Quid pro quo #3

Hello Maddy,
I hope you’re alright. I’m sorry that it took me so long to reply. I promise to answer faster next time.

To what extent do you agree or disagree that technology has great influence in shaping people’s ideas?
Technology is all around us these days, there’s no denying it. One can hardly walk the streets without coming across people talking on their mobile phones or sending messages, e-mails etc.
Before I go more into detail, however, let me define “idea” to avoid any misunderstandings throughout the text. “Idea” is not only what comes to your mind when thinking about a problem. It can also be a certain image of something or an opinion. Throughout the text I will try to see “idea” from these different angles. In order to not lose myself in the broad field of technology I’m going to focus on the internet as one of today’s most outstanding technologies.

When you enter a lecture hall at university you will see approximately 80-90 % of the students taking notes on their laptops, i.e. if they’re not surfing on the internet or chatting on Facebook. Anyway, they are not using pen and paper. Well, that’s how it is at German universities but I guess it isn’t different in the US, is it?
So, with all the technology around we’ve become kind of dependent on it (and some have even become addicted). Let’s first have a look at our dependency.
Universities have digitized a great deal of their issues. When I applied for university in 2008 I had to do it online. The only thing I did in person was enrolling after I was accepted. The rest was done on an online basis again and that hasn’t changed. You have to register for courses and exams online. The power point presentations of the lectures can only be found online and so can all the learning materials. Practically everything can be done online. There are even some lectures that are recorded and posted online so no one has to be physically present in that lecture. So you can imagine that if your internet doesn’t work for just one day you might miss a great deal of what’s going on.

A second example would be politics or rather political ideology. While in school you’ll hear about gangs that exist all around the world. You’ll hear about the bad things they do but then things might become quite different. One of your friends reads about Gang X on the internet (Gang X is a gang I invented for the purpose of answering your question. Should it really exist then its pure coincidence). Of course the first pages are encyclopedic articles, pages of Anti-Gang-X organisations or newspaper articles. But somewhere, not even on the second page of the search results, there is a link to the homepage of that gang. Now that your friend knows one side of the coin he wants to get to know the other as well.
After some time the ideas, which until then lingered somewhere in his subconscious, will surface. All it needs is a trigger and for some people they are easy to find. So now this friend of yours, who’s been a nice guy so far, blurts out what he’s read on the homepage of Gang X, e.g. a defamatory statement against a foreigner. If he doesn’t start rethinking he’ll sink deeper and deeper into an ideology that is no good. Of course I don’t consider any of your friends to be like this. I just used “your” and “you” because I wanted to avoid the use of “one” and “one’s” which I find quite impersonal. And believe me, German can be quite an impersonal language.

So, you see that technology, in this case the internet, can shape our ideas to a great extent. TV can do the same with all its advertisements and shopping programs. Even the Discovery Channel can influence our ideas of certain things. I think there are few ideas being shaped without technology these days. Of course you can read a lot of books shaping your ideas about certain topics but with the internet only a handful of people do so.

Well, that’s it. I hope I didn’t lose myself in my explanations. I’d very much appreciate your comment 🙂

Last but not least here’s my question for you: What are your hobbies and what do you like most about them?


Five of the Week #20

“You can hear it in my accent when I talk…I’m German” – well, it was something like this, wasn’t it? Anyways, Germans have problems (and sometimes a terrible accent) when talking in their second language. But so do others. What I find quite remarkable however is the fact that we tend to “germanize” words we adopted from foreign languages. Maybe doing so the words don’t feel too strange anymore. I don’t know. What I do know are some of the words we “germanized” by pronouncing them in a funny or strange way. Well, here they are (or at least some of them).

1. Bonbon
This is a french word which, translated literally, means good-good. The ‘o’ is a nasal vowel and the ‘n’ is not pronounced. German people tend to neglect these facts. Actually we add and substitute letters (m and g) so that Bonbon becomes Bombong.

2. Chillen
“Chillen” derives from the English word “to chill”, the ‘-en’ showing that it’s the infinitive form of a German verb. I guess I don’t have to explain how it’s pronounced in English, do I? However, many Germans (especially older people but also many teenagers) pronounce it like ‘shillen’ (the ‘sh’ is pronounced like the ‘sh’ in “shift” or “ship”).

3. Container
Another English word Germans use to pronounce in their own way as we usually say “Contähner”. The ‘ä’ sounds like the ‘a’ in “bad”. So, just say “bad” and stretch the ‘a’ for a second or two, then try to pronounce the ‘ai’ in “container” the same way. It’ll sound quite strange.

4. Thriller
This is one of my favorite words. A lot of people, not only from Germany, have problems pronouncing the ‘th’ so that “thriller” becomes “sriller” (the ‘r’ can be pronounced in a German way too).

5. Psycho…
Take any word containing ‘psycho…’ and you’ll see that in English the ‘p’ is silent – in German it isn’t. However, we Germans tend to substitute the ‘Ps’ by a ‘Z’ which we then pronounce like ‘Ts’. Consequently, ‘psycho…’ becomes ‘tsycho…’.