“Hitting the wall” when it comes to learning new technologies

I was having a conversation (via e-mail) with a friend/photographer in California, named Michael. It quickly grew from a personal discussion to something much more philosophical. It started on photography but ended up being about much larger issues.

It started, as many conversations among photographers do, on a question about computer software.  Michael has been experimenting a lot with various HDR (High Dynamic Range) software programs.  My impression of these programs is two fold. One, that they get better and better every month, and two, they are very complex and labor intensive.

Michael had been showing me his recent work so I know that the first point was true. When I commented on how complex I thought the process was, he walked me through his fairly straightforward workflow.  I was pleasantly surprised by its simplicity.  We agreed that it takes some attention to detail to do it right.  We agreed that the biggest issue is storing (and carefully organizing) the various files.

I observed how, when it comes to organizing files, I am pretty good but something in me still prefers slides.  I noted that editing slides is incredibly easy. There is nothing to boot-up and no disks to put into any machines. You look at them with your eyes (and/or a loupe/magnifier) then you decide.

Michael responded that digital technology was infinitely more efficient for storage and sorting (via metadata and keywords) than slides.  I conceded the point but raised the idea that comfort with the tools we use is very important.  Michael replied that though he works in the information technology industry, much of his most important note keeping and thinking was still done on pen and paper. He described his preferred type of pen and notebooks. Again, an issue of being comfortable with the tools he uses.

Now, before you think I am going to go off on my usual tangent about needing to know your cameras so well that you are in fact fully “comfortable with the tools you use,” relax, I was not going there. It is a good point, but if you read this blog regularly, you know that already.

My exchange of emails with Michael moved on to our respective daughters and how their generation is clearly more tech savvy than ever. Then I started thinking about the inevitable day, down the road, when I will come across a technology that I probably should learn, but will not.  I may chose not to learn it or I may not be able to learn it, but I will inevitably “hit the wall” when it comes to learning new technologies.

We all know people who have already “hit the wall” when it comes to learning new technologies, including older members of my own family.  They have generally adapted and learned the technologies involved with their Tivos and e-mail, for example, but their skills with digital photography, for example, are limited or non-existent.

I am pretty adaptable and enjoy learning new technologies. Still, I can just start to imagine what wild and weird technology will be sitting at the base of the “wall,” that I will eventually not be able to surmount.  Will it be the beaming of folks around like in the Start Trek TV shows (and movies?)

Then, I was almost humbled thinking about what kind of technology will exist sixty or eighty years from now, when our teenage daughters inevitably “hit the wall” when it comes to learning new technologies. Part of me would love to know and part of me is scared to think of the possibilities.

2 responses to ““Hitting the wall” when it comes to learning new technologies”

  1. Very interesting blog post. I can relate to this in trying to get 40+ year old women to network through a community blog. Some still live in the age where information was passed through a phone tree. You know, mom 1 calls mom 2, who then calls mom 3.

  2. Having passed the mid century mark in age by a couple of years I do worry about technological and aesthetic “hardening of the arteries, i.e. becoming averse or unable to adapt to new technology or unable or uninterested in enjoying and absorbing new culture, music, etc.

    So far I’ve managed to avoid hardened rigidity. I admit to still maintaining a preference for pen and paper, down to a choice of specific kind of pen and notebook. Those choices are not a result, so far, of rigidity or aversion to adopting technology or methods, but the result of years of trying new methods and technologies and coming back repeatedly to “what works.” In a 15 year span I’ve used, and moved on from: 3 Apple Newtons, 3 windows PDAs, and am in the process of moving to my 4th blackberry. My quest for more effective means of taking notes even included months of using an electronic pen and pad combination from Cross in the late 90s.

    I only hope as I continue riding the age curve that I continue to be willing to explore new methods. That in the case of my taking notes I am not so tied to my pen and notepad that perhaps someday I will end up adopting a digital replacement for those tools.

    Just think, who today still expects to use a chalkboard in a classroom or meeting room. Those have been supplanted by the ubiquitous “whiteboard:” erasable ink on polymerized surfaces. The integration of
    whiteboards with PCs is rapidly rolling out right now. My daughter’s school equipped an “electronic whiteboard” in every classroom this last summer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *