“Technology Fast” Assignment

Technology Fast Assignment

Choose a 24 hour period during which you will abstain from any non-essential use of computing devices. This means that you will try to abstain from using computers for, among other things, entertainment,  convenience, and non-work/school tasks. You will have to decide how far you want to take the “fast” and how you will define “computing device” and “essential.”

Some examples and guidelines:

-Watching TV on the internet is out, since it clearly requires a computer, but even watching TV “the old fashioned way” via over-the-air broadcast requires the existence of electronic technology and computerized systems—both for the TV itself and at the stations that produce the signal. This is an example of how fasting will require you to think  about how to define computing technology.

-Using a technology like a car to have fun might be permissible, or it might not be: unless you drive a very old car, then there’s a significant amount of electronic technology enabling it to work, from the navigation system to the ECU (engine control unit). Do these count as a computing devices for the purposes of your fast? Why or why not?

-Is using an app that, for instance, displays maps or gives you directions an essentialuse of computing technology? Or a convenience? Think about how you’d make the case one way or the other.

-What about if you want to buy something? Can you use a credit card? Computers are involved in every step of the process of paying by credit or debit. In addition, the items in the store are probably automatically tracked and replenished using computerized inventory systems.

-What about watching a film at a theater? Most movies are no longer actually on 35 mm film, but are projected digitally (or even streamed directly from the production company’s servers). Would this count against your fast, or not?

-Is using a very old technology, like the ‘L’ or other public transit, possible without somehow using computing devices somewhere in the chain?

These are the sorts of questions you should ask yourself before you do any kind of “non-essential” activity during your fast.

As you go about your day (and night) keep a notebook with you to record what you’ve done. Later, go back and analyze each activity to see whether you’ve inadvertently broken your fast. Write an essay in which you discuss what you did during your fast and what you learned. How did it go? How did you have to define or redefine “computing devices” and “essential tasks” in the course of doing the fast?

Your essay should be between 400 and 600 words, uploaded to the appropriate post on digitalhistorylab.com by the deadline of March 21. As mentioned in class, you will be writing this essay individually (rather than collaboratively as stated on the syllabus).

Bonus: If you manage to go through your chosen 24 hour period without breaking your fast in any way, then you get the opportunity to design one of the midterm questions!

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