“The present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.” -C. S. Lewis
It did not take long for my undefined relationship with technology to take a more explicit shape. My experience with technology is one made up of two distinct categories: school and other. School meant exploring Microsoft Office and Google (real complex, I know). “Other” mostly refers to social media, but I also frequented sites like Rotten Tomatoes, ESPN, and IGN on my own time. Thus, computers transitioned from gaming devices to tools, but only within the limits of my own expectations.
As I transitioned beyond my (thankfully) short stint as a MySpace user, I blindly followed the path set by those who had come before me. These predecessors were primarily my classmates and siblings. I was not particularly eager to take significant steps into the social media landscape, so I was often a late comer to sites like Facebook and Twitter (yes, I began using Twitter through the actual website and not my phone), at least in relation to my friends.
My parents never pushed or pulled me away from the Internet, nor did they particularly guide my steps. I did not get a laptop until I graduated from high school, so if I wanted to do anything online, I had to use the home computer when no one else was using it. I did not get a cell phone until my sophomore year in high school, and I did not get a smart phone (aka iPhone) until senior year.
In a lot of ways, I’m thankful that I held off for so long. Not a week ago I was thinking about how much of my life has been and will be spent sitting in front of screen and just how powerless I am to avoid continuing down that path. Being a latecomer allowed me to delay my inevitable slide into the black hole of screen life, but it also hindered me from thinking outside the box when it came to my online future.
Constantly catching up, I did whatever my friends were doing. I joined Facebook, Twitter and Instagram because my friends were already on those platforms. I saw the internet as a place to find information and learn, not as a place to create or explore.
Much like my “other” experience, school created a narrow view of what I was capable of doing on a computer. Akin to Facebook or Twitter, Microsoft Office
was simply a platform in which I could create a specifically formatted and concrete product that, while my own, mirrored everyone else’s. School instilled the idea that computers are mostly just typewriters, designed to help us type things into specific programs that will format information into a way that best serves some end-goal.
Not designed for creation or exploration, computers even fought against users, or so I thought. Windows seemed so complicated and foreign. Anyone who dared test its limits was in for a war. Press the wrong key and who knew what would happen. Self-destruct buttons seemed to be intricately placed all through computers’ internal organs, as though minesweeper wasn’t just a game but a literal representation of the computer itself. Computers were expensive and complex, and I hardly dared to push beyond the safe boundaries of the familiar.
In sixth grade, I took a required computer class, which focused mostly on typing and Photoshop skills. This was the first and last tech class that I would take in my entire educational career. Mostly, it made me far too aware of just how little I knew about computers, all while failing to instill any actual lessons on how to use Photoshop (more of a step 1, step 2 kind of ordeal, rather than any form of intuitive or exploratory-style class). I still hate Photoshop, even though I don’t think I’ve actually used it since sixth grade. Oh, and I also still type with my index fingers, so this was yet another successful typing lesson for me (see: Tech Literacy: The Past).
Playing computer games made computers approachable. They offered a safe way to ease myself onto a computer as well as into the online world. But my schooling, and my own personal use of computers, failed to open new doors or stretch the boundaries of what I could do on a computer. I never got into video or audio editing, Photoshop or coding. They seemed above my pay grade and did not fit into the narrow path of simplicity that had been laid out before me.
I find myself quite comfortable with what I do on a computer and what I know how to do, but I’m also reluctant to branch out. The sketch assignments for this New Media Writing class have encouraged the use of photo editing tools, but my instincts keep urging me to find other tools to get the job done. Trying to use an actual photo-editing tool would take way too much work, and may not even make sense. It lies outside of my specified skillset on a computer. And when we were asked to do even the most basic of coding? Those were nightmarish words to my ears.
I look at the Mozilla Web Literacy Map and, ironically enough, writing seems to be my weak suit (might as well give up on this whole English Major thing, I guess). Both primary categories prepared me to read and participate. Writing, on the other hand, involves subsets like coding, designing and remixing, areas in which I feel particularly incompetent. By color, I can see that a lot of the purple sections are ones that I feel are my weakest, which I was sad to realize represents the creativity skill category. I don’t buy into the whole “some people are creative, some aren’t” narrative, but I do know that I am narrow minded when it comes to what I believe I am capable of accomplishing on a computer, and I hope to break out of that mindset. Diving in to more design and creativity tasks, maybe something like video editing, would push me out of my comfort zone. Maybe I should ask Lynda where to begin.