Today in one of my seminars, this question came up. To my surprise (and my professor’s, I’m sure), there were people who sincerely (and stubbornly) believed that there’s no way technology could ever change a culture. One of them said that culture changes technology (Guy). Another said that it was a “dynamic relationship” (Girl). And the others didn’t even have arguments worth remembering.
The class turned into a mini-debate on the subject. Guy made the argument that we are the same people, we just use different tools. Girl somewhat supported his argument, but added a little example. “Think about back in the day when people ate berries. One of them finally figured out that they could use a stone as a weapon and kill that animal. And now they ate animals!” This was her way of showing that culture and technology interacted with each other, but had no effect on each other. About three classmates and myself sided with the idea that technology can DEFINITELY change a culture. So after Girl’s argument, I said: “you just proved our point.”
I then offered my counterargument. After listening to their flawed arguments, it was clear to me that they were throwing around the term “technology” without having a concise idea of what it meant. I explained to them that technology isn’t just something digital- but that the term included other things. A bottle, for example, is a technology- because it helps us carry and conserve water. Then, I tackled why Girl’s argument was actually evidence supporting my own argument. The people (from back in the day) were now meat eaters. This involved so many different changes including how they gathered, cooked, and ate their meals. AND how eating meat would affect their bodies. This technology, in this case the stone used as a weapon, definitely changed a culture (think of hunter-gatherers becoming farmers!).
The most interesting thing of all is that Guy and Girl still would not agree with what I explained above. They were short of saying that it made no sense. But I think their ulterior motive was that admitting you were wrong about something is not easy for some to do. I do admit though, that we are all ENTITLED to have a different opinion. So if they really want to stand and say that technology does not inflict change, then be ready to look extremely uneducated. I mean, you’re UCLA students, be proud to show off your education.
Now I turn this back to you. What do you think? Can technology change a culture?
When we tell our older relatives that we are stressed out about an upcoming test, their reaction is overwhelmingly similar; they’d say something along the lines of: “Do the best you can.” I really don’t believe they quite understand how things have changed since they were in college. If the best we can do is a B, that will literally take us nowhere. The bar has been raised so high up, that it’s getting harder and harder to see.
Consequently, our generation is built on competition. The higher the number attached to your name, the better chances to succeed you have. I could be a decent student and have a 3.4 GPA*, but that’d just mean that anyone whose GPA is above 3.4 has better chances than me to get into a good graduate program, or a top-tier law school. In fact, some graduate schools will not even consider your application if you don’t have a 3.5 or above. Basically, every mistake we make can hurt us in a world in which to be the best, you have to be absolutely flawless. Thanks to this, college went from being the place where you tried different things to figure out who you were and who you wanted to be, to being the place where you played it safe and conformed to what would give you the best score you could get.
But what does this say about the generational gap? I’ll bet half of the people sitting in any admissions table in a top university never had more than a 3.2 GPA. But then, how did they get to raise the bar for us, who have yet to influence the way the world works now? I’d say some bad decisions were made and we’re stuck with less jobs, more problems, and cleaning up someone else’s mess. I’ve always heard the 80’s and 90’s were a lot fun- Well, I don’t doubt it.
*Not my actual GPA. Thankfully.
I find your class extremely interesting and I feel I’m learning a great deal. I love the readings, and though I dread coming to your lectures because I am currently overworked, I still enjoy participating and getting to learn from you.
Which is why I was so disappointed when I failed my midterm. You specifically said that we could not go over 4 sentences on our short answers, but then I didn’t get enough points because I didn’t say enough in 4 sentences. Though, arrogantly, you declared that EVERYONE in the class needs to start doing the readings and paying attention to class because we, overall, didn’t do well in the midterm, I would have hoped you could see the stark contrast of my grade in the multiple choice part of the exam. If I didn’t read or pay attention, I would not have been able to perform so well in multiple choice questions- unless you truly believe that I can get lucky 21 times in a row, guessing the right answer.
I’m not a professor, but it seems clear to me that your test was testing my ability to compress information into a restricted amount of space, rather than testing my knowledge of the material. I know that this is the summer and all, but I don’t see why I (and other students) should suffer because you don’t want to spend more time reading everyone’s actual answer, regardless of length. It saddens me, that even though you provide the right tools to learn, you fail at providing the right tools to test the knowledge learned. These two things go together- one cannot work well without the other. It is unfortunate that you are giving us the knowledge, yet you don’t let us proof such knowledge on paper.