Paul Collins has articulated concisely what I have been thinking about for some time.
Media commentator, writer, ex- Catholic priest and lively speaker – he was on Radio National’s “Perspectives” this week, having a go at the effects of what I would call ‘technology consciousness’.
Essentially what Heidegger is arguing is that technology is part of the assumed but unarticulated horizon of people today, just as the theory of evolution provides a context for our understanding of the complexities of cosmic and earth history. He maintains that technology is the expression of the unconscious and unstated dominance of an exploitative, calculating, mechanized, efficiency-oriented mentality applied to everything, but particularly to the natural world. It has blinded us to the cosmos around us, has cut us off from nature, has turned us inward, and caused us to see the world as a standing reserve of useable resources. This attitude is so built into the structure of our modern consciousness that we instinctively and without question assume that technology is the panacea for all our modern problems with the world and with ourselves.
Increasingly I have come to the view that ‘technology consciousness’ has, and is a cause in the de-humanising of our institutions – creating a commodification of human services and playing into ‘command and control’ systems which destroy human creativity.
Heidegger points out that our word ‘technology’ is derived from the Greek /techné /which he says ‘is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. /Techné /belongs to bringing forth, to /poiesis/; it is something poetic.’ (Question Concerning Technology, pp 12-13). So the technology was originally what the artist and craftsperson did. These were the people who were able to bring forth the potential of each individual reality. The sculptor created magnificent form from this piece of stone, the musician created harmony from sound, the architect made beautiful buildings. So what does all this have to do with mobile phones, ipods and other electronic ‘platforms’? Simply that they have become ends in themselves, things we can’t be without. Its not that people today have more wisdom than those in the past or have more significant things to say. It’s just that they don’t feel complete persons if they don’t have a mobile, or aren’t on Facebook or MySpace. So not only do these ‘platforms’ stunt our personal growth; they cut us off from each other. Nowhere better than the net to live vicariously.
So I wonder…to what extent has university life become vicarious?
And might the exodus of student life from campus be a measure?