Gomez’s (The Nomad’s Labyrinth, 2013) philosophical treatise that asks cleareyed questions about technology.
In short, interconnected aphorisms and anecdotes, the author, who describes himself as “a painter, lawyer, writer, musician and father,” aims to get readers to interrogate the ways that digital learning shapes their understanding of the world and one another. His far-ranging argument addresses various ways of learning, including oral storytelling, music, dancing, and art; along the way, he offers a generalized discussion of Indian drumming and tackles composer Arvo Pärt’s minimalist tintinnabuli music. Throughout, Gomez expresses concern about how the digitization of communication has flattened the ways that people share information, hindering the types of knowledge and connections they can build. Instead of indulging in enriching pastimes, he says, technology has increasingly tethered people to their jobs, turning them into “information shepherds that manage data.” This book is filled with astute observations, including musings on cell phones’ incessant data-gathering, as in fitness apps that track one’s walking and slumber patterns: “Slowly we’re taking the leisure out of walking and the rest out of sleep.” However, his free-flowing style also results in non sequiturs that come off as naive (“Just drum together, then see what the results are”) or curmudgeonly (“Emoji’s [sic] reflect a bipolar psychology, all nuance is forgotten and only the green or the red pill is available to express and cope with the vicissitudes of everyday life”). Gomez’s self-reflections produce some fascinating insights, but there are moments in which his work might have benefited from a wider lens. At one point, for example, he shares his experience at a Verizon store, where he scrolled through a display iPhone to find an article in The Atlantic on meditation. The experience strikes him as ironic, but it doesn’t complicate his technological cynicism. Gomez’s argument also takes a sharp turn when he asks millennials to “set aside their phones to get out and march”—a plea that seems to ignore recent, youth-led movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street.
A thought-provoking attempt to upend hyper-efficient, data-driven learning models that’s hampered by a limited viewpoint.