Resistance is Futile
We are the Borg. Resistance as you know it is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
– The Borg
At work my employee computer ID is QA4268. If someone logs into our CMS and wants to search for something that I have created, they can’t use my name, they have to know that QA4268 is me–or that I’m QA4268. Hmmm . . . now that I think about it, that is a teeny bit disturbing, which brings me to the article, Beyond Ethical Frames of Technical Relations, by Steven Katz and Vicki Rhodes. In it they state, “Have you ever noticed how some systems or procedures at work–say, a time tracking system, registration process, or evaluation procedure–are more adapted to themselves, more focused on their own efficiency and operation, than on the human being who is the ostensible object or user?” (p. 235)
They even follow this quote up with a specific mention to most CMSs and how they are often guilty of this–the one where I work is no exception. The software has all the technical capability that we require and is capable of fully delivering on everything we ask of it, but in many ways it ignores the requirements and limitations of the people that need to use it. For example, almost all the information about how information is related to each other is presented in lists or tabular reports. While this does provide all the detail, people are visual beings that work best when they can visualize relationships. The CMS asks us to bend people to the machine rather than bending the machine to the people.
The problem, as Katz and Rhodes, describe it is that you can’t separate people and technology when defining processes, procedures and tools. More and more we are merging with our technology (both literally and figuratively) to become some sort of hybrid. Katz and Rhodes point to examples like automatic spell-checkers and Bluetooth headsets as examples (p. 240). The point, as I see it, is that we need to view the relationship between people and technology more holistically. When we say that we want to implement a CMS, we can’t just select a tool and then throw people at it. Instead of a CMS we should be implementing a CME (Content Management Ecosystem). To get the most out of these technical relations, we need to make sure that the technology complements our people and that our human skills fully exploit the capabilities of our technology.