}

Friday, June 02, 2017

Technologically bashful

Technology is a relative topic: How one relates to it and uses it is a function of all sorts of things, from the person (education, interest) to the broad based (class, nationality). Talking about one’s technology, whether devices or how one uses them, is always potentially fraught with conflict over privilege, among other things. And yet, we all live in the lives we live in, and there’s no point in ignoring that simply because others may not share in it.

This is the conundrum I always face when talking about technology. On the one hand, it’s part of my life—central to it in many respects—while at the same time I have it so much better than most of the planet’s people. The first part makes me want to talk about talk about technology, how I used it, new bits and pieces I’ve acquired, etc. The second part makes me want to say little or nothing, especially about new technology I’ve acquired.

I talked about this a bit back in 2013 when I got my iPhone 5c, and how I was ambivalent about talking about that. That phone ended up serving me well for a couple years, but it became increasingly inadequate for a number of reasons.

Early last week, Nigel bought me a new iPhone 6, which was on special, quite possibly to make room for the newest iPhone which will be released soon. Here’s what I said about that on my personal facebook:
My old phone only had 16GB storage, which I was constantly using up, so I had to delete Apps, photos, and had no music on my phone (the iOS used most of the available space). I also had to update the few Apps I had one at a time because "Update All" always failed due to lack of space. There was always a queue of Apps to be updated—usually a long queue.

The new phone has 32GB, same as my iPad, which has lots of games and has never filled up. The new phone has an awesome camera and that beautiful high-res screen. The camera matters because I've been using my phone to take photos for Instagram, my blog, etc., and I really like the challenge of that. But I also wanted better quality photos. And video.

I don't upgrade technology very quickly, for a lot of reasons, but eventually I have to. How lucky am I to have a husband who sees that and fixes the problem and the aggravation the ageing technology was causing me? Actually, I'm lucky on all fronts.
I can’t begin to try to describe the lengthy process it took me to come up with that text. I was excited about the new phone (of course), but I also felt I needed to explain why I needed a new phone as opposed to just getting by with my old one. In simpler terms, I felt I needed to justify myself.

Some of this is just because I’m a centre-left person and I’m keenly aware of the advantages and privilege I have that others don’t. It’s not just that I feel bad for others, it’s also that I can feel guilty sometimes that I have those advantages and privilege in the first place. I’m very good at being a white, middle class liberal.

Even so, it’s true: I could have limped along with my old phone for a while yet: After all, I took a lot of photos with the old one, and they were all fine for online stuff like this blog. I have better cameras—actual cameras—if quality matters that much, and it seldom does. And, yes, the updating thing was annoying, but hardly fatal, right?

All true. But there was also the fact that Apple will soon stop updating the iOS on that model phone, and that will mean that over time Apps will no longer be updated and some won’t be available. The whole point of having a smartphone rather than a basic phone is for the other things it can do, and they require Apps.

So, my old phone was facing approaching obsolescence on top of the inconvenience. But here’s the thing about those inadequacies: Sure, I could have limped along, but why should I do that? If the whole point of technology is its utility, then having technology that better meets one’s needs becomes important on its own.

Clearly I’m fortunate to be able to buy such technology and to be able to use it freely. But that’s my reality just as it’s others’ to not have it. My eschewing newer, more appropriate technology won’t change either reality, but it will diminish mine. That, too, is clear.

So, I’m glad I have this new technology and how it will make it possible for me to do more creative stuff and better than before. But I’m also glad that I’m aware of how fortunate I am that this is the case, and that this awareness makes me stop and think so I don’t end up bragging or gloating.

One more thing I know: The next time I have a technology upgrade I’m excited about and want to talk about, I’ll go through all this again. I really am very good at being a white, middle class liberal, after all.

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