• writeminded

Slow down a sec, please

Updated: 2 days ago

The progression of technology should be halted, according to one awful comedian. But he's not entirely wrong.

I don't agree with even the essence of what Bill Burr says. Burr doesn't always agree with himself, probably, upon reflection. And I certainly object, at times, with how he says things.

But I don't totally discount him or other counter-culture comedians who say objectionable things. Their observations sometimes still hover over worthwhile insight, even when they're wrong. I'm not better or smarter than Burr or any other comedian. My observation is merely a description of their job: questioning polar presuppositions, to make people across the sociopolitical spectrum feel uncomfortable with oversimplification or anything they take for granted.

One of Burr's incorrect, but interesting statements is when he said we should have stopped R&D in the car industry sometime in the 80s. That cars were good enough at that point, so resources should have been reallocated to other areas in need of innovation.

As smart as Burr is, that idea is stupid, if taken literally. Really, really stupid. Cars have come a long way since then in keeping drivers and passengers safer. I'm really fond of knee airbags, for example. That may perk up the ears of anyone who suffered a broken leg due to an auto accident. And, there's been progress made toward lowering the environmental impact of driving, though that's got a long way to go. I think I might prefer 21st century style, as well, though that's subjective.

Nonetheless, I do imagine the implementation of incoming technology and updates could be orchestrated more smoothly and intelligently. I think Burr was onto something there.

The educational institution that employs me, for example, rolled out a new online platform as the go-to for pretty much all class materials (our Learning Management System). They also made changes to the phone system and MS Office (including Outlook, i.e., faculty email).

Theoretically, that should be okay, I guess, but there are always little catches no one seems able to predict. That there will be unexpected snafus, actually, should be anticipated, and I'm sure they did.

As of yesterday, none of my MS apps were working. So, I had to write IT either using a personal email or call them in order to find out why the updated MS Office isn't installing correctly on my computer. I called and they got me back into my email. They also helped me figure out a plan for getting MS Office up and running, but that didn't work, and so my case has been forwarded to another IT team. Probably the issue will be resolved within hours or days. Nonetheless, for the moment, I still can't access many files and what I can access is all a bit different feeling until I get used to it.

Meanwhile, IT is probably overwhelmed since I'm not the only person having problems. In order to handle call volume, they're trying to resolve the widespread faculty email issue with a prerecorded welcome message.

I love my job and these sorts of little hiccups are part of progress, right? My experience is quite common and happens at any place of work, and in our personal relationships with the internet and computing.

I house what's most important to me and support of my students at Google and Wix, where I have a bit more control. But how or whether I access or update those can also be changed at the whim of someone other than me, the one using them to do my work.

These technologies are central to our careers and personal lives, so it makes sense to improve them. But these "improvements" feel like they can come at any time regardless what I'm doing or trying to accomplish in a given moment, week, or month. It's true, there are all sorts of warning emails I've gotten and there is often the option of delaying an update. I'm glad for those things.

Yet, it still occasionally feels as if folks who run all this tech feel that what's important is having the most up-to-date technology, whereas what the users are trying to do with the tech is of lesser importance. That's, quite obviously, backwards, if and whenever that's the case.

Let's think about cars some more. They're sometimes recalled. I've had a car that was recalled. They sent me a notice and then I scheduled a visit to the dealership. I had a washing machine where they decided to retrofit stronger lid attachments, so I scheduled for someone to come and do that work on my washing machine.

I couldn't drive my car or was clothes during either of those appointments, and I was okay with that.

So why are the emails and notifications, particularly those issued by Mircosoft, insufficient to prepare me for whatever tweaks are about to happen to my computer. Instead of taking a break while things get settled, I sort of freak out. At times, it feels like I'm in a fight just to finish something, before letting the powers that be overhaul one or more key apps.

Yeah, I can be patient with road construction or power outages. It's part of life. But software updates feel disruptive on a more personal level, perhaps because they involve changes to something I operate upon and through all throughout the day and from within my own home.

I don't think it's possible to entirely avoid interruption or invasion. After all, the apps and software don't belong to the users, and the updates often, presumably, address user criticism or feedback. But the devices and the work produced do belong to the users and I just feel like maybe that deserves a tad more respect, as hard as administrators try.

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