I often describe my job as a learning technologist as “trying not to break things”. Folk respond to this with a nervous laugh, because they are fairly sure it is a joke that they don’t understand, but there’s a serious point to my description. Keeping technology running smoothly is an achievement – and making it invisible to users, so that they do not have to think about how to use it, is an art.
I don’t know much about ANT (Actor Network Theory), but a friend described it to me as being relevant here, in that folk often only notice tech when it goes wrong – otherwise we “black box” it (ignore it as something they don’t need to think about).* I think that’s a fair description of a lot of people, and I think that this attitude to tech as something they can ignore is one that should be challenged in our web 2.0 world. However, that’s a rant for another day. The point that I want to make here is that when something is functioning well we often don’t notice it, or realise how important it is to our everyday lives.
There are some things that are a lot more important than learning tech that we also often forget about until they are threatened, and that’s our fundamental human rights. Jeremy Waldron says somewhere that rights typically only come into focus when they are threatened, otherwise we ignore then (we “black box” them, in ANT terms). The poor and the vulnerable in our society are already well aware of how the Tory Government are eroding their basic moral rights to liberty, autonomy and welfare. Now they propose a step further – the removal of the protection of the Human Rights Act from all citizens. We should be very afraid of a government who wants to do that. I think that it’s time that we all reminded ourselves of the history of the Human Rights Act and consider seriously the implications of living in a society with no regard for the values it protects. Scottish MSPs agree.
* This will eventually turn into something for one of our #rhizo14 presentations, hence beginning to think here about it.