Last week, for the first time, I visited the Maker Hub: a space at Elon University where students can program robot arms and make things such as digital designs on 3D printers.
The room was full of impressive student creations. As a collective, they represented an intelligent web of old and new technologies. The group of inquisitive students involved with the Maker Hub inspired me to evaluate my own “technology IQ.”
And the results are in: I am not adept at working with digital media and computer programs. As someone who dislikes having more than three apps on her phone, I’m nervous that digital media will control me so I no longer think for myself.
But if you are anything like me, I have good news.
We can adapt to changes with computer technologies because of the wonderful opportunities we have in utilizing digital media and tools in the Maker Hub. More importantly, we can add remarkable insight without being controlled by emerging virtual realities.
There are a number of reasons why technology can have adverse effects on humans. A recent article in The Atlantic, “The Post-Human World,” addresses this technology-focused world we are assumed to enter. In the article, Historian Yuval Harari articulates a main concern for us: “The very idea of an individual that exists, which has been so precious to us, is in danger.”
This is especially relevant in conversations about the Internet of Things (IoT), a concept of connecting more and more devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. The truth is, conversations about artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT and other technologies concern all of us.
As college students, we compete to make our individual gifts and talents stand out in industries that rely heavily on computing facilities. And though it is scary to think that so much of the world relies on automation, I am hopeful that individual skill and creativity will always attract attention. A hallmark of the college experience is, in fact, to develop talents that will be useful long after graduation.
Elon offers us multiple opportunities to adapt our skills to fit our increasingly digital world. The program “Design Thinking in Social Innovation," for example, allows students to apply creative designs and approaches to social issues.
It’s based on the Stanford University model, which has five stages of development: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. The 16-credit program is an example of how we can positively engage with different technologies and media.
It’s important that we support spaces such as the Maker Hub and programs such as Design Thinking because they allow students to innovate new products. They illustrate the potential for us to create objects from scratch — adding our own innovative designs to the digital landscape.
In support of becoming proficient in digital media and application programs, I followed the Maker Hub on social media. I also plan to visit the Maker Hub from time to time so I can develop my own creations. I suggest that you check it out, too.
Computer technologies and digital media are here to stay — there’s no way we can go back to simpler times.
The power is in your hands. Resources at Elon can be tailored to help you increase your technology IQ. Be creative with it to address issues that matter to you.
Let’s control technology for good, rather than have it control us.