How to Think About Technology

Technology is any tool that assists in the completion of a task. A pen is technology for writing on paper, and social media is technology for sharing cat videos (or, perhaps connecting with others who are interested in cats). In any case, it is important to understand that technology is simply a tool to get things done. It is not always digital. This understanding makes for more deliberate decision-making about all the technologies used in a project. Too often, government teams think hard about whether or not to use digital technologies, but don’t think twice about chairs, pens, rooms, books, etc. When technology is considered broadly, it forces you to consider all the various mechanisms used to get things done.

“It is important to understand that technology is simply a tool to get things done.”

At the beginning of a process, just as it is important to identify precisely what tasks you want to accomplish, it is equally important to lay out precisely what technologies you want to employ. Sometimes that will mean setting up a Facebook page or building a new website; and other times it will mean bringing sticky notes, sharpies and flip charts to a meeting. By being upfront about what technologies are used and why, it will help adjust expectations of their use and set realistic goals. It will also help designers make conscious decisions about even “small technologies” such as fliers, placement of chairs in a room, Twitter campaigns, etc. and not let “big technologies” steal all the attention. According to Arial White In New Orleans, digital technologies are “...not a replacement for the one-on-one connections or for showing up. [Technology] is not a replacement for having open policies…it’s like a “yes and”. Digital and non-digital technology is an addition to analog and human interaction that can help remind and nudge people about what they can do and what the engagement process can look like. “There’s a place for technology but it’s not everything.”

Things to Keep in Mind
  • Technologies are tools that get things done - from office supplies and fliers to social media and mobile apps.
  • Digital technologies can supplement, but never replace, offline engagement efforts.