Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Content or Technology?

I often see comments about the impact of technology on our lives. Today there was an announcement that Google had purchased Motorola Mobility. For many years, I lived a few blocks from one of Motorola's plants in Scottsdale, Arizona and many of my friends were either Motorola employees or former employees. A comment by Larry Page, CEO of Google caught my eye, "It’s a well known fact that people tend to overestimate the impact technology will have in the short term, but underestimate its significance in the longer term. Many users coming online today may never use a desktop machine, and the impact of that transition will be profound--as will the ability to just tap and pay with your phone."

If you read the announcements, you will realize that Google is now a serious competitor to Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

It is true, to some extent, that the technology itself has an impact. But as a genealogist, my view of the changes is that the technology is only a way to facilitate access to content. What good is super technology without a reason to use it? Most of the content accessed by the growing smartphone population consists of impersonal texting and entertainment including video games. Many of the young people of today who are growing up with this so-called revolutionary technology can't even carry on an intelligent conversation and with only a few exceptions, few of them use the technology to access our literary heritage or learn valuable skills.

The same thing could be said for genealogists. I have a friend who immediately buys every new gadget and iteration of computer that comes out but doesn't have time to do anything else. How many of us are so involved in the gadgetry that we forget the substance of our research. I worked with two notable exceptions yesterday. Two of the patrons at the FHC who were seriously involved in research and had substantive questions, but were only using the technology to do their research, not as substitute for research.

As we watch the new devices fly by, we need to remember and focus on our core values and our goals and dreams about our genealogy and not become distracted by the gadgetry.

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