The Media and its Techno-Ignorance

Sponsored by

It is pretty obvious from listening to the mainstream media that the talking heads don't understand the technology. They sure don't understand the Internet and its freewheeling culture. More importantly, they fail to understand the principle that "a big enough quantitative change eventually leads to a qualitative change," as one philosopher put it.

But above all, the mainstream media don't understand technology PEOPLE. They confuse technology management with technology workers, in a way that does not seem to occur with other industries. For example, when did a news article about technology issues -- imported high-tech replacement workers, recruitment of high-tech employees, an Internet sales tax -- ever interview rank-and-file engineers or programmers? Instead, the media will typically talk to a consultant, or more often a corporate spokesperson, a spinmeister. The media continues to promote the ideas, the values, and the agendas of corporations and their front-men. They do not speak for the average techie.

This doesn't happen in sports. Sportscasters don't try to get the players' viewpoints by interviewing the coaches, the owners, or the cheerleaders, do they? This doesn't happen in schools. Newscasters don't try to get the students' viewpoints by interviewing the teachers, the principals, or the custodians, do they? No, of course not. They interview the actual individuals involved, recognizing that there is a schism or difference of opinion between the viewpoints of management and the viewpoints of workers, and between children and their elders. But in the tech world, newspeople seem to totally miss the boat. They fail to recognize the far greater schism between tech workers and tech management. The difference between the priorities and the values of tech workers versus their "owners" is far wider than in any other field.

Even the so-called "enlightened" or "non-mainstream" media outlets (including those that are web-based) make this huge mistake. Look at the example of and its article, "Techies like Ashcroft." The article claims that techies like the Digital Copyright Act -- what a scream! Techies despise the machinations of the corporate-government complex to restrict information exchange and the educational use of copies (fair use and other such concepts). It is tech MANAGEMENT and OWNERSHIP who love such Orwellian schemes and their supporters. Or how about the fallacy that techies like having more foreign replacement workers, which Mr. Ashcroft voted for? What a foolish notion! Nobody likes being replaced by a cheaper, less-experienced worker. It is tech MANAGEMENT and OWNERSHIP who love to cut costs, lay off geniuses, and exploit permatemps under the threat of instant deportation. Both mainstream and "counterculture" forms of media are absolutely in the dark about the beliefs, the values, the opinions, and the struggles of the everyday Joe's and Jane's who strive to overcome the oppressive, anti-intellectual cultures in most companies (even high-tech companies).

How can the media be so ignorant and uninformed, even misled, about worker-management schisms in the high-tech workplace? It is because the media people themselves are out of touch with the average techie and his/her lifestyle. Think about the kind of movies made about tech issues in the last ten years: "Hackers." "The Net." "Sneakers." Yes, they were cute and entertaining, but they hardly spoke for the real engineers, programmers, and scientists among us. Nobody does. The media, both left and right, are somehow incapable of grasping the fact that the people they shunned and despised when they were in school together -- the smart people, the technically wired people -- have a culture, too. We have a culture that is every bit as valid as theirs, and concerns and issues that are every bit as valid as theirs. Most of all, our culture and our values are NOT the cultures and the values of the managers and the owners who pay our wages. As long as the media fails to grasp the huge chasm that separates our cultures, they will never understand technology or technologists.


[ Top | Home Page | Faq ]

Copyright © 2001, Tom Nadeau.
All Rights Reserved.