How do you work with digital tools? How are they helpful to you in solving problems related to school, work, or social life? What problems have they created for you in the same three domains?
I actually really don't use digital tools too much for school. I'll use ChemSketch to draw molecules if I'm being a mess, or the Citation Machine to do citations, which I literally hate, but primarily it's me, Microsoft Word, and my textbook or something. I guess it's easier for a science student, since so little of our work really DEPENDS on the internet.
I do use Wileyplus and Webassign to do online homeworks. It's pretty much exactly like regular homeworks, except given to me online. I do them out by hand, and except for occasionally using Web Calc 2.0 for calculations, it doesn't change the manner in which I think about my work.
...I can't imagine a time when I would turn to a digital tool to help solve problems related to school, work or social life. That seems like it would rely far to heavily on the human element.
I'm a biology student, and in one sense I agree that science students and full-grown scientists don't technically depend on the internet. A lot of science has to do with discovery in the natural world, which often you can't do very well online. In another sense, I completely disagree and believe that the internet and other digital tools have become indispensable to science. The work of scientists is primarily inspired by the previous work of other scientists. The internet allows us to access all these works in a fraction of the time it would take to hunt them down in library archives, and allows us to disseminate our own findings with the same ease.
All I can say is, hurrah for ChemSketch, Scopus, and Science Direct which help me when I do GC-MS analysis. I no longer need to look up molecules by hand.
I use several programs from Microsoft Office on a regular basis, as well as Minitab, SciFinder, Google and Google Scholar, Pandora, R, and the beloved Wikipedia. All our course scheduling is done on the internet and it is our primary way of communicating with our administrators and our teachers. The biggest advantage to using digital tools is their speed- I can find, record, rearrange, and present information much faster with the internet and other tools than "by hand," if that term means "without the internet or a computer." My handwriting is also very bad, so my professors definitely prefer my assignments typed. Yet there is nothing more intimidating to me than staring at a blank Word document trying to think how to fill it with a worthy assignment, so I draft or at least outline most of my assignments with pen and paper. Getting more personally involved in this way makes the writing process easier for me. Maybe this is more evidence that relying on digital tools depersonalizes many aspects of our lives.
Alot of the tools that I use everyday (MSOffice, Adobe InDesign, journal archives, etc.) are all recreations or reimaginings of non-digital tools. Reading about Wikipedia in Benkler (maybe? It might have been in Shirky) about how the encyclopedia functions and maintains its integrity as a reliable source because the contributors share a common notion of what an encyclopedia should be, I came up with a question: Would Wikipedia be the same if the majority of its contributors weren't familiar with physical encyclopedias? If it is still around in fifty years, will tools such as Wikipedia be different when its staff and volunteers are unfamiliar with the physical inspiration? Trudging to the library and riffling through the stacks seems to be a dying endeavor and so every college student that I know turns to Wikipedia or some other digital reference before choosing to visit the library's reference section, though we're still familiar with the standards of the print editions. I can see how some of the tools of our generation are different because of our changing notion of what creates the finished product in digital space. For example, creating a playlist on an iPod is a really different creature than mixing a CD, which was different from arranging the tracks for a vinyl. Concepts of time and length have changed with each technology and I don't think its unreasonable to say that someone who grew up with vinyls would approach putting together a playlist differently than someone who has only ever known playlists.
Honestly, I think I'm going to be one of those doctors who've gotten lost in science because they don't know how to type. Technology is way, way fast and ugh, I don't know that I can always keep up.
I use Google Translate when I need to write a Spanish paper. I also use Scopus to look up stuff for my science classes. The only time I really use the internet for my work, though, is for non-science homework. When I need to write an English paper (forgive me, English majors and professor) and I've spent all my time doing work for my science classes, I go online, find stuff that matches whatever thesis I have, and write a paper based off of three different sources. This is bad, I readily admit. Oh, my non-science-part-of-my-degree-that-is-so-empty! My chemistry is fine, thanks, but humanities, English, Spanish = all bad.
Again, I don't think that technology makes me dumber per se. The injudicious use of it doesn't help, of course, but that only speaks to my own nature. Technology doesn't force me to do anything. True, it might make me more inclined to be lazy, or at least make it easier for me to be lazy, but I still choose to be lazy. I still choose to be the one who doesn't read all of the books for my English class. Technology just gave me a way out of it and found a way for me to still get a decent grade without doing all the work.
Btw, I read an article about Google and its effort to put everything online. My question is, if everything ends up going online, then what about the rest of the world who doesn't have internet? Would they be able to access this wealth of knowledge? Is it right to give this wealth of knowledge only to the people who have internet?