Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not JUST the technology

Posted on: May 25, 2018

It is easy to draw simple cause-and-effect lines. For example, it is easy to observe people staring at their phones and blame the technology for creating anti-social people.

However, such thinking is flawed. Social phenomena — and this includes schooling — are complex with many contributing and confounding factors.

It is much harder to study nuance. I only developed a deeper and more refined understanding of this when I was a graduate student. It was then that I first heard about such phenomena coming under the socio-technical umbrella.

This means at least two things. First, our use of technology is not dictated only by the immediate or obvious affordances of the tool; we negotiate its use. For example, I could use this blog to educate or to mislead.

Second, as we interact with each tool, it changes us and we change it in tight and iterative cycles. For example, Twitter was essentially open and international texting that gave birth to hashtags. Hashtags spread to other platforms and became part of modern lingo. This in turn became part of advertising, propaganda, and content curation.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. -- Marshall McLuhan

The nuance of socio-technical systems is not difficult to grasp. Ignore it and your arguments lead to simplistic conclusions, e.g., videos games cause violence and so we should not let kids play them.

The socio-technical lens lets you see how human dimensions like motivations, predispositions, mental states, social pressures, and more, interact with and shape our technology use.

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