All posts by Emily

Weaponizing Technology

In John Cline’s article, “What Is a Machete Anyway?”, he questions the potential of technology (the example he uses of this being a smartphone) to be as politically and physically dangerous as a tool like the machete. I think he’s underestimating the range of technology out there.

He references the “Arab Spring” protests in his article as one prominent example of weaponizing technology: where people protested against their governments using the organization and international platforms social media lent them. Those protests left a lasting impact on the political landscape on the entire region one can see today. But Cline seems to think this way of using technology isn’t as long-lasting.

Popular culture disagrees. A trend that has picked up in the gaming world is the use of hacking as a form of combat. The exemplary game that made huge waves because of this was Watch_Dogs (here’s a trailer.) It’s a AAA (which means it’s a big production made by one of the big corporations; guaranteed to be a commercial success) lovechild of Grand Theft Auto and new-school spy films in which the biggest element of gameplay is the ability to manipulate your surroundings using your phone. Most missions rely on the use of the hacking feature to take down whoever you’re working against. In other words, weaponizing technology is something that we as a society are seeing more often.


A more concrete example of objects holding dual purposes as both great tools and weapons is this: a 3-D printer. 3-D printers have a lot of potential to help a lot of people. Through the work of brilliant individuals, you see how objects made from 3-D printers have helped cut cost dramatically for items people need and to act as a method of teaching the next generation.

And then someone created another kind of template to use.



In May of 2013, a group of people created the first fully realized 3-D printed gun. Which had its glitches, but people have been improving upon the original design for the past year. I personally remember the outrage and disgust around the Internet when the news was first released last year. Every commentator said something to the effect of either, “Why would these people corrupt this amazing technology meant for good?” or “It was only a matter of time before something like this happened.”

And I agreed with the latter. Technology grows as humans do; it takes on different functions and shapes and uses as a situation calls for it. Objects, technology in particular, are never inherently good or bad, but they can be painted by how people choose to use them. Just like the machete.

Damage can also be given in different ways. It can be a physical blow, with a machete or a 3-D printed gun, but it could also be information, as we saw in the “Arab Spring.” So I believe that while Cline’s overall analysis of the nature of symbolism in objects was well done, I think that he didn’t acknowledge that damage goes by a broader definition than it used to.

We may not be saying “down to the Apple” yet, but it could be sooner than he thinks.

Blog Post #1: Grounded, From a Student’s Prospective

The idea of writing about objects isn’t a novel concept. If one looks at the work of academics everywhere, one could see how this principle is used to enhance their work. The terminology and imagery behind the idea is novel, however, which is what confuses students in my opinion.

Students today are being torn in different directions. You’re good, you’re great, you’re terrible, you’re not as hot as you think you are. For every class there is a different set of rules to follow. And up until a student gets to college they are never taught about the importance of audiences, which are those instructors expecting different things from the student. No one told us about that basic principle, so we learned to sheepishly follow a five-paragraph format and hope for the best.

Personally, nothing specific comes to mind when I hear “write with objects.” Objects can be everything, which is the point of that word choice, but  that initial uncertainty is enough to stunt any work from a fledgling writer. Trust me: I’ve been one of those writers so crippled by doubt that I barely manage to meet a word requirement.

The best advice I was given about academic writing prior to university was a lesson in the rule of three. For those of you who don’t know, the rule of three is where you can’t have an idea in a paper without three pieces of evidence to support it. The idea is to create something that’s harder to knock down. I envisioned a good paper in this model to be like a stack of cards, but glued down (looks delicate, but really hard to pull apart.)

Having that idea, having that image of how a paper should act helped me tremendously, but it took longer than it should have to get there.

I think a clearer way an educator can express what they want from their students is to say, “You have this idea. It’s not working because it’s not grounded.” This includes the theory of objects, just taking it a step further, I think. It adds action to it, makes the object more tangible because the object can affected. The writer is allowed to have both the concrete feel of the object but still retain that an idea is being pushed forward in a meaningful way.

I think Maguire was on the right track. But he also needs to realize that without other educators with the same opinion and understanding on objects in writing his vision of objects in the classroom is likely to just stay a dream. The dialogue about teaching writing needs to continue, and I think there needs to be more leniency on certain subjects.

The goal is to teach good writing. An educator can do that through both theories, as long as the message explicitly addresses grounding your ideas. It’s easier to do that with objects, but we need to focus on explaining the whys at the same time we teach the hows.

Ground your argument for either theory and let’s get back to writing.