Monday, December 30, 2013

Reviewing Tech from Midlife

Photo by Wendell.
Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Boomer Voices program and have been provided with a device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product. 

For the last six months, I've had the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for Verizon.  During this time, I got to test a few products such as the Fitbit One activity tracker, the Razr Maxx HD phone with an amazing battery life and the Samsung Note 3 with a clear, large screen.

I'm not a complete technology nut, but I'm more tech-savvy than the majority of women my age. I have enjoyed learning about each device by using them, by attending webinars, by reading reviews and by talking with other Verizon ambassadors about their experience.

I have also enjoyed showing my friends how these devices work.  The most common response from my midlife guests attending house parties hosted by me and Cheryl was this: "Whoa, I had no idea there were so  many products and services available."

An array of Verizon Products
This experience has taught me as well. There are, indeed, a lot of amazing devices available. And there are features that I can customize to improve my efficiency and my access to information.  And the apps!  I have long heard the phrase, "There's an app for that." However, I haven't tried many beyond weather apps and book review apps until recently.

There's an entire world of possibility out there. I just need to step a little further into that space. And it's really not that difficult to use the devices.  It's just a matter of doing it.

For example, I used a GPS feature for the first time with this program. I still like to consult maps before I get in the car, but that's a really wonderful tool when I'm lost or when I'm tired or when it's dark.

I also have decided that I see the benefit of carrying both a phone and a mini-tablet. Too often, I'm on the phone wanting to access my calendar or my web browser. I have to write things down, hang up, work my phone, and then call the person back.  If I had both devices, I could use my tablet to find information that supports and enriches my phone conversations.  

I do have to concede that at times I felt a bit overwhelmed, especially when I was carrying three phones by the end of the program because I was carrying my original phone knowing that I would soon be using it again.   I was very interested when working with tech gurus who are completely immersed in the world of electronic devices--specs, features, apps, upgrades, service programs, etc.   It's an interesting subculture to observe.

While talking with experts during webinars, I could imagine myself submerging myself more completely in the world of technology devices:  living on the cutting edge, being the expert among my friends, reading trade magazines about forthcoming products and so forth. It's an adrenalin rush!  I felt like I was a world-class athlete, but instead of riding a giant wave off the shores of Hawaii, I was riding the waves of information. Akaw!

At some points during the program, I grew philosophical, wondering if the technology is serving the person or if the person is serving the technology. I found myself changing some of my behaviors so that I could better explore features on my phone.  Whoa!  I felt some vertigo as I contemplated falling down that rabbit hole.

By the conclusion of the program (which is today), I have decided to just hold steady with the devices that I had prior to the program. However, I am extremely willing to change in the near future.  Right now, I work at home at a desktop computer as a blogger and an online instructor. I'm not out and about very much.

If I had a job -- like being a real estate agent -- that took me around the region, I would definitely switch to Verizon for its fast and widespread coverage. Then I will invest the time and money to incorporate a device more fully into my daily life, into my psyche, into my identity.

I can see a second culture emerging where manipulating technology expertly is key to being a consumer, a citizen, a community member in various subcultures.  Humankind has a long history surrounding the development and employment of techne, which is really more a process than just an object like a codex or a car or a wireless phone. It becomes a way of thinking, of being, of interacting.  In my own subculture of my local congregation, I can see technology changing processes and identity.

Photo by ctoppan
For example, I get some church assignments because of my ability to use advanced software for creating high-quality church flyers and church bulletins.

I'm also a  Sunday School teacher to teens. I have to teach the teens through image-rich hypertext media, because they absolutely do not engage with print media through a codex (bound book form) in the way that I did 36 years ago when I was learning Bible stories.

Photo by ctoppan
If I don't keep up and adapt and explore new technologies, I will be left behind and become some kind of dinosaur.  

I won't be able to covey the cultural knowledge that I have spent decades developing.  If I want to pass on what I know, I must adapt my knowledge base to these emerging technologies.  Change or die.

My "Big Upgrade" might happen when I get a different job that takes me away from my desktop, when we move and have to choose a new network, or when I launch my kids in a few short years. If I upgrade now, my kids will want the same devices, so any cost I adopt will be multiplied by 3!

So when am I making the move to upgrade to a more powerful network? to a more powerful phone? to using more features and apps? to buying a tablet?

photo by umdnews
Right now, I am at my desktop so much, that I'm very fast and efficient. Once I get a catalyst to move me out of my comfort zone, I will invest the time and money on these more powerful devices.

Then I can bring my tablet to the nursing home where I volunteer and to the Sunday School class where I teach. (Hmmm. I do have a birthday coming up soon.)


Technology and Quality of Life

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