07 December 2010

Where the Future is Still in the Future

An Austrian friend of mine once joked that if the world came to an end, Austria wouldn't notice for five years.  Although a disco house track inexplicably titled "Barbara Streisand" has somehow become far and away the most popular song in Austria, the world has not yet come to an end.  Nonetheless, I have noticed that Austria is slow to pick up on some of the latest trends, at least when it comes to personal technology.

Austria certainly has an extraordinary standard of living and an advanced energy infrastructure, but when it comes to technology use in everday life, Austrians seem less cutting edge than Americans.  As I tend to be slightly techno-phobic, this is relieving for me at times.

While in America people are enjoying a new iPhone App that allows them to see what's in front of them while they are walking and typing, Austrians are more likely to send letters and almost always pay with cash.  Older Austrians tend not to have internet access and newspapers here are not facing the same budget crises as their American counterparts.  During a lesson on technology and new media, many of my students laughed at me for suggesting that VCRs were obsolete and few responded kindly to my crack at landline telephones.  In a country where most university-track students are still required to learn Latin, perhaps this conservative approach to technology is not surprising.
In Austria, old things work
and old people don't
I have also noticed a major divergence with regard to technology in schools.  While American education wonks are gaga for Smart Boards, PowerPoint, and standardized testing, both of my schools still rely on chalk (albeit chalk of many different colors) to hold students' attention.  Austrians teachers still write and grade their tests by hand and many scoff at the idea of Scantron machines.  But sometimes older technologies are the most reliable; as I've discovered, overhead projectors malfunction less frequently than computer labs and their finnicky projectors.  In fact, I've developed an unlikely romance for the overhead projector and I find it's really quite useful for teaching ESL.  Plus, as any student could tell you, there's just something about seeing your teacher's magnified spit froth on the big screen as he vigorously rubs the Vis-a-Vis off a slide with his many-colored thumb.

And a relevent relevant word of the day is die Zukunft, or "the future."  In German, I sometimes like to add the phrase der Zukunft, or "of the future," to nouns to make them sound more exciting.  For example Architekt der Zukunft - "Architecht of the Future."


  1. Barbara Streisand (the song) is HUGE here too! have to say that after a million plays, it's growing on me!
    see you soon!

  2. OOH I would kill for an overhead projector!! So fun. I use PowerPoint in most of my classes but it lacks all of the wonderful grit and spit... a shame. Also what are you insinuating about the connection between Latin and technotardia?