Note — Sep 05, 2021

Technological Lessons From the Pandemic

If you are like me, you might very well be quite tired of reading about the pandemic, which is why last week I skipped over this essay at LibrarianShipwreck. Definitely good to circle back to it though because it’s an insightful consideration of this moment of transition in “the information age” and in the pandemic itself, which is not done of course, but perhaps close enough to it for taking stock before everyone moves on. The pandemic is/was a blunt instrument but it did shift a number of habits and changed the way ‘we’ understand digital technology and our use and acceptance of it.

The author considers the inequalities in technological access, which were revealed more clearly through who can and can’t work from home, as well as who could and couldn’t access services. Then over two sections, how so many of us longed for techno-scientific solutions and were both shown right with the arrival of the vaccine, but also blatantly wrong (if you paid attention) when all the “social, political, economic, and historic hurdles” were revealed and tripped over.

[E]ven as many people lamented events and conferences being transitioned to “online only,” this switch made many of those events more accessible to many people. And when considering the various individuals who have benefited from some of these technological shifts it is worth recognizing that a wide variety of groups have benefited in one way or another. […]

[T]he pandemic has clearly shown that the embrace of digital technologies has largely served to maintain a status quo in which those who were doing pretty well before the rise of digital technologies continue doing pretty well while those who were struggling before the rise of digital technologies continue struggling. […]

the point here is not in any way to oppose the vaccines, or to question their efficacy (I am fully vaccinated, and have been since May), but to consider the ways in which the narrative surrounding vaccines has played into a broader technological narrative. […]

It is understandable to be frustrated with the people who learned everything they know about vaccines from reading memes on Facebook—but it’s important to remember that those aren’t the only people who aren’t vaccinated. […]

[T]he pandemic is about more than just a virus—it is also about the social, political, economic, and historic forces at work that have exacerbated the virus, and though the vaccine works great against the virus…it has trouble curing those deeper social, political, economic, and historic problems.