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Whose Fault Is It? The Technology Or The Human Using It?

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on November 20, 2014

In this writing partnership, Melanie tends to think that most often the technology is to blame when things don’t work right. While Shawn often believes it is usually the human operating the technology. Neither one is right 100% of the time. The bigger question is how can you tell which is the correct answer?

Education – The first way to keep the technology from being unfairly blamed for problems is properly teaching people how to use the device in question. In our observation, if people are given the tools to understand something, technology or otherwise, things turn out better. If people are just following a specific set of steps in a specific order with no understanding of why, there is more room for problems. One departure from the prescribed directions and the person does not know how to get the technology to behave. A person who understands why the steps work the way they do is more likely to be able to adapt and keep the technology working if some external force acts on the situation making things malfunction.

Patience – This is the first way to begin to figure out what the problem is. Take the time to talk with the person having the problem and understand the situation from their perspective. Watch what the person is doing. Is the problem replicable? If a behavior can be observed and then changed to get the technology to work right, then it’s the person. If the problem is replicable but all behaviors are correct and right, it’s something within the technology.

Respect – If you do not have respect for the person having the technological problem, there will be more technology problems. Whether or not, the technology is ultimately to blame, the person thinks it is. If he or she believes technology is a problem, the person will develop his or her own (sometimes elaborate) ways to avoid technology. Or even worse, they will ignore or not report other problems with the technology because they believe there is nothing that can be done to correct the problem. Additionally you may also have the user who cries wolf. Even if you know without a shadow of a doubt that there isn’t a problem, you must treat the person like their concern is legitimate and help them through it.

History and Home – Each person has a past, and each person has a home. Technology is so pervasive at this point that most people have a history with technology as well as technology in their homes. The biases and experiences from those involvements follow the person. If they can’t figure out how to program a DVR, they may not have a positive attitude about other technologies. If they have encountered  unreliable technology in the past, they may expect a similar experience from all technological interactions.

Due Diligence – Technology has to be maintained, and problems have to be communicated. All people involved, both those that maintain the technology and the people who use it, have to communicate with the other. There is no way to figure out what the problem is if no one talks to each other. In many instances technology issues have a pattern; finding ways to uncover that pattern via documentation can often make the difference in how quickly issues are resolved.

We wish we could tell you there was a specific set of steps to follow to use to tell whether it’s the human or the technology. But perhaps the ideas listed above will help figure out what the problem is.

Melanie A. Lyttle is the Head of Public Services Madison Public Library. You can watch her YouTube channel, Crabby Librarian, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Rv5GLWsUowShawn D. Walsh is the Emerging Services and Technologies Librarian at Madison Public Library.


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