Reflection – eroded by technology?

News on the role of technology overload this week, see BBC – how many hours?

There is a real challenge in finding time to reflect as we are always ‘wired in’ to different stimuli. I recently dumped my iphone as it was distracting me constantly from the world around me – with constant pings of email at inappropriate times (only to replace it swiftly with an iPad which seemed slightly better as it is not possible to take it quite everywhere!).

Are we loosing deep engagement to technostress and overload?

Levy (2007) offers some answers ….

Levy describes how the erosion of reflection has evolved across the twentieth century and is a product of social, economic, political and ethical pressures and of the availability of technology. Levy argues technology itself may not be the root cause of eroded reflective time this but is part of a more complex picture of the speeding up of activity.

The failure to get a handle on this challenge may be linked Levy suggests to the rise of work in society; quoting Pieper from as far back as the 1940s as saying ‘The world of work is becoming our entire world’. As part of the same story the place of leisure is eroded then – this is significant as leisure can offer reflective space – a form of stillness. The place of slow time for thinking is damaged by the rise of fast time and all of the immediate pressures.

Perhaps a new academic skill is learning to concentrate and make space to reflect. Levy actually recommends that university’s may build in contemplative time (not sure if this is for staff or students, or possibly [hopefully] both).

Coeckelbergh (2011) suggests the role of the paradox of distance and proximity in explaining the growth of technology saying that technology enables ways of being – e.g. living and working at a distance that would not otherwise be possible or acceptable – in turn the need for yet more technology is created.

“these media, by making possible that one lives at a distance, promotes (physical) distance rather than proximity. The paradox is that while presented as a solution to ditace in the global village, it is at the same time its very condition” p. 133.

I have some empathy with this view, if unguarded technology seems to breed technology.

It seems technology is a double-edged sword and for learners it is a challenge to ensure that more screen time and technological possibilities do not distract quiet contemplative creative time.

Coeckelbergh, M. (2011). “What are we doing?: Microblogging, the ordinary private, and the primacy of the present.” Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 9(2): 127-136.

Levy, D. (2007). “No time to think: Reflections on information technology and contemplative scholarship.” Ethics and Information Technology 9(4): 237-249.

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