Obsession with the meaningless

Facebook recently acquired Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock. To make a long story short, I think that's amazing. However, the obsession with the purchase is sickening. I enjoy reading tech news but looking at some of the top tech news lately, I am realizing how obsessed the Western culture is with technology, the web, and mobile apps.

Yes, if you are in the tech industry, the Instagram purchase is an interesting piece of news. But what does it say about our values when our top news sources place this much importance on this little cool billion dollar app, and continue to do so days later after the purchase. Does Instagram really deserve days of media coverage by some of our top news sources including the Washington Post, Mashable, CNN, Reuters, New York Times, and dozens of other smaller tech news sources?

I do not want to play the grinch here, but I am not surpised with the media attention Instagram has received and this obsession is pervasive throughout our society. Tools that are meant to "improve" our lives and enhance our experiences of everyday life have become our greatest problems. From mobile device usage while driving (which results in thousands of deaths a year in the U.S. alone) to skewed priorities and mismanagement of time due to the narcistic overusage of online social networking, it is becoming more evident that the value we place on different technologies, in the long run will determine the effects these technologies have on us. 

If you want to make a difference in the world, it's about time to quit obsessing over the meaningless. Technology is a powerful tool and has indubitably impacted life to varying degrees. But I hardly doubt that Instagram and/or Facebook is going to help curb the effects of poverty at home and abroad, war in third world countries, homelessness, social and political reform, education, etc. And individuals' obsession with Instagram, Facebook, and similar tools will definitely not contribute to personal growth and productivity. If anything, these tools can be the bane of our existence.

All I am saying is: there are deeper and more meaningful ways with which technology can impact the world around us. Instagram is necessarily not one of them. Let us not get caught up in the "frenzy", the hype, the next gadget, the next app, the next tech or fashion trend . Don't allow yourself to be simply the consumer, constantly being fed by all the junk companies throw at you. Prioritize your usage of technology, mobile devices, apps, social networking and etc; and strive to be the producer of greater ideas and not solely the consumer of others' ideas. 

HCI: Interdisciplinary but not intercultural

How do you begin to institutionalize Human Computer Interaction (HCI) research, practice, and education beyond its predominantly Western roots and influence? I am neither talking about the creation of international standards for usability nor international HCI education.

I am talking about a complete overhaul of the field's current underlying assumptions, principles, and methodologies by a contributing body of non-western researches, practicioners, and students. Well, maybe an "overhaul" is not the right word. But the basic point is this: HCI, like many other fields, is traditionally founded on Western ideologies, culture, user behavior, etc. This is a good start--good as a foundational piece, a model, but not as an ultimate. HCI is yet to experience a broader diversity of users, researchers, practicioners, and students spanning all economic, cultural, and religious statuses. 

But I do believe that institutionalizing HCI research, practice, and education across cultures requires the field to reach a higher level of growth and solidity. As we know it, the field is still developing. But I look forward to seeing the field benefit from a multi-cultural understanding of people and technology, and seeing developing countries innovate as well and advance in computing and HCI education as a result of embracing ethnocultural (culturally relevant) HCI principles and methodologies. 

I am a multi-cultural student existing withinin the HCI field, and expressing an opinion. 

 

This cellphone carries with it a unique context of use, meaning, and experience as it travels across different cultures. Sorry for the stereoptypical images of Africa, but you get the point. image source