January 26, 2004
Professor's assessment helps simplify technology in your life
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. A Purdue University professor has developed a questionnaire to help people determine whether they are served or ruled by the technology in their daily lives.
Beverly J. Davis, an associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision for Purdue's School of Technology in South Bend, Ind., said people too often fall victim to what she calls "technoism."
Davis defines technoism, a term she coined, as the tendency to blindly purchase or use new technological devices out of a fear of being labeled old-fashioned, instead of based on need.
"It's not technophobia, or fear of technology," said Davis, whose earlier book "Technoism: At the Crossroads of Society and Technology" explores the phenomenon. "The concept of technoism includes consumer reluctance to challenge technology-for-technology's-sake for fear of being labeled old-fashioned or a Luddite."
When Davis talks about technoism, she speaks from personal experience. She purchased a computer projector for her classroom that allowed her to incorporate computer graphic presentations into her teaching. Many of her fellow faculty members used them, so she assumed the devices would lead to improvements.
"In an attempt to 'keep up with the Joneses,' I blindly bought one to put in my classroom," Davis said. "It was a disaster. Because of my dependence on the visual presentation, my classes shifted from being discussion-based to almost purely lecture. My students suffered, and if I had thought more objectively before making the purchase, I could have seen that it would be a bad idea."
Her technoism assessment is designed to help people gauge the value of the high-tech gadgets in their lives.
"These gadgets themselves aren't bad, but we often suppress our skepticism and blindly comply when confronted with a technological advance," Davis said. "We should ask ourselves, 'Do I really need a cell phone that takes pictures? Why do I agree to let work contact me any day at all hours on my assigned pager?'
"Answering these questions honestly can help us manage the technology in our lives instead of letting it manage us."
Davis' technoism assessment rates technology purchases by asking questions like:
Was the purchase made only to keep up with advancing technology or my tech-savvy friends?
Do you feel a sense of importance when using the technology and hope others see you doing it?
Are you using the gadget as a tool to manage other technology that you already owned?
The assessment then helps users translate their scores into practical information about their level of technoism and includes suggestions about how to use technology more effectively.
"Technoism thrives in the void between the intended and unintended consequences of technology utilization," Davis said. "Using technology more effectively and assessing the impact in our lives exposes the unintended consequences of technology utilization in our lives.
"It is important for people to realize that they don't have to be ruled by cell phones, pagers and laptop computers. Don't be afraid to take a walk without your pager or go on vacation without your cell phone. Just because the gadgets exist doesn't mean you need to use them all the time."
Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Beverly J. Davis, (574) 237-6581, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to Journalists: The assessment "Are You a Victim of Technoism?" can be downloaded.