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AN310 Cultural Anthropology

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Prof’s Anthropology of Technology: Computers and the Family Computers are so ubiquitous that it is oftentimes tempting to not even question their presence: to treat them as inevitability and thus above too much scrutiny. Two authors, however, have paid a great deal of attention to the way that computers impact family life: Graham T. T. Molitor and Jan English-Luek. Though both authors are interested in knowing how family patterns interact with growing dependence on technology, they present somewhat different in what that will mean for families.
Molitor wrote the kind of work which is very different than that of English-Luek, and something more of a forward looking paper on what will eventually happen with technology, rather than a reflective look on how it has and currently is affecting lives. Perhaps, as a result of this, his view seems highly optimistic: he presents many upsides to technology for the family, and a very few downsides. He rightly assumes that technology will continue to get cheaper and more accessible, and thus be more widely used as time goes on (Molitor 2003). Furthermore, he recognized that mobile technology would be of growing importance, and argues that this presents many opportunities for families to stay in closer contact with each other and so forth, noting that mobile acumen is now being developed in children “from birth” and that staying in contact “on the fly” will lead to greater integration among members of the family (Molitor 2003, p 9).
English-Lueck’s analysis is based on observations of the way technology has affected the family, rather than how it could. It is a bit more double sided. Like Molitor, English Lueck noted that families felt that technology allowed them to stay in contact in ways that would not otherwise be possible – and thus gain more independence (English-Lueck 1998, p 5). However, technology also has a high degree of downsides. The largest is the intervention of work into family time – almost everyone in English-Lucke’s work complained of having work at home or sometimes even having a great deal of work at home without noticing it (English-Lueck 1998). Finally, English-Lueck noted that, while technology altered family life, it also conformed to expectations that had been built over generations before the technology existed, such as gender roles. Men would be expected to be better experts on technology than women, and more interested in “discussing it” (Enligsh-Lueck 1998, p. 8), whereas women wanted to use it.
One common thread that I found between the two readings and my own life is lack of time in the same space. I believe that technology that we hold is important for us to stay in contact when it would otherwise be impossible, but I also believe that there is a danger that it would create a false sense of closeness that does not actually exist. Technology has thus somewhat pushed the family further apart, by allowing us to feel false sense of security and our closeness. Like everything, moderation is probably the key: our family has unplugged days where we consciously try to remove ourselves from social media use and other things, which I believe keeps us critical of the types of interactions we can foster when not plugged in, and the vast gap that actually occurs between two people that are only connected via a technological thread.
References
English-Lueck, J (1998). Technology and Social Change: The Effects on Family and Community.
Molitor, GTT (2003). Looking Ahead: Communication Technologies That Will Change Our Lives.