It’s not a fair accusation, but neither is it fair to put people in a position where they need to purchase and use technology to function in everyday life.
While I haven’t even touched on the mental and physical drainage from technology, I think you can get an idea of that on your own. The key takeaway is that we shouldn’t rely on technology’s “absence of failure” because nobody’s perfect, including the commodities we create and operate.
Despite my arguments about why we shouldn’t depend on technology, we do, and with technological dependency comes the need for empathy. We need to be aware and understanding of technology’s limitations and failures to experience fewer frustrations and anxieties around the possibilities of technology failures.