Neo-Luddism

What role does technology play in the process of creating?

It is true that we live in a technologically saturated world, and in many cases Art reflects the world we live in. But what is the relationship between Art and Technology?

In the early 19th century in England a group of factory workers protested the introduction of labor-saving machinery. Fearing the effects that the advance in technologically would have on their lives, they destroyed and burnt down the machines, this refusal of technological ‘progress’ was called the ‘Luddite Movement.’

Frame-breakers, 1812
Frame-breakers, 1812

Plato of Socrates in the Phaedrus considers technology and its relationship to us. He tells of the king of Egypt Thamus, who was approached by Theuth who invented numbers, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and letters. Theuth brought his inventions to Thamus, saying that they ought to be imparted to other Egyptians.

Thamus asked what use there was in each, Theuth explained each use, giving praise to letters “this invention will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered” (Plato, 1917, pp. 561-5).

Thamus replied “one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another… you have been led by your affections to ascribe them a power, the opposite of that which they really possess. For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise” (Plato, 1917, pp. 561-5).

Socrates, as well as the Luddites expressed a fear of new technologies where we change as a result of using and depending on them, and old skills are lost in the process. Centuries from the original Luddite movement, the relevance is still there. Neo-Luddism is not a rejection of technology, but a perspective where our relationship to technology is critically examined; technology gives opportunity, but it also states the conditions (Coulthard & Keller, 2012).

The problem I have with technology is not the dependency we have on electronic devices, but the lose of mental understanding and ability because we use technology as a crutch. The social ecology of technology is changing us, and the way we view and access knowledge.

In class I refused to participate in an activity that required the use of ‘Photoshop.’  While I acknowledge the relevance of this activity, I reject the idea that the absence of this skill would be crippling to my creative career. I enjoy the ‘fresh’ and ‘relevant’ teaching approach at ECU, where the educators move towards a teaching method that engages with the novel, immediate and that which is directly relevant to the current environment, creating flexible, adaptable students/citizens (Coulthard & Keller, 2012).

My refusal to participate was not an act of defiance but rather self-preservation. My practice as a Painter is defined on my ability to see things differently and to express and communicate to others abstract ideas. The introduction to a ‘cheat sheet,’ I believe would hinder my imagination, which is the magic of what makes a creative mind truly special. Already through ‘relevant’ teaching at Edith Cowan I’ve lost my patience for drawing, as the use of projectors and photographs are not only accepted but endorsed.
Kranzenberg states that technology is ‘neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral’ (Kranzberg, 1986).

Particularly, in my generation ‘Generation Y’ and those that follow, knowledge is seen to be as something that is ‘over there’ something that is next to us, rather than being a part of us. We don’t gain knowledge or wisdom; we simply know how to find it on the Internet. I am concerned with how much we, as humans are changing, with myself in particular I try to control how much exposure I have to unnecessary technologies. And while some may be critical of this approach, I think it would be defeatist to not, at least,  try.

References: 

Coulthard, D., & Keller, S. (2012). Technophilia, neo-Luddism, eDependency and the judgement of Thamus. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society , 10 (4).

Kranzberg, M. (1986). Technology and history: Kranzberg’s laws. Technology and Culture , 27 (3), 544-560.

Plato (1917), Plato with an English Translation,W. Heinemann, London (H. N. Fowler, trans. Vol. v.1. Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s