Thursday, July 06, 2006

Beyond Technology

About ten years ago, one of my graduate school mentors taught me something crucial. I was teaching in an underfunded inner city high school where finding a xerox machine was a trial. There was no such thing as a class set of photocopies or a text book. She reminded me that using technology in the classroom didn't mean anything fancy. Sometimes, the technology you need is a pencil...or a piece of chalk. Many great things can be taught by using one's pencil. I never forgot her lesson. Thank you to all of you who provided me with feedback about my article and about my blog entry. When I stopped teaching in the inner city, I promised myself that I would still try to make a positive difference in the world as I tried a more portable career as a writer and designer. I am still learning from my professor's lesson. Sometimes the technology is complicated. Sometimes you need something simple, like knitting needles, or a pencil, to get the message out.
I'm grateful for the comments I've gotten through blog comments, email, letters and phone calls. I think sometimes sharing personal experience is scary and revealing. It can feel threatening or upsetting not just to the writer but to the people who read the writing. Some people feel threatened by the writer's experience, and some feel threatened that they did not do anything to alleviate the experience. These reactions have been a learning experience for me.

Meanwhile, I've been jostling the technology universe. I alternate between knitting madly on the couch (no electricity needed save for air conditioning, and thank goodness for that) and writing up designs on the computer, using Excel and drawing programs, etc. The sweater jackets were briefly on hold... I've now finished
this pillow, destined to be in a book edited by Shannon, the lovely knitgrrl. I've been listening to Pride and Prejudice on my Ipod, courtesy of Librivox Audio. I've taught and read this so many times, but it reminded me again about how civility worked 200 years ago, and how we lose some of that civility towards one another in the electronic age. We've gained enormous abilities to communicate, through email and the web, through blogs and telephones. We sometimes lose subtlety in the process. Writers see the details, observe subtleties and distinctions. That's part of the job. Those details can be upsetting, but without seeing the details, we might miss a vital part of our ever complicated world. One of my "uncles-in-law" is a rocket scientist for NASA, another works with power plants, and it's all necessary. Maybe this writing I did hit a nerve. Maybe I've found another way to be necessary. Harry and Sally haven't been here for a while, but mostly they are resting in the floor's cool places as often as possible. It's summer. It's hot to have fur. They do sometimes like to curl up on me when I'm knitting, even when it's 97 F outside, as it was earlier this week. This is when I am enormously grateful for the technology of air conditioning. Sometimes then, a pencil just doesn't keep the dogs's all about the right technology for the job at hand.


Blogger CatonsvilleCats said...

I know this is not your point about civility at all, but when reading those 18th and 19th century novels, I am always so impressed at how you can totally dis someone in a civil, polite, but very effective way.... small knives can often be much sharper than hammers.

July 7, 2006 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Actually Caroline, that is part of my point...I've been thinking of that. Much of our discourse today seems to have lost the civility that does just that--a specific and polite but effective disagreement that is based in logic rather than overarching emotional fervor. Instead, we seem to specialize in sweeping generalities and hope the right people get the point. The best example of this is the assumption that if one is against the war in Iraq, one is against the troops. Subtle distinction seems lost forever in this argument, whether or not one agrees with it.

July 7, 2006 at 9:13 AM  

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