What's a computer? [eat y'self fitter!]
June 21, 2010 7:57 PM   Subscribe

What career could I go for that involves no computers whatsoever? Does this exist? Can I hope?

I just got done with the worst five weeks of my life—the Computer Skills class required by my community college. We learned Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, and I threw up the whole way through. I plan to never use these programs or anything like them ever again. In fact, I've always disliked computers, and it's seriously getting excessive these days. I want a job that will keep me away from Blackberries, e-mail, social networking, Twittering, Facebook, text messaging, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and anything that involves staring at a screen. I am a much better person after I've been away from this type of technology for a few days.

For about a year now I've wanted to teach university-level philosophy, but all this talk on philosophy blogs indicates that it is normal to teach (or even, gasp, be made to teach) with PowerPoint slides (or SmartBoards—such a pointless concept), and professors are having their students submit all papers online, which I believe is becoming mandatory. I don't usually enjoy classes taught with slides (they're a crutch, if you ask me...I like overheads because at least you can write on the transparencies), and I can't read on a screen for more than a minute without the screen starting to spin. Worse, my last few classes have required that the students buy expensive access codes to input chemistry formulas into little boxes online and take tests online to keep things "organized" and "easier" (things that could be done more easily on paper, especially chemistry, thank you very much). Of course, this could be got around if the use of technology in the classroom wasn't becoming so widespread and, in many cases, mandatory for teachers to comply with. (I also like smaller settings, and I think a lot of teaching is done in large auditoriums, from what I've heard and witnessed.)

(I used to want to be a musician but I was tired of how much time I had to spend on the computer setting up Facebook accounts and music profiles and online distribution stuff.)

Anyway, that was the best plan I've had so far, so maybe you have suggestions. Please don't post if it's just to tell me to "get used to it", because I am only 19 right now and if I can avoid being in a job for the rest of my life with the kind of technology I described, I'm doing so. I know I'm a Luddite. I have reason to think that more consumer technology in life isn't always better, and many of you probably don't. I know.

I'm interested in logic, [analytic] philosophy, religion [mostly just Judaism and Christianity], and history. I would like to stick with something like teaching, even if I end up teaching Hebrew School or something. I'm also vaguely considering seminary (and I have this idea that religious schools would be better to teach in, too; I don't know why I think this...maybe because I assume better architecture). I think I'd like a job where I go in and out of dealing with people (teaching university would cover this/ teaching public high school would not, I think).

Are there any winding paths that might be worth considering? Any way I can get around the elephant in the room that is this weird, blind commitment people have to using technology all day, every day? (PS—I don't mind alienating people by telling them I don't use a cell phone.)

...God, that was so unnecessarily long. Sorry about that novel.
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Work & Money (72 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm interested in logic, [analytic] philosophy, religion [mostly just Judaism and Christianity], and history. I would like to stick with something like teaching, even if I end up teaching Hebrew School or something. I'm also vaguely considering seminary...

I hate to break it to you, but even my crumbling, broke-ass seminary uses technology such as online testing, bulletin boards and PowerPoint. I really think it's impossible to not use technology in a career. Even when I worked in fast food I had to stare at a screen.

Is there any reason you don't like technology? I see a lot of ranty "but I don't like it!" in your question, but no real reasons for that. Is it because you see yourself as a philosopher first? Is using technology somehow contradictory to how you see yourself?
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:06 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you teach very young children at a kindergarten or in primary school you're unlikely to have to use computers in the classroom (very much).
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:07 PM on June 21, 2010


There are lots of places in the world which are desperate for good teachers, which cannot afford computers.
posted by The otter lady at 8:07 PM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you're religious, you'll have no problem finding a luddite community. Kibbutzim or the Amish come to mind.
posted by phrontist at 8:09 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you're just annoyed with your computer class and venting (you are, after all, sufficiently cozy with computers to get a MetaFilter account). But I'll answer the question anyway.

You could wash dishes in a restaurant. Really, there are a lot of food service jobs that have either minimal or no computer use as part of the job. Some do, of course, but it's typically not word processing or that sort of thing.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but a career in academia is built on a lifetime of writing, and that writing is going to be done on a computer. Honestly, do you really think you would prefer researching and writing a dissertation without a computer? It seems to me that if you got to know what technology has to offer in a firsthand manner, rather than a mandatory computer class, you would realize that you don't actually prefer 3x5 cards and hundreds upon hundreds of pages of handwritten notes instead of searchable electronic records of research.
posted by The World Famous at 8:13 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'll be hard put to find any kind of job or profession that hasn't been "infected" by technology. It's just a necessary evil. Perhaps what may help is finding a job that allows you to come home at the end of the day and not having to be concerned about checking email or using a smartphone. Also consider having "no tech" days, perhaps on the weekend. I find that limiting my use of technology at home helps me not be so frazzled using it on the job.
posted by Anima Mundi at 8:16 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, I don't have a career path to offer, but I can definitely say that you will not be able to teach without being at least somewhat comfortable with technology. Institutional policies notwithstanding, you will completely alienate your students if you aren't willing to use email and understand (even if not use) the uses of technology in the classroom. Think about the people you go to school with -- you recognize that you're an exception in disliking computers etc., and technology is only going to become more of our moment-to-moment lives.

Have you thought about what it is you hate so much about computers? Can you begin to look at them as a tool with at least some value? Don't you enjoy being able to edit a paper without completely re-typing it?
posted by freshwater at 8:16 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't want to ask an obvious question but... you're posting on metafilter. I take it that when you say 'after a few minutes reading from a screen my head starts to spin' that it's not a physical thing (like needing new glasses or more light) but that you just Really Don't Like It. What is different about this social environment that you're asking us for answers on?
I'm not asking to be a smartass, I'm asking to try and tease out the apparent reasons behind the apparent paradox of your posting here that might help us help you.

Most classes, once you're past the intro university courses are usually not in big auditoriums. Obviously that depends on where you're going, though. I'm not sure what connection you see between architecture and better teaching? Most small scale religious teaching (ie Sunday School of whatever denomination) can be quite rewarding but also full of personal politics.

The jobs with low tech demands that occur off the top of my head are physical/outdoor jobs like landscaper, carpenter, gardener, and other trade-related professions (although even there, you may be expected to carry a cell phone). Or various kinds of artists, sculptors and such. You could go back to being a musician -- and have someone else do the techie fiddly bits for you. So it's possible, but I suspect you will have to decide for yourself what level of accommodation you're willing and able to make for a job that puts you in the sort of environment you're looking for.
posted by canine epigram at 8:16 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am seriously trying and failing to think of any profession that is likely to be around in 30+ years (your working life) that does not currently and will not ever leverage technology as a part of itself. So let's be a bit more specific:

You say both "Blackberries" and "texting"...so I'm assuming you mean any form of mobile technology as well. Am I to assume that if it uses electricity and has a screen, you want to stay away from it?

If those are your limitations, I can think of a very few professions:
  • become an artist in a medium that doesn't use technology (painter, dancer, potter)
  • work as a field-laborer in the agricultural arena...pick fruit, harvest vegetables
  • work in a kitchen, move up the ranks to chef
  • learn construction, and never move up the ladder to foreman or other management
In short (too late): do stuff with your hands and/or body that get you a check. Any significant knowledge-worker-like positions are going to require you, at some point, to use technology.
posted by griffey at 8:18 PM on June 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Some of the best professors I had in college were computer science instructors who did not ever use PowerPoint. Their lectures, samples, and examples were written on the white board as they went.

On the other hand, they also had you electronically submit your assignments.
posted by Netzapper at 8:22 PM on June 21, 2010


I'm not sure what career path is good these days, but leaving aside your technology concerns, I'm not sure that one can build a good career as a university instructor in the liberal arts. It always seemed to me that it was a case of too many people chasing too few spots.

I applaud your desire for the tactile, tangible world. Maybe product design has something to offer you.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:23 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


N-thing the "you can't hide" sentiment, but adding: many university professors, including most philosophy professors, do not use power point to teach. (I have firsthand knowledge of this.) Online paper submission? A completely idiosyncratic choice; some use it, some don't.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:26 PM on June 21, 2010


P.S. Community colleges and ginormous state schools rely much more on technology than "prestigious" four year colleges and universities.

Large intro courses rely much more on technology than small advanced courses.

You're getting a biased sample, methinks.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:28 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone starting an academic career, doing it without technology wouldn't necessarily be impossible, but it would be really ill-advised if being competitive in your field is a concern, and I don't mean because of anyone forcing specific teaching methods. How would you get through grad school without embracing technology? Yeah, you could track down physical copies of sources by going to your friendly librarian and inter-library loaning everything, you could apply for grants by snail mail, and you could organize your notes by hand-- but in the meantime, your colleagues [/your competition for jobs] would be doing all those things faster and more accurately by taking advantage of the technology available.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:32 PM on June 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


P.S. Community colleges and ginormous state schools rely much more on technology than "prestigious" four year colleges and universities.

Most of the time, yet one can't even avoid technology at small colleges. Consider the example of 3 college students in a documentary film-making class who choose to give up computers for 3 weeks, and make a film about it, Disconnected.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:34 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assuming this isn't a joke (and you've got a blog and are posting on MetaFilter so...) and assuming you live in the US or a similarly developed first world country, are you willing to leave? Or radically alter your lifestyle? Move to Alaska and become a subsistence hunter. Become a farmer in a third world country. Teach rural students certain parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. Live with an indigenous tribe in some remote place, like Papua New Guinea. Become Amish.

Those are just a few of many ways you can avoid computers for the rest of your life. But you aren't going to do so by maintaining your current standard of living in a first world country.

Of course if you consider mobile phones to be computers (and they increasingly are) you should be aware that they are rapidly becoming popular even in third world countries that have little or no traditional wired telco infrastructure.
posted by 6550 at 8:34 PM on June 21, 2010


There are careers where you don't have to use computers. My mother was a literary agent for 40 years. It would be possible for her to do her job without computers; all contracts could be typed on a manual typewriter from boilerplates, the way they were back in the day, and manuscripts could be delivered by courier, which they still are a lot of the time anyway.

I suppose people could call instead of emailing to make lunch dates, like they used to, and if Publishers Weekly is still around I guess it's possible there would still be a print version. I'm pretty certain the Times Book Review will still be there every week on good old fashioned dead trees.

But I genuinely can't see any of this working without faxes. Are faxes OK?

It is worth pointing out that she is the last of a generation. People defer to the technology she has embraced, like email, and leave aside the technology she eschews, like Skype, out of deference to her. I am not sure that industry will be so tolerant of a low-fi approach to publishing in 10 or 20 years.

There's a reason people retire.

Will there still be faxes? I don't see a lot of telex machines in action anymore.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:35 PM on June 21, 2010


I think you may need to reframe the problem. It's not really a career issue, because even if you were to win the lottery tomorrow, I'm guessing you would find yourself just as surrounded by screens in your life of leisure. Unless your friends and family eschew all email, Facebook, Twitter, et. al., and feel the same way you do. In which case you might want to ask them how they cope.

My sense is that if you're going to have to make computer avoidance your thing. As in, that's your subject, what you write about, teach. The kids are gonna know you as the prof who doesn't use computers/tablets/holodecks, so you may as well own it. So work through your feelings on the subject. Write about it. On a typewriter I guess.

And if you decide teaching's just not compatible, consider becoming an apprentice or journeyman. I'm pretty sure carpentry and blacksmithing are mostly analog.

Oh and also, this comic might inspire you.
posted by condour75 at 8:37 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you teach very young children at a kindergarten or in primary school you're unlikely to have to use computers in the classroom (very much).

This is totally anecdata, but my daughter (rising 2nd grader) has had computers in her classroom since kindergarten, and would have had them in preschool if she hadn't attended a hardcore Montessori preschool. In first grade, they had a a bank of computers along the wall of their classroom that they used to take reading tests and their teacher (at least70 years old) did assessment of their reading ability using a Palm several times throughout the year. My daughter attends a highly-ranked public school in an affluent neighborhood, so if you teach in less-privileged environments, YMMV.

You probably don't want to hear this, but...

When I was 19, I had some off-beat poses about the world that I was very committed to. They had a good emotional payoff (I get it and the rest of these dumbasses don't! I'm special!). But ultimately I came to realize that tools are just tools. The tools don't define me (the tools I objected to, FWIW, were different than what you are objecting to, but they are all just tools). YOU matter, the tools don't. So be the best you possible, do what you want to do, and don't sweat the tools. Twenty years from now there will be all new tools, and our current tools will be the stuff of mefi nostalgia posts. But you will still be there. You will endure. Master the tools as they rise, and then adopt new tools as they rise.

Focus on you and what you have to offer, and put the tools in their right place.

Taking a guess, I would say that you don't know what you have to offer, and you're afraid that you don't have anything to offer. You are wrong.
posted by jeoc at 8:38 PM on June 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


Construction? Gardening? Plumbing? Cooking? Early education (pre-K, K)?
posted by equalpants at 8:42 PM on June 21, 2010


As someone having remodeling work done on their house, I don't see the skilled trades people using much computer technology so if you are good with your hands with excellent attention to detail there are many interesting jobs to do in that vein (finish carpentry, masonry, tile work, plumbing, landscaping contractor, etc.).

You could also consider working for the local or national parks maybe in a teaching capacity educating the public on nature. Or perhaps working as an educator at a historical area like Williamsburg or other locale specializing in authentic recreations would probably keep you away from technology for the majority of your time.

Or you could consider a job where you accept the portion of your job that requires technology, but where you are immersed in the past on a day to day basis, like being a museum curator, or a historian. Or what about a job as a tour guide on trips around the world where you have a chance to educate your audience and don't spend much time in front of a computer?
posted by cecic at 8:42 PM on June 21, 2010


I run a daycare. I advertise online, email clients, write contracts and look for inspiration, activities, etc. online but to do my job I don't need the technology. I could do everything without even touching a computer. Would I? No.
posted by Abbril at 8:43 PM on June 21, 2010


If the problem with computer screens is a physical one (one can do things that are difficult by breaking it up into short pieces, so despite your use of computer here, I'm not going to *assume* otherwise), have you been thoroughly checked out medically for it?

Perhaps there's something that could help--better glasses, eye exercises, ADD meds, different color schemes, larger text size, better light, shaded lenses in glasses even if you don't need eye correction, anti-glare screens. Perhaps software designed for blind computer users could be useful.

I'm sure there are a lot of other things that might help, whether it's a physical issue or it's that you simply hate computers and despise using them.

If you want to get through grad school and teaching without using a computer, perhaps you could earn extra money to go towards hiring a research assistant to do your typing in school, then have a teaching assistant to handle such things when you're teaching. It would be a lot more expensive, a lot more work, but I think it could be done if that's what you really want.
posted by galadriel at 8:43 PM on June 21, 2010


Teaching at a university and not having an email address that you check frequently is an unforgivable disservice to students, IMO. That being said, if you are brilliant, people are generally willing to forgive all manner of quirks. I had an engineering prof who used yellowing overhead transparencies and hand-wrote exams in big Sharpie marker.

Be a missionary? Social service worker with a focus on rural poverty? A yoga/meditation/fitness instructor? Better yet: endeavor to live a whole year (in a big city, say) without any sort of (personal) technology, keep a journal and publish.

I don't know if it's realistic to imagine you'll get through any sort of post-secondary education without Powerpoint, Word, and Blackboard/Sakai...but best of luck!
posted by ista at 8:47 PM on June 21, 2010


You can't get through college and grad school in the humanities without using some word processing software. You will need to write papers on a computer (or at least, someone will have to type them up for you after you write them longhand). Probably you'll need to communicate via email. If you want to do research in philosophy, you will probably need to use computer databases in the library to look up journal articles. The rest of it is optional.

Powerpoint and course websites are optional in my experience, but if you're taking courses or TAing you will probably have to do what the prof chooses in that regard.

You can certainly get by without a cell phone, social networking sites like Facebook/Twitter, and some of the other things you mention.

Here's some general advice: You are setting up a kind of black and white scenario here, throwing out the baby with the bathwater, where the only kind of job you want is one with no technology. For the reasons everyone's pointing out, that is unlikely to fit well with your other current goals.
I have found in life that when I dislike something that is very prevalent, the best approach is to minimize my contact with it but accept that I may have to have some contact with it just as a price of living in the world. I try not to let these compromises eat up too much mental energy, since I want to focus my mental energy on more important things like actually getting to do the things I like and value. If I have to make some compromises in order to do things I value, that's ok.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:50 PM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's more nuance to technology than you're allowing. One can choose to let a little of it into your one's life in order to reap the benefits - communication, information, access, efficiency, monetary savings, etc. - without being overcome, subservient, or a blind consumer. In fact, not doing so would be deliberately handicapping yourself. Billions of people lack access to technology but there is nothing noble about that.

There are three types of paths I can imagine. The first is completely unplugged and on the margins and includes working-class labor/service jobs (to an extent), off-the-grid survivalist, freewheeling bohemian. The second are white collar that are mostly performed sitting at a computer including academic researcher (including most professor jobs), office work, business, design, writer, etc. There is a third in between those two that you might call "careers", that you get by being part of society (thus requiring, at minimum, a phone and an education) but that don't involve the use of technology as a core part of the work. Maybe this is your sweet spot? I can think of lots of examples:
- Development or charity work
- Childcare
- Teacher (younger grades especially, or music, art, phys ed, shop)
- Artist/musician (though you need to network)
- Skilled trades - carpentry, plumbing, automotive, electrician, etc
- Police, firefighter, medic, some kinds of health care worker
- Professional athlete
- Chef

There are lots more. Just imagine a job where the central feature is NOT the processing of information in some form.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:57 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could become a daycare worker specializing in babies under 2 (who shouldn't be looking at screens either).
posted by amethysts at 9:00 PM on June 21, 2010


As a sort of devil's advocate to most of the answers you've gotten so far, may I suggest the following:

I think you might have known this on some level, but asking this question here is like wandering into a candy convention and asking if anyone knows how you can cut sugary stuff out of your diet because you're sick of that crap and it's really getting you down. You know you're not going to get an unbiased answer here. I do think metafilter is probably the best place on the internet if you want to find "nonstandard" commenters, i.e. people who don't fit the profile of twenty/thirtysomething dude with a puerile sense of humor. However, a good chunk of us are still "computer people." I'll mention that I'm sort of a geek myself, although I think I have a lot of sympathy for your point of view; computers are, for almost everybody (myself included, many times) a massive distraction from life.

There's a really simple answer to your question; and I don't know if you just want affirmation in this, but I can offer it: you do not need to use a computer to be a philosophy professor. Some people might make you feel as though these "philosophy blogs" and all this other stuff is a necessity for the profession; it is most certainly not. The necessities of the profession are (a) that you enjoy and have some skill in reading and understanding books, and (b) that you have facility at communicating ideas and being a responsive dialectician. These things have nothing to do with computers. People were doing them without computers for many, many generations, and they will be doing them for a long time after there are no computers left in the world.

I studied philosophy for my undergraduate degree, and then did my graduate work in the philosophy end of political science. I'm thinking back over that time, and in the six years I spent in college I can think of five teachers I had who meant the most to me, who taught me the most and who (I believe) were the most effective at their jobs and well-placed in their careers. None of them ever used computers. I appreciate that they might be outliers; I appreciate that many very good teachers use computers all the time now, and I think that's dandy. But if you want to know if it's possible to be a philosophy professor without using computers, the answer is: of course.

There are hurdles, but they are very small. When one of these teachers, the one who advised me on my undergraduate thesis on Plato, was writing a book for the first time, he hired me to type out the chapters from his handwritten pages. (This was difficult for him not only because he didn't use computers but also because he had a debilitating disease which made the use of his right hand progressively more difficult; but he got by pretty well.) I remember probably the best teacher I ever had, Christopher Bruell at Boston College, always handed out his syllabae (if they existed) in typewritten pages that his aide had photocopied, and asked that anybody who wanted to email their essay rather than turn it in directly email it to the registrar, who would give him a paper copy, as the email address that'd been assigned to him wasn't checked at all.

I have to ponder it to come up with examples, because the lack of computer use didn't really have any impact whatsoever on their teaching. They gave excellent lectures from careful notes, they were clearly very well-prepared for class every time, and they engaged students expertly. I don't think even the biggest reasonably intelligent computer fan would try to claim that computers make these things better; they make some parts of life easier in certain ways, but they are assuredly not a necessity, nor have they even been able to make teaching much easier, to be honest.

If it helps, you should know that they weren't isolated examples. I think teaching lends itself nicely to not using computers, but there are many, many professions where it isn't as necessary as people seem to think. I've know first-rate lawyers who were completely and totally confused around computers; they did excellently in the courtroom, and a filing cabinet made perfect sense to them, so why on earth would they do anything differently? Many, many of the good salespeople I've known – probably the majority – have not been computer-savvy. It's necessary for doctors to be technical people in some ways, but many of the good doctors I've known haven't been people to log on to a computer and check out the internet. Policemen, emergency technicians, military personnel, musicians, artists, psychiatrists, scientists, teachers – none of these professions requires computer use. Sometimes it will be harder to get by without a computer than others, but there are ways to do it in all of them. Most importantly, I've known lots of people that have. You shouldn't be daunted by the prospect, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 9:08 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Two things come to mind ... backcountry park ranger, and unibomber.
posted by crunchland at 9:09 PM on June 21, 2010


jeoc: My daughter (rising 2nd grader) has had computers in her classroom since kindergarten, and would have had them in preschool if she hadn't attended a hardcore Montessori preschool.

Good point. There's a pedagogy that isn't likely to budge much. What about Montessori or Waldorf early childhood teacher?
posted by DarlingBri at 9:10 PM on June 21, 2010


freshwater: “Institutional policies notwithstanding, you will completely alienate your students if you aren't willing to use email and understand (even if not use) the uses of technology in the classroom.”

From experience, I think I can say that this is most definitely not the case. In the cases of the teachers I mention above who didn't use computers, it was never obvious to most students; these teachers were often the most engaging, popular, interesting, and worthwhile people around. Nobody noticed much that they couldn't email their teacher and get a reply back; they just waited for the next class. And I honestly don't think that'll change so long as students and teachers engage each other in the classroom in anything like a worthwhile and productive way.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 PM on June 21, 2010


Go work on a ranch, repair cars or bikes, lay carpet or hang drywall, be a tour guide or drive a forklift. Be a baker or a butcher. I mean, nothing's 100% free of technology, but there are plenty of jobs that don't depend on computer technology.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:20 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


At 19 it's highly unlikely you already have the qualifications necessary to teach. To get those qualifications, or any qualifications, you're going to have to use technology at least to some extent. Schools and Universities use it because it really is faster and easier (and often cheaper), it's not going away. So even if you find a professional job where you can get by using only paper, you won't get there anyway because you need an education first.

There are plenty of jobs around that don't require use of a computer or blackberry or whatever. You want to look for something preferably outside, physical and unskilled (since upskilling will involve going to school, which you've ruled out). When I was picking apples I didn't need to do anything except go out there every day and pick apples, not an electrical device in sight. Same goes for when I hosed out the farm yard or cleaned in a shopping mall. I did have one office job that never used a computer too, opening mail and filing in forms to track what was in each envelope, but it was advertised online like so many jobs these days. None of this was well paid. Running the apple orchard or working with the animals on the farm or managing the cleaning team are a different story, you won't be able to rise to those jobs without using technology. So no career advancement either.

Being a farm labourer or janitor aren't the kinds of jobs that your average mefite does so I'm not surprised many people aren't thinking of them, but assuming you're willing to accept the limitations you're placing on yourself (years of poorly paid, unskilled hard work) then there are definitely options. Certainly none that fit with your stated preferences of course, but if you stop dreaming about stuff you're not qualified for and loook at jobs you can do right now without ever going to class again (hint: pretty much none of the careers listed so far) then yeah, you can earn a living of some kind.
posted by shelleycat at 9:30 PM on June 21, 2010


I think you should become a musical instrument repairer.

You will fix things. You will acquire esoteric knowledge. You will use deduction and logic to diagnose and solve problems in materials. You will talk to musicians and play instruments every day. People will be grateful for what you do. You will have a low-stress life (among the 10 most low-stress careers, apparently). You will set your own schedule and be your own boss. And you need never, ever use a computer.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:37 PM on June 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


People at extraordinarily high levels of political power don't have to use computers. The President of the United States, for example, or members of Congress. Lots of members of Congress not only don't have to use computers, but have no idea how they even work on the most basic level.

So maybe you could run for office.
posted by The World Famous at 9:37 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I teach people to use computers for a living and I have training as a librarian and I work here. None of these jobs would work for you, BUT there are a lot of people I see every day who have had wonderful and fulfilling lives with very little [or minimal] technology use. The one caveat I have to some of what people have said is that... once you're a person in charge of their own life, you can pretty much set your technology levels. Until that point, you may have a difficult time. So while it may be that you can be a philosophy professor with very little tech usage, it may be almost impossible to be a philosophy student without using technology to some degree because other people are setting the standards and it's your job to meet them and part of doing okay in school is doing these sorts of hurdle-jumping game, as LobsterMitten says. So as a metaphorical example, I only want to have jobs where I don't have to set the alarm clock. So that's what I do now, but I did have a few years of early morning jobs before I got to this point which were hard but bearable. So while there might be some screen time in school, often you can ramp up to using less of it if that's your angle. I agree with other posters, it may not be the most competitive or practical way to move forward, but it can be done.

Anyhow, here are what the people who I interact with do for work. They use minimal technology such that they might have to type a paper once in a while, but they don't have to stare at a screen for a job. They are writers and artists, electricians and plumbers. They are beekeepers and they run stores. They are loggers and engineers [some screen time in engineering]. They are farmers and groundskeepers. They are waiters and bartenders. They are policemen and firemen. They are house painters and lawn care people. People around here use a lot less technology because they have less technology and it works okay for them for most things. This is very very context dependent however and some things you wouldn't expect [job applications at all of UVM for example, or filing for unemployment benefits] now require a computer.

There are literally a ton of jobs where you can use little or no technology, although if you expand this to include cell phones, maybe slightly less so. That said, I read sentences like this and get concerned

Any way I can get around the elephant in the room that is this weird, blind commitment people have to using technology all day, every day?

Because while on the one hand, your choices are fine for you, you sound really judgmental about what other people do. Technology solves a problem for a lot of people. The people who come to me to get their first email account at age 84 don't do it because they're trying to be trendy, they're doing it because it fulfills some sort of need that they have. And that's a valid decision. You don't want to use a cell phone, totally fine. You don't want to use technology, that's your choice. If you want to work with other people who maybe do use technology [which you probably will if you stay in the US] I think you're going to run into more trouble with the "I don't mind alienating people" attitude than with the "I don't want to use a computer" one.
posted by jessamyn at 9:38 PM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hello everyone:

Thanks for your answers so far—they are really pretty helpful. I wouldn't be averse to emailing occasionally, but I do have a fear (as someone above mentioned) that because of job demands, it will become my ball and chain. I'm mostly worried that a wider use of technology will be required of professors (as in the way that those access codes we had to buy were required).

I'm not worried about typing papers, for sure, but it's reading papers on computers and e-readers that I don't like. I'd have to make my students print their papers (what if this became prohibited one day, too?) and print any PDFs of articles I find in a database.

koeselitz: I agree. I haven't found a correlation between a good teacher and one who replies immediately to email. I've always found it just as good to approach him/her during the next class.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:42 PM on June 21, 2010


since upskilling will involve going to school, which you've ruled out

Er...sorry, I should have mentioned that I am planning on going to school for a long, long time. I can stand using technology as a student because I am not actually being employed by the school and potentially being forced to use this technology. I can try to avoid teachers who use PowerPoints (which is hard in a community college, but I've had some teachers who write on the board instead), and I can buy textbooks instead of e-books, etc. It's the professional requirement that I am worried about.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:46 PM on June 21, 2010


I think you're going to run into more trouble with the "I don't mind alienating people" attitude than with the "I don't want to use a computer" one.

I'm just surrounded by college students all day long who text during class, and friends who interrupt our conversation to answer a text message, and friends who come over and head straight for my computer to check their Facebook. I hope that one day I will be surrounded by people who could actually accept me saying "I don't want to use a computer" without having to attach a long explanation to it.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:52 PM on June 21, 2010


Why not join a religious order that imposes a vow of silence?
posted by Sara Anne at 10:24 PM on June 21, 2010


Based on your non-engagement with most of the suggestions in this thread I don't think you really want ideas for technology-liberated careers; you just want to talk about being a prof. That's fine, I guess.

My experience with universities is that some form of online systems are inevitable, whether its a mandated content system for courses, or online grades submission, or HR/payroll. These are a product of the times we live in. You would probably be free to teach without PowerPoint; you might however be expected to provide lecture notes to students, if not officially, then unofficially in order to avoid being murdered in student evaluations (which affect your pay raises and tenure application). You might be required to monitor an email address and respond to student emails, either officially or again unofficially. You would probably have to teach large sections. You could probably require printed assignments. You will definitely be surrounded by people (your students) who text in class and complain that you don't want to use a computer or email and be willing to start a fight about it. They'll probably be even more embedded in technology than your current peers.

(Surprising that you complain about college students, want to be surrounded by different kinds of people, and thus your plan: teach college students!)

Plus, I have to say, I smell a bit of a hangup here in which you're making your choice not to use technology into a "thing" and elevating yourself above other people who don't share your values. Being values-based it's a position that's hard to defend and your future students would eat you alive for it. It's only a problem though when you allow yourself to look down on others. Look honestly at your own thinking here.

(By the way if you think you can get a PhD and then be a professor in the humanities you might be in for a shock when you find out about the job market. Do some research. That's much more important than what you're worrying about here.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:33 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think this is an interesting question, and one you should explore in more depth before you start making Major Life Decisions™. What is it specifically that you dislike? Is it the technology itself, or people's reactions to it? Is it fair to blame technology for the fact that it allows people to act like assholes in public?

Frankly it sounds like your fellow students are idiots and assholes, and as an old fart I can assure you that the situation was much the same 20 years ago, if less electronic. Technology doesn't make freshman college students assholes; it just happens to be the most visible external manifestation of their assholery. (Back in my day, we had to wait for a guy to find a way to brandish his Porsche keyring before we could definitively identify him as a douche.)

I also suspect that "technology" is serving as a stalking horse for whatever it is that's really upsetting you. Vomiting, for example, is an extreme overreaction, and hints at deep underlying emotional distress far above and beyond "I don't like technology."

As to the literal answer, as someone who lives in a rural area what springs immediately to mind is animal husbandry. Raising sheep, or cattle, or chickens, or bees, or dairy goats, or horses - these are all activities which require only a bare minimum of computer.

Cheesemaking, soapmaking, winemaking, breadmaking - all wonderful and ancient traditions which continue today relatively unaffected by the march of technology.
posted by ErikaB at 10:38 PM on June 21, 2010


I'm just surrounded by college students all day long who text during class, and friends who interrupt our conversation to answer a text message, and friends who come over and head straight for my computer to check their Facebook.

It sounds to me like you hate the behavior that the technology makes obvious. Your sample may be biased. I regularly hang out with people who don't do this, and yet they have smartphones and netbooks and so on.

You write passionately on your blog about LaTex, so it doesn't sound to me like you hate the technology.

One of my three favorite jobs was one of my first: I was a bread baker in high school, at an artisanal bakery. Possibly the highest job satisfaction of any job I've ever had, and I'm in my forties, and I've been working since I was fourteen. The more hands-on and blue collar your job, the less likely you'll have to use computers intensively.
posted by rtha at 10:39 PM on June 21, 2010


I can stand using technology as a student because I am not actually being employed by the school and potentially being forced to use this technology.

That is completely different than the absolute cut and dry position you're taking in your question. To the point it's actually a whole different question.

Once you're qualified you can make any job your own to the point you don't use technology, assuming you're good enough and willing to take the time. All the stories above about great teachers doing things their own way were about poeple who had paid their dues to get there, which in this day and age means dealing with technology while you learn. So you might as well follow your passions during your eduction, learn as much as you can, and just get over the technology thing in the meantime (because really? powerpoint is no better or worse than overheads, you can even write straight on the board and have it show on all the monitors given the right tools, and yes I use both while teaching). Then be a good enough history or philosophy teacher that a school will let you give handouts instead of post stuff online, get a good enough grant that you can afford a research assistant to download stuff for you (students are cheap, I've been paid to do this), and be personable enough that the students want to go to your office hours rather than email.
posted by shelleycat at 10:58 PM on June 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


The first time you have a student who requires a screen reader or other adaptive technology, you will have to go there, like it or not.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:25 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was suggesting high-end gardening too, but I guess that even there, people work with computers these days; heck, they even use computers for working out model train landscapes...

May I ask, (without in the slightest wanting to kick off an off-topic chat discussion), whether, perhaps, you're left-handed and were (for whatever reason) using your right hand with the mouse (or scroll pad)?
Because if you did, don't, re-set and start from the beginning. And, yes, it could even influence how you read the screen and how you think around computer applications in general. The hate-hate description of your original post suggests that there is something unsolved somewhere, is what I mean.
posted by Namlit at 12:48 AM on June 22, 2010


I use a computer every day, yet I would say my job is about as close as you can get to what you describe. But that's because I program, and everyone in my business knows I program, and know I cannot be bothered to create PowerPoint presentations (no. fucking. way.) I also hate phones, cell phones in particular. I don't own a landline because I have a cell phone. I only carry the cell phone in the car for emergencies. If someone wants to talk to me, they either send me an email or they physically talk to me because they know the cell phone would only go straight to voice mail. I fucking hate text messaging with the fury of a thousand suns (what's that, you say? I can spend ten minutes trying to write a half-intelligent sentence using 9 buttons, or I could just fucking tell someone verbally what I want to say in ten seconds? Oooh, sign me up! And charge me more for it! Kids are fucking idiots.)

I'm just surrounded by college students all day long who text during class, and friends who interrupt our conversation to answer a text message, and friends who come over and head straight for my computer to check their Facebook. I hope that one day I will be surrounded by people who could actually accept me saying "I don't want to use a computer" without having to attach a long explanation to it.

Well, that's because you have shitty teachers and shitty students. Because when I was teaching, any of that shit and you would have your ass thrown out of class faster than you can say WTF. And Facebook? Fucking miserable example of what can be done with a computer. People that use Facebook? Fucking miserable examples of what can be done with humanity. You might be able to take a cue from the Amish here: shun the imbeciles.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:57 AM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


There are lots of jobs that don't involve computers - actor, builder, plasterer, plumber, cab driver etc. The problem is, if you ever wanted to become a manager or set up your own business then you will need to learn.

In addition, some of these jobs are becoming more computerized - it was and is entirely possible to be a landscape gardener without a computer, for example. But increasingly computers are used for design purposes. On top of that, computer interfaces are sneaking into other areas through smartphones - such as how cabbies manage incoming bookings, for example.

In summary: yes they exist. But in lots of cases they severely limit earnings potential and there are limited guarantees that they won't use computers in some shape in the future.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:18 AM on June 22, 2010


There are plenty of 'manual' jobs that doesn't need computers. For example, at my father's factory the welders and mechanics and machinists work from paper drawings, there are very few computers on the workshop floor. And there are other jobs like that - Tree surgeon, plumber, personal trainer, driving instructor, electrician, chef, bus driver, theatre lighting technician, sport instructor, lumberjack, miner, music tutor, private tutor for highschoolers, dance instructor, taxi driver, tailor, producer of craft products, and so on.

Of course, business owners and managers in these professions need to use computers.

There's a really simple answer to your question; and I don't know if you just want affirmation in this, but I can offer it: you do not need to use a computer to be a philosophy professor. Some people might make you feel as though these "philosophy blogs" and all this other stuff is a necessity for the profession; it is most certainly not.

I think you should find an academic you like working in a subject area you're interested in, and discuss this with them.

Certainly, in the area of academia in which I work, avoiding computers would require others to do a lot of work to accommodate you. Philosophy might be different, though, which is why I suggest you talk to someone who does the type of job you'd want to do.
posted by Mike1024 at 2:13 AM on June 22, 2010


You do find computers useful at some level: you're asking a question here.

I would say that you have an irrational problem that you need to spend time fixing. A course shoving Microsoft Access down your throat is not helpful. Do a course that is both relevant to you and useful.
posted by devnull at 2:57 AM on June 22, 2010


If you really want to avoid technology you might have real difficulty here; if it's particularly about information technology your best bet is surely to refrain from working with information. However, taking your responses into account it sounds like you are really worried about what you see as extraneous technology.

If some gadget really is unnecessary then avoiding or limiting it can only improve your effectiveness at whatever you choose to do; for example, I process my email twice a day because dealing with it more frequently doesn't actually help with any of the stuff I have to get done. Any job which allows you the autonomy to meet your obligations in whatever manner you see fit will let you eschew any geegaws which don't actually help, and if you can make a case for using analog methods and deliver whatever deliverables you have, your colleagues, students and so forth will have no complaints.

Of course, if you feel you must avoid a gadget even when it would let you do the job better you are reducing your effectiveness compared to others who are happy with the gadget and will be consequently less employable, with all that entails.

Perhaps you should ask yourself: "Could I use technology in what I want to do, if it helped?". If so then don't worry about it; if not you'll need to work away from information.
posted by larkery at 3:53 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


At the risk of sounding snotty, if you want to succeed in academia you need to clearly define the question you want to answer.

I have a lot of empathy with your problem, although I don't know what's causing it. I had bad experiences with word processors in typing class (this was when the primary technology was still manual or electric typewriters). This put me off. Then in college everyone was always on at me about how I should use the computers in the computer room, don't be silly you don't need training, it's intuitive. One of the first things I think I did was delete somebody else's work by mistake. I decided I was computer-impaired and should under no circumstances ever touch a computer again because I was just too dumb to learn.

I don't know what is causing your problem. Maybe you have a physical problem with the way the pooter is set up - maybe the screen is too bright, a lot of modern screens are easily bright enough to make me sick because, as a pale person, my eyes let a lot more light in than most people's do. Or it could be some other setting, I really don't know. Using a trackpad makes me feel sick so I always have a mouse. It will help if you define why specifically you don't want to use the technology and find a way round it.

"There are lots of jobs that don't involve computers - actor" - yeah but no. My mother has never learned how to use her cell phone because it's simply way beyond her intellect (so she thinks) and she routinely misses calls and texts from agents and rubs them up the wrong way by refusing to text back and instead bedeviling them with phone calls. It's me that takes care of her IMDB page, which I'm sure would be a lot longer if she would just learn to use that phone, never mind a computer.

I was able to find one office job that didn't require computer use, for a holdout that still used electronic typewriters. Because I didn't know how to use a computer I couldn't get another job. Because I couldn't get another job I couldn't scrape together enough money to go on a computing course to get another job. I stayed there to be viciously bullied for three and a half years. Finally I got the money I needed, went to a class, and escaped.

Therefore, I do think that you will be much better off if you master the technology. Because if you don't, the time spent in computing class may turn out not to have been the worst in your life.
posted by tel3path at 4:08 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope that one day I will be surrounded by people who could actually accept me saying "I don't want to use a computer" without having to attach a long explanation to it.

Good luck with that. Unless you run off with some sort of technology-shunning religion, you're going to be stuck. Computers are simply everywhere, and there's no getting around them.

I work in front of a computer all day, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is stare at a screen some more. So, I have several hobbies that are totally unrelated to the computer:

-Guitar. I take lessons once a week; my instructor e-mails me pieces that we're going to work on.
-Flying. I get weather forecasts and file flight plans online.
-Gardening. I get online to check the weather and figure out why my plants don't grow and omigod why can't i get a single goddamn thing to just give me one little piece of fruit!!!
-Bicycle building. I designed the bike on my computer, bought parts online, and did a ton of research that would not have been possible to do at the library. I got in touch with a local bespoke frame builder for some help through e-mail.

Could these things be done otherwise? Almost all of it - the bicycle resources could not be replicated in a computerless world. Everything else has had an "analog" alternative for years. Sure, my guitar instructor could give me sheet music; if he's transcribing something for me, though, it's far easier for him to e-mail it to me in the middle of the week instead of having to give it to me at the next lesson.

Of course, he also transcribes the music using his computer, so there you go.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:56 AM on June 22, 2010


I can stand using technology as a student because I am not actually being employed by the school and potentially being forced to use this technology.

If you're planning to do a PhD, then you essentially will be employed by the school for about 7 years, and the professors you work with will dictate technology's role in your teaching. More importantly, though, graduate school is where you'll develop the research skills you use for the rest of your career. Academic technology has its problems, but online journal articles are insanely more convenient than photocopies everywhere, monopolizing the library's one copy of a particular journal, or shelling out the cash for your own subscription (I actually think that the ease of tracking down sources via technology is one of the reasons there are too many academics on the market now-- much of the grunt work of research is a thing of the past, but that's a whole other issue). There are technologies out there that are incredibly helpful when academic research is your job, even in the humanities (hello, Mendeley). Mastering them might not yet be absolutely necessary, but when everyone your age is exploring new ways to use technology, you'll find yourself at a great disadvantage in school, on the job market, and in life if you write off staring at a computer screen as beneath you.

Other people have suggested this, but maybe get your eyes checked. Looking at a computer screen was physically painful for me until I was diagnosed with astigmatism; maybe you have something similar going on.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:59 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Koeslitz is incorrect; as someone who is both a lawyer and who teaches college philosophy (part time), you can NOT do either of those jobs without technology any more. I don't even know any law firms that buy the federal reporters any more; you MUST do all of that research online. (And I frankly can't imagine why you'd shepherdize by hand when you can do it so much faster on a computer.) Non-computer legal research was a dying skill when I went to law school, and I haven't seen anyone do it since I started practicing. It's still possible to work as a lawyer while making your secretary type up everything you wrote longhand or dictated, but more firms these days frown on that as a waste of secretarial time, and while an old dude with proven money-making skills could get away with it, you'd be hard-pressed to start as a young attorney who can't type.

As for philosophy, again, you're only going to get away with NOT being available by e-mail if you're an old dude whose given room for his eccentricities because of his proven record. Facing competition that numbers, oh, 500 applicants for a single community college teaching slot in philosophy, you will not be hired (or you will be released after a year) if you refuse to use technology. You will be expected to be in contact with your students electronically. Moreover, most of your HR and department paperwork will be online, and obnoxious quantities of that has to be done EVERY. SEMESTER. The grading systems are all online; you will be required to enter student grades online. Philosophy professors do not have secretaries unless they are pretty famous, so you will not be able to get away with having someone do it for you. You can still TEACH technology-free if you want to, but the demands of the JOB are not technology-free.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:57 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seems to me that sometimes one has to suffer annoying clueless people, like your tech-junkie classmates, in order to gain something. Do you have friends outside school who know the appropriate place of tech?
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:01 AM on June 22, 2010


If you teach very young children at a kindergarten or in primary school you're unlikely to have to use computers in the classroom (very much).

My preschooler has three Macs in her classroom, and they go to the computer lab once a week to work with educational sites like Starfall. Her class (3-5 year olds) are very adept at using computers and the Internet. The teacher and principal communicate with the parents via email and all of the school newsletters and grades are delivered electronically. You could work at a daycare with even younger children, but then you'd have to change diapers. Take it from me, changing a diaper is way worse than typing or clicking with your mouse. Especially if the child ate prunes for lunch.

You could create your own mobile car detailing business. Maybe work as a landscaper or in a factory. Perhaps look into an intentional community, like this one. You could clean houses, or be one of those caregivers from the eldery at a company like Home Instead.
posted by Ostara at 6:09 AM on June 22, 2010


PS—I don't mind alienating people by telling them I don't use a cell phone.

I think the other side to your whole plan to avoid technology is if you make it difficult for people to contact you, they won't. If you refuse to be contacted by email, cell or text, what's left? No one has time to indulge you and come find you to personally talk to (unless you're their professor and force them into it), and no one is going to write and mail a letter. It's both a professionally and socially isolating choice.
posted by crankylex at 6:46 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Plus, I have to say, I smell a bit of a hangup here in which you're making your choice not to use technology into a "thing" and elevating yourself above other people who don't share your values. Being values-based it's a position that's hard to defend and your future students would eat you alive for it. It's only a problem though when you allow yourself to look down on others. Look honestly at your own thinking here.


This times a million. You need to get over yourself. Your quest for a tech free life isn't noble, it's just your personal preference. It doesn't make you cool, it doesn't make you uncool. It doesn't make you better than the other students. It may actually make you worse if you can't perform on tasks that require tech-usage as well as your contemporaries.

I think your chances of becoming a philosophy professor (or a teacher at any level) without learning to use certain computer technologies is very, very, slim. If avoiding technology is really that important to you, you should accept that you are best suited to be a maid in a hotel, a dishwasher, a chef, a woodworker (though you will need to avoid lathes and cutting machines that use computer input designs), a landscape laborer (design stage uses computers), possibly a bus driver, a lumberjack, a dancer, a stripper, a fisherman - jobs where you are working with your hands and body. That's all a fine choice. I'd also rather work with my hands than sit at a screen all day.

But to think that you can go into any field or industry that is not labor based, that is based on analysis and information is, frankly, foolish. One of the main assets of modern technology is the speed and ease at which it allows the user to get bottomless information. The value of the information varies of course (academic journal database > facebook) but the principle of readily available information and communication is too ingrained in today's thought-based jobs that it is not going away and the holdouts will buy in to it or be out of business soon. You have a lot to learn.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:54 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree you could probably become a non-email-using (great at returning phone calls) prof whose schtick is anti-technology, especially if you don't mind writing your ph.d. and submitting job applications on a computer. By the time you got around to refusing to submit grades online, you'd be hired and could ask the department for help (they'd think you were weird, hence it needs to be your schtick).

What about nursing or physical therapy? Are these activities all computerized now. Oh, become a therapist! You could even offer philosophy-based therapy. That's all one-on-one and marketed via word-of-mouth. The only challenge will be submitting receipts to insurance, but I think you can fax those or not take insurance.
posted by salvia at 8:09 AM on June 22, 2010


this weird, blind commitment people have to using technology all day, every day

Hang on a second. My commitment to using technology every day (not all day, at least not if you're specifically talking about information technology) is not blind. It's self-chosen, carefully negotiated, and not without struggle. Lots of people, I think, are closer to being on your side philosophically than you assume -- and the humanties are a fine place to find them.

Also...

...God, that was so unnecessarily long. Sorry about that novel.

Your post is about 600 words long. I respectfully submit that your calling six hundred words a novel is a perspective very much informed by contemporary information technology. It's only pretty recently that "sorry about that novel" makes sense as a funny hyperbole -- see where I'm going with this? I wonder if you might find it interesting to study people's attitudes toward technology from a historical perspective. Fields like the history of technology and philosophy of science are all about deep inquiry into people's relationship to technology, and in them you'll inevitably run into the digital humanities community, which does super interesting work across disciplines and is not a bunch of perpetually Blackberry-attached automatons. For reals.

You might also enjoy reading/listening to Merlin Mann's work, found mostly on 43 Folders, because one of his big concerns is sane, non-blind attachment to information technology among knowledge workers -- although to put some of his ideas into practice, you have to have been working for quite some time. (Also 43 Folders is a blog, oh snap.)
posted by clavicle at 9:08 AM on June 22, 2010


...this weird, blind commitment people have to using technology all day, every day?

You do realize that at least 60% of people who use cell phones, Blackberries, and all the software you mentioned hating do not wake up in the morning and think, "Goody! I get to use technology soon!" Probably a higher percent. For most people, it's what the tool gives them the ability to do, not the joy of using the tool itself. I'm pointing this out because what you wrote limits your job prospects much more thoroughly than saying something like "I'd like not to have to use anything with a screen more than 1-2 hours a day." Now, if you really, really want to never have to use anything with buttons, touchpad, or screen, then I would second the suggestion to move to a country where these things are not common place and perhaps teach there, or go to manual labor jobs only. I would say craftsman might even be hard, because of the marketing and communication aspect.

For our society, and probably most other first world countries, research, communication, marketing, and business and personal social organization are all done on these devices you hate. Most people acknowledge that they need to communicate, organize, and market according to the parameters of the world around them. They don't just really like pressing the little buttons. Trying to find a job with no research, communication, or marketing (by this, I mean all advertising or self-promotion) is going to be hard. Some jobs that can go either Luddite or techie now, like college professor, are going to be veering much more toward the technical by the time you graduate with a PhD. The experiences of people in college 5-20 years ago are not going to match. The experiences of people in college NOW aren't going to match. You are right that some universities are requiring at *least* online submissions and email for their professors. I don't even know how you'd keep up with the current literature and conferences without going online every once in awhile, and online journals tend to be a helluva lot cheaper. Unless you are absolutely best in the world in your field, I don't see that you are going to last in academia (starting in ten years or so) if you refuse to, say, check your email or submit grades. Where people now might print out emails for cool, old professors, they are by no means going to do that for you. That's a time expenditure for *them* that has absolutely no payback.

Whereas if you told yourself that you were only going to use computers 2 hours a day, I could see about ten times more jobs being available to you, including at a stretch, college professor. (Though your religious school comment was puzzling. Architecture is not going to preclude technology being just as abundant.) Something that struck me when I read your list of interests was anthropology. You would have to use a computer some, but while doing research in either dig sites or live communities it wouldn't be the primary focus of your day.

(If something about the screens physically hurts your eyes and this is not purely a philosophical stance, you should have your eyes checked or adjust your monitor. That's not normal.)
posted by wending my way at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you would be really well served by reframing this question for yourself. You've got 600 words up there about something that really truly is not the question. Your follow up and the fact that you have two blogs makes it pretty clear that it is not technology that you have a problem with. It's not screens. If it were, you would have an easy time living away from them. You would go be a groundskeeper or a WWOOFer or a gutter punk or a construction worker. You would go find like minded people and hang out with them instead of hanging out with a bunch of technophiles on MeFi. So, figure out what your real question is. Until you figure it out, no one here can give you a good answer, because they're all answering the wrong thing. It's like if you wanted to bake a cake and you asked for the recipe for steak tartar.

Spend some time meditating on what it is that you're after. Figure out what you don't like about technology. Once you've got that really codified for yourself you'll be prepared to ask the right question.

As an aside, all these jobs require a computer these days: Police, firefighter, medic, some kinds of health care worker.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


As others have said, even if you become a philosophy professor, there are going to be more and more times where you're required to use technology. Several good examples have already been given (e.g. online only journals), but one I haven't seen mentioned yet is plagiarism detection.

There is online software that stores a database filled with student papers and online articles. Students submit their papers to this and it checks the papers for originality. In its current incarnation there are problems (including the problem of storing potentially copyrighted work), but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if departments soon started requiring that you make your students submit papers to such software.

The standard process after submission is that you can download the papers and comment on them. Sure you could print them out, but you'll still have to go online and check the originality reports. So it wouldn't be avoiding the technology completely. It's also a waste of resources: one semester (for 80 students - 2 classes) I calculated that I graded about 2000 pages of papers total (not including finals). I could have printed them out, but it would have been time consuming (sorting and stapling in addition to the time printing) and environmentally unfriendly.

You don't have to use technology to teach (right now), but there's a reason people do. You might hate learning from powerpoint or reading PDFs on your phone, but others love both. Every student learns in their own way. I greatly prefer listening and wish our university did more with podcasts so I could relisten to lectures. Others prefer visual learning. Of those, I'm sure some prefer powerpoint to chalkboards - ever had an algebra class where the professor's Xs look like Ys? It's your responsibility as a professor to teach to all of these preferences - not just the one that you like.
posted by chndrcks at 12:19 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to speculate here that your newfound technophobia is probably from a combination of having to take a required course that you didn't like, and wrestling with LaTex, which doesn't exactly seem like a fun ol' time. Otherwise, your posting history doesn't exactly seem like that of someone who has problems with computer screens, usually. Chill out, take some courses that are more about thinking and speaking and less about wrestling with the inherent shittiness of Microsoft programs, and if the reading-computer-screens problem persists, see a doctor.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:54 PM on June 22, 2010


Ditch digging.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:08 PM on June 22, 2010


Manual labor.
posted by inertia at 3:12 PM on June 22, 2010


Hello everyone. Again.
Halloween Jack: I actually like learning LaTeX, maybe because it's not made out of clicking through menus and it's more about building your own knowledge bank. I agree with everyone who says that this problem might be about more than hating computers, and I wouldn't mind having to use one for 1-2 hours a day. I have a worry that everything in existence that can be done on paper, will eventually only be done on computer (e-books are the most recently menacing).
I couldn't mark all the many answers I liked, so I just marked my #1 favorite (you can probably tell why).
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 5:54 PM on June 22, 2010


If you continue your course of being a professor, it is likely your students will:

A) Hate your anti-technology stance
B) Mock you for it
C) Be less influenced by your opinions, knowledge and reasoning because of A and B.

You can live a technology free life. It will be difficult. It will alienate you. People do not have to accept it as being a reasonable choice.
posted by Quadlex at 6:13 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to let you know, there's no way that programming is going to get you down to 1-2 hours of computer use a day. To be good at your job, you have to actually like the computer enough to spend time learning how to program it.

And how much bullshit you have to tolerate totally depends on the organization. My last gig, I interviewed and signed on the line, and then was told about a month later that I'd need to carry the "support telephone" and be on the call rotation. I didn't sign up for that shit. But, it was a small company, so what was I gonna do?

Meanwhile, my friends programming at huge companies don't have the pure powerpoint-free experience that Civil Disobedient and I have, because they spend the majority of their time in pointless meetings arguing that their designs are correct. And they're often expected to make presentations. And what technology presentation is complete without a powerpoint slideshow?

What you should take away from this thread is that as you rise up the ranks of experience and power, you can more completely control your use of technology. But, for schlubs at the bottom of the pecking order (like you and me), some intrusive use of technology will be thrust upon us from above.
posted by Netzapper at 6:18 PM on June 22, 2010


I have a worry that everything in existence that can be done on paper, will eventually only be done on computer (e-books are the most recently menacing).

Things are definitely trending this way, so maybe work on emotionally preparing yourself for the eventuality of it. On the other hand, if I never had to touch a piece of paper again, I would be thrilled. Thrilled! Except Post-Its, I would miss them.
posted by crankylex at 6:41 AM on June 23, 2010


It sounds to me like you've never been led to see how technology can be a solution to a problem, and not just something imposed from above. For me, the best way to become comfortable with a new piece of technology, is to see how it solves a problem that exists in my own life. I have a feeling that for you, entering academia will make a huge difference. I was an avid non computer user (academically at least)- handwritten notes, printed out pdfs, etc. When I got to graduate school, I had to handle so much information, lectures, 4-500 pages of reading a week, etc. that I almost immediately went completely paperless. My computer means that all of my notes are searchable and thus easy to find and also don't take up much space. Another way of thinking about this is that technology adoption should be somewhat organic- it should make something easier for you. So perhaps if you can reframe this as a question about how technology can help you, it may be easier to deal with.
posted by Polyhymnia at 8:17 AM on June 23, 2010


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