Scarlett’s Letter July 8, 2013

There were errands to be run and business to be tended to today, and nothing really, terribly interesting about either. I decided to get my WiFi fix at the local Barnes and Noble.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am pretty technologically dependent. I travel with two laptops, an iPad, an iPod, two iPhones, a Kindle, a helmet camera, a digital camera and a few other personal electronic devices. My backpack/computer bag is like a miniature, transportable, Best Buy. I am fairly internet dependent, as well. I Google EVERYTHING, unless the topic involves movies or personalities, in which case IMDB is my reference tool of choice.  I rely on internet both for work and for many of my leisure activities, such as social networking, blogging and vlogging.

My man is the complete opposite. He has an iPhone and a television, often with only one channel, usually PBS. He lives far enough from town that there is, at best, one bar of cellular service available. On a good day. If you’re standing outside, at the edge of the porch. We are accepting of each other and our respective technological aptitude, dependency (me) and abstinence (him).

I managed for the first week fairly well. I was able to tap out an article here or there and would post from the car with my MiFi device en route to and from areas with cellular coverage. I even managed to upload pictures with my articles from the passenger seat of the car. I felt very adept. But, even though I was able to accomplish a lot with my brief mobile internet sessions, I was jonesing a bit for a prolonged online session. This day was just the ticket.

I have made use of this particular Barnes and Noble, in Fairbanks, Alaska, before. I was a regular there during my last visit north. I know the lay of the land. There is one, just one, table near an electrical outlet. There are two armchairs, without tables, with electrical outlets behind them. There is a hard wooden chair next to a pillar in the children’s section with an outlet, as a last resort. And though there are several lovely, cushy armchairs circling a round fireplace, sadly, they are “powerless”, all of them. There is free WiFi, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. It is a bit weak and you have to accept the terms over and over again, every couple of hours. Still, it is better than nothing, so I was grateful and, when necessary, just pulled out my own WiFi (MiFi) device if the “free” signal became too weak.

So, today, I caught up on downloading tunes, Kindle books, Audible books and catching up on the YouTube channels I subscribe to. I uploaded several things and caught up on the news on Facebook. I had a geeky gadget girl ‘gasm. It was grand!

It is interesting, though, what happens when someone as technically inclined as I am is without technical resources. When asked a question or a definition of a word, I will usually Google. Without Google, at first, I was a bit befuddled. But, I can be resourceful and soon I figured out I could just pull out my Kindle and access the dictionary. In another instance, a cooking term had us both in a quandary. No Google available and the dictionary on the Kindle was of no help. I grabbed “The Joy of Cooking” off my man’s windowsill and looked up the word in the index and read the recipe for details. I felt so old school. I felt so smart. I felt so resourceful. I have to wonder, being a digital immigrant, myself, if a digital native would even know what to do without their digits!

I have always believed that true intelligence is not the memorization of facts but the ability to identify and access the appropriate references or information. True, I have great admiration for those in my profession who can recite tax code or audit guidance, chapter and verse. I am not one of those people. But I have no less admiration or respect for those who know where to access that same information when needed. Whether digitally or not.

Later in the day, we were watching a PBS broadcast on the one channel on the old school television. And by “old school” I mean you have to get up, walk over to the television and hit buttons to adjust the volume or try to access another (sporadic) channel. The show we watched was about a “new” method of teaching history in a high school district in Northern California. The students were given access to different accounts or documentation of historical events. They had to “source” the documents from different accounts of the event and interpret the information, then summarize, in their own opinion, what occurred historically. In other words, in case you don’t realize this, history, like many other things we all tend to consider “factual”, is really just an account of events interpreted by any number of authors. I studied political science, my minor, in college, and in several of my courses, had to access different source documents and make my own, independent interpretation. I had to “source” my documents; I had to know who wrote it, where they got their information, understand their interest or position in order to determine the reliability of the information and how much of that information I would be willing to consider in my own, independent interpretation.

Sourcing information, it seems, is not something everyone is practiced at or knowledgeable about. If it’s on the news, it must be true, because “they” said so. So many people just accept, blindly, what they read in the newspaper, what they hear on the radio or see on television as absolute fact. This goes further. History. Religion. Science. Politics. Law. Medicine. There are many different opinions, many different accounts, many different interpretations and, hence, many different beliefs, and, truly, very few hard facts. As you go through your day, whether you are a digital native or a digital immigrant or a digital refugee, know that wherever you obtain information there are likely to be different sources, different opinions and different interpretations. Our success, our peace of mind, our understanding, and the basis for many decision we make, all rely on our recognition of this fact and our ability to understand, research and arrive at our own, independent conclusion.

So, wherever you derive information from, whether online, like me, today, or offline, like me the rest of this week, knowing where to access it and how to source it and understanding that there are likely to be many different interpretations or accounts of the same “facts”, is really what intelligence is all about. True wisdom is acknowledging this. Consider the common saying, “consider the source” and then, do,

Technological dependency. There may be no cure.
Technological dependency. There may be no cure.

consider it.


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