I proudly call myself a luddite, laughingly label myself a techno-wiener but really I’m embarrassed by my lack of technical savvy. It’s grounded in a set of fears that run long and deep, a complete lack of interest, and a sense of anxiety and exhaustion that comes over me whenever I am pointed to a set of technical instructions.
My preferred option “Can you do it for me?” is only reluctantly followed by “Can you show me?” Reading the manual and learning it myself is a distant third. My first response to technical challenge is to take my hands off the wheel and my foot off the pedal - while driving. I have a vague recollection of doing just that at 16 years old, on Highway 401 in a driver’s ed car. Luckily the teacher had his own set of pedals.
The other day my friend-of-a-friend Jay read my newborn blog, commented that he really like it (thanks Jay!!) and asked why I was using drupal, when wordpress.com or wordpress.org were far superior programs. That very morning my friend Alanna Cavanagh, a wonderful artist and illustrator who has a great blog (http://alannacavanagh.blogspot.com/) was telling me that she uses a simple program called blogger.
“It’s not a web site like yours is," she said "but it’s really easy to use.”
I have a website? I thought I had a blog. And the next morning on f/b someone named Leigh that I don’t (yet) know threw in her two cents worth “Tumblr is easy breezy”. A quick google search told me Tumblr offers something called bookmarklets. How cute is that?
I started to panic. What do I do now? Tumblr, wordpress, blogger, drupal? I feel paralyzed by things I’m not convinced I need to care about. Choice, while conceptually ideal, can be practically befuddling. I felt overwhelmed by the myriad options on the menu at Fresh restaurant the other day. (I got over it.) I believe that the ratio of befuddlment:choice correlates directly to familiarity. I know what tempeh is (sort of), as for wordpress…
Being in control of my technical environment has never been a priority. I approach it on a need to know basis and define “need” in narrow terms. I’m like that with a lot of information. Disinclined to dig down, happy to skim along the surface. I left grad school when I realized there was a serious incongruity between my relationship to detail and that of the academy.
It took me 7 years of fantasizing (vaguely) about skype before Bryan said to me “just click here”. Really it was that simple. All the tools for free long distance at my disposal and I'd been going merrily along, year after year, paying one of my Oh so favourite companies, Bell, for the privilege.
The other night I was out with my friend Jeremy, a mathematician at the University of Toronto. A colleague of his walked into the restaurant. "That's John Mighton," he said."He's blowing the lid off the way math is taught." Mighton has written a book called The Myth of Ability that outlines his program Jump Math, a new way to teach math to kids that looks to be eliminating the bell curve, calling into question that "oh she/he's just good at math" assumption. (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/a-better-way-to-teach-math/)
Simply put the approach breaks problems into minute steps. Currently math teaching assumes leaps many of us don’t make on our own. I hated math in high school. It scared me and that fear of math and technology in general left me without inclination to demystify it for myself. Some people dive in to conquer the unknown. Well I dive too – head right into the sand.
And here I am now a blogger. Might this coupling of technology and writing be the 12-step program I need to get over the fear? Might I soon know exactly what it is I don’t need to know? So, hand held tightly (don't let go Bryan), bright yellow life jacket strapped on, nose plugged, I'm taking the leap.