Humanities & Technology
Prior to my working at Opoloo, I had always resisted technology as best as I could. This has to do (I think) with my kind of upbringing: in my earliest years on the farm of my grandparents who necessarily cherished manual labor, later with a lot of books. I found technology terrifying, but mostly because it was something unfathomable for me. I just didn’t get it and never made an effort to lower the barriers, partly because I’ve always preferred letters to numbers, partly because it was just too abstract for me to grasp. In confrontation with something, feeling like an idiot usually does not foster your attachment to it. True, although I was a late adopter of the internet, I grew to love its merits, but its real possibilities eluded me.
After a thorough education in literature, culture, philosophy, and critical theory I knew I didn’t want to become a high-school teacher. I had the opportunity to start my dissertation and academic work was what I was after. But knowledge, as far as I’ve been able to find out, has less than zero calories and you can’t spread it on your bread.
I needed money. Soon I'd be so broke I wouldn't even have been able to pay attention. I knew I was good with words and organizing things, although I had no idea what that meant.
When Opoloo and I started talking I had a Macbook, but only because I needed something to write and organize my thoughts with (and because a friend of mine worked with Apple). I also had a Samsung phone. One that you could flip open. One that could not do anything but make calls and send messages. Without a camera. Naturally, without apps or web access. My brother calls them mildew phones, because they can’t do anything but go moldy.
After talking back and forth, the guys at Opoloo asked me: “So what do you think about working with us?” I was on my way into town, clean-shaven for the first time in years to have pictures taken (two things I perfectly abhor), in order to apply for jobs. “I’m in”, I said. “You’re not just going to be a writer, though,” they enlightened me, “because that’s way too lame. You’ll be our content strategist. Read this.” They sent me a copy of Erin Kissane’s The Elements of Content Strategy, digitally. I knew PDF, but a digital book? ‘You must be out of your minds’, I thought. I printed it and then devoured it in two sessions. This was what I wanted to do. Finally a perspective, something that made sense, a beginning.
It’s been a love story ever since.
Why am I telling you this? I have a feeling that the humanities deserve a much broader recognition, far from their own core realm. The humanities are perhaps the most encompassing field of study and explicitly focus on the organization and access of a vast spectrum of knowledge about people (which is why they’re called humanities: they analyze and try to find out “what it means to be a fuckin’ human being”). Which is exactly what the web and the technology around it is about: humans, interaction, communication. Any business working in this area can profit from the humanities guys.
People with a background in the humanities have a very different and educated eye for a huge spectrum of businesses. But most of them just don’t know it. Fortunately, at least some large businesses and a few small ones have understood the merits of adding these people to their teams, but we need more of them. And we have to make them understand that they can do awesome, fulfilling work — seemingly far from what they studied, but really close to their actual set of skills.
So don’t be afraid of falling.