By Kasia Koziol-Dube
C.K. is a woman in her early 50s who emigrated from Poland in her 20s. Her father worked in a paper and notebook factory in Poland and later spent some time working in the United States. Her mother was a housewife. C.K. was encouraged to come to the United States by her father. He believed that it would be easier for her to get an education, find work, and lead an easier life. She now has a family that consists of her husband and two teenage sons. Her husband is an electrical engineer, her older son is in college studying to be an electrical engineer, and her younger son is in high school.
I chose to interview C.K. because I thought that it would be interesting to interview someone who had lived in another country and then immigrated to the United States to get their perspective on technological differences in the two countries. In addition, C.K. lived in Poland during the post-WWII era when Poland was under communism and behind the Iron Curtain. I thought that I might be able to get an idea of how this had an effect on Poland's development of technology.
First I wanted to get general information of how C.K. would define technology and what her thoughts were about how technology affected her daily life. She understood technology to be processing machines, applying science, and anything that would allow people to do things beyond human capability. She listed some examples of technology such as communication over the phone, communication over email, x-rays, bi focal contact lens, cars, and computers. She felt that the car was one of the most useful types of technology for her because it allowed her to get from place to place in a shorter amount of time then if she had to walk. Therefore, she could accomplish much more in her day. Two other important technologies to her were: an electric stove for meals and the computer. The computer was a mode of communication by email and a way to store information on files that she could access easily. When I asked her if she thought that the technology that she had exposure to was easy to use, C.K. said that when using a new technological tool that it might take some time to learn how it works. Learning to use the tool was just part of making it more efficient. She continued to say that when it is being sold to you the salesperson, hopefully, has done a good job explaining how to use it. Also, the company usually offers support when you are trying to use their appliance. She feels that if you use it everyday then it will only take a couple days to get use to it.
I was then curious to find out what type of technology C.K. was most interested in. She answered optical because her current job is working in an eyeglass store. She wanted to know more about how doctors operated on the eye and used laser surgery to correct eyesight. Also, she was interested in the develoment of contact lens and how the quality of eyeglasses were being improved by using different types of materials. She was extremely fascinated with the technology behind eyeglasses that change into sunglasses when exposed to certain levels of sunlight. She also wished that she had more knowledge of computers but that it was too time-consuming to have to sit down to learn everything unless it really pertained to what she needed to do at that time. She was interested in taking computer classes but also felt that there just was not enough time.
If C.K. did not have time to take classes, where did she learn about technology? It turns out that she asks her husband and sons because her husband is educated in that area and her sons are learning about it in school. I wanted to know if there was a time when she was discouraged with technology. Her answer was the time the computer had a virus and all her files were wiped away. She was so angry that she did not use the computer for awhile. She does not remember anyone particularly discouraging her from using technology. She feels that she mostly discourages herself. However, she hears from older people that it is better to do things manually because computers are not as reliable.
The next questions focused on the good and bad aspects of technology. C.K. thought that it was bad when people start to depend on technology too much. For example, if there is a power outage then she feels that people become handicappied. People forget how to do things by hand and then are stuck doing things manually. Other reasons were that because a computer can not think on its own there are cases that false or incorrect data is processed. Also, certain types of technology are susceptiable to viruses. At the same time, technology has allowed us to communicate with people around the world easier, like in Poland, and medical technology is good because it is used to save lives.
The next topic that I thought that would be interesting is what C.K. remembers about technology during her childhood in Poland and what she thought about technology in Poland versus the United States. I thought that finding out about her background in the sciences when she was in school might also provide some understanding to the way she felt about science and technology. To get into this topic, I found out that C.K. wanted to be a teacher when she a kid. She is sorry that she did not follow that occupation. C.K. went into accounting because she felt that the world was leaning in that direction and that it would make more sense for her. She received an accounting degree in Poland that would be the equivalent of getting an accounting degree at a college in the U.S, but also attended a community college in the United States. I was curious as to her background in the sciences when she went to school in Poland. C.K. did have physics and math in school along with chemistry and programming. She did not like math because she was not good at it. However, she liked physics. She thought that is was interesting to apply the laws to daily life and how they work even when you are not thinking about them.
At this point, my own thoughts on the issue are whether chemistry and physics were being stressed in the curriculum because of all the Cold War issues and Poland being under communism. Interestingly, C.K. does not mention anything about biology.
I continued to ask C.K. about the different view of technology between Poland and the United States. She definitely thought that people in Poland had a different view. Technology was developed only to a small degree in Poland. Most people in Poland did not have the education or exposure to the technology. It was hard for them to understand or use technology if they really had not been introduced to it. I, again, wondered if this was due to the aftereffects of World War II and the Russian-enforced communism existing in Poland at the time. I asked why she thought that technology was only developed to a small percentage. She thought part of it was due to recovery from WWII, but also that educators were not interested in it. She felt that educators were not very good and did not care to learn or teach about technology. The types of technology she remembers in Poland were telephones, which was overwhelming to her that you could communicate with other people far away, radio, TV, and motorcycles. She added that ambulances equipped with medical gadgets to get people to the hospital quickly was a real change for her town. I asked if there were any technologies that Poland might have developed better than the United States and she thought that agricultural machinery because Poland is a very agricultural country and that ship technology might be better, along with the development of some chemicals.
Finally, I was curious to see what place C.K. thought technology had in women's lives. I asked how she would rate herself in understanding and using technology and she said mediocre. She felt that it was mostly males who were better at using technology in her family because actually she lives with all males. C.K. believes that girls and boys look at technology differently. She feels that boys use technology to make more technology or to gain knowledge from it. Girls, on the other hand, use technology more for communication, buying, and in the office. However, there are a small percentage of girls who use it to seek education. I wanted to know if C.K. thought that women and girls were at a disadvantage in studying math and science. In her opinion, girls were disadvantaged because boys have a better ability to study math and science, which made them more interested in science. Girls were better at verbal subjects, though. On the other hand, she felt that culture will shape your choices to a degree. C.K felt that females were not as interested in the science, math, and technology aspect of education because it is a harder science and girls get discouraged by it. Science and technology has made the world an easier place for women. She felt that women who do not work have everything at their fingertips, in terms of the washing machine and electric appliances. Women can finish their work quicker and can be more accurate. Women can have access to computers at home whereas before computers were really only found in offices. Technology allows women to have more communication and gives them more job opportunities. Computers and the internet now allow women to use online applications so that they can get better jobs.
Interestingly, when I finished my interview my aunt wanted to know if I ever was discouraged with technology or with studying at a tough school like Swarthmore. She was interested in my feelings about being a female and living at school with my classmates around me. She then asked me, did I think that it was tough for women to study in the sciences or learn about technology? If you are interested in my thoughts, see my personal statement: http://fubini.swarthmore.edu/~WS30/kasiastmt.html.
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