LIS 694
Discussion Questions for Chapter 3 of Cortada

  1. What are the salient points the author is trying to communicate here?
  2. Cortada repeatedly uses the words "practical" and "essential." Computers played an essential role in facilitating space travel. It has been said that the complexities of managing a spacecraft would not have been possible until computer technology evolved to the point that it could handle the tasks. In return, the developments of the space industry produced new products like the hand-held calculator. In your view, is space travel a "practical" endeavor? If not, how would you characterize it? Might your characterization also be applied to the attraction of computers in general?
  3. Here in Hawai'i we have experienced a growing homeless problem. Entire families living in their cars or in makeshift camps on the beaches. On page 84 Cortada writes about Americans' sense of ease in using computers arising in part from their familiarity with video games. Would the children of homeless families be given discretionary funds to play video games? Would this disadvantage them in becoming comfortable with technology?

    Sometimes one hears the sentiment that library computers should only be used for purposes such as information seeking or word processing of resumes or other "serious" activities. Is there a role libraries could play in ameliorating the lack of comfort with technology on the part of poor children, in leveling the technological playing field for these children? As you formulate your answer check out the website at and offer your opinion.

  4. Where were you when you first knowingly interacted with a computer? For what purpose did you interact with it? How did you know what to do?
  5. On pages 88 and 89 Cortada lists the digital devices in one California home in 1998. Now there is talk of having a smart refrigerator that can keep track (using barcodes) of what is in the refrigerator and when each item was purchased. The refrigerator could actually be programmed to purchase (via the Internet) grocery staples when it perceives that such items are needed. In the future one might also be able to program one's culinary preferences into a computer and have it plan menus and order the food. How do you think people will employ their time in the future if the majority of such tasks are done for us (as they were for the upper classes who employed servants to do such work in past eras)? Where will we turn our attention; upon what will we expend our mental energy? What role do you think information centers such as libraries will take in that future?

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