I Don't Want To Be A Nerd!

The blog of Nicholas Paul Sheppard

Summary and Conclusion

2015-10-15 by Nick S., tagged as philosophy

I've gone two whole months now without adding any new entries, partly because I've had a busy semester and partly because I haven't come upon any topics on which I've felt I had anything new to say. I'm also about to take up a new position, at the Singapore Institute of Technology, which will mean a change in country and in my day-to-day work. In view of all this, I've decided it's time to close the blog.

I don't mean to forget about the things I've written about here, and I hope I'll be able to continue thinking and writing on them in future. But I expect that the new position will give me plenty to do in other areas as well, and it may take me some time to settle into a new pattern of endeavour. If I do return to blogging, or any other form of writing, I expect I'll be doing it as a faculty member at the Singapore Institute of Technology.

Writing the blog has refined my thinking on a lot of topics, led me to some interesting ideas, and spun off a couple of articles for The Social Interface and The Conversation. There's a list of categories (as my blogging software calls them) on the right-hand side of the screen, but I'd also like to note a few of the major points here, in no particular order, along with links to some of the entries that have had the most impact on my thinking.

The computer industry is not special. Computer technology is just one of many modern and ancient technologies that can empower us and make our lives more comfortable, and its industry has no claim to special favours from other industries, or special exemptions from economics, society or law. I've most often written about its interaction with the creative industries, frequently portrayed as greedy and/or clueless stick-in-the-muds frustrating an imagined right of helpless consumers to have entertainment delivered to their computers on their own terms.

Critical computing. Both techno-utopian and techno-dystopian narratives portray humans as helpless tools of computer technology, one for the better and the other for the worse. In reality, we do have choices about the way that we interact computing devices, but it is easy to forget to exercise them. It might be because we're besotted with the latest fad, or pursuing a fast-and-easy route that ends in superficial simulacra of what we actually want to achieve. We need to put effort into learning what our devices can and can't do, and how to best apply them to our needs.

Privacy is not secrecy is not freedom. The freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of liberal democracies are protected by pluralistic societies and a rule of law upholding the values of such societies. The freedom to be oneself in secret is not freedom at all, both states and citizens are accountable for what they do, and much ink continues to be spilt indulging fantasies of totalitarianism that make little contribution to the debate.

Where to now?

While I'd like to think that this blog and its spin-off popular articles have gone a small way towards the contribution with meaning to people outside computer science that I wrote about when I created the blog, I'm yet to publish a peer-reviewed article or anything with similar kudos. I still like to think I could do this, and I have a few ideas drafted, but I expect I'll take some time to settle into my new position before pursuing them further.

I also hope to continue practising computer technology, not just writing about it. Reading some reviews of the latest technology in a recent edition of APC Magazine, I was struck by how many of the products seemed like toys for the wealthy, likely to make a marginal difference to the quality of life of people who can afford to buy things like augmented-reality goggles and high-definition televisions. But of course the products mentioned were only a small subset of all the products out there, and I'd like to think that there are less banal uses for technology that I could turn my hand to.

And so here I hang up my keyboard, until that next article or program.