I Can Live Without It, Honest

Starting at about 8 a.m. yesterday, we have been experiencing an interesting lesson about our dependence on (or addiction to) technology. Yesterday morning, one of the raid arrays malfunctioned on one of then main campus servers. The server that was impacted held faculty, staff, and student net id and email information. As a result, nothing worked. Email, Blackboard, and Remote Storage were all down. If I had a quarter for every time I answered, “Yes, email is down—Sorry—All we have been told is that it’s a big problem and they are working on it”, I could have bought me an iPod.

Students, faculty, and staff were all beside themselves with frustration, wondering how they could possibly get by without being ‘plugged in.’ I have to admit that I too was upset by the inconvenience. I was waiting to receive some email quotes from vendors, and I had some much needed files stored in my sentmail on the server. (IMAP is a beautiful thing, unless of course, the server goes belly up). I had a couple of email reference questions that I should have answered on Wednesday, but I had put them off to ponder an appropriate answer. I could go on and on about how much work I missed, but after a while, it just got funny. To put it in perspective, I was one of 20,000 people on this campus, and we were all as equally inconvenienced. I started trying to be a little witty when answering the ‘what is wrong with email’ question. I even considered telling the students, “Hey, our university president is without email right now, too.”

It’s rather scary (and enlightening) to see how much we depend on being plugged in. Technology has definitely changed the way we do things, and it has drastically changed the ways in which we communicate and learn. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to take the things we use everyday for granted. When you are forced to go without something for a while, you have time to reflect upon the item’s importance and your dependence on the item. For example, I had a guy ask me, “I printed something out here last night. I was wondering if you could look on your print server to see if that document is still there, because I can’t get to my email or remote storage.” Many other students, faculty, and staff were just as desperate, all jonesing for their email fix. I know that I must have tried to log on a hundred times, each time with the hope of getting my fix.

The campus tech guys seem to have fixed the problem, and email has slowly been trickling in this morning. Yesterday I told my colleagues that after missing a full day of email, when email returned it would be like Christmas with tons of day-old email goodies to sift through. Now that email service has returned, I have gotten my fix. It actually does not feel like Christmas, although I do feel relieved (and perhaps a little cursed) to be connected again.