Friday, July 29, 2011

Audits, Atavism and Affinity

Yes, yes I know again with the alliterations, but hey I’m a sucker for a good literary device (used correctly of course). These words though as dissimilar as they may seem all serve purpose in this blog post; one leads to the other. It all started with the first word in the title: Audit. Now you’re probably thinking why the hell is an anthropologist talking about audits, especially this anthropologist who never took one business class in her life? Well first off, good question and second this was the starting point to this whole saga that has been on my brain lately. I will then start at the beginning.
It is important to note first of all that I work for a government contracting firm and per working with the Government we have to be ISO certified. To be ISO certified you have to go through this long audit process. So for the past month my supervisor and I have been scrambling to get all of our contracts, strategies, org charts, HR files, accounting manuals, etc all ready for the audit. All of this was leading up to Wednesday when the auditor came in. He was very friendly and he immediately warmed up to all of us but perhaps a little too much. He wouldn’t stop talking. A total of 9 hours he was there and I’d say for about 5 hours of that he was just shooting the breeze about any topic under the sun.
Now don’t get me wrong, any of you who know me know that I love talking with anyone about pretty much anything. So you know if I say that this guy talked too much that he TALKED TOO MUCH! Intermingled with all the chatting about who the Redskins were trading, the debt ceiling and his daughter going off to college we actually got some anthropological topics in. We started to talk about technology and how technology was seemingly taking over the world. Now of course I engaged him in this conversation for a bit before stating “Well I could go on about this forever but let’s get back to business.” We then got some business done but of course he was back to talking about the new Chevy he bought and government subsidies.
You get the point then, he talked a lot and it was perhaps one of the longest times I’ve ever just sat in a conference room. The funny part is though that he found his way into my blog even with being an irritation. The talk about technology got me thinking about a blog post I wrote back in March called Anthropological Perspective on the Media in which I talk about how as a society we are so reliant on technology for everything that if we were to have some large nuclear event that wiped out all the computers in the world there would be no imprint of us. Of course I brought up this idea when talking to the auditor and he whole heartedly agreed with me.
Technology has been both our curse and are gift. Information can now be found so fast, you can communicate with people in ways you could never before and records can be kept more easily. On the flipside books are starting to become obsolete (which as a writer really saddens me), newspapers and other news sources aside from websites are becoming less popular and people are communicating more but actually interacting less. The latter part then brings me to the next word: Atavism.
Now for those of you who don’t know, atavism is another word for regression. With technology we are regressing as a species even though as a society we seem to be progressing. My go to example for this phenomenon happens to come from a movie which I actually don’t like very much as a movie, but as an anthropological study is ingenious. I’m talking of course about 2001: A Space Odyssey. The whole concept of this movie is evolution both of man and of technology. The movie starts out with a bunch of apes circling around this monolith that shows up. The apes are confused grunting at each other and trying to communicate what is going on but it is hard since they have yet to develop actually speech.
Then the movie fast forwards to 2001 (which for a movie that was made in 1968 is the distant future) where technology has overtaken man and it becomes a race between man and computer to obtain this very same monolith that now is on the moon. In the process man has become cut off from other men due to the computers. This movie then shows a regression back to the days where men were still apes trying to grunt to speak with each other but instead of speech being the issue technology is. This of course leads us to the last word: Affinity.
What is affinity you ask? Put simply it is connection between two or more individuals; connection that we are now losing because of technology. Now with texting, emailing, facebook, twitter and all the other social media devices we don’t ever have to actually see a person to correspond with them. In fact I have been equally guilty of this as anyone. Last summer I lived with my roommate in a two bedroom apartment and there were many a times that we would text the other to see if they were awake, wanted food, wanted to go out, etc. We could’ve just as easily gotten up and walked the five feet to the other’s room. Technology has made us impersonal.
There is however another side to this affinity. Technology has actually helped us connect more in some cases than we ever could before with people we would never meet if it wasn’t for that. The greatest example is twitter (since you all know that I am a twitter addict). For me twitter is a place that I have met tons of people who live all around the world that have my same interests. These are people who I would’ve never had the chance to meet before twitter and other social media. Even this very blog couldn’t be produced without the aid of technology.
So am I telling you to get rid of all technology? No of course not, gods know I couldn’t survive without it. What I’m hoping is that this will make you think about it more and use other avenues than strictly technological ones to communicate, gather information, read, etc. There needs to be a balance like in everything else, balance that the auditor was severely lacking the other day. Now we have come full circle in this little saga here which as you know always continues and will never reach a stopping point just as technological advances will also.

Image from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick


None said...

Have you heard of the concept of biology being a societal construct (language, perception of bodies and its functions)? You should check up on that - it makes me question my reliance on science.

Barton Wilson said...

How did the ISO certification go for your firm? Seems like it went well, based on the lengthy talk you had with the auditor. Hopefully, you've had some great news with regards to that by now. Anyway, I wish all the best for you and your company’s future endeavors. Good day!

Barton Wilson @ ISA Registrar

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