Thursday, May 28, 2015

Update: Semester Breaks, New Technology, New Territory

This is more of an update post than a theory/philosophy one.

The semester ended a couple of weeks ago and I am acclimating to my new routine and schedule. I am also acclimating to two new key pieces of technology: my new phone, which is a Galaxy Note 4; and my new tablet, which is a Nexus 9. I attempted a slightly different approach to my upgrades, especially for my tablet: stop thinking about what I could do with them and start thinking about what I will do with them. One could also translate that as: get what you need, not what you want. This was also a pricey upgrade all around; I had been preparing for it, but still, having to spend wisely was an issue as well.

The Galaxy Note 4 upgrade was simple for me. I loved my Note 2. I use the stylus/note taking feature on it almost daily. The size was never an issue. So while I momentarily considered the Galaxy S6 edge, I stuck with exactly what I knew I needed and would use.

As for the tablet, that was more difficult. My old Galaxy Note 10.1 was showing its age. I thought -- or rather, hoped ... speculated -- that a tablet with a stylus would replace the need for paper notes. After a full academic year of trying to do all of my research and class note-taking exclusively on my tablet, it was time for me to admit that it wasn't cutting it. I need a full sheet of paper, and the freedom to easily erase, annotate, flip back and forth, and see multiple pages in their actual size. While the Note tablet can do most of that, it takes too many extra steps; and those steps are completely counter-intuitive than when using pen and paper.

When I thought about how and why I used my tablet (and resurrected chromebook), I realized that I didn't need something huge. I was also very aware that I am a power-user of sorts of various Google applications. So -- long story short -- I went for the most ... 'Googley' ... of kit and sprang for a Nexus 9, with the Nexus keyboard/folio option. I was a little nervous at the smaller size -- especially of the keyboard. But luckily my hands are on the smallish side and I'm very, very pleased with it. The bare-bones Android interface is quick and responsive; and the fact that all Android updates come to me immediately without dealing with manufacturer or provider interference was very attractive. I've had the Nexus for a week and am loving it.

This process, however, especially coming at the end of the academic year, made me deeply introspective about my own -- very personal -- use of these types of technological artifacts. It may sound dramatic, but there was definitely some soul-searching happening as I researched different tablets and really examined the ways in which I use technological artifacts. It was absolutely a rewarding experience, however. Freeing myself up from unrealistic expectations and really drawing the line between a practical  use rather than a speculative use was rather liberating. I was definitely influenced by my Google Glass experience.

From a broader perspective, the experience also helped me to focus on very specific philosophical issues in posthumanism and our relationship to technological artifacts. I've been reading voraciously, and taking in a great deal of information. During the whole upgrade process, I was reading Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. This was a catalyst in my mini 'reboot.' And I know it was a good reboot because I keep thinking back to my "Posthuman Topologies: Thinking Through the Hoard" chapter in Design, Mediation, and the Posthuman, and saying to myself "oh wait, I can explain that even better now ..."

So I am now delving into both old and new territory, downloading new articles, and familiarizing myself even more deeply with neuroscience and psychology. It's exciting stuff, but a little frustrating because there's only so much I can read through and retain in a day. There's also that nagging voice that says "better get it done now, in August you'll be teaching four classes again." It can be frustrating sometimes. Actually, that's a lie. It's frustrating all the time. But I do what I can.

Anyway, that's where I'm at right now and I'm sure I'll have some interesting blog entries as I situate myself amidst the new research. My introspection here isn't just academic, so what I've been working on comes from a deeper place, but that's how I know the results will be good.

Onward and upward.

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