Written by Kevan M. Sizemore.
Technologist. Educator. Storyteller. Lifelong Learner.
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Holistic Technology Hygiene

| ~500 words | ~3 minutes
#reflection #technology

A 22-degree halo or winter halo around the moon.

There are plenty of credible magazines, blogs, websites, and YouTube videos offering recommendations, reviews, and (most of the time) reasonable advice about purchasing and using technology. Yet, for all that helpful information, I see a few missed opportunities. Perhaps you’ve noticed this as well.

First, surprisingly few articles seem to address good technological hygiene. By that I mean maintaining or preserving its functional/operational health long-term. Not just in the sense of data portability/interoperability or the “right to repair” something, but how to use it in an optimal way and how to mitigate likely causes of malfunction, or damage. Admittedly, this can be challenging given how rapidly technology changes and the inherent uncertainty of innovation. Even so, the long-term viability of hardware, software, or services rarely sees extensive public discourse.

Secondly, consider hygiene in the sense of healthy (or unhealthy) ways for humans to use it. I’m not talking about a general rule in the sense of everything in moderation. Rather, how might consuming certain media or using a device affect humans in terms of physical, mental, social, emotional, or spiritual wellness? If using a technology may lead to addiction, loneliness, social discord, or otherwise negatively impact human well-being, should technology have “nutrition” or warning labels like other consumer products & services?

Finally, and perhaps most challenging, is a holistic perspective that considers how technology may affect the whole person and the family, friends, or communities they’re connected with. It’s easy to talk about the product features, specifications, materials, manufacturing processes, or pricing of a technology. These are essential and expected. Yet I think there’s a case to be made for exploring how technology improves and supports (or damages and disrupts) cultures, organizations, communities, or an individual’s quality of life.

I believe the concept of “holistic technology hygiene” gives us an opportunity to look beyond new and trendy hardware/software/services to the broader context. Better understanding why (or why not) and how (or how not) and when (or when not) to use certain technologies can help us make better choices about how to invest our time, attention, and resources. Furthermore, it can help us recognize and respond when others (ab)use technologies in ways that are counterproductive or destructive.

Unfortunately, arriving at meaningful conclusions about “holistic technology hygiene” carries an immense dependency: broad collaboration. I can offer credible recommendations, reviews, or advice based on my experiences. I cannot independently decide or determine what constitutes acceptable hygiene or a holistic perspective appropriate for every individual, family, community, organization, or culture. I’m dependent on others pursuing these questions and sharing their findings. It’s likely our findings will converge and diverge at different points.

That being said, every person can think about “holistic technology hygiene” the next time they encounter hardware, software, or services. Caveat Emptor!

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