A Reaction to Nicholas Negroponte´s “Being Digital” Considering Costa Rican Context

Image taken from:https://www.capgemini.com/se-en/resources/being-digital-engaging-the-organization-to-accelerate-digital-transformation/

Reading a book with the content of “Being Digital”, which was written many years ago, is very interesting as it looks like a prophecy that has been fulfilled nowadays. In the first pages of his book, Negroponte makes me reflect upon how everything in that time was becoming digital. He was able to see how things were changing. For example, he was aware of how the music, magazines, books, the newspapers and many other ways of information would “evolve” from atoms to digits which basically means that this kind of stuff will not represent a huge cost in the future and it will not be necessary to pay for packaging or shipping costs to get access to these means of entertainment or information. Indeed, practically everything in the near future will be available to everybody thanks to electronic data and why not, thanks to technology.

He also believed the information will become universally accessible, and it is surprising to see that prediction becoming a reality many years later. We do not need to buy a newspaper to be informed about the latest news of the country. We would only need to enter our social media to know the most recent information regarding our country and even the whole world. Definitively, Negroponte was right about what he wrote and envisioned. He also wrote about the information-rich and the information-poor, and I personally think the gap that once existed between poor and rich people regarding the information access has diminished evidently. We are living in the globalization era, almost everybody has a cellphone, and these smart devices are like a door to incredible amounts of information about everything. The information is moving at the speed light and we are carrying it in our “pockets” as Negroponte predicted.

Nicholas stated that the change was unstoppable, but he also expressed a little concern about it by making a comparison to a childhood conundrum. At present, all those changes have taken place, and maybe some sort of conundrums have come with them. For instance, it is essential to analyze if we are making good and appropriate use of such advances and changes. What are we doing with all the information we have access to? The author mentions an example about reading books without the necessity to go to a library, and we are now experiencing that and much more. Today we can pay the bills without going out; we can order food and any kind of product from our sofa, but we can also work and study from home. So, in my opinion, the biggest conundrum may be what is next? What else in our lives is going to change exponentially thanks to the changes the digital era has brought?

Regarding the prediction that the cultural divide will be generational, Nicholas did it again, he was totally right. At present, there is not such a thing like privileged information to some, and no information to others whatsoever. As I already mentioned, there are lots of information in a little screen of a smartphone, and it is accessible to everybody; however, the generational gap is real. This reminds me about some examples that have taken place in our country. When “CCSS” decided to migrate all the users’ information into digital files and to give appointments only through an app, the most affected sector of the population were adults and the elderly. They were confused and frustrated as they did not know how to adjust to the changes. Some of them even started losing their appointments, and they had to be at 4:00 a.m. lining up to try to get a new one, and sadly it is something that is still happening and can be confirmed at any “EBAIS” of the area.

Another scenario to let us know about this generational divide has taken place during this period of pandemic. Ever since the lockdown started, all the study centers were closed. There was a new reality to students, but also to their parents. No matter if the students and their parents have all that was required for receiving classes from home, talking about the digital devices, Internet access, and expertise, they have to do it by all means. As in the case of “CCSS”, this modality has shown that many people have more difficulties than others. Many parents feel frustrated because they do not know how to help their children using all the virtual platforms. Now the issue is not the information-poor and rich, now it is that everybody has adjustments and changes to incorporate.

Nicholas Negroponte (1995) said “We will socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different role.” (p.7). Currently, we are the witnesses and protagonists of those words. And I would like to conclude by reflecting upon this. Certainly, living in a digital era is nice, interesting, faster, and easier. The changes have brought advantages and useful tools which facilitate our lives in many aspects; however, we must not forget the important things. Being enchanted with the electronic and technological advances may be a double-edged weapon. It may lead us to losing what really is essential. We must not lose the willingness to cultivate our social relationships face-to-face, screens cannot replace kisses and hugs. Being behind a computer would never be the same as physically being in a classroom laughing and sharing with our professors, and classmates. Those kinds of things cannot be replaced by digits, electronic devices, or technology.

Works Cited:

Negroponte, N., Harrington, R., McKay, S. R., & Christian, W. (1997). Being digital. Computers in Physics, 11(3), 261–262. Retrieved from: https://www.aulavirtual.una.ac.cr/mod/url/view.php?id=613509



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