my wonders of technology

As we planned a weekend away, many thoughts came to mind as we gathered our things that we need and prefer to have with us during even our short times away from home. Sure we took clothes and all of those other necessities, but we packed plenty of technology too. We took a three-hour trip which requires things to do for my wife and son. They are both avid readers, but also enjoy video games. So the DS, iPad and portable DVD player were packed. They watched a movie onboard our flight as I piloted our car to our destination. This gives me time to ponder, meditate and dream up more posts for the blog since I prefer to drive. With that list our two cell phones, digital camera and FlipCam struggle to compete as impressive.

As we closed in our own destination I pulled out our GPS to land us accurately at the first stop on our trek. In the old days, my wife navigated for me from a map. For those of you younger than 30, that’s a paper copy of what you see on your iPhone GPS app. Once you unfold it, no one can fold it back again. It still bothers me not to have a good sense of direction of where I am and where we’re going. So I check maps online ahead of time and I tend to use the map mode of the GPS and not that weird mode where it looks like you’re driving into the thing. How does that help? All it tells you is you’re going forward. I also remember the old days where we left an itinerary with the hotel phone number with our parents before we had cell phones.

So as I’m writing this I’m sitting in our hotel room Saturday night using my laptop which we bring along so we can check email on the hotel’s WiFi service. We won’t stay in a hotel unless it offers complimentary WiFi…and free breakfast too (preferably with “make-your-own” waffles). Classy places we choose huh? (Off topic…but did you ever notice that the more you pay for a hotel room the less complimentary services you get… go figure?). I don’t do work on these days off, but when you run your own business, it’s impossible to go for two days without at least checking email. My wife has her digital routines as well.

I say all of this to tie in my week of work…as an architect…where I am using technology to supposedly advance the higher causes of the profession of architecture. Despite using email, PDF files and the web to communicate with contractors and vendors during construction, I’ve been using a few recent projects to force teach myself to use a BIM workflow more (yes Randy, Tara, Enoch, et al). Give me time; it’s a love/hate relationship. I finally got on board with some aspect of “the Cloud” by signing up for a Dropbox account too. I was introduced to it in my role in teaching at CMU. Yet a frustrating trip to a popular cafe for lunch and a bit of work (where I forgot my flash drive) made me realize I needed a better solution for file management and backup. Wow, that’s a lot of technology in a single week for a guy who is most happy with his sketchbook and a wood office pencil.

The final thought as I drink in all of the radical changes occurring in my lifetime is what is it really improving? We supposedly work more productively and share information in split seconds. We can build complex structures that were nearly impossible before because of computational design and hopefully we’re saving the planet from the past bursts of technology. Yet as all of our information is floating around out there in cyber world, I have to wonder about it. I worry about it like we are all like Hansel and Gretel giddy about their find of a house made of gingerbread, candy and sweets while the witch is inside heating up the stove. These are my wonders…how about you?


photos are from Wikipedia (used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

my wonders of technology

17 thoughts on “my wonders of technology

  1. Hi, Lee. Loved this post and was pleasantly surprised to see your shout out. Who was it that said the most beautiful sound on earth is the sound of one’s own name?? Well, I digress…

    As always, you take it to the next level with your critiques and posts. You are the Andy Rooney of architecture…with half the cynicism.

    Here’s to technology! Looking forward to more thoughts on BIM…

  2. CC Hampton says:

    This weekend I has reason to look at the website of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The menu includes an area “of interest” within which is the item “Slowness” that contains the statement “Slowly, the tools of the hand disappear”. The statement is proceeded by the observation that clutch pencils, leads, eraser shields and templates are becoming unavailable. The disappearance of these tools accompanies the disappearance of drawings done by hand and all the idiosyncratic details and musings they include that reveal the hand of the designer. Those revelations are like the voice in song. Technology seems to substitute efficiency for sentient experience.
    GPS devices are producing rooms full of people who have no idea where they are in the world or even their own city.
    I do I not sound like a Luddite or fatalist?

    1. What a great article to mention. I used to make my students at CMU read that. Maybe I’ll get it out again as a requirement. That article sums it up and you may have inspired a future post. You’re not a Luddite or a fatalist any more than I am. The Luddites had a great cause and it gave us the Arts and Crafts Movement which most people love. We need a new movement…the New Luddites?

      1. I don’t advocate for hand drawing CD’s anymore. However, there is a time for it early on. I see too many Revit designed buildings, especially in the trade magazines…yuk.

  3. Hi Lee,
    Hi, how are you? As Enoch said, it was great to see my name mentioned in your blog– thanks so much for the shout-out!

    I love the comments- especially talking about the Luddites…yes! We most definitely need a new movement called the New Luddites. Just look at any typcial family at dinner in a restaurant (like my family, for instance)- it’s simply a habit to pull one’s Droid or iPhone out and look at it to scroll the Twitter feed or check Facebook or email. It really takes strong self-discipline to put the phones and handheld computers away and simply enjoy one another’s company without outside interruptions.

    Thanks for the link to my website! Mucho gracias!

    By the way, are you reading Randy’s book? I plan to go back and read it again, including the sections I skimmed over first time ’round. So, what’s the verdict? Do you plan to implement Revit in your practice? I’m still wondering how it fairs for small residential projects…

    Take care,

    1. My worries about technology aren’t just a detachment from human interaction. It goes beyond that to the government having access to our information and the “big brother” syndrome or a real loss of privacy.

      No, I’m not using Revit, I’m a Vectorworks guy. They have a BIM platform that goes far beyond any needs I’ll ever have. I’m still figuring out what benefit I can really get out of it. That’s another day.

  4. I don’t know who said it but one of my favorite quotes is “The cemeteries are filled with indispensible people”.

    When we go on vacation there’s no lap top, no internet on purpose, no checking email. I leave my cell phone at home because that’s the one all my clients have the number to (we do take my wifes phone). Been gone as long as two weeks without all that stuff. And ya know, I don’t miss it at all when I’m on vacation. It allows me to completely relax. Never could quite “get it” regarding the folks who go on vacation but are constantly in communication with their office.


    1. When we travel we spend almost all of our time enjoying our destination and each other. Again, my concern is not so much with having electronics when my family goes away as much as I am concerned about how dependent we are as a culture on them and how much we trust our privacy to the web.

      1. Oh yeah. You and I are on the same page. My reply was to the public at large not to you specifically. Probably could have been a little clearer. But great topic.


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