I received word from our credit union today that soon we’ll be able to electronically deposit our checks from a smartphone or scanner. I had in my pocket a check that has been awaiting deposit for a week and thought how convenient. But the feature isn’t enabled yet so I walked to the bank during a break in work. I walked down the quad on campus, past trees blooming. I noticed an interesting student exhibit being temporarily installed outside the union called “The Wall of Prejudice”. I took in some of the energy of students walking all around and somehow got to noticing a wide variety of different skin tones and cultural garbs. I got to the bank and stood at the teller’s station. He was stumbling on actions a little and we chatted about how long a day it had been. I commented on the new check deposit feature and he expressed a lingering question whether he would have a job for much longer.
As I walked back to the office I thought about how new research is finding we are constantly loosing days from our lives because we sit for such extended periods. I thought about how I rarely get to the gym, but instead only integrate my exercise into my daily commute and my urban farm chores. And I thought about how technology provides convenience but it also segregates us from people different from us by destroying the chance opportunities for community that we have in the “inconvenient” walk to the bank.
I’m not a Luddite by any means, and have been one of the earliest adopters on a number of emerging technologies over my lifetime. My job is to teach others about the basics of technology. My research is about the application of technology in community to meet community and individual development goals. But I also am deeply convinced that we have the agency and self-efficacy to choose which technologies to use, when to use them, and where. We also can and should stop sometimes, and critically reflect on whether our choices are advancing our goals more than they are hurting them. And we need to take a bigger systems approach to that appraisal, to consider our deeper goals, not just the most obvious, such as what is most convenient or efficient. Sometimes convenience and efficiency are happy byproducts of achieving our broader goals of community development. And sometimes they are the hindrance to those goals.
I certainly will be tempted to use that automatic deposit feature. I wonder if I will, and whether as a habit or only when its the “best” choice within the context?