Technological Determinism in English Class

As a Teaching Assistant for the communication course at Geneseo titled “Mass Media and Society”, it is my job to take the work that we are doing that week in class and apply it my life and the lives of the students in the class, and particularly our lives as millennials and what matters to us and create a fifteen-minute discussion section each Thursday. Last week, our focus on class was on technological determinism. This is the idea that technology plays a big role on us and the way that we live, learn, and grow. It shapes our society and the way that we come to conclusions. For this week’s discussion section, I wanted to focus on the question: what goes away when our technology goes away? I started small by asking what goes away when our social media goes away (we lose things like cyber bullying and we lose the idea of knowing everything about a person that we usually don’t interact with) and then when into what happens if we lost all phones, internet, and computers (we determined that we wouldn’t go to school so far away, we wouldn’t study the way that we do or learn about the world the way that we do).

By the end of the discussion section, we came to this conclusion that it isn’t the fact that technology shapes our society but that it speeds it up so much faster than it would without technology. Would we fight for equal rights if it wasn’t for technology? Sure. But would we understand how many people want these rights and what they would do to get it without marches and hashtags and everything else? Not necessary. Technology provides this urgency. It makes it faster and makes our lives easier to communicate and easier to get our point across.

So why am I writing it here? Why should the English department care? Why should my class care? Well we should care because this timely matter is something that we as a class are working on this semester and this week in particular. For our course collective, we are working in small groups to come up with a statement or paragraph to answer the question for that day. From that our professor is taking all of our small group answers to then turn it into one group collective statement. So, without technology would we come to our same conclusions? Probably. Would it be as efficient and effective as it is today? Not at all.

My group creates a Google Doc so that we can all watch and work together as the “scribe” for that day types out what we are thinking. From that document, we can all read over what has been written and edit and fix what we see. So that this paragraph, this statement that we are saying that is our small group’s ideas, is truly our small groups ideas. We have all been able to edit it and put our wording and ideas in. We all touched it. From that our professor can take all of these statements that we all have put on a Google Doc and then mix them all together into one document for us all to read. So, I think that what my class said about technological determinism was right. Sure, we could write it all by hand and then hand in the work and then our professor can take all of the small group statements and combine them into one, but it sure would not be as fast as we can do it today. Or for that matter, our work would not be as good if it wasn’t or our technology.

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