Friday, May 14, 2010

Digital Daze leads to Analogue Days

By David N. Wright, English instructor

Even though I’ll try to sell you on the numerous advantages and possibilities opened up by embracing things like Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Academia.edu, Linked In, or RSS Feeds in education, sometimes I need an analogue day.


What’s an analogue day? It’s a day, twenty-four full hours, in which I stay away from any digital technology. I listen to cassette tapes or put on records, maybe even tune into the radio, read magazines that are published on paper, pull apart the newspaper, watch television on a television with a picture tube, talk only on a phone with a chord (without call display so I actually have to answer when “that person” phones), avoid emails, don’t surf the web, and write with a pen on paper in the light of an incandescent bulb. Sometimes, I even haul out my festering yellow typewriter, pounding the keys with a vigor that pressures the freshly WD40′d mechanisms.

It’s all good fun and it reminds me of both the pleasures and pains of a world without the fresh technologies we’re dealing with in the new millennium. When an analogue day falls on a teaching day, things really get interesting. It’s a chance to revisit the world when calls were made to other faculty members, and students actually had to seek us out and talk to us. Some students have even inquired as to my health when I don’t respond to their emails.

Though technological communities are useful and like it or not becoming more and more a part of our daily routine, it’s always great to take a step to the left and have an analogue day. I would bet even those who are determined to remain as analogue as possible still rely on some form of digital device / mechanism (cellphone, computer, email) to get them through the day. Given that so much of our technological relationships are based on–and built upon–”old fashioned” ways of doing things, it helps to revisit that world for a little while and appreciate all that it has to offer. In fact, one of the areas where most of us instructors still embrace the analogue is when we mark papers, pen in hand, paper on desk. For me, analogue days remind me just how much my technological world is still full of analogue moments. No matter what technologies do, they are, as Marshall McLuhan suggested, “Extensions of Man” and thus rely on our continued physical imprint on–and in–the world.

Now, I think the Delta 88 V12 in my driveway is ready to go, I have a Max Webster mix in the 8-track, a reel-to-reel tape recorder and beta video cassette loaded.

David N. Wright is an English instructor and acting Research & Scholarly Activity Coordinator at Douglas College. He is a regular contributor to Faculty Matters, the Douglas College Faculty Association blog.