In Search of Convenience

In my family, I’ve always been the humanities kid. I like stories and the way words can be strung together to form a rhythm. I think perhaps the main reason for my affinity towards the humanities is that I’m relatively “good” at it; I read quickly while retaining information and I have a lot of opinions so I’m good at adding to and continuing discussions. That’s why, for me, there has always been a distinction between computers and the humanities: I was at least relatively competent at the latter and an amateur regarding the other.

While I say distinction, I do also think that humanities and computers are interrelated. In the words of my Humanities II professor, a large part of studying the humanities is being part of an ongoing conversation about human culture, especially literary texts. Technology comes to play here because it gives us the ability to have greater access and contribute more to that conversation. For example, computers, specifically databases, allow us access to literary journals and papers that we can respond to or use for research. This applies to the nonacademic world, too: blogs allow people to share opinions and informally discuss various topics, and hashtags allow people on social media to isolate a topic and provide easy access to a conversation. While technology aids the progress of humanities, I also think it’s altered it, specifically with electronic literature. Ebooks are similar to paper books because the words are on a page, but with audiobooks, the text is read to the listener. Listening to someone read is different from reading the text itself because there’s a possibility of influence by voice. The narrator might emphasize a phrase or word or read a line of text in a way that undermines the subjectivity in writing, thus influencing the listener in some way. Think of the word “why?”: depending on how one emphasizes it (asking it softly, demanding an answer, etc.) it could have all sorts of underlining implications. This comes to play in the ongoing discussion too, for the audiobook narrator, unintentionally or not, communicates their interpretation of the text onto the listener; that listener will join in the ongoing conversation with opinions they formed not only with their interpretation of the text but also with a bit of the narrator’s interpretation.

As for technology itself, I would categorize my individual ability level as “beginner.” By myself, can perform the basics: I know how to open files, download applications, update the computer, and use Microsoft Office. With help from the internet and a bit of research, I can do a bit more, such as using the command line or manually fixing problems that Windows Troubleshooter can’t fix. I think I can sum up my computer literacy using the words I did during the first day of ENGL 340: “I know enough to function as a student, and what I don’t know, I know how to look up.”  I also tend to be better at using programs on the computer than dealing with the operating system itself. This is mostly because I’ve been in academic and professional situations, both of which largely focus on using programs. For example, I took Physics I Lab and did data entry at an office, so I know how to use Excel at an intermediate level; without looking the information up on the internet, I can graph and analyze data, perform functions, and use shortcuts. With Windows 10, I generally have to look up how to do anything more complicated than opening or downloading programs and files.

Even though I don’t believe myself to be extremely computer literate, prior to this course, my relationship with computers was one of dependence. I’m always a little uneasy whenever my computer is malfunctioning or has an issue because I use it so much for everyday life. I need technology to complete my coursework for my classes and also for recreational activities, such as listening to music or watching movies. I’m dependent to the point that I use a Breakfast Food Generator when I can’t decide what to eat in the mornings and a Yes or No Generator for low-risk decisions. I know this level of dependence isn’t necessarily healthy, but I’d still prefer not to distance myself from computers. Technology might be taking over aspects of my life, but it also has enormous potential to make it much easier, and I’m always down for convenience.

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