Technology as another first language

Most would agree that technology has made our life easier. Take communications, for example. We can create letters faster, send them out in a few seconds, or connect with someone on the other side of the world in an instant.

Before, only big businesses with plenty of resources had the luxury to incorporate technology into their operations. Now, technology is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. Businesses are automating their operations ever so increasingly, even small businesses that weren’t conceived in the digital age are transforming the way they do business by using software or obtaining specific devices to increase the productivity of their workforce.

For most of us who were born in the 80s – onward, we grew up with technology. We are less fascinated with how technology has changed the world compared to our parents and grandparents who lived most of their lives having to do tasks manually what many of us only know how to do with the aid of technology. For us, technology was the de facto, a part of our lives.

Technology is so important, not only because of how its flash inspires awe in others and enhances the perception of a company, or because it signals our modernity and our being current with the times, but because it is another language. Actually, it is even more than a language: it is an extension of our intellectual, spatial and linguistic motors. It assists our thinking because of the speed technology can process information. It accommodates our spatial needs because it can shorten the distance between two places. It upgrades our linguistic ability because it connects us to others at a much faster rate, transmits our messages to a wider reach, and has created a new field of communication through symbols such as commands and emoticons that carry with them layers of subtexts.

Technology as a language
Similar to an American born who is comfortable with comprehension and articulation of English as his native language, peers who are born in my generation have fluency of this language, to varying degrees. Many of us who grew up in technology cannot imagine a world where technology is taken away from us. We would be left disabled, conscious that something essential in our daily lives is missing. Like someone who temporarily loses his voice, we become mute, deaf to the extended world beyond our immediate physical neighborhood.

It is interesting to note that compared to spoken and written language that is progressively learned from childhood to adulthood, attaining fluency in technology involves a reverse process– kids have great fluency in using technology and gadgets, while elders start at the basic level. Technology is a foreign language to them. Much like a parent or grandparent from another country who depends on a child in the household to communicate in English– they also look to the younger generation to translate technology for them. Google even created a microsite to aid in this effort, Teach Parents Tech.

Programming code/
Furthermore, each programming language can be seen as a dialect or a foreign language, depending on its nature and it’s derivation. While there are probably hundreds of programming language out there that are built on codes, I think the building blocks of fluency in technology is different from a real language. In a real language, alphabet is the foundation on which you build on, forming combinations and permutations that form words, and words that form sentences, to paragraphs, to stories, etc. What alphabet is to real language is steps to technology. Steps are the building blocks of technology. You press here, click that, go there, input here, enter that. Just as how a word is made of a series of alphabetical letters, proper technology usage is achieved through completing a series of chronological steps.

Interactions in this age are not as simple as one-to-one communication as in an in-person conversation. Here, we are using technology as a means to connect to the person we are talking with. It is less direct compared to the previously mentioned situation, but ironically, it is more direct in the sense that it brings us closer to a person beyond our near, physical reach. It can be more confrontational, because there exists a distance between two people talking that it tends to make it easier to say what you might not be able to say in person.

Interactions in a digital world
Yet it can also be isolating. At the end of the day, you are with a computer, and the feel of tactile keys takes the place of the non-verbal elements in a face-to-face conversation.

Yet even if we are just talking to a device at the end of the day, it simulates being right next to each other. This is an illusion created by technology, but an illusion we gladly welcome, and in the age of HD webcams and VoIP, an illusion that is more realistic than being physically together 24/7. The illusion as good as real, in our busy, fast-paced lives.

When we connect with someone through technology, sure, we are talking to a device, yet we have found ways to make this connection interactive, even if a message has to go through multiple layers– out the sender –> into his computer –> into the recipient’s computer –> to the recipient. And even more fascinating is going through multiple layers ultimately brings us closer and facilitates in our interaction.

You have to go through four layers to get just a bit closer. Many times in life, things work out that way too.


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