Manifesto: Alexia Pettigrew

1. We should create a different term to refer to E-reading to distinguish between E-reading and print reading. (Consider This – “Out of Touch”)

As Andrew Piper stated in his article, “Out of Touch”, “reading isn’t only a matter of our brains; it’s something that we do with our bodies.” I believe that reading from a book is very different from reading on screen, whether that is an E-reader or computer screen. E-readers and computer screens are flat – they have no dimensions; they take up no space. Reading from a screen is not the same experience as reading from a book that you can hold, bend, write in, and personalize. Others who are dedicated to their E-readers or iPhone apps may have issues with this idea, however, I think it is safe to say that as English majors we can all see the value in paper books and recognize the need to keep the practice of reading safe from complete digitization.

2. We ought to reconsider the amount of information we put out onto the web in an effort to better protect our privacy. (Vaidhyanathan, 92)

When I was young, I was very protected from the internet and any social media sites (“young” meaning 15). My parents were leery of allowing me to use sites that may let anybody find out information about me. I distinctly remember my parents showing me 60 minute specials on “Facebook Killers” about creepy men who would create fake profiles in order to meet young girls. The girls developed a deep trust for these Facebook “friends” and would meet up with them only to find out the real intentions of their “friend”. This fear was beat into me so much that when I first got a Facebook (against my parents’ will) I did not even put my real name. I think now that Facebook is wildly popular and used by almost all, people will put up information that is definitely inappropriate for the public web. It is too trusted and with the least amount of effort, someone could find very personal information about us. I believe that we should feel less comfortable with the world wide web and be more careful about what we are sharing.

3. We ought to have more control over our privacy settings on Facebook. (Vaidhyanathan, 91).

Going along with the statement above, I believe that we should have more control over the privacy settings of our Facebooks. Like Vaidhyanathan mentioned, “it had rendered much personal information openly available by default and made privacy settings absurdly complicated to navigate and change.” I have more recently dealt with this and it was something I had frustrations prior to reading Vaidhyanathan’s book to strengthen my annoyance. With sorority recruitment up, all chapter women have to make their Facebook profiles very private. I spent hours trying to figure out how to make my profile somewhat private, and even then I failed. Facebook wants us to have our information out there and it makes me uncomfortable how difficult they attempt to make it to privatize what we don’t want the world seeing and leave what we do want out there. I understand that the internet is a public space, however, the whole idea of Facebook was that it was a place for friends to connect. This very idea should allow me to have some sort of control over who is connecting with me and who is not.

4. Technology should not be regarded as a substitute for human relationships and interactions. (Turkle, 3).

This idea was a main focus for my research blog, because I felt compelled to bring attention to the relationships that many people are developing with their technologies. Turkle writes, “As sociable robots propose themselves as substitutes for people, new networked devices offer us machine-mediated relationships with each other, another kind of substitution”. We rely too much on our devices, mostly our phones, so much that we are pushing human interaction and personal relationships to the far edge of our concerns. In my research blog, I wrote about a girl who was obviously surprised by some upsetting news while I was eating lunch in Turner Place. This girl was reading something from her computer screen when out of nowhere she was sobbing into her hands. She looked around many times, probably seeking comfort or even a look of concern from one of the hundred people surrounding her. People didn’t hesitate to stare until she looked around, which they then started tapping away on their phones to avoid the awkwardness. I wouldn’t say that it wasn’t a strange and uncomfortable situation, but without our phones or computers to distract us would we have been less comfortable ignoring the sad girl? I think society would have an issue with adopting this norm, because I feel that many don’t even realize the dependency they have with their technology. However, I believe that it would be beneficial for society to realize the consequences that this substitution would cause in the long run. I feel that this is a pressing issue that is only going to develop more as time goes on.

5. The inclusion of robots into our society will make people more lazy and careless; parents ought to take more responsibility for raising their children. (Turkle, 10).

I created this normative statement considering Turkle’s quote, “Our population is aging; there will be robots to take care of us. Our children are neglected; robots will tend to them.” I feel that this statement is very indicative to the society we live in now. Parents are developing the need to be less and less involved with their children’s lives and rely too heavily on technology to do the work for them. It was seen years ago with the popularity of television increasing; parents would essentially use their televisions as a fill-in caretaker or babysitter. Nowadays, they don’t even need to be at home to have this “babysitter” to entertain their children. Parents hand their two-year-old iPhones to shut them up so the parent can carry on with the preferred activity. Technology is growing exponentially and with that so is our dependency. Going back to Turkle’s statement, I can’t help but ask why we need robots now. Our society has always been aging… that’s how life goes. Why is neglecting our children acceptable and how is having a robot going to fix that issue in the long-run? The reason children are neglected is the parents’ fault. Instead of adopting a robot to “tend to them” parents should take responsibility and care for the children they brought into this world and not let “our children are neglected” act as an excuse for taking in a robot. Technology and robots are not valid caretakers and should never be regarded in this way.

6. There ought to be a government mandated law that bans children under a certain age from getting involved with social media sites. (Consider This – “Twitter and Facebook ‘harming children’s development’”)

As Graeme Paton says, “Children’s brains are failing to develop properly because of over-exposure to screen-based technology.” Exposing children to the digital world gives them and early dependency and addition to such technologies. The reliance that most children observe from their parents and technology creates pressure on them in the first place. However, “a generation of children risks growing up with obsessive personalities, poor self-control, short attention spans and little empathy because of an addiction to social networking websites.” This is a scary thought considering how much of those traits I already see in my generation that that experienced both sides of this technological boom. I notice people studying who cannot ignore their phone to even finish the sentence they were reading or typing. Our attention span lasts the length of time it takes to write a tweet, which is only 160 characters or less. The idea of the world being made up of this group of people only one generation behind yet on a whole next level of addiction is frightening. I’m afraid to see what will happen to the children of the following generation. I feel that adopting this idea will create a lot of pushback from society, for those who are already too far in and invested in their tech lives. However, I believe this would relieve our society from a lot of the effects that have already been found in children’s social and cognitive development.