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U of M cultural studies expert Harvey Sarles says the technology we use says a lot about us. Image courtesy Creative Commons.

Technologies have "become us" and maybe we've even "become them," U of M cultural studies expert finds

April 12, 2011

From iPads to BlackBerrys and Skype, a lot has changed in recent years in how we use technology to work, play and go about our lives. But what does this technology use say about us as individuals and a culture? A University of Minnesota cultural studies expert who can provide insight is:  

Harvey Sarles, professor, Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, College of Liberal Arts

Sarles says there are several approaches to explore the impact of technology – personal, professional and cultural. “When my grandkids were given Gameboys when they were about three, this seemed to preoccupy them, and we felt a bit like we had ‘lost’ them,” Sarles says. “That’s what they did a lot and it ‘became them.’ And, I think a lot of the technologies have ‘become us’ or we've ‘become them.’”

Sarles says technology also has a simple “fun” factor. “iPhones, for example, are a great deal of fun to keep track of one’s friends and family. My son and grandkids are in Wales right now and we get a couple of new photos each day. That’s simply fun.”

The technology we use at work, for example, also says a lot about who we are, Sarles says. “I am my Apple Macbook Pro to a fairly large extent. It appears I can’t live without it and it's amazingly convenient.”

Sarles says one could broaden this exploration to include other technologies and scientific advancements. “Maybe the largest life-shaping one in my lifetime has been ‘the Pill.’ This maybe has led to much thinking about women’s bodies and identity.”

But these technologies are really changing our thinking about who we are. “We may be constantly texting every spare moment and yet less in contact with actual people,” Sarles says. “I've been avoiding some of these, if nothing more than I want and need thinking time when I’m walking around and want to see the flowers, the people, the river and smell the air.”

Sarles’ research and teaching specialties include science and religion, human nature and cultural criticism.

To interview Sarles, contact Jeff Falk at (612) 626-1720 or; or Tessa Eagan at (612) 625-3781 or

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Tags: College of Liberal Arts

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