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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

03-23-07

Contacts:

Michael Bugeja, Greenlee School, (515) 294-0481, (515) 708-3340 (c), bugeja@iastate.edu

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, 515-294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

Bugeja presents Presidential Lecture April 4, will plug into today's technology

AMES, Iowa -- One glance at a student today illustrates how plugged in many are with today's technological advancements, and how tuned out they are to others around them. Michael Bugeja sees something else in that picture -- how increased technological use has fed a growing interpersonal divide that now threatens higher education.

The director of Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Bugeja examined that problem in his book "Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age" (Oxford University Press, 2005), which has been cited by several national and international media outlets as students have increasingly turned to today's devices.

Bugeja will update his research as it applies to the most pressing technological issues during this year's Presidential Lecture on Wednesday, April 4, at 8 p.m. in the Memorial Union's Sun Room. The event is free and open to the public.

Low tech by design

While his topic will address today's technology, Bugeja will intentionally use no technology other than a microphone. He will support his message through easels framing the room and containing both photography by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dennis Chamberlain, and quotes from his talk. "The idea," he said, "is to create a mixed interpersonal art show preceding a talk about new media and technology."

His talk also will discuss how "The Digital Age" was supposed to give society a global village, but reneged on that promise.

"We found the village, all right, and it is peopled with as many jesters, peddlers and pickpockets as with wizards," he said. "We have inherited a global mall -- so much so, in fact, that we talk, think and behave according to the demographics and psychographics of consumer profiling, even with mobile social networks whose 'affinity groups' read like direct mailing lists."

The promise that information technology was supposed to expose us to different cultures also has failed to fully materialize, according to Bugeja. "Increasingly we cluster in virtual environs with like-thinking consumers while true diversity is happening outside our real front doors rather than our Internet ones," he said.

During his presentation, Bugeja will expose corporate profits reaped from Internet addiction -- a modern-day illness that afflicts 1 in 8 Americans. By comparison, he reports that 1 in 13 Americans are addicted to alcohol.

Discussing interpersonal intelligence

He also will discuss "interpersonal intelligence" -- knowing when, where and for what purpose technology may be appropriate or inappropriate.

"This means shutting off the portable devices that endanger us while driving, that distract us in class or at conferences, and that interrupt us during outings and vacations," said Bugeja.

He will also refute the claim that technology is just a tool, calling it instead "an autonomous system whose interfaces and applications are means to economic ends."

Despite concerns about today's technological use, Bugeja still promotes its educational and informational benefits. He is careful to state that he will be discussing consumer technology -- iPods, laptops, cell phones and the like -- not scientific technology.

In doing so, he will refer to media history -- noting how CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, preventing us from inheriting George Orwell's oppressive Big Brother world.

"The problem is that we inherited the brave new Huxleyan world that Neil Postman, among others, predicted," Bugeja said. "There is no need to ban books or censor the news anymore because so many of us are so distracted. Oppression still exists, of course, but fewer and fewer care."

Bugeja will call on the professoriate to help students gain critical insight into corporate technology. "Many of them only understand it as consumers," he said. "Once you know the intent of the interface or application, you can adjust for it so that you control the device rather than the device controlling you."

Bill Gates' technological limits

When it comes to developing computer applications, possibly nobody has been more instrumental than Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Bugeja cites a Feb. 20 Reuters story that reported that Gates and his wife Melinda decided to limit their 10-year-old daughter to just 45 minutes a day of total screen time for games and an hour a day for weekends, plus what she needs for homework. Their daughter became a more frequent Internet user and gamer when she started attending a school where students use tablet computers regularly.

"The fact of the matter is that Bill Gates is not allowing his own child to use technology without limits," said Bugeja. "And it tells you something when you find his daughter got hooked at school."

The limits of technology on critical thinking across disciplines, including science, will be a central theme in Bugeja's Presidential Lecture. He also will recommend steps that everyone can take to use technology wisely to advance their priorities.

President Gregory Geoffroy created the Presidential University Lecture Series in 2003 to highlight the expertise and excellence of Iowa State faculty.

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Bugeja

Michael Bugeja

Quick look

The director of Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Michael Bugeja present updated research from his book "Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age" (Oxford University Press, 2005) for this year's Presidential Lecture on Wednesday, April 4, at 8 p.m. in the Memorial Union's Sun Room.

Quote

"We found the (global) village, all right, and it is peopled with as many jesters, peddlers and pickpockets as with wizards. We have inherited a global mall -- so much so, in fact, that we talk, think and behave according to the demographics and psychographics of consumer profiling, even with mobile social networks whose 'affinity groups' read like direct mailing lists."

Michael Bugeja