The Tools we use and how they shape us

Neil Postman in 1985 wrote that Television had changed the public discourse of the USA. Whereas for the past many years the culture of the country was shaped by written literature, ever since the Television came people began to think in terms of meaningless images rather than thinking in terms of propositions and arguments. I remember coming across a famous quote often attributed to Marshall Mcluhan (although I haven’t checked), “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Technology changes the way we work

A study conducted with school students during the early years of technology introduction illustrates an interesting way that technology changes the way we work. Students who grew up using paper and pen for writing essays usually did not change the very structure of their writing after having written it. At the end of writing the first draft, at most they would correct spelling errors or some other grammatical errors. With the ability to use Word Processing software students started changing the way they edited their documents. Now it was possible to delete entire paragraphs or to restructure the entire essay in a matter of minutes. As a result, students changed the way they worked. They would start typing much sooner than before and edit and restructure the work along the way.

Technology changes the way we see the world

Technology doesn’t just change the way we work, it changes the very way we look at the world. When you hold a hammer everything you see is a nail. I remember Tim Challies saying on a podcast that once you’re a writer, everything you come across becomes a subject to write about. The first reaction to whatever you come across is, what can I write about this. In one sense we could say that when we use a particular tool, it changes how we view the world. We might look at a flower and see it through the lens of an Instagram filter. Or we come across a joke and think of a meme that would capture the humour well.

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