Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Computer Illiterate

There are plenty of people who remain computer illiterate and accept their generational ignorance. As a college student and a federal work study employee, I'm forced to deal with these people everyday at the reference desk of my campus library. Today I had the pleasure of helping out a young woman who needed to find journal article via the Library research service online. This woman claimed she was in the process of receiving her doctorate degree, yet she was completely incapable of maneuvering around a Windows desktop to get to the internet. 
"I need journal articles for my 'Second Language Acquisition' class," she said. I told her to first start by clicking on Internet Explorer. She began to click the embedded text on the desktop rather than the actual icon. This may sound technologically snobbish, however, I feel like if you're receiving higher degrees of education and plan on pursuing a higher state of intelligence that it would probably be rather intelligent to keep up with the common practice with computers. 
This woman was merely a standard middle aged stranger to the internet and modern technology in general. My father is what most would consider "hip" for his age. He loves new alternative rock and follows popular culture closely. However, the idea of the cell phone baffles him. He has had the same brick, Nokia cell phone for the last four years, but he really doesn't understand how it all works. When it comes to computers, he truly struggles in comprehending the idea of the downloading/uploading of music online. I try to explain it to him in the simplest of ways, but he gets flustered and returns to enjoying his My Chemical Romance album in the living room. 
What is it about a majority of the Baby Boomers that deem technology inaccessible? Why wouldn't you want to explore and understand the options of the internet and new computer software? Every semester, my friends and I witness a number of professors who become frustrated on a daily basis trying to utilize the new computers suggested for use in the classroom. Watching them try to figure out Powerpoints and newly designed overhead projection units is depressingly entertaining. This of course takes place in a class room not normally based on technology. 
At this point I'm just hoping that I can maintain my technology savvy state through my middle age years and not end up scared and frightened from the post-Ipod generation.  


  1. great description of dad. love it.

  2. A Martineau in college doing a federal work study at the library? I've seen this before...

    This is the same disease that causes my father to declare any time there's a break in the conversation that he wants "a cell phone with only an 'on' and 'off' button" because anything else confuses him. Yes, that menu button is hard to deconstruct.

    It's the same illness that makes my mother snarl at me to "get a life" every time I text in her presence. Oh I'm sorry mother. I didn't realize I was losing life points every time I sent an electronic message. But Cheryl's keeping score, don't worry. Subtract double points for every day that goes by without conceiving her grandchild.

    And why should the middle-aged take a stab at technology when they can have us do it for them? You would be most helpful at the library if you did nothing for them and forced them to figure it out for themselves.

    Which would also give you more time to make fun of them.

    Everyone's a winner.