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Posts Tagged ‘determinism

Want a tiresome argument based on superficial evidence? Consider this headline and article.

The linked article reported: 

Eric Yuan… the founder of the video conferencing tool, admitted to experiencing Zoom fatigue. At Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit, the 51-year-old said that at his peak, he once had 19 Zoom meetings in a row in a single day.

The argument: Meetings on Zoom are bad because they are exhausting. The evidence: Even the founder of Zoom says so. The argument and its evidence is tiresome and lazy.

I am not saying that Zoom fatigue does not exist. It does.

But attending 19 meetings a day, whether over Zoom, in person, or a mix, is exhausting. As a former appointment holder at a university, I had to attend an unfair share of meetings. Just one a day was enough to wear me out.

Meetings are what career administrators do in place of email or actionable work. Most are pointless and long because they mistake quantity for quality. 

Poorly designed and frequently implemented meetings tire people. They also do not guarantee productive actions. These apply to meetings both offline and online. 

So a news agency that gleefully tweets such a headline is not telling you anything new or sharing information of worth. It is merely repeating a mantra from the book of autonomous technological determinism. It reduces the underlying cause of problems (tiredness) to technology (Zoom) in order to reinforce the idea that technology is out of control.

We create our technologies. We need to manage, at the very least, two aspects of our creations: 1) how we create them, and 2) the expectations for their use. If we fail to do either, it is easier to blame the technology than to reflect on who really is responsible — us.

A news agency with a wide reach can shape expectations of use. Instead of leading with a headline that blames tiredness on the technology, it could provide insights how to have better meetings. Such meetings can include enabling technologies like Zoom, but they have to be redesigned to be meaningful and timely.

I will not tire to make arguments that have a systemic and reasoned view of technology-mediated change. Such change may be in the wider world, but I focus in the smaller one that is the edu-sphere. 

A good story should have a moral at the end of it, even if the story was cooked up for comedy.

Video source

The comedienne in the video above “wrote” a book which had two halves. Each half had very different endings. The acceptable half concluded with forgiveness while the socially incorrect half ended with revenge.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the children who listened to the story seemed to prefer the story of revenge. If the book was real, some might call for its ban for promoting violence and revenge.

There is a similar logic among technophobes. For them, current technologies are inherently harmful despite their utility. They are technologically deterministic in that they assume that technology shapes behaviour. They conveniently forget that our attitudes and behaviour also shape how we use the technology.

I say this because people can see the point of “screen time” (e.g., video conferencing for work and school) now. This is despite calls in recent years for limits for screen time.

As they Zoom remotely, naysayers inadvertently apply what proponents of technology have said all along — it is not how much technology time you spend (quantity), but what exactly you do with it (quality) that matters.

In effect, you could spend a large part of the day interfacing with a screen. But looking only at the total time and not the activities like communicating, researching, or cooperating focuses on the wrong part of the story.

In the not too distant future when might say that once upon a time we accidentally turned emergency learning into e-learning. When things supposedly return to normal, will we forget what we learnt?

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