As technology advances, there is the subconscious habit of allowing it to absorb our lives. Unless monitored, it is easy to spend fifteen or more hours a day staring at a screen. As a result, there is a trend rising with the intention of removing the role that technology, especially social media, plays in our lives. However, the concept of viewing technology as a hazard is nothing new.
Unique to eighteenth century England, the Luddites were a non-national erratic groups of textile workers that destroyed weaving machinery in protest to the mechanization of craft trades. Not against the technology itself, as it is often believed, the movement was concerned with the loss of craftsmanship and skilled craftsmen.
Afraid that the art of their craft would fall by the wayside, bands of non-union workers attempted to repeal the replacement of their role within the industry by technology. However, their efforts were thwarted by a series of mass trials, a majority of which were dismissed in court, but the government had proved its point – vandalism and riots were not to be tolerated.
In a more general sense Luddites, and other groups of workers after them, were protesting the replacement of fine crafted goods with cheaper commercialized products. Due to further commercialization, the modern movement has evolved to call for a rejection of all forms of scientific advancement.
In recent history, radical Neo-Luddites such as Ted Kaczynski, infamously known as the ‘Unibomber’, believe that scientific progress generates more problems than it solves. Sadly, just like the original ideology, these Neo-Luddites promote the use of violence as a means to push their agenda. Somewhat hypocritically, Kaczynski argued the value human potential without technology but used advanced scientific knowledge to create explosives.
Understandably, the future Luddites feared is a reality. As a result, technology has created a vast emptiness within humanity that is evident by the immense desire to generate meaningful work and authentic relationships.
On the other hand, it has also done a lot of good. The industrial revolution has led to, and continues to enhance, the mass production of medicine, food, and needs for survival globally.
Perhaps, there is a need for reflection to reconcile our rapid advancements and the pace at which our species evolves. Rather than entirely focusing on the possibility of evil in technology, as there is the possibility for evil in all that we do, we can further teach a balance of work and culture.
Until the Renaissance, in the 14th century, there was little distinction between those who “made” and artists. A craftsman would provide not only for himself but for the community. This division, known as the Cartisan Divide, separated products made for utility and objects created for beauty.
At the office, craftsmanship is an intimate and integral part of our process. Passion for the conceptualization, design, and reality of our work is reflected in its sustainability and beauty. That said, to stay current, the key is to strike a balance between technology and craftsmanship.
Inspired by my work, our office, and in a personal attempt to spend less time on my phone, I have been researching practical trades that I’d like to explore. In addition to traditional mediums such as watercolor and oil painting, I would love to understand construction through the knowledge of woodworking. Not that I want to disappear to the edge of a forest and become a Neo-Luddite, but a video on log cabin construction has caught my attention.
Of course, I’ll keep my phone on me in case I need to a review a step or two, and will definitely bring a friend, but using modern tools available to the best advantage while still honoring history and the tradition of craft is what it is all about.