What technology *don’t* you use?

Interesting mind stretching video with Kevin Kelly… via Kottke

I’m interested in how people personally decide to refuse a technology. I’m interested in that process, because I think that will happen more and more as the number of technologies keep increasing. The only way we can sort our identity is by not using technology. We’re used to be that you define yourself by what you use now. You define yourself by what you don’t use.

What don’t you use? For me, it’s not so much as a refusal, perhaps I am just starting to optimize. I don’t drive or have a car any longer, no TV, TiVo-like device, DVD player, land line or AM/FM radio, recently deleted accounts on most social networks that were value-negative. Removed all Office tools and replaced them with open source versions. “Voicemail” is no longer voice, it’s text that is transcribed. Oh, I actually do refuse one thing, a microwave – have one, don’t use, don’t like it.

30 thoughts on “What technology *don’t* you use?

  1. Stephen says:

    I think that he starts from the assumption that people do and should (?) define themselves by the technology they use. I don’t think this is really true for a lot of people. I’m a PC I’m a Mac advertising aside most people just use the stuff and leave defining themselves around it to bigger, more permanent, things — their job, family structure, belief system, sports team etc. It’s a big difference to say “I’m a Christian husband and father” compared to “I’m a Thinkpad X30 guy.” I really, really think that if you’re going to define yourself by a negative it needs to be bigger than “I don’t own a Zune.”

    I’m sure that there is a huge group of (tech oriented) people who define themselves as Ruby On Rails people or C++ people or Macbook people but I’d suggest that it’s possible to just be a guy who owns a laptop, an MP3 player, a PVR etc and being able to pause TV isn’t something that you’d mention in your autobiography. It’s just not for me and it’s just not everyone. I don’t imagine that prehistoric hunters defined themselves as flint headed spear guys, I reckon they just thought of themselves as hunters and providers etc.

    1. Zee says:

      For me it’s unfathomable to define myself through a sports team. For me professional sports is a sort of background noise that has no relevance in my world view. You probably feel the same way about technology.

      Just as prehistoric hunters defined themselves by the class of hunter they belonged to (archer, spearman etc.) so do we define ourselves by what we do with our technology. Still I think what we do with it is more important than the tech itself.

      1. Stephen says:

        Not at all, I really like technology and I don’t really like sports. That’s not really the point. The point is if you’re going to define yourself based on the team you support you don’t change what team you support every 12 months when your contract runs out.

        Are you really able to define yourself by the sort of phone you use if you’re going to get rid of it in a year’s time? That sounds like a very fleeting self image to live by.

  2. Lee says:

    I think it’s the other way around. I think the kind of person one is will, to some degree, limit or define the technology they use.

    There are all types. Fan boys who’ll only use a specific technology because it’s who they are loyal to (like their sports team or politics). Those who are detached from technology preferences and just pick what ever is right for the job. And those who refuse to use technology on principle.

    I’d say many people make decisions based on one or more of those facts. For example, I use Linux exclusively at home I like the freedom (principle) and stability it provides (right for the job). There may be a little fanboy-ism there too. I like it :) I use Windows/Linux at work (right for the job) and have used Macs in the past (right for the job) and would do so again if needed. I don’t use cell-phone texting because I feel the carriers are grossly overcharging for a basic service (principle).

    There are so many factors in human behavior, I think it’s impossible to generalize us based on a single aspect of our lives (like technology usage) and be accurate.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Honestly, a lot of my tech refusal boils down to, “I can’t afford it.” I don’t have cable, thus I can’t have any kind of recording device any more (thank dog most shows are online now). I want a smartphone/organizer (well, mostly the organizer), but it’ll triple my phone bill to get one and given that I am always living in Possible Layoff Limbo, I don’t want to start upping my bills any.

    I don’t drive, but I live in one of the few towns where I can get away with that.

    On the other hand, Facebook bored me after 2 days and Twitter is just stupid. Do not like it, do not want to participate, do not think posting only a sentence at a time is fabulous.

  4. dokein says:

    Cable television, a video game console, and a camera phone.

    Cable and video games I’ve avoided because of an awareness of the limits of my abilities of self-control. I’ve had access to either on enough occasions to see that if available I will waste countless hours at the expense of things that I enjoy and value more. So by the time I could afford cable, I decided I didn’t want it. And when I won a free XBox 360 from Mountain Dew before they were for sale in stores, I sold it on eBay.

    While I really have no use for a camera phone, and it’s never struck me as a particularly useful juxtaposition of devices, I’m not philosophically opposed to one. But avoiding one is a requirement of my job, and a phone I can’t take to and from work is of no use to me.

  5. Sue D Nimh says:

    So I don’t use HDMI, BluRay, Facebook, Twitter, Flash, IE, anything I have to sign in for that doesn’t offer a significant benefit, anything that sells my private information, things that have planned obsolescence (non-stick fry pans are the chief annoyance). I do use when possible things that provide significant benefits (saving time, money or energy or providing an information firehose) like 95% efficient furnace, CFDs, microwave, satellite+analog TV, DSL, wireless LAN, digital camera (I increased the number of pictures I take by at least 10x by moving to digital), and yes, cell phone because I don’t have to hang around the phone waiting for an important call. I use text messages only to reach my son who won’t reliably reply to other forms of communication. Email because it is an efficient and persistent communication/information medium. I drive a 9 year old car with 232K miles because it still runs reliably and still gets 34 mpg, better than all but a handful of models on the road today. I would rather use Linux at work, but I am stuck with Windows. I prefer a Mac because it works the way I think and access to lots of open-source and the command line when I want it. More and more I am reducing file formats to plain text with markup (HTML, LaTex) for my personal and school work and using open-source because they allow my data to belong to me, now and in 30 years. I think you could call me a crusty curmudgeon.

  6. Simon says:

    I don’t use (or even have) a radio in my car. I like driving too much – without distractions. You can’t double clutch and heel/toe if you can’t hear the engine revving!

    And I don’t do social networking sites. I did once, long ago. But thy seemed pretty pointless then and see to have gotten worse now.

    And I don’t watch broadcast TV.

    Oh, and I don’t like electric drills with keyless chucks!

  7. anon says:

    I am a person who loves technology and gadgets to the point where I acquire things just to play with and learn about them. I try different computers, software and OSs just to try them out; I mess around with microcontrollers and electronics just to learn about how the different components can ‘talk’ to each other. This behaviour has made me the ‘go-to guy’ among friends, family and coworkers.

    The interesting thing about this is that all of the people in my life really notice when there is a technology that I choose not to use and *they identify me* by that choice regardless of my reasons against using the technology. For example, I have never had cell phone service and I don’t really have any desire to get it. My reasons are that cell phone service (where I live) has terrible call quality and frequent dropped calls while land-line service always works great and is cheaper. I also don’t really like talking on the phone and really don’t want to carry a phone with me. People are always shocked when I tell them I don’t have a cell phone number and my friends joke that if I ever do get a cell phone, it will be a sign of the apocalypse.

    I think my personality or identity is that I am somewhat private, prefer quality over convenience, and don’t like to be locked in to a particular device or service provider; instead, people just identify me as “refuses to use cell phones” and often treat me as though I am just being contrarian. I think the idea in the video is true, and I think that it is somewhat unfortunate.

  8. benc says:

    I dont use rss feeds, as neat as they seem on paper. also, no twitter, radio, bluray, or television(although I will download a show once in a while).

  9. lungofish says:

    The Onion beat this guy to it, by almost a decade:


  10. Bert says:

    I live and die in the IT world. Yet when it comes to certain technologies, I am quite adept at their use, but shun them given the chance.

    Example, I hate text messaging on cell phones. My work phone provides unlimited free texting, so it’s not whether the capability exists or not, I choose not to use it. My personal cell is just a simple phone which is all I want or need (work forced me to carry the smartphone).

    Yes, I email, program, twitter, sort of use Facebook, use Win/Mac/Linux/Solaris on a regular basis. I troubleshoot smartphones from just about every major carrier. I can even do remote support by instructing non-technical people over the phone. I’m good, certainly not the best, but I’m definitely on the cutting edge of tech.

    I prefer the dead tree printed word. I love to hand write my notes. I prefer LPs over CDs over MP3s. I shave with an old fashioned straight razor. I even use tube gear in my ham radio setup. The only reason I have a Wii and TV are that they were given as gifts and they see more use by my children than by me.

    I refer to it as being a “techno-luddite”. I am able to use and know all about the latest and greatest when it comes to technology, but despite it’s existence and cool factor, I need a compelling reason to acquire and use it.

  11. jeff-o says:

    There are a few technologies I avoid. The biggest is a cell phone. I’ll hold out as long as I possibly can – I don’t want to be reached 24 hours a day, I don’t want the distraction, and in Canada it just costs way too much.

    I’ll avoid e-book readers as long as I can. They just can’t beat a regular book IMO.

    And lastly, digital music downloads. I want my hard copy! I love it when an artist releases an album with a nice, thick booklet, a unique case or best yet, a copy on DVD-Audio. Bliss.

  12. Mark PIpkin says:

    I started using OSS a few years back. It started with Linux and has moved on to other things. I feel that people should be paid for there work, but I also feel that it should be open enough to all for evolution of the software and hardware. It is the only way that humans will continue to evolve.

    Think about the light bulb. If it was invented today, there would be no way that it would cost $2.00 for a bulb. Only one company would have it and because of that IP, it would cost other companies that wanted to make it $10 to license the build of each light bulb and that would be passed on to the consumer. Thus your light bulb would cost you about $15 to $20.

    Not being Open Source can really stalemate and economy, development, and the further evolution of humanity as a whole.

    That is what I base what I have started to base the technology that I buy off of. I run Ubuntu as an computer OS, I have an Android phone, and I’m looking into getting an gaming console that follows those same guide lines.

  13. Luddite says:

    As we become more dependant we lose a lot of our inate skills. Often we have surrendered our abilities for the sake of conveniance. I try to avoid becoming dependant on tech that serves no REAL purpose, I use a cell phone but still buy maps. Maps don’t require a charger.The more technology intrudes on my life the more of a luddite I become…If it can’t be done with a stick and a rock I question if it needs to be done at all.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

current: @adafruit - previous: MAKE, popular science, hackaday, engadget, fallon, braincraft ... howtoons, 2600...

View more articles by Phillip Torrone
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).