What is Technology?

In just a few minutes, I’m on my way upstairs to our Instructional Technology Center to tape a segment for a promotional video they are making. As one of the first round of “faculty champions” for their program several years ago, Geri has asked me to talk about my experience and some of my thoughts about technology. In preparation, she sent me the questions ahead of time and the first one was a real stumper. “What is your definition of technology?” Well. Gee. Is it computers? Is it software? Is it the Internet? Is it the wheel? According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Ed., 2000, as accessed on Bartleby.com, technology is all of the following:

Inflected forms: pl. tech·nol·o·gies
1a. The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives. b. The scientific method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective. 2. Electronic or digital products and systems considered as a group: a store specializing in office technology. 3. Anthropology The body of knowledge available to a society that is of use in fashioning implements, practicing manual arts and skills, and extracting or collecting materials.

As I consider these definitions, none of them really seem to have anything to do with technology as I experience it on a daily basis. However, if I substitute the words “communication” and “information” for industry and technology, maybe I get a bit closer? i.e. “The scientific method and material used to achieve a communication or information objective”.

I would say that, at least in the world of education, technology is primarily about communication. It is a medium that allows society to share information and discuss information and ideas in new ways. It facilitates new ways of communicating socially. Thus, the primary challenge for libraries is to understand how to communicate with our patrons in new ways.

I think the wheel might have been easier!