Math/Music: Aesthetic Links

Reflection Paper: Technology and its Impact on Your Life

Due Wednesday, Feb. 22, START of Class

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys, how's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?"

-David Foster Wallace, Commencement Speech at Kenyon College, 2005

For this assignment, please write a short essay reflecting upon at least three of the following four items. The ``unplugged/connections'' experience must be one of the three items you write about.

  1. Lecture: Sherry Turkle: How technology is altering our lives, Thursday, Feb. 16, 7:30 pm, Hogan Ballroom.

  2. Book Chapter: Sherry Turkle: "Always On",   Chapter 8 from her book Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other.

  3. Article: Adam Gopnik: "Bumping into Mr. Ravioli",   The New Yorker, Sept. 30, 2002.

  4. The 24 hour "unplugged/connections" experience, where you disconnect from the internet, cell phones and social networking programs such as Facebook, etc. from sundown Friday, Feb. 17 to sundown Saturday, Feb. 18.

Your paper should be typed, double-spaced and 2 pages in length. This is partly a personal essay, so writing in the first person is perfectly acceptable.

Note: It is highly recommended that you use the small Connections notebook as a journal to jot down your thoughts and experiences before, during and after the 24-hour break from the internet, cell phones, etc. This will help you reflect on the overall experience.

Some topics you might write about concerning the above items are included below. You should strive to integrate your essay, bringing together common ideas and themes from the different events.

  • How did the unplugged/connections experience effect you personally? Were you surprised how hard or easy it was for you to disconnect? What did you notice during the 24-hour time period? What was different? If it was hard for you to disconnect, why do you think this was the case? Did you make better "connections" with friends or family during the experience? What was it like to be part of an experiment that all other first-year students were participating in?

  • Are there any personal changes in behavior that you are considering as a result of the unplugged/connections experience? Would you consider trying the experiment on a more regular basis? Did you find it a worthwhile exercise?

  • What were some of the arguments and/or concepts that made an impression on you in the readings or in the lecture? What did you find interesting? What points resonated with your personal experiences? What points seemed far-fetched? In what ways did the readings and lecture have an impact on your unplugged/connections experience?

  • As a result of the readings, lecture or unplugged/connections experience, are there themes or ideas you would like to study further or investigate in greater detail?

A few comments about the unplugged/connections experiment: We (the Montserrat faculty) are asking you to disconnect for 24 hours from the internet, cell phones, smart phones, texting, google, social networking sites, etc. You can still use your computer for homework if need be. This is a shared experience, one that ALL of your fellow first-year students, in every cluster, will be participating in. The goal is to create some space to reflect critically on a part of today's world that influences all of our lives in ways we may not realize, since we almost never step back from it. As you know, when we are completely "inside" of something, it is almost impossible to get any perspective on it. It becomes like the "water" in the Wallace anecdote above--something we don't even think about, because we don't have to. But we probably should think about something that looms so large in our lives!

Although this is less about "rules" than it is about experimenting and experiencing, you may still have questions about what you "can" and "cannot" do during the 24 hours. Basically, what we are asking you to do is to disconnect from those technologies that have become "second nature" -- specifically, the internet and cell phones (especially the texting and web-based functions) -- while paying attention to your response and experience as you do so. Obviously, some accommodations will have to be made for particular, individual needs and circumstances; as with so many things in life, this is a matter of using your best judgment while keeping to the spirit of the experiment. That's part of the thinking we are asking you to do.