Back to Brick (Part 1)

December 24, 2013 12:44 PM

Rachel Loveday wrote the feature Back to Brick exploring technology dependence and addiction in the 21st century by interviewing and exploring the perspectives of six people of four different age groups that she knew personally–her parents, her older brother, a former classmate and two fellow university students who were also fellow residents at the accommodation she lived at. For the next five days, the Back to Brick feature will appear in four parts exploring each perspective of the people she interviewed. This first part is her own as well as her parents’ perspective of technology dependence. 

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“What is it about humanity in the twenty-first century world that has created a desire to be in constant touch? (Agar, 2003, p3)

I am technologically behind. This is my own description, no-one else’s. I do not own an iPhone or iPad, the only ‘i’ product I own is an iPod shuffle. My laptop, which I have written this story on is four-years-old and I am writing this feature with Microsoft Word 2007 and not the 2013 version. My mobile phone, which I bought six months ago is a Samsung GT-S5511T, which is a flip phone, not a smartphone, it is my second flip phone, I bought my current mobile phone to replace my first flip phone, which I bought in 2007. In 2007, the flip phone I owned was one of thousands that people had as the flip phone was more common. Six years on, I am on the receiving end of light-hearted ridicule as it is not the modern iPhone or smartphone, to which I reply and ask “how’s that smashed screen working for you?”

I haven’t just been behind for the last six years, I have behind for my whole life. As a child, my family didn’t have the latest computers, we had them, but they were always about a year or two out-of-date when we would get them. The current home computer, which lives in the non-dining dining room of my family home is eight years old. My brother, Nathan and I never grew up with the latest or multiple video game consoles, in fact I recently found out from my mother, Jennifer that one of the reasons for this was is that she wanted to keep video games away from us as kids so we were active and outdoor children. Looking back on it, I’m grateful that my parents imposed parental authority on this issue as I have fond memories of my childhood playing outside in the sun with my brother and a friend of ours who lived across the street. Memories which, today’s children probably won’t have as many of when they reflect on their childhoods in ten or fifteen years.

The first video game console Nathan and I owned and played with was a Gameboy which we bought on lay-by with our pocket money. It was 1997, I was seven, Nathan, 11. Because of this it took us a couple of months to pay it off. I remember us being so happy when we finally paid it off and got to hold it in our hands and play it. I have fond memories of playing a 5-in-1 game and Tetris whenever I could. I still have it, it’s in the cupboard in my bedroom and I still play it sometimes when I return home from my life as a grown-up.

The first video game console I owned all on my own was a PlayStation. It was 2002, I was 12, Nathan, 16. Somehow I ended up with a heap of Christmas money that year and also due to my envy of my Nan owning her own PlayStation, as my aunt thought it would give her something to do, a PlayStation is something I decided to spend my Christmas money on. Nathan and I would have fights about who was hogging the PlayStation the most, even my father, Michael, got in on the act and loved playing Emperor’s New Groove with us. It took me a year to finish Emperor’s New Groove and my father would finish the harder levels and I also swapped games with my Nan and play her PlayStation after school. Like with the Gameboy, I still have the PlayStation and it’s in the same cupboard in my bedroom and I play it when I return home from my life as a grown-up too, I still play Emperor’s New Groove.

For Christmas 2008, when I was 18 and Nathan was 22, we went halves on a Nintendo DS for our mother, who was 46. She saw the ads for the brain training game and decided that she wanted to exercise and improve her brain activity, so it was our present to her for that year. Nearly five years later, her Nintendo DS now lives in the second draw in my desk at my place in Wollongong. After a while she stopped training her brain and I was playing it more than she did so she decided I would provide a better home for it. I still train my brain and also flex my faux gambling muscles with the Clubhouse Games game that Nathan and I bought for her. Over the years of my life, I have seen my family eventually advance with the technology we own in our home, but due to the family funds and our needs and wants, you could say that we were and are still technologically behind.

I have been told that I am too young to be technologically behind and to reject technology altogether. I don’t reject technology like it’s a sleazy guy, although I do find the motives and “need” for the fast pace of updating technology questionable. Because of these questionable motives and the fast pace, I’m reluctant to keep up-to-date with the latest technology as it seems to be obsolete only a few months after you buy it. So really, my relationship with technology isn’t behind, rather it is slow, or I am taking it slow. And, although there is truth to the older generations being reluctant to update their technology and the younger generation possessing the ability to adapt, it is a bit of a stereotype. Or is it?

Michael and Jennifer, my parents, both 51.

My relationship with technology emerged like any other relationship, through the relationship I had with my parents. Like with my platonic and romantic relationships, my parents taught me what is acceptable and unacceptable, what is the right treatment in terms of how to look after any devices and also when to know to let go, especially if I’m getting frustrated and angry.

When I was born in 1990, my parents owned a colour television, a VCR with a remote the size of the first mobile phones and a record-cassette player-wireless radio all-in-one, complete with large speakers. In most of the family photos from when I was a baby to when I was at least seven or eight, the large speakers can be seen in the background. I have memories of our old television, it was huge and once in a while, what we called the “colour tube” which is really the cathode ray tube had to be replaced. I remember program recording our favourite shows when we weren’t at home. We took our time upgrading, we waited until the VCR and the old television had completely died before we replaced it. That was roughly 2003. Having a flat screen TV and a VCR/DVD player was exciting since it was the first modern technological upgrade I saw in my home in my life. We eventually upgraded again when we needed to. Ten years on, we have three televisions in the house, one non-operational, at least with watching television programs, due to the fact that its analog and we have three DVD players. We also have the 2005 home computer, as well as my parent’s laptop and my PlayStation and Gameboy.

My family and I didn’t spend all of our time in front of the television and playing video games. In fact when I interviewed my mother via mobile phone, I was surprised-yet-not-so-surprised when she told me that she deliberately kept Nathan and I away from video games by not buying the consoles straight away and not keeping up-to-date with them.

“I deliberately didn’t expose you two to a lot of technology. You both had a little battery operated computer to play with, but it was educational. Kids need another outlet, you needed to run around, exercise, play sports and learn skills.”

Growing up, I never saw my mother around computers that much, she never joined Nathan, dad and I in playing the PlayStation. I never viewed her as old-fashioned or technologically behind, I just automatically assumed she wasn’t into technology. That and her relationship with technology wasn’t as…intense as mine has been, purely because the technology was different when was growing up (now I’m the one putting a stereotype on her). That being said, she is quick to adapt and with a positive outlook and larger-than-life personality, which I have inherited, it certainly is entertaining to watch her learn how to use her new smartphone and the laptop and to hear about the temper tantrums that she has been throwing all year as she has been learning new software with her computer classes at TAFE. She actually doesn’t throw the tantrums in the classroom, she saves that joy for when she’s doing her homework. Mum told me that despite the ups-and-downs, she’s loved learning. Mum will be graduating with her Certificate III in Business Administration in December. She completed a Certificate II ten years ago as she wanted and needed to get back into the workforce after taking a redundancy from the ANZ Bank in Christmas 1998 after working there for 18 years. The Certificate II enabled her to get the job that she today, as a branch office clerk at Dahlsens Building Centre.

“I really enjoyed it the first time because I love to learn. I found it easier this time around because of my experience with the Certificate II and with my experience at work.”

Mum told me that she also found that some people were amazed that she was back in the classroom learning again at her age.

“My teacher said I should be proud of myself for being back in the classroom, so did some of the younger students in my class. I guess it’s all about the perception they had about me being over 50 and learning new technology. Sometimes I would think, that they think I’m decrepit old person. I didn’t understand it because I’m still 18 in my head.”

Despite her awareness of the stereotype placed on her and dad’s age group, mum believes that her generations and even the ones before her adapt well to technology.

“Technological change has gradually happened for our generations. In primary school I wasn’t allowed to use a calculator. When I went on maternity leave before having Nathan, the bank didn’t have computers, when I came back to work (in 1987) I had to learn how to use a computer. Each generation is getting smarter, but my generation have done well to adapt. Others have as well, my aunty Kath, 83 uses Facebook and email.”

As well as experiencing computers coming into her workforce and learning how to use them for work, mum has also experienced the major technological changes of colour television arriving in Australia in 1975 at the beginning of her teen years.

“My Nan had her own colour television in her bedroom, she bought it in roughly 1977. It was beautiful. Everything I watched was in black, white and grey, I loved watching TV in colour, especially watching movies where women wore pretty dresses, I got to see what they really looked like.”

For the last year she also been learning the joy of using a smartphone. It’s also the first phone she has owned, it’s not the first phone she’s had, but it is the first phone that wasn’t a hand-in-me-down from dad, her phones were usually dad’s old work phones.

“I have an LG touch phone, I check the weather and the footy scores and text. I use it more on weekends then during the week.” I asked mum if she felt she was addicted or dependent on her phone.

“It’s funny that you feel upset when you’ve left your phone behind, it wasn’t that long ago that this issue didn’t exist. I’m absolutely not addicted to my phone, I can go a couple days without using it, but I am dependent on it.”

My father and I, I’ve always felt have been similar when it comes to technology. I’ve always believed that we’ve taken to it faster than mum and Nathan. Whenever he and mum bought a new computer or laptop, dad would have figured it out how to use it in minutes, it was the same with mobile phones, the new TVs and DVD players.

When I interviewed dad for the story after talking to mum and Nathan and asked him about his technological needs and opinions, I realised one of the reasons why he seems to take to technology so quickly is his job. Through work dad has owned several mobile phones, learnt how to use a computer back in the 1980s, owned a laptop and in a few months will own a tablet. Whenever I’m at home for the uni holidays, I sometimes see him sitting in the recliner doing his work on his laptop.

“When I worked at Repco (1986) we used a computer. It was very big and basic, it was basically a word processor, it saved time and the work had to be done. With work you have to keep up with technology. I got my first mobile phone for work in 2002, I’ve had about five or six since then, they’re replaced usually for upgrades. I have a Motorolla smartphone now. I use it about 25 times a day.”

Dad’s requirement, if you will, to keep up with technology due to his job as sales representative as well as second-in-command at the Wagga office of Ashdown Ingram is a contrast to some of the technological devices that are in our home. We have modern devices but the most modern technological devices are at least two years old. The microwave in the kitchen has been around for as long and I’m pretty sure longer than I have been. When I asked dad whether he felt the need to keep up-to-date with the latest technological devices, he provided me with the most obvious and logical answers as to why some people keep up more or faster than others—money and through money personal choice.

“For most people when technology involves their work, it’s not with choice, whereas in your home and private life, whatever comes and improves, it’s a personal and financial choice with what you do. If you’ve got the financial resources, you can upgrade and keep up with it all.

“Some people prefer to own three or four televisions like some other people own three or four cars. I know some people who still don’t have pay television because they would rather spend their money on other things, like playing the poker machines. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on video games and sitting at home playing them, I’d rather spend money on golf gear and go outside and play golf. For me personally, I don’t feel the need to have the latest and greatest devices.”

Even though these answers are obvious and logical, they are often overlooked due to societal expectations that everyone will eventually conform and update, these expectations can be found in the environment I’ve become accustomed to—the university student environment, even though most university students are usually one of the biggest groups of people with little means.

 

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