2011-11-14

Do people still feel that way about technology?

This post isn't cad/bim/fm specific, but, I feel the issue encompasses those fields so I'll go ahead and post my little opinion piece here.

As I've noted, I have been a student at Saint Louis University since 2008. I'd originally wanted to complete a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but, there were no engineering degrees offered through the night school. Instead I opted for a coursework in computer science and management. Half of my classes came from the computer science track, the other half have been organizational studies.

In the Organizational Studies courses I have had, I am used to helping out a little with the technology side of thing, either setting up the projector for the teacher or giving the other students advice on what tools to use and how to use them. It's sort of what I do in school, and, heck, even working in an office full of engineers, I'm called upon to do it.
Even in the Computer Science classes, the majority of students are women and the average age is probably 45.
At 28-31, I've definitely been on the younger end of the spectrum, just like I am at work and in my social group in our neighborhood. In other words, I don't have many friends my age or younger, except those that I've had for more years than I'd care to count, which should help explain my sense of shock.

I must have some misconceptions about the world today.

For my final course, I am working on an extensive group project that accounts for our grade. I suggested that we use Google Docs, for sharing efficiency and for breaking down the papers into manageable chunks, which we could divvy up amongst ourselves. I did not think it was a big deal that 3 of my 4 group-mates hadn't ever used it before, since Google Docs is so simple to use, if you've used a web browser and MS Office.
Evidently I was wrong.
I ended up bringing my laptop to class to demonstrate the use of google docs and make changes to our papers during class.
At one point, the oldest member of our group asked me if I could fix her computer. I advised her to take it to a professional since I hadn't taken apart laptops before.
Then, the youngest member of our group commented that I'm obviously one of those techy people, and how she hates it at work that all of the old people assume she understands how to use computers and software just because she's young, and went on to say that she was too busy being outside playing when she was younger to care about computers.

:-/ Really?

That's what techy people are? Adults who used to be kids who sat inside all day and didn't play outdoors?

So, the reason I am shocked here, is not because people in general have a misconception of those with technical skills, but, really, because someone around my age has those misconceptions. I mean, I can understand it from my Mother's generation a little, but, I really thought the world was more enlightened and accurate these days.
I posted about my guidance counselor back in high school advising me to put my math and logic skills to use as an accountant, but, again, she came from a different generation with the ideas of gender roles and as I had no real strong opinions myself ~shrug~. In the 10 years that the AUGI Salary Survey has been running, female participation has stayed steadily near 15%.

But, gender issues notwithstanding, I am really shocked to hear a young person imply that techy people aren't normal. I thought techy was mainstream enough these days?

But, no, computer geeks and engineers et al are evidently basement-dwelling oddballs.
~sigh~

Obviously, WE know that's not true, don't we, faithful reader?
We see the foursquare checkins from our fellow geeks at exotic locales and admire the flickr streams that show where they've been hiking, biking and boating, and follow the progress of their marathon training on facebook and google+.

We know that we're not just good with tech because we sit at home with nothing better to do, we are good with tech because it's something we're passionate about, just like all of our other fascinating hobbies.

18 comments:

Darrin Maidlow said...

I have to admit I was one of those kids that spent most of their time in the basement. I took my first programming course in 1983 at the age of six, had my first computer in the second grade (85is). I learned pascal on a 286. I didn't see the sun much. Once the internet became available (via "borrowed" dialup accounts at a local university) I saw even less sun.

Unfortunately once I started working, the sunless cycle continued. However, I am pleased to say that now at the age of 34 - I've slowed down a bit. I no longer fear the sun. I have even been to Costa Rica where there is more sun than you can shake a stick at. :)

So the moral of this comment is that yes, there were some of us hiding in our parents basements being passionate hackers - you just were not aware of us because well, we were in our parents basements :). Oh, and no I will not fix computers either. :)

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Darrin,
;-p Do you mind? I was trying to make a point.

Seriously, it's cool to see how your interests developed. I always liked science and nature, but, didn't get real exposure to tech until I got my first pc at age 20. You must've been extremely precocious.

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Oh, and I've got the sticker from ThinkGeek, "No I will not fix your computer" prominently displayed in my office.

Mad Marv said...

Yeah, the mundane mindset crosses generational boundaries. You'll see them more if you get outside of your niche social / work environment.

There are some pretty obvious signs that someone is a techie. Things like iPhones and Facebook accounts used to be good guideposts for identifying them. But since those two things have penetrated the mainstream market, you'll have to look a bit harder.

The thing that never changes though is that mundanes will have techie toys but will not know how to use them.

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Marv, aaaah, I see your logic! :-)
I guess the solution is to avoid leaving my social niche. ;-)

Darrin Maidlow said...

I'm sorry for messing with your point ;) My nerdliness was actually thrust on me..My parents started one of the early AutoCAD resellers and software development shops back in the mid 80s. I spent a LOT of time in the office being babysat by various devices while they worked. My favorite was the Sun Sparc IPC and Nethack :) My first job was formatting blank 5.25" floppies - they paid 0.1$ a disk. Is it any surprise that like 30 years later I specialize in AutoCAD/Autodesk based software development? ;)

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Wow... a pair of CAD Nerds as parents? You give me hope that my kids will turn out okay. lol. ;-)
No, I guess you really didn't have any choice in the matter, did you?

I spent a lot of time with my Grandfathers growing up. One was a retired appliance repairman and I used to help him out in the garage all the time. My other Grandfather worked for a company that was later bought out by Boeing, he was the first one to show me AutoCAD (2.something?), and yes, I remember floppy disks, but, only barely.
My Great-Grandfather was a Civil Engineer and I inherited his drafting tools after he passed away. And, my Dad was an engineer in his 20's.

I suppose it could be hereditary, since I didn't know about my Dad's prior career until I was already in college.

My 8 year old has been saying for at least 3 years that he wants to go into Robotics, so I just took him for a tour of the Engineering building at Saint Louis University. He was seriously geeking out.

Steve Bennett said...

So, maybe you should ask this "younger" person if she is passionate about anything and then call her passion a geekdom...

Seriously, I think it has more to do with mindset than generational gaps. Some grew up in environments that encouraged exploration & experimentation with things they weren't familiar with. Those people become savvy with tech because they don't fear breaking it and enjoy exploring the unknown. I've found good correlation between those that play musical instruments & those that are comfortable learning/exploring software/hardware with minimal guidance.

If I had to guess, that younger person doesn't play an instrument...

Brian Benton said...

I had a long rant typed up in response to this question but didn't hit the send button. To answer your question, YES. The stereotype of "Geeks" is still there.

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Steve,

Heh. Interesting thoughts, you're probably right. We'll see if it comes up in conversation.

Brian,

LOL... come on! Isn't that what blogging is all about? A platform to rant (to an audience of people that are actually literate).
But, really, I guess I shouldn't be as shocked as I was. I'm sure Marv hit the nail on the head with commentary about how different my social circle must be from the general populace.

I love my social circle.

Jason O Schmidt said...

I think there is a gap between 30 somethings and 20 somethings that while they all have iPhones and such they don't really "utilize" technology. They want it to do everything for them but don't really understand and apply it to their lives.

The younger generation today (12 to 18) are starting to utilize technology and really understand what it can do for them, how to apply it to different situations etc... It will be interesting to see what "geek" means in another 5 years.

Today, yes there is still a stigma if you will of the "geek", the guy/gal in the back (not always) that is adept at many different things and seems to be able to fix things, know things and seen as an outsider by "mundanes" (borrowed that one from Mad Marv) or techno peasants as I like to refer to them.

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Jason,

lol, techno peasants? Nice.

It'll be interesting to see if you're proven right, you might be on to something.

BrianMyers said...

One of the things I've found is that your average "computer geek" likes thinking. That doesn't mean they are smart (but they can be), just that they like to either solve problems or do things just to keep their mind busy.

These individuals may be gamers that became computer geeks because they were just on the computer all the time (perhaps to keep entertained or even to escape reality). Sometimes they are they are introverts that needed mental stimulus without all the human interaction. Other times they are problem solvers that became geeks while trying to find solutions to whatever task they were attempting. Still others became Geeks when they were the "go to" person when they solved that printer problem and everyone else just started coming to them when they realized that person could figure it out.

The common factor isn't age, it's personal reward. Reward can be in many forms, including slipping into another reality or getting away from people. It could be mental stimuli or the need to create. It could be problem solving for yourself or problem solving for others. It could just be the reward of keeping your job. But it's REWARD (or value) that is the common factor.

Not everyone gets that feeling or has their needs met from it. Some people feel WORSE by getting in front of items they don't understand. Some feel a loss of energy when they are doing things that don't involve human interaction. Some are not interested in the hardware as they've never gotten personal gratification from others for using / fixing it. Others are so focused on their own interests that they don't have the time to expand their mind to these technologies.

For me it was escapism, then a challenge, then a social medium, then mental stimulation, then a way for personal growth and education and then a career. But for my wife it's a way to chat with friends and edit photographs. We each get different things from it.

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Brian, Well reasoned and well stated.

I think mine started out because I am, first and foremost, a problem-solver. But, becoming the go-to person, as well as an introvert, likely made my tendencies more pronounced.

My Mom was scared of computers, but, became determined to learn... now she can photoshop circles around me and everyone else I know. Amazing transformation, but, she'll call my husband to help her trouble-shoot. ;-)

Steve Johnson said...

http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/2009/02/27/a-gaggle-of-geeks/

;)

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

~laughs~ Okay, thanks for playing both sides of the fence there, Steve. One the one hand, you represent the athletic, well- rounded geeks I am asserting the existence of... on the other, you've found hopeless geeks and put them on display.

Dean Saadallah said...

Sadly, the world is still full of button-pushers that don't understand exactly what they are doing with their actions. I see it in the office with colleagues you right down a sequence of buttons and actions in order to do something in a software package,to iPhone/Smart phone users that really only have one because it's cool and never go beyond texting and talking with it (or a cool game they loaded and play).

There is no age limitation IMHO, it's whether they have a desire to learn or just want to get through the day with as few challenges as possible so that they can stay within their comfort zone. It is sad that many go through life like that... .

Melanie (Stone) Perry said...

Dean,

~sighs~ Unfortunately, I can't really find fault with your observations.