My journey to Electracy
I was born in 1993. I have never thought of my family or myself as being overly versed in technology. One of my earliest experiences that I can remember using technology was actually with my grandmother. My grandmother was one of those who enjoyed crafts, and so my younger brother and sister and I all went to her house and made t-shirts with clip art designs that ironed on to the shirts. My Grandmother would show us how to find the clipart tab, and then put the picture into the document. Then, Grandma demonstrated how to drag the edges of the picture to make it larger, thus it would be bigger on our shirts. Once I entered school and used computers more frequently I realized that my grandmother understood how to type and use Microsoft Word, but nearly nothing else on the computer. This was the first instance where I felt that I was becoming electrate, going from something that was happening on a screen and turning it into something I could wear in minutes. The idea of becoming an electrate was not in my mind at the time, but soon my knowledge was thoroughly expanded.
I am an education major, so through multiple experiences in classroom settings I have learned that the single most important factor in determining a student’s success in the lower grades are how much the students are read to as very young children. I look back and realize just how grateful I am that my parents and other family members read to me as a child. The kids that come into Kindergarten on the first day knowing what the front of a book is, that text is read from left to right, and that pictures are usually associated with the text are at a huge advantage from those students who sit in front of a television screen all day. I remember my mother persisting me to be still and follow her finger as she would read books and point to the words as she read them. Through my studies in college, I have learned that this is an effective strategy used to get children to understand that flow of reading and stories. Although I was able to read on grade level in kindergarten, I did not enjoy reading, and found it cumbersome. That did change however, when reading was completely necessary to participate in one of my all-time favorite pass times as a child, the Gameboy Color.
Fig. 1. Me, typing on the computer as a child.
My parents were very much of the old school ideology that kids needed to go outside and play with other kids instead of staying inside on the computer or watching television. So I was very surprised when I unwrapped my Christmas presents one year and found a hand held gaming device. When I was about seven or eight, I received a Gameboy Color. The Gameboy was similar in many ways to the traditional gaming consoles that hooked up to the television and it was simple to swap out cartridges or disk. One huge difference was the Gameboy was a much smaller, handheld device. This meant that on long car rides or any period of waiting, I could be playing along as my favorite characters on the game. One of my first and favorite games was Pokemon. The name was derived from the Japanese name, “Pocket Monsters.” Throughout the game, I “trained” these pocket monsters to be the very best. But, what I never realized was the amount of reading that was required to play these games. At the beginning of the game, I had to answer several questions just to begin. At many points in the game I had to click on different characters that were out and about to understand where to go next in the game. It was a large revelation for me that I had to read to achieve things that I thought were fun.
Fig. 2. GameBOY Color and Clip from Pokemon game
Then, when I was in the second grade, I began to take computer lab classes were I was forced to use a typing programmed that trained students how to type. I rarely typed on my family’s home computer, so I was behind many of my classmates when it came to words per minute and accuracy. While doing them, I felt that these programs were a waste of time and I felt inadequate because I was slower than many of my classmates. I had no idea how beneficial being able to type with speed and accuracy would be. When I think about typing now, I wish I had taken these opportunities that I had been given and taken them more seriously. From about second grade to seventh grade, I pretty much used computers and other technologies for simple purposes. Usually, typing small paper or quick internet searches. I never really utilized all that these new forms of communication and technology had to offer. Then in eighth grade I discovered social media.
Fig. 3. My Facebook page
When I was in middle school, I knew that social media existed. I had absolutely no idea how it worked, but I knew that most people around me in class used it. The idea that I could share my every moment with my friends seemed a little like I was showing off. I thought that it was strange that people would post about a meal and act like everyone else should be jealous, so I delayed getting some kind a social media as long as I could. After an afternoon at a friend’s house, I was convinced that I needed it. While at his house, I started my Facebook page. I quickly added all of my friends from school, and some other pages that I thought were funny or interesting. I remember thinking that I had finally arrived at the mecca of using social media and from now on I would always be connected with all of my friends. My parents were a little nervous at first, telling me that just because someone has a picture on their profile does not necessarily mean that is who has actually developed the page. I still do not post much on any of the social media that I use now, which includes Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and GroupMe. I did not understand that I had joined a global society that survived in a completely digital world. The flow of sharing and information that would follow led me partly to becoming who I am today. I rarely post much on these forms of social media. I would just assume take in what others are saying and form my own opinions about things than to start the conversation. It seems that many people say things on social media without a second thought. I believe that it is important to understand that words have an impact and how something is said can change the message being received.
When I think about myself as an electrate in college, I cannot help but reflect on the reading from class written by Donna Haraway. Haraway states, “Creatures simultaneously animal and machine who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted. Modern medicine is also full of cyborgs, of couplings between organism and machine, each conceived as coded devices, in an intimacy and with a power that was not generated in history.”(292) To understand this better, I decided to research the definition of cyborg. From merriam-webster.com I found that a cyborg is a person whose body contains mechanical or electrical devices and whose abilities are greater than the abilities of normal humans. I found Haraway’s description compelling once I read the definition of cyborg. People today have devices like pace makers in their bodies to help them function. But, I believe that when looking at the typical college student, which I believe myself to be, cyborgs are more present than we perceive. It is impossible to succeed in college without a laptop computer. Although a laptop is not contained inside a college student, it is always within reach. Many students also have smart phones and tablets, and use them like extensions of their bodies. Through these devices, our human ability is advanced beyond those of humans without these devices. The fact that we are so connected with these technologies and can research and do so much from them makes me agree that we are indeed a type of cyborg.
Fig. 4. Example of Laptop, Smartphone, and tablet
Harraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto”. 1991. Web.