The Analog Candidate

A writer in the New York Times discusses why so many people gave McCain a hard time for basically admitting that he was computer illiterate.

So why have Mr. McCain’s admissions of digital illiteracy sparked such ridicule in wiseguy circles?

Computers have become something of a cultural marker – in politics and in the real world. Proficiency with them suggests a basic familiarity with the day-to-day experience of most Americans – just as ignorance to them can suggest someone is “out of touch,” or “old.”

“We’re not asking for a president to answer his own e-mail,” said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley futurist who teaches at Stanford. “We’re asking for a president who understands the context of what e-mail means.”

The “user experience,” Mr. Saffo said, brings with it an implicit understanding of how the country lives, and where it might be heading. As Mr. McCain would lack this, he would also be deficient in this broader appreciation for how technology affects lives.

Exactly. Certainly no one expects the president to spend hours on line.

However our leaders do need to have a good understanding of the public policy issues involving telecommunications that will need to be addressed very soon.

Not to mention some idea of why many of us believe the web is important for something other than boosting the bottom line of the big telecoms (and other large campaign contributors).

3 Comments The Analog Candidate

  1. Dave

    I really hate to fault someone for not being a computer person – I try hard to accommodate teachers who have never really learned to be comfortable with computers.

    However, a president can’t model efficiency in a digital age (and generally run an efficient administration) when he or she just doesn’t used an entire spectrum of productivity tools. It’s like being a carpenter who doesn’t used any power tools — you can get the job done, but the time needed is much higher, and you miss out on a lot of things that power tools just do better.

  2. Dave

    Just saw an article that reminded me of this post and the similar concept of having principals and superintendents who shy from computers/Internet:
    “I posit that the usability and elegance of any product, software or hardware, tends to reach and seldom surpasses the level that satisfies the taste of whoever is in charge of the product.”

    If your principal/director/superintendent knows that technology can be a good tool, then you’ll get to use technology…but if they’re allocating the resources and they don’t have high standards for their technology tools, then you end up with low-bid tools that meet their (non-existent) standards.

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