By Ananya S Guha
Technology is breathing into our lives today and we breathe it out! Can we think of a life without a smart phone or the Internet? We are getting smarter and devious as well. So we circulate false news for propaganda, this has acquired a status- fake news. There is a halo around it and a design behind it. It is used to falsely propagate, incite or define person and persons. And the vehicles for such malice are what is known as social media sites meant for networking among peers, friends, writers, artists and colleagues. Let us pause here. Facebook insisted in its beginnings to trace old friends and reconnect with. Linked In expressly mentions not to ‘ befriend’ people you do not know. Now people are using it to hound new enemies. There is an inversion of what it was meant to be originally. Whats App groups are used to sensationalize news and in the process murder it.
What is perhaps frightening is that the virtual world is replicating, even substituting the real world. So you wave, yes you wave at your virtual friend or even your real friend. But you don’t need to meet him or her to wave. You can do it on your mobile phone. Time and spatial realities are new myths or the new realities.Reality has been imposed upon a myth. The world is never so fabulous as now. There is no need for children to read fables or fairy tales. They are all around you ubiquitously on your lap top, mobile or some techie pad or the other. With the Internet of course driving them.There is no need for aesthetics or artistry, there is Siri for you to do the talking and answering your inane questions. Who says we are living in a global or a post global world?We are living in a self obsessed world solely ‘me’ driven. Books can be published anywhere on the Internet, not only e books but me books read my books. The emphasis is on Me and it should be there anywhere on the world wide web and people should know this. Knowledge then is through information and circulation which is enforced and not by means of appreciation. Appreciation comes through ‘ likes’. Never have we been more self congratulatory. Never have we been so narcicistically driven because of technologically abetted- metaphorically put, I phones.
There has never been such a technological boom as now, but also crisis. The crisis is here: making an end in itself rather than a means to an end, the arts, poetry, fiction and related imaginative processes. Yes there are online expressions of art and aesthetics, we have e books but the virtuosity of the printed word gets missing is lost in this jungle of the I the me, my interview, my face, my book . In the process of stealing the limelight or the thunder silent plodders, workers, writers and artists miss out on this aggrandizing and belligerent networking.
And education? We have the much vaunted e learning where for school students someone lectures and displays videos.So there is further separation of the classroom which in the normal situation in schools in India are separate because of elitism, affordability and hierarchies. Technology has no time constraint. But we have. Can we continuously keep on cutting and pasting, or our children to do their homework? But e learning that is electronic learning is a much more complex process of interaction, synchronous and asynchronous learning. It engenders the philosophy of multiple classrooms in consonance with ontology of open and distance learning. It is also meant for disadvantaged learner’s: socially, economically and those living in remote areas. Alternate sources of learning such as open access journals should be the high points of educational access today.
Adults and children now share a common world the world of mobiles and excitement. Real knowledge or the pursuit of happiness cannot come through such excitement. They can come through the quieter pleasures of life such as philosophy, arts, music. reading and writing. We can afford all these through the Internet but not as slaves. The robotic era has indeed dawned. Man as machine is no longer a postulate but a hard reality. Very soon we will be planning visits to the moon uncomprehending its innate physical beauty, what we see of it and the metaphor it has created for the poet, lunatic and the lover.
The Internet and the mobile have become more than status symbols, political and social insignia as to pursue relentlessly ideologies, mind you not free thinking ideas. Hence a time warp between past and present is created. We watch reality shows which are bizarre and unreal. We share news with such alacrity that they become indigestible. The print media used to a certain sobriety cannot cope with it.
So what do we do? How do we throw the virtual out of the real? A rhetorical question. We cannot. Very soon the dichotomy between man and machine will blur into horrendous proportions with all the talk about robotics and machine made men. But Man will always remain the social animal he was meant to be and he should make the most of it!
Now with the harsh and tragic realities of Covid 19 we are making technology a substitute for reality. Since as people say there will be a ‘ NEW NORMAL’ technology is sought to be redefined in terms of relationships, social actions and even the complex process of teaching and learning. Since schools and colleges are closed we have taken to online teaching as a replication of the classroom, without taking into account the nuances of online teaching- learning, its collaborative nature and multi tasking that is required in it by using devices such as the moodle. Mere replication of lectures is not virtual teaching, which is both synchronous and synchronous. It needs some training. So seeking out technology for all solutions is putting the cart before the horse.
(The author is a writer based in Shillong and retired from the Indira Gandhi National Open University as a Senior Regional Director)