Thursday, August 30, 2018
Frustration with technology
Yes, I get frustrated with technology sometimes, but that's not what I'm crabby about today.
Today I'm crabby about other people's technology skills -- or rather, their lack of same.
My local fiber and textile art group is getting ready for a show and we want to prepare a gallery notebook with information on each piece in the show. We have asked members to submit the info and a photo of their artwork; I'm in charge of compiling the info for the notebook. I want the notebook to look professional, so I want to copy everybody's information into a single document and make sure it's all formatted the same.
We thought it would be easy -- provide a form in a Word document that people would fill out (so all the information would be there in the right order to be copied and pasted into my document), give directions for submitting the photo (don't have to crop or resize, just send us the image straight from the camera). But it's not.
We are surrounded with technology, everybody with her various devices and connections, and yet to judge from the responses to our call for entries, a lot of people cannot use them for what I consider to be ordinary activities. They can't figure out how to get a cellphone photo attached to their entry form. They don't know how to tell whether their photo has been saved as a .jpg or a .dat file. They don't notice that their computer automatically resizes photos to a handful of pixels when sending email. They send their info in a Pages document or a PDF instead of a Word document. They don't have Word on their computers and can't open or can't fill in a document. They don't know how to work around by typing their info into an email.
I know I'm a curmudgeon, and I know I'm way more dedicated to the written and printed word than most people are. But I worry that ordinary, everyday capabilities that every educated person used to have are now endangered, washed away in the flood of cellphones and tablets and Facebook and Instagram. The tech industry has enabled this by equipping many smaller devices with alternative programs, perhaps easier to use for minimal tasks but incompatible with the grownup programs like Word on which the business world operates. And people who own these smaller devices often retire their actual computers, on which grownup business tasks would be much easier. Meanwhile, the proprietors of grownup programs discourage people from using them, by charging continuing user fees instead of allowing people to buy the programs outright.
As a result, people can easily do minimal things on their phones or tablets, but they can't produce any kind of work that is compatible with the grownup world. Is this progress? What do people use when they have to write a letter? (Do people write letters any more?) What do they do if they need to print out a biography or an artist statement or a page for a gallery notebook? What if they are asked to give a presentation to a group? How do they keep track of their artwork and their show entries?
And I try not to even think about how the "informality" of text and email, plus the "convenience" of voice-recognition dictation, has turned us into a nation of inarticulate, ungrammatical misspellers who never think to proofread before they hit the send button.
I try to be tolerant of people who feel overwhelmed by learning new tasks, particularly older people like myself. There are tech tasks that I have resisted, preferring to play dumb and hope my kids will step in and do it for me. But if you want to participate in a serious art activity and can't do things on a computer to enable you to enter a show or take good photos or whatever, then I think you should find a friend or hire a geek to help you.
Now back to retyping my gallery notebook, since I can't copy and paste from what people have sent me.