dozens

Longform for the fediverse

This is a response to What Doesn't Work Yet: https://thesephist.com/posts/what-doesnt-work-yet/

When I worked at the technology center of the public library, my job was providing access and various kinds of support to people who frequently confessed to “not get technology.”

In What Doesn't Work Yet Linus articulates a gripe with this way of self-identifying. I always bristled at the deliberate inaccuracy of this way of self-identifying. (And especially at the defeatism that often accompanies it.)

You can't “not get” technology unless you are ready to claim that you also don't “get” plows, flash photography, and penicillin.

Technology is a tool, nothing more.

So Linus's distinction between background technology (tested, tried, true, boring, and mundane tools like fire, steel, and roads) and foreground technology (the internet, smart phones and tablets) is spot on.

And so my luddites from the library don't mean that they “don't get technology.” They mean that they would prefer not to engage with that which is unreliable, unobvious, and new.

Which is a fine thing to choose.

A second framework for thinking and talking about technology that may complement the background / foreground distinction is one that I read somewhere that creates two different groups that I don't have great words for, so I'll call them Type 1 and Type 2 technology.

Type 1 technology is foundational. It's a platform. While Type 2 technology builds layers on that platform. Type 2 are the apps.

Type 1 Type 2
Telecommunications Television, radio, phones
Roads bicycles, cars
Internet ecommerce, social media

Wherever it was I first encountered this particular framework, the premise of the argument was that most foreground technology today is unsatisfying (particularly to builders of technology) because it is Type 2 technology. That as a world society, most of the Type 1 technology has been established. The foundations are laid, the platforms are established. And the Type 1 technology that hasn't already been established is the domain and purview of researchers and scientists. Not us, the common folk.

What is left to us is to develop Type 2 technology by toiling in somebody else's garden.