ASSOCIATES (vol. 5, no. 1, July 1998) -

Michelle M. Weil, Larry D. Rosen
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997
ISBN: 0-471-17709-1, $22.95
Reviewed by
Bob Farnsworth
Senior Library Technical Assistant
University of North Florida Library

If the use of modern technology in its many forms is starting to get to you, it may be time to read this book. This is especially true of those of us who supervise others or who deal with patrons who are just beginning to be acquainted with technological advances. So if you're feeling like you are the only person in the world who just can't make that blinkety-blank computer, VCR, or some other device work, relax. You're not. And the authors do know how you feel because they, too, have been there, done that--and, yes, have survived the experience! Dr. Michelle Weil is a clinical psychologist. She specializes in overcoming technophobia. Dr. Larry Rosen is a professor of psychology at California State University. He is an expert on human/computer dynamics. However, make no mistake. This is not a technical book full of jargon. Rather it's written in a reader-friendly form by two people who frankly admit that technology is causing problems, headaches, worries, and fears for many people.

The authors remind us that there is a dark side to the wonders of technology, and it's called TechnoStress. Even as technology increases efficiency and expands human horizons, it is infringing on some of the most basic human needs. Is this just an irritation--or something more serious? The authors both feel that it definitely is a serious situation. It is important to recognize that the seemingly tiny frustrations that people experience every day have a cumulative negative impact on psychological and physical health. Technology may do wonders for us, but it is also doing something to us. TechnoStress is a word that was invented by a clinical psychologist, Dr. Craig Brod, in 1984. The authors, unlike Dr. Brod, do not see it as a disease. Rather, they think of TechnoStress as any negative impact on attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, or body physiology that is caused either directly or indirectly by technology.

We are reminded by the authors that change itself makes up a natural part of our existence. And like many other kinds, technological change is not completely good nor completely evil. An evaluation has to be made. The pertinent basis for decisions about technology involves the idea that, in order to get the most from technology, we must choose between what we actually need and want--and what we are told we need and should want.

All too often, we find that we are becoming TechnoStressed because we are persuaded we need the very latest and fanciest technological wonder--when in reality the current product is sufficient. An analogy--how fancy a toaster do we really need to perform the function of making toast?

Another situation to remember is the type of skills that will be needed when technology is implemented. An example given tells the story of the corporate vice-president who is told to use e-mail--but he can't type!

Also, if you are supervising others, it's wise to remember to show them why they should be using the new technology (and it's assumed here that you yourself have found it to be beneficial!). For many people, there's a built-in resentment to having to learn a new skill or technique for what appears to be no good reason. Thus training and explaining are so very important--both in nearly guaranteeing better quality work and in nearly guaranteeing employees comfort with the new systems.

If you yourself are subject to TechnoStress, perhaps reading more about the field or checking with someone who appears to be using the technology to an advantage will help you determine that, yes, there IS a point to it.

Also, the authors strongly suggest Techno-Playtime in which novices try out new devices. This is particularly true in the introduction of computers. Yes, games should be played, time should be spent just exploring, and buttons should be pushed. It's extremely beneficial for setting up learning to just try it--without attempting to accomplish any set task. One can see what happens when that button is pushed. And one can also see that it doesn't cause an explosion! Confidence at trying new tasks begins to appear.

What other positive steps can be taken to overcome TechnoStress? First, develop an attitude in which you believe that you are an effective agent of change. Yes, you CAN do it--even if it takes time to learn how!

Second, when something doesn't work right--don't just walk away and try to avoid it. It probably isn't going to go away. Rather, ask for human help. Others have had the problem, too. You're not the first--and you're not alone!

Third, and this holds particularly in our Library field, go out of your way to help others who are having problems that you know how to solve. By teaching them, you reinforce your knowledge and your own self-confidence. Finally, if at all possible, try to get involved in the introduction of technology in your work/social areas. Remind those in charge that real people will be using the machines and will need basic real world instruction and answers.

In summary, the authors present what they feel are the three most important points to remember: 1) You are not alone in your concern, discomfort and fear of modern technology; 2) You are not the only one who has a difficult time learning to use the new technologies; and 3) You CAN overcome TechnoStress--and can make technology work for you!

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