establishing a baseline for understanding technology

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Part A: Over the past two weeks, our readings and discussions have been focused on establishing a baseline for understanding technology. This week, we begin our tour through the four lenses, beginning with history. As we dive into the four lenses, keep in mind that each lens is framed as a way of seeing the issue, not necessarily tied to the associated discipline. So looking through the historical lens isn’t just about History Channel documentaries, but about how you use this lens to understand the past and present. As you write your initial post, answer the following questions:

  • In what ways does looking through the history lens enhance your understanding of the role of technology in society?
  • Consider a current event regarding technology in the news that has a historical counterpart. How does looking through the history lens influence how you perceive both the current and historical events? Please share a news link to your events.
  • How does analyzing the relationship between history, culture, and technology have an influence on your discipline of study or chosen profession?

Part B: Respond to at least two of your classmates. Compare and contrast your answers to further everyone’s understanding of technology and the lens of history.

Peer 1 Post: As the Four Lenses document in module 1 stated, history tells the stories of our past to help us better understand how we got to the present. A current event regarding technology in the news that has a historical counterpart is in the field of wireless communications. SpaceX is developing and deploying numerous Starlink satellites which will be used to provide every corner of the planet with high-speed internet. Need Wi-fi on the top of a mountain? We got you covered! Do you need to post to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter from the middle of the Pacific Ocean? No problem! The common term used to describe thousands of satellites in space is “Satellite Mega-Constellations.” The counterpart to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites is cell phone towers because they have a similar function in a different place, the ground. Cell phone towers transmit and receive radio-frequency signals from mobile phones and devices. Wires run from the tower to the base station where they are connected with ultra-high-speed communication cables. Installing cell phone towers everywhere on the planet just isn’t possible, so the next best thing is to launch thousands of small satellites in orbit around the planet so the entire surface can be saturated with human nonsense. 🙂 AT&T was the first company to propose a modern-day mobile phone system in 1971, and actually was the first to build one in Chicago in 1977. (Wireless, 2015).

Viewing these events from a historical perspective allows us to understand how we got here with companies like SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon, and Telesat competing over who can ruin the night sky for astronomers first. Let’s face it, we won’t be able to use any ground-based space telescopes ever again, but oh well, at least I can watch my Amazon Prime shows in the Antarctic. As humans, most of us would consider ourselves social creatures that have a desire and sometimes need to communicate with others. We can learn from the past, that this evidently true because we keep building more tools and apps that are used primarily or secondarily to communicate with each other. Producing content is now one of the most lucrative businesses in the world; whoever has the most followers, customers, votes, likes, thumbs up, and whatever else people use now is what our society is focused on. The next evolutionary step in delivering content is satellite mega-constellations. I’m not sure how analyzing the relationship between history, culture, and technology has any influence on my chosen profession, at least not in the field of wireless communications. One of the best things about learning historical events from different perspectives is that it gives us a glimpse into patterns that we might be missing in the present, or provide a solution to a similar problem in the present. In this case, the problem is how do we connect every single person on the planet to each other?

Peer 2 Post: For the first time in history, we are living in a world completely dominated by digital media. It’s easy to take technology for granted, because these commodities are so readily accessible. We may forget that our current means of technology and digital communications are extremely new. See, most teenagers living in a developed country own a smartphone — likely an iPhone. Yet, most adults just purchased their first flip-phone in the 90s or early 2000s. In just three decades, the world of communication has been completely revolutionized. This trend of exponential technological advancement exists in many different forms around the world. For example, railroads were the primary means of long-distance transportation less than a century ago, and now airplanes completely dominate the long-distance transportation market (Warnes, 2014). In this way, flip-phones are to iPhones as railroads are to airplanes…

What is the significance in acknowledging the history of technology? First of all, I believe that we can develop a deep sense of appreciation for all of the technology we own today. Learning to be grateful for our commodities can seriously improve our mental health… Secondly, I believe the history of technology is important because learning from the past helps us to grow. Indeed, by observing old technological trends, we can create inferences as to what could be improved-upon. For instance, we could think about technology that was invented for helping the elderly. Life Alert is an emergency contact necklace that was invented over three decades ago (Life Call Commercial “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”). Life Alert used to operate by pressing a button on the necklace, which would trigger a phone call to 9-1-1. While Life Alert saved many lives by providing quick emergency response efforts, it couldn’t save all lives. Some elderly people go unconscious after having a stroke, heart attack, hitting their head, etc. People realized that Life Alert could not help those who have gone unconscious. Therefore, inventors have created a new emergency necklace that automatically detects when a person has fallen. The MobileHelp Fall Button is becoming popular now that more elderly are stuck at home, due to the COVID epidemic (MobileHelp, 2020). By observing the downfalls of a past technology, more beneficial technology was able to be created. History will always be able to teach us new ways to grow and improve.

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