Tuesday Keynote Looks at Social Effects of Technology

Bill Buxton, a noted interface designer, keynoted the second day with a look at how technology has impacted us and how it should impact us. In a fast-paced talk with lots of quotations, he took the view that technology is like a prosthesis—it helps us function, but it’s not the end goal. Stressing that we must understand technology’s social impact, he noted that the effects of technology are not neutral, and we must ensure that they are not detrimental. Here are some other quotations from his talk:
· “The tail of technology can’t wag the dog of society.”
· “History did not begin in 1947 with the invention of the transistor.”
· “The greatest work of literature in English has to be the Oxford English Dictionary.”
· “Good ideas have become a commodity. We don’t need new ones, we just need to capitalize on the ones we have.”
· “We aren’t in the midst of an information revolution; we’re in a racket of noise and data overload!”
· “There has been no progress in the design of computers since 1982. There has been lots of progress in our experiences with computers.”
· “Untrustworthy blogs are just words.”

Buxton emphasized that we must have a human-centered perspective on technology. He feels that virtually any technology that will have a real impact in the next five years has existed for about ten years. We just need to figure out how to change its scale or location. He mentioned some interesting new devices that have this potential: digital pens that work like a highlighter but store the highlighted material in their memory, electronic ink, and organic LEDs (OLEDs)—see below.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

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