Does digital technology cost us more than its benefits are worth? Michael Bugeja teaches journalism at Iowa State University and he says the so-called "digital divide" may even threaten higher education. Bugeja will deliver a lecture on the topic this week.
He says he’ll look at the impact of technology not only on our psyches, but on our pocketbooks. "I’m not talking about bio-technology or even design technology, I’m talking about consumer technology — mainly laptops, iPods, cellphones and the like," he says. But Bugeja says while we can use them to communicate, they often drive us apart. He says everybody can get gadgets today and use them everywhere thanks to innovations like wi-fi connections.
Bugeja’s research tells him we’re spending a lot of money on each individual gadget. While he’s looking at how the gadgets affect our thinking and our communities, he finds they’re changing our economy, too. "Just think about it, if you will, if students own an iPod, a cellphone and a laptop — you have to buy the gadget and you have to buy to accessorize and put applications on the gadget, then you’ve got to pay to access the gadget and then you have to have a credit card to buy things through the gadget, then you’ve got to pay interest on your credit card," he says.
That spending adds up before a student realizes the financial burden, according to Bugeja. The "vending" of products and services adds up so fast, he wonders if it’s responsible for much of the bad credit in America. He says people need to learn when to put the gadgets away. Bugeja’s studied the Internet in particular and won national attention for his research on "social network" websites like MySpace and Facebook, and the ways people use them to interact without ever meeting in person. He’ll present the ISU Presidential lecture at 8 o’clock Wednesday night in the Memorial Union’s Sun Room on the campus in Ames.