Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

The Computer Encounter: First Time Adult Computer Use

 

Howard, Dale

 

We may become no longer free for the kind of thinking that would redeem us from the world we ourselves have created. We may have made ourselves incapable of such thinking. (William Barrett 1978, p. 201).

“This isn’t going to be as bad as you think!”

Usually I like to acclimatize them a little, sort of like dabbing them with water at the shore’s edge before sending them in for the cold plunge. I might start with something like, “This isn’t going to be as bad as you think!” But somehow, I knew this comment was going to give her very little comfort.

 

There she sat, as far down the row as she could, shoulder and elbow braced tight against the wall as if she had run out of space to hide. It was like looking down a long banquet table and seeing a guest staring at a plate of food, long since cold.

 

“Would you like to move down a few terminals?” I asked, thinking that I could better attend to the group if they weren’t so far apart.

 

She didn’t say a word-just sat there. She hadn’t even touched the keyboard.

 

Do I insist that she move? No. She wasn’t ignoring me. I had a feeling my words were no more than a far away echo of distant waves against a fog-ridden pier. She was very much alone.

 

I felt awkward. What’s more, I felt helpless. She was somehow trapped and I was unable to free her. The others were so preoccupied they didn’t even notice. There wasn’t the slightest recognition of anything so utterly incongruous.

 

I decided to approach her. “Can I give you a hand getting started?”

 

Without making eye contact, she picked up her books, brushed past her chair, and moved quickly through the aisle, trying desperately to draw as little attention to herself as possible. The sound of clicking keyboards stopped. I felt as if I had suddenly been slapped in the face. I just stood there while she crossed the computer lab and left.

 

We all stared at the closed door. The familiar clicking sound resumed. I had just had my introduction to computer phobia.

 

The drama of the computer lab, thank God, does not usually have this soap opera quality, but the impact of this incident always serves to remind me that being introduced to the computer is definitely an “experience.” I can still see the face. The red moving up her cheeks. The moist eyes. And most of all, that desperate urgency to escape.

 

Many people experience phobias. Some are scared of heights, others of snakes. It is not difficult to believe that some individuals, for one reason or another, would be scared of computers, machines, or technology. It would be unfair to suggest that the first computer experience is usually traumatic; however, in the extreme do we not all empathize with the first-time computer user? Do we not recall the uncertainty, the fear, the frustration? Have not all of us, who, one time or another have been introduced to the computer, been tempted to throw our hands in the air and quit?

 

And in the far corner….

For adults the first computer experience may be varied. Barbara is a 42 year old computer user:

I first used a computer four years ago. Since that time, I would describe my relationship with computers as turbulent. The only computer I have ever used is the MacIntosh Plus. Even though it is the easiest to learn and the most user-friendly, according to those who are supposed to know about these things, I still don’t really like it or feel comfortable using it.

Several adults would express similar sentiments; however, it would be a mistake to characterize all initial adult computer experiences as negative. Listen to George.

Yah, I got right into it. Sure I was a bit nervous, but I wanted to do this so much I just went out and bought one. After tinkering around for awhile, I enroled in a couple of computer classes. They were fun.

What can be said about an experience where one person finds it “turbulent” and the other views it as “fun?” Where do we find common ground? It appears that the initial computer experience is difficult to dismiss. It is not an experience that produces apathy, rather, it is more what Bollnow (1972) describes as an “encounter.” One only has an encounter with the unknown, and as a consequence, the encounter is said to “precede education” (p. 470). An encounter is not characterized by accommodation, but rather, by confrontation. The encounter “shakes” us, increasing our awareness, making us more sensitive to ourselves, preparing us for the “new.” The first-time user, like the contender, emotionally clad in an array of excitement, anticipation, and uncertainty, faces the champion, armed with instruction manuals, a flashing cursor, and a central processing unit. The bout begins.

 

“I can’t understand how my kids catch on so fast?”

We watch, often in amazement, as kids deftly manoeuvre starships on the computer screen. The impact of this technology appears to be taken in stride and accommodated rather easily. Kids appear lost in the activity and unaware of the simple ease with which they operate the machine. The computer has a toy or game-like quality to it (Turkle, 1984).

You know I watch my kids play on the machine and they’re not the least bit confused. I can’t believe how they open a piece of software and dump it in the machine, never looking at the instruction, and get it to work. It seems like click, click, and presto! For me, now, well, that’s a different story. I’ve been fumbling around for next to a week now, and only occasionally do I get “it” to do the right thing. I can’t understand how my kids catch on so fast. Maybe I’m just getting old?

The child approaches the computer with the same openness and playfulness as it approaches any new toy or any stimulating learning situation. However, the adult sees the computer as a representative of a technology that is imposing, complex, and challenging. For the adult there is more at stake in this encounter, where the computer becomes a measure of ability. Like the cartoon character having just realized that she has walked out past the edge of the cliff, the adult is outside the activity and more sensitive to failure. The adult has been asked to be a learner, to become a student, to be a child again.

 

“How do I turn this thing on?”

The computer is a machine to be operated and must be made ready for operation. Directions must be learned, but these directions, like those received in a strange city, are often difficult to follow without the aid of some initial orientation. Peggy felt that:

If I could understand how it worked, I would be OK. If I knew how the information got from the keyboard to the inside of the computer and then on the screen, I would understand the process. I needed to know this so that I wouldn’t do the wrong thing. When you do the wrong thing you wreck the sequence, and it is difficult to get back to the beginning – you get lost.

It can be as innocent as turning the machine on.

I sat there in front of the thing. I bet I sat there five minutes just trying to figure out how to turn the damn thing on. I found the little button on the monitor and a green light went on, but I never did find the switch on the back. A guy beside me finally pointed it out.

Instruction manuals, filled with cryptic explanations, often offer little relief. It can be just as difficult when others try to explain.

He proceeded to run through the steps in using the Mac. After the first half hour of icons, menus, files, drawers, folders, double-clicks, drags, and scrolls, I was an emotional basketcase. I was totally confused. I couldn’t remember any of the sequences and didn’t understand what I was supposed to do. I became frustrated and burst into tears.

The computer is not, by the first-time user, analyzed into its component parts or what Pirsig (1979, p.73) in describes as “underlying form.” Like the motorcycle, the computer is “almost impossible to understand unless you already know how one works” (p.78). David describes this as being out of sync.

.. sometimes the TA’s would say, like just rattle off a bunch of stuff, and they could do it that quickly. But that was like, well somehow that was just incomprehensible, it was being played at the wrong speed for me.

The computer demands some kind of synchronization, a sense of being in tune, being in tune with technology. A rhythm needs to be established. Similar to experiencing dance lessons, the new user is compelled to look at her feet. She thinks about the beat, rather than feels and moves with the music. The mind and body must establish a knowledge of the machine. Until this happens, what may be simple instructions, are perceived as meaningless, disassociated, and fragmented bits of information.

 

“I wouldn’t want to hurt it!”

All the senses are engaged in discovery as one becomes aware of the machine. George recalls:

I unwrapped everything so carefully and placed it on a desk in a room that I had especially prepared as my computer room. I figured out how to get it all hooked up and I turned it on. I can remember the smell of the new plastic permeate the room as the machine got warmer and warmer. It was an exciting smell.

Peggy recounts that:

First I ran my fingers over the keyboard. I was surprised to find them so cool. I touched the edges of the machine. They were round and smooth. Most of the computer was plastic, but the big box where the disk drives sit, you know where all the electrical stuff sits, that was metal. I wondered if that part needed more protection. After awhile the top of the computer became quite warm. I checked with lab monitor to see if this was normal. Somehow when things get hot that’s a warning, and I was so scared that the machine might be harmed.

Barbara was simply afraid to touch it.

I was somehow afraid that if I did the wrong thing I would break the machine. I had visions of an explosion or smoke pouring out the back, or something equally dreadfully happening.

You get to know the computer bodily in the same way that you sit inside a new car at a show room, running your hands over the upholstery and dashboard, getting a “feel” for the quality of the merchandise. You cannot get an appreciation through brute force, it takes a lighter more sensuous appraisal. But, this gentle appreciation is less an admiration of aesthetics than it is a respect for status and the unfamiliar. The computer, unlike more obviously mechanical machines, works quietly, without gears or exhaust. How the computer does what it does cannot be observed, and this invisibility adds to its mystique. The first-time user is often unsure and unable to handle the new technology with confidence and assigns an importance to the computer and treats it gently, not unlike the actions of a child appraising a precious vase after being told “don’t touch!” The computer must be handled the “correct” way. There is a need for precision. To be imprecise is “wrong” or harmful.

 

Who’s been sitting in my chair?

The computer environment is ordered, sequenced if you like. Peggy’s descriptions gives us a sense of this routine and its importance.

I always tried to work at the same machine. I know that’s silly, but I felt more comfortable. I could almost tell (feel) when someone else had been on it. One day the keys were still warm when I came in. I didn’t like that. It was harder for me to get settled.

 

Anyway I would always roll my chair a little and get so I could see the monitor square on. The person had also left the keyboard a little off center and too close to the machine, so I adjusted that. Then I turned the machine on, and then the monitor. I adjusted my books, and looked at the assignment.

A routine settles in; however, this ritual is not preordained, and in some ways, is still being defined. This makes the actions of the user more deliberate, more accentuated, less conditioned by habit. The first-time user sits up straighter, closer to the edge of her seat, and moves her head closer to the screen so as to not miss anything. She is constantly checking to see if key presses are registering some change on the screen. Watching first-time computer users is like watching nervous animals at a watering hole bobbing up and down as they frequently check for danger.

 

In a peculiar sense, the first-time user is the tail that wags the dog. Although the computer is controlled by the user, the computer defines the position taken. The computer is not moulded to the user’s position, like pen and paper are positioned by the writer. You don’t find the new user subconsciously doodling with keys in anticipation of inspiration.

 

As David says, “I felt good when I could see myself saying, well OK, I’m going to open a file-I know how to do that!”

 

The user takes a position in front of it. As Peggy remarks, “You can’t take a computer to bed with you.”

 

Technology has a place, and one arranges oneself in relation to this place. Ergonomics, a formal study of this relationship, attests to the impact of this “positioning”, and reveals that improper posture or poorly designed furniture may result in considerable physical and mental stress (Smith, 1987).

 

“I thought it would be faster than typing.”

The computer promises so much. This is often the reason new users are drawn to the computer in the first place; however, they soon find that learning to use the computer takes far more time and energy than initially expected.

 

Possibly Barbara’s encounter will help describe the anxiety experienced when expectation doesn’t match the result.

I had been invited to be one of the keynote speakers at a conference. My husband suggested that I prepare my paper on the computer and have it printed on a laser printer at his office. I was very excited at the prospect; I thought it would be faster than typing and I would have the extra bonus of a really professional, polished-looking copy of my presentation. Somehow through the hours of misunderstandings and wrong key presses, I finished the speech. However, the first time it was printed, whole chunks were either missing or in the wrong place. I remember thinking that, as far as I was concerned, using a computer was more trouble than it was worth. I re-did the paper, somehow inserted the missing bits, rearranged everything, and breathed a sigh of relief. I think it took nearly two weeks to complete the paper. This was after I had already written out what I intended to say. When the time came to prepare my slides, I used a typewriter. You couldn’t have dragged me near a computer if my life depended on it.

What was thought to be a faster more efficient method turns out to be slower and less efficient. Hours and hours are taken to produce so little. Time lost becomes equated with increased frustration, and the validity of the task is questioned. The first-time user is disillusioned, let down by the promise of technology.

 

“I pressed the right key! Why won’t it do it?”

Mistakes are costly. A sort of paranoia results as doubts of what may have been saved compete with doubts of what can actually be retrieved. Suddenly the term “backup” takes on new meaning. It is difficult to be comfortable with the idea that a considerable amount of work, as Barbara suggests, “sits in some blue plastic buried in the machine. I always feel a little uneasy until I have the hard copy in my hand.”

 

There may be an inclination to blame the machine for mistakes, but, as well, there is a sense of personal blundering. As Jane says:

I was trying to get out of one program into another and the screen went blank. I went sick to my stomach as I tried desperately to get something on the screen. “Now what have I done! I pressed the right key! Why won’t it do it?” Finally, I went into the lab monitor’s office and told him what happened. He went to my computer, wiggled something on the back, and the screen reappeared. I’m telling you, was I relieved!

How often have you heard the expression, “Machines don’t make mistakes, people do”? The new user experiences a sense of self-blame when things go wrong. The computer is not treated with disrespect. You can’t just kick the “crap” out of the computer like you might a car tire. You can’t blame a computer for mistakes. To make a mistake means to be accountable for error. The computer does not apologize. Technology works, or it doesn’t work.

 

“… feeling really stupid.”

Computers are fast and efficient. There is something attractive, slightly magical, about the ease with which others are able to create documents, enhance presentations, collect and sort data. With that aura comes a pressure to know your way around a computer-to stay with the pack. Barbara again recounts her experience.

A friend and I were trying to use PCTIE to gain access to the MTS system for some statistics assignments we had to do. We had a list of the proper procedures and had the right passwords, but were not successful. We wasted an entire Saturday afternoon and came away feeling really stupid.

In this instance, Barbara doesn’t talk about being frustrated, she says she felt “stupid.” Being able to use the computer is, in some way, a statement of intellectual prowess. The computer is sort of a technological IQ test.

 

For Peggy, sitting in front of the computer and not understanding was very much a bodily experience. Feeling stupid was a tightness in the chest, a shrinking of the shoulders, a hesitancy to make eye contact, and a furrowing of the brow. One feels smaller-less worthy of taking up space. Feeling stupid was not just not knowing, but also a fear of not being able to know, not having the correct perspective.

 

We use technology to measure things, yet in the computer experience, the technology measures us. Measurement is a technological notion in that we use some tool as an arbitrary calibration to compare, judge and give value to something or someone. It forces objectivity and eliminates ambiguity.

 

“There’s something about this silence that bothers me.”

Working on the computer requires a great deal of concentration and there is an experience of being drawn in. Brenda says,

Its more than concentration. You are actually drawn into the machine. You seem to be functioning at another level of intelligence and involvement. The other day my daughter wanted to discuss an invitation that she had received from her friend Amy, but she insisted that our conversation take place before I got on the computer because in her words, “I’ll never get you to listen if you are on the computer.”

Barbara sees this experience as having lost something.

Nobody talks when using a computer. Everyone is isolated. There’s something about this silence that bothers me, almost frightens me. I could spend all day in an office, at a computer, and never talk to anyone, even though I was surrounded by people. When I look into the lab in our department, I see six people bent over the keys, ticky-tacking away while the printer is spewing out sheets of paper. The room is silent. I feel uncomfortable; it seems these people don’t need each other, don’t want to be bothered with anyone else. When I sit down and begin to work, I become a part of this. I give a part of myself to this machine.

Using the computer is a planned activity and requires a certain mental preparation. The computer demands a certain commitment of time, energy and space. There is a narrowing of focus. Time may pass very quickly and when disrupted or finished with a particular intensive computer activity, there is a feeling of vague uneasiness in that instant where the user disengages from a few hundred square inches of video display terminal and again recognizes a much larger physical and social world. You might say one is “reduced” by the technology, made to fit into a more restrictive environment.

 

Your not listening to me.

Working with the computer requires a peculiar sort of conversation with an object. David remembers,

I remember coming out of a library workshop where we were doing some online searches. I remember coming away thinking, Jeez, I just had a conversation with a computer. I gave it directions, it gave me answers, It gave me directions, I gave it answers, and so on. But I realized I had this real empty feeling. It was an interaction, all right, but it was a cold one.

There is a sense of what it means to be human as the user acknowledges the “machineness” of the computer. Wenger (1987, p. 22) suggests that “… systems that seem to manifest some intelligence tend to draw unrealistic expectations from naive users.” The user has assumed an attentive audience, but has been, instead, in conversation with an object. Realization of this leaves the user with feelings of dissatisfaction.

 

Human conversation is filled with ambiguity. People “feed” off of each other’s ideas as well as their own. A conversation is as much listening as it is speaking. On the other hand, a conversation with a computer lacks this spontaneity and ambiguity and consequently leaves the user less than satisfied. In the human sense, the computer does not “need” to communicate. It does not rephrase, clarify, or check for understanding. The computer, as we say, is hard wired. It is programmed. One cannot “convince” a computer.

 

“Feed me!”

There is a sense of impatience experienced by first-time users. Brian recounts,

I think it was the flashing cursor or something waiting for me to make some kind of response. The flash reminded me of someone tapping their fingers on the table impatiently waiting for an answer. I knew that if I could just come up with the right command it would be able to do whatever it was that I wanted it to do. I always felt a kind of pressure to give it an answer.

The machine’s design to imitate an intellectual response gives the user a more immediate sense of communion with the machine, but in reality the machine displays a pseudo-intelligence and responds only to narrow, restrictive, specific commands. The nature of the machine is to await inputs. It does not initiate, nor does it work in approximations. The first-time user feels a sense of urgency to do the “right thing”, like Seymour in The Little Shop of Horrors, as he so desperately wants to save the man-eating plant, but has yet to figure out what it eats. Having ascertained the computer’s diet, the impatience continues. For an adult, the initial computer encounter, is motivated by a perceived necessity to put the computer to some practical use. Again, Brian’s recounts.

It didn’t dawn on me at the time, but I remember doing the dumbest things. I remember learning the basic commands to use a database and then putting all my friends addresses and phone numbers in the database. It wasn’t the idea of practising by using the addresses, it was the foolishness of thinking that this was going to be a useful tool, and would be much more practical than an address book.

You might say that the first-time user has the power of getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari, but drives it up and down the driveway; however, one does not train and become ready, only to have the object of preparation stand as a decorative ornament. The aesthetics of technology are in its practicality. The ease to which it can be put to use.

 

“Excuse me. Do you speak Macintosh?”

A common term for computer competence is “computer literacy.” In a sense, it is a categorical term, associated with a perceived hierarchy of computer people, ranging from those who know a lot (computer literates) to those who know little or nothing at all (computer illiterates). In some sense you become literate in almost anything new that you try, but it is not often expressed as becoming literate. For instance, the auto association does not advertise car driving literacy nor does the summer camp brochure promote water skiing literacy. There is a stronger sense of learning a language, a way to communicate, when one first learns to use a computer.

“What kind of computer do you use?” is the “Excuse me. Parlez vous Anglais?” which serves to separate the men from the boys. Often it is a simple declaration of ignorance.

You know, I haven’t used anything but the Macintosh. I sure hope you don’t want to talk about the IBM type. If I have this much trouble on the Mac, I will be hopeless on those computers. I find the Mac so much easier to use. I have not even attempted to learn how to use the IBM-type computer. I find the Mac sort of folksy.

 

It is important that the “right” computer is being discussed. It is not a joking kind of kibitzing that often occurs when someone finds out what kind of car you drive or beer you drink. It really is a concern. It becomes very obvious early in a conversation who is literate and who is not. The fear and embarrassment of being “found out”, being ignorant, or being trapped by a barrage of computer terminology, is a very real threat. Jane remembers this account:

I was sitting there at a table and a group of us were talking about the computer class. I didn’t say a thing the whole time I sat there. I didn’t know my disk drive from my keyboard. I remember thinking that I didn’t belong here, or I wasn’t ready for this, or something along those lines. But I got through it.

Knowing a language allows social participation; being illiterate is a handicap. You might say that Jane’s experience was like sitting at a table listening politely, at times smiling in faint understanding, while the rest converse in a foreign language-like the Gentile listening to Hebrew at a Jewish marriage ceremony, invited, but totally out of place.

 

But having accomplished something on the computer and learning the language so to speak, David alludes to the developmental quality of the experience.

I know a guy who sells computers. I was visiting him and knew about his fascination [with computers] and he has shown me all the amazing things his machine can do, and for the first time I was able to participate in that conversation in a meaningful way. For me there was a nice kind of bond there. I felt I had expanded my community, but I still stay away from people who want to talk about the hot new program they got – I guess I’m not at that stage yet.

There is a sense of participation “expanded community” accompanied by becoming more computer literate. I suppose this sense of expanded circle could be accomplished by joining the Shrine Club, but becoming computer literate is to be better able to participate in the main culture, the technological culture, and has larger implications for privilege than those attached to Wednesday night meetings.

 

Oh, what a feeling!

A recognition of success with the computer is manifest in the transition from process to product, when a sense of confrontation diminishes and is replaced with a sense of confidence that the time and efforts spent have resulted in a practical end. When the “expected” is indeed the result.

I like the interactive part of putting something in and seeing it either on the screen or when I print it out. The other thing that seems friendly or helpful to me is, being able to move stuff around. Being able to get a copy out, and it’s not the headache that typing was. So those are all really practical things, but they make me feel like this machine is very helpful, and in that way, it’s my buddy.

That first “real” product is a thrill. The printer starts up, and “God, isn’t this amazing.” The electronic processes of the computer produce an illusion of intelligence through speed and an incredible capacity for accurate recall. These abilities appear to both mesmerize yet frustrate the first-time user.

 

A partnership has developed and the first-time user has successfully communicated with the machine. The distance between the two narrows and the user feels a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. The next time the user faces the machine there is a renewed sense of confidence and anticipation, more importantly, a sense of control. The results may not be as favorable, and the relationship established very fragile, but the first-time user has moved toward the machine, and in many ways, the encounter is over.

 

And what does this mean?

The adult first-time computer experience may be extremely varied and range from the enthusiastic hobbyist to the reluctant student forced to take a computer class. Within this diversity some common themes emerge and challenge us with their pedagogical implications; however, deeper in the structure of this experience rests a more encompassing essence, the essence of technology.

 

Heidegger (1977) suggests that technology is more than our expertise. It is more than the machines we build. Technology is a way of revealing, or as he calls it, “enframing” and is closer to epistemology than instrumentation or technique. Barrett (1978) calls this “technical thinking” (p. 201). Technology is a world view toward nature and exists before tools or methods. Technology reveals nature as measurable, conquerable, and more importantly, consumable and ever ready for man’s use. Technology and science are the bride and groom as One, each the other. Through them, nature is served up and reveals her resources. Through them, nature is secured and regulated (Heidegger, 1977).

 

The computer, our most modern and powerful technological artifact, is in itself not technology, but is made possible by technology, and, as a consequence, the computer experience helps make possible a discussion of technology. Through the experiences of the first-time adult computer user we see technology amplified, made more obvious. For a brief moment, as the user encounters the computer, we are able to more clearly recognize the securing, the ordering, the regulating nature inherent in the technological perspective.

 

The adult first-time computer user sees the computer as a machine to be operated, controlled, to be made useful. The adult becomes a student of technology and takes a position of understanding, that is already a position of technology. Those more enframed in technology look forward to the experience, those not, are anxious. For the adult, to be a student, means ordering, sequencing, and regulating. The excitement, despair or fear of the initial computer encounter is not precipitated by any inherent perception of what the computer is or can do, but rather, what the computer demands. We see the adult inspired by the “efficiency” of the computer and disillusioned when expectations are unfulfilled. There is an urgency to “produce.” The first-time user enters a world of inputs and outputs, where he or she experiences reduction or a sense of narrow focus and concentration. The new user is constantly measuring and being measured through arbitrary standards of computer literacy, in many ways, a measurement for “fit” into the technological culture. As a result, difficulty or success with the computer deeply influences the user’s sense of self-worth. There is such a faith in the “correctness” of technology, that we find the new user often in a dilemma of who or what to blame, if you like, caught in a technological grip.

 

What we see, observing adults use the computer for the first-time, is the depth to which we are entrenched in a way of thought, a way of knowing. Technology, ironically, as an epistemology leaves us unable to distinguish the server from the served. We seek to produce more “user friendly” computers, yet in doing so, increase the transparency of technology making it more difficult to determine its effects. In some ways, this is like eliminating pain, and thereby increasing the likelihood of an undetected injury. In an attempt to make the technology more palatable we become more enframed in technology. We are made to feel stupid when we do not understand; however the irony is that something so ignorant could make one feel so inadequate. Turkle (1984) suggests the computer acts as a mirror. What we see is a reflection of ourselves, our strengths and our weaknesses. Could it be that the real stupidity may be in the blind acceptance of what makes us feel stupid?

 

Technology is a way of thinking. It demands an exactness. Through the computer this exactness is epitomized. Burch (1984) points out that the computer is a “closed system of univocal signs and a set of precise rules governing their relations” (p. 10). There is no ambiguity, no grey area. The computer is an efficient system and models an idea of precise language, “it serves as a model of the right use of language, and thereby of the right form of thinking itself” (p. 10). The experiences of the first-time adult computer user are experiences of conformity, conformity to technology. There are no other alternatives for the user, except to question the conformity itself.

 

For a moment we find the first-time user in reflection, questioning themselves, questioning their intellect, questioning their abilities, questioning their social reality, questioning their relationship with the technology. For a moment we have a magnifying glass and can see an accentuated version of the computer experience. We must take advantage of the moment and allow the first-time user to “live” the experience as it manifests itself in the encounter. We must not euphemistically disguise it.

 

The first-time adult computer user has a brief opportunity to reflect on humanity, and as educators, we must not let this opportunity go unnoticed. This is, however, a fragile moment, a moment where technology stands more exposed, a moment where the user experiences an uneasiness, a moment of questioning, possibly a moment to question a way of thinking.

 

 

References

Barrett, W. (1978). The illusion of technique: A search for meaning in a technological civilization. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

Bollnow, O.F. (1972). Encounter and education. The Educational Forum, 36(3)(4), 303-312, 465-472.

Burch, R. (1984). Technology and curriculum: Toward a philosophical perspective. Curriculum praxis (occasional paper no. 27). The University of Alberta Department of Secondary education.

Geffin, D. (Producer) (1986). Little shop of horrors [Video]. Hollywood: Warner Bros. Home Video Inc.

Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology and other essays. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Pirsig, R.M. (1979). Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance: An inquiry into values. New York: Quill William Morrow.

Smith, M.J. (1987). Mental and physical strain at adult work stations. (3) 273-255.

Turkle, S. (1984). The second self: Computers and the human spirit. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Wenger, E. (1987). Artificial intelligence and tutoring systems: Computational and cognitive approaches to the communication of knowledge. Los Altos, California: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Inc.