31 July 2010


Here's a funny story--I went to my public library and found that they do not have Paul Levinson's The New New Media, but they would be able to get it in a few weeks through inter-library loan. Then, when I was reading the 2010 Horizon report, I discovered that each section concluded with an annotated list of suggested readings. I was partly excited for the lists, and then I began to dread them because I didn't want to wait weeks for more books to come through inter-library loan. I pictured myself waiting--forever--for that one book I really want to read for my research, the one that's only available in the library on Mars.

I laughed at myself when I came to my first annotated list: there wasn't a single book, only websites. Phew! Those libraries on Mars can just keep their books! All the information I need is only a cut-and-paste away.

So now, I'm reflecting on my impatience regarding inter-library loan. Each Horizon Report lists some changes in contemporary culture that are manifest in new technology. The second (and they're listed by rank) is that "people expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to." This is certainly my expectation. I complained just as much as my roommates when our apartment didn't have internet access for an entire semester--how are we supposed to do our homework, check our grades, email, get on facebook, blog, or watch that new video on YouTube if we can't get online? BYU campus, including the Salt Lake Center, has wireless internet access almost everywhere, and it's no less than I expect. Many students, many of my friends, have internet access through their cell phones as well. We need it! We need access to email when we forgot whether or not the professor cancelled class today. We need access to wikipedia when we have no idea what a French jupe provencal looks like. We need access to dictionary.com when our roommate uses the word "antidisestablishmentarianism" because she's a history major with a fetish for long words.

The report notes that continual access to the wealth of information online "maximiz[es] the impact of learning by ensuring it is timely and efficient." Do we retain more when we find the information moments after it occurs to us to search for us?

Since February 2005, Dharamsala has had high-speed Internet access all throughout the city, indoors and outdoors, from the social enterprise AirJaldi and the Tibetan Technology Center. Over 2,000 computers are connected in Dharamsala. Do the people of Dharamsala have the same same regular need for access to email, wikipedia, and dictionary.com? Norbu Jinpa, an admin for the TCV facebook page, posts almost every day and sometimes more than once per day. To what extent do they use the internet for work or school? What kind of access is available in Bylakuppe?


  1. Hi! I'm a fellow student of Dr. Burton and I'm about to head off to a field study in South Africa. I love this topic you're exploring, of rising technology and its influence in rural India. I really like how you mention in this post just how dependent we've become on technology, especially the internet. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who's only six years older than myself, and it was amazing how different our elementary, middle and high school experiences had been due to the technology that I had, but he didn't.

    I talked about some of the issues brought up by technology and its significance in our lives on my blog (www.kathyrain.blogspot.com)if you want to check that out - I was relating it in some of my early posts to our modern perception of the sublime, but I think we can definitely draw connections. Let me know what you think!

  2. Katherine, thanks for your comment! I was just recently thinking about the huge impact technological advances have on our school system, specifically in research. I remember in high school when citing Wikipedia would earn the scorn of the teacher (who, after all, went through school long before Wikipedia or, indeed, the world wide web in 1989). I think my teachers had a mindset more similar to your friend's than yours and mine, though I freely acknowledge the flaws of Wikipedia information.

    I'll definitely check out your blog!