Step Back

I find it interesting, as a historian, how many elements related to technology are trying to take a step back.

People who use Facebook, for example, are posting less about themselves, even if they’re still posting a lot.

We are realizing that digital infrastructure is vulnerable and analog backups are needed.

We are rethinking open educational resources and how the term “open” has been applied to education, now that open textbooks are an excuse to reduce funding for public education.

We are considering that the development of artificial intelligence is going to require the creativity of liberal arts majors.

We are revising our ideas about taking notes by typing instead of writing, and recognizing that hand-writing notes has value for learning.

We are discussing the possibility that inhibiting speech to protect people from unpleasantness may constitute cultural infantilism.

For a long time I have objected to “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” when it comes to technology adoptions, for all the reasons we see here: the importance of both personal privacy and free speech in a democracy, the vulnerability of digital artifacts (don’t build anything in an LMS!), the ethical entanglements involved in moneyed ventures related to education, and the value of things from the past that worked (but got fixed anyway).

So let’s be sure to back up (and I don’t just mean our files).