On technology & the workplace

At work I have come into contact with a hardcore Luddite, though I don’t know that the person self- identifies as such. Flipping through a series of (not charming) hand-drawn illustrations and notes that were intended for me to give to a designer, I was not even sure where to begin. Excel sprang to mind: that was, after all, where the data originated.

It is true that there is something reassuring about pen and paper, and likewise true that the tactile pleasure one gets from moving a hand across a clean sheet is not the same as, say, manipulating numbers on a spreadsheet, especially if Excel represents a personal technology roadblock. Paper and pen are comforting and familiar; technology roadblocks can feel insurmountable.

In this case, I offered to demonstrate how charts work, specifically in Word, but the individual was not interested in learning. It made me think of an NPR story I heard recently (which I can’t find now) featuring an older couple that just bought iPads. The wife had the manual and was planning to read through it before busting out her new purchase. I aim to be as willing to embrace new technology.

I often think of technophobes as being older, and assume that people from Gen X and younger operate exclusively in digital format. So I was surprised this spring when I polled my class of undergraduates and discovered that many of them – at least half – drafted their short stories longhand. Longhand! Well, I never. Story ideas and notes are about all I’ll record longhand. The idea of drafting an entire story that way, let alone a novel, makes me recoil in horror. I get the creepy crawlies thinking about logistics and management of that much material: pages upon pages of sloppily written, hard-to-edit content…gah.

It must be the Virgo in me.


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