OBASEKI | A Case for Academic Luddism

With so many mind-blowing advancements in AI, there is no doubt students are becoming more reliant on technology on an everyday basis. Can you blame us? We get more work done, professors now assign work online and AI simply makes everything easier. The incentives to rely more often on technology are overwhelming, and the cycle of dependency is intensifying. While much of the technology we already use is necessary — we can’t just go back to using typewriters — it also helps to touch grass for a change. Academic Luddism is the avoidance of technology use in an academic setting, working to reduce our dependence on our devices. Luddism describes a movement of 19th-century textile workers who opposed the adoption of low-skill technology that displaced high-skilled laborers at that time. Its colloquial meaning typically refers to the disposition of people who reject the adoption of new technology. I am calling for all Cornellians to embrace it, and at least give it a try. Not only is it healthier, but it also has some educational benefits in our reading, writing and habits. 

Few things compare to simply sitting down on the slope with a book in hand. As the sun shines down on the text, with the wind refreshing your mood, it’s an experience that no amount of TikTok or Instagram can match, especially in benefiting our mental health. Not only are physical books great conversation starters, but they are also less of a strain on the eyes. This is especially important later in the day, as computers emit blue light, disrupting our sleep. It’s not just blue light that is detrimental, however. So many distractions are present when we read on our computers. We already use our phones and our laptops for entertainment and browsing social media. While working, we soon give in to that leisurely habit of taking a “quick” break that throws off our concentration and delays our sleep. It doesn’t hurt to also print out the assigned readings that aren’t books. Whether or not we end up using the printers, Cornell is still going to charge us the printing fee, so we might as well get our money’s worth.  Finally, the concern of running out of power isn’t present when reading physical texts. We aren’t bound to certain spaces that offer power, instead being free to try out the many different reading locations on campus that would make our Cornell experience. The best way to take advantage of this warmer weather is to take some time reading on the slope. When are students going to realize just how much more beneficial physically engaging with our texts is to our sleep, concentration and general freedom?

When it comes to writing, ditching the laptop may also be our best bet. This brings me back to my first semester of college when I could not afford a new laptop after my old one broke down. In high school, I never took notes with a laptop, so I was a bit surprised to see just how frequently other students used theirs in class. It was certainly the majority, and I felt like I was at a disadvantage. Unexpectedly, I ended up performing better than most students, and I attribute much of that success to taking notes by hand. Yes, it is slower and more cumbersome, but that is ironically the exact reason why it is more beneficial. With the limited capacity to keep up with professors, you are more compelled to summarize their words in a way that you can understand, cultivating your understanding before later study sessions. This is why students who take notes by hand usually have a higher conceptual understanding of class content than those with laptops, remembering more of the lecture material in the long run. Laptop writers can of course type many more words than hand-writers, but this lends itself to verbatim note-taking. With Cornell being such a difficult school, students should use every advantage to improve their grasp of our professor’s teachings. Ironically, putting the laptop away seems like the best move.