It’s in our hands

by Jenn Watt

A few months ago a study made headlines and got office workers moving across the Western world. It suggested that those who sit to work are cutting years off their lives because they don’t get up and move.

Tips for countering this disturbing new knowledge included things like chugging water throughout the day to inspire frequent bathroom breaks buying an expensive stand-up desk and delivering messages to people rather than emailing.

That study while fresh in our minds is only one of a growing list telling us that our lifestyles are dangerous to our wellbeing – physically and mentally.

Our lives more and more revolve around technology. This is nothing new; throughout human history new creations have driven life. As we invent and discover things we change our lives to adapt to those creations. This has consequences both good and bad.

As Gerald Irish writes this week in his Senior’s Moment column new technology has brought us together. He and his wife have kept up with advances in tablet computers and video chat programs and have been rewarded with the opportunity to talk to their granddaughter as she eats her breakfast in South Korea.

How many of us have had the same experience? Being able to sit with an old friend or family member far away from us is one of the most amazing uses of high-speed Internet and computer technology in recent memory.

But as we adopt new technologies we change the world – and it’s not always value-neutral.

The Rails End Gallery has a new exhibition on now by artist Elinor Whidden that examines the trade-offs we make when we embrace new ways of being.

Called By Hand it features tools used in Haliburton when settlers first arrived. Farm tools animal traps and loggers’ saws adorn the walls alongside some modified items. With subtle humour Whidden has created several traditional objects with a tech twist. A pitchfork features a keyboard. An afghan is made with ethernet wires. A quilt is created using sawed up cellphones.

Whidden’s work draws our attention to the ways things have changed. Most of us still work with our hands today but what we do has changed drastically. While we used to cut trees or crocheted blankets with others from the community now we type at a keyboard or touch an iPhone screen alone in our offices or homes. We are more sedentary and more alone even as technology connects us as never before.

In the Highlands in particular high-speed Internet and computers may be the key to growing our population as work can be done from anywhere – even their docks. Young people can be exposed to culture from around the world on their laptops and family members can be reached at a moment’s notice.

These are changes we should embrace and cultivate without becoming wrapped up in it. We can chat with our cousins in New Zealand on Skype and also remember to meet our friends in Haliburton for coffee. We can write reports on our computers and also get out in the garden and grow our own tomatoes.

As the timeless saying goes: everything in moderation.

 title= Jenn Watt is the managing editor of the Haliburton Echo and Minden Times. You can follow her on Twitter @JennWattMedia .