we are all pro-technology

Every year, Lake Superior University provides a list of "banished words" — words or short phrases which have been overused, overexposed, or are just plain annoying. Utterances by businesspeople, politicians, and economists are especially prone to winding up on the list.

There's one word whose meaning has narrowed since the nineteenth century that I'd like to reposition, if not ban, and another related word whose scope has expanded at the same time. If I got total control over the English language for one day, as soon as I made sure everyone knew the difference between "it's" and "its", I'd make sure that "technology" and "luddite" went back to more accurate usage.

Let's start with "luddite". Originally it meant someone who disagreed with technology being advanced at the expense of people's jobs. Nowadays it just means anyone who doesn't consider themselves "technical".

Put it this way: if you remark on Twitter or a blog that you're a "luddite", you're in danger of being a hypocrite.

You're also not as eligible for sympathy as you might think. For every creative person who thinks that being a "luddite" is an excuse for a poorly-designed web page or a badly-formatted manuscript, there's at least one other creative who rolls up their sleeves and makes sure things come out properly.

Claiming to be a "luddite" in these matters is like a visual artist not bothering to learn what happens to canvas when you apply paint to it, or a quilter who doesn't bother learning about sewing machines (but uses them anyhow). If you're using the tools and materials, you should know about them. I'm not saying you have to learn to solder together your own motherboards; just that if you choose a computer as a means of expression, you should know how to do writing-related tasks with it, and know what best user practices are.

Now, on to "technology." When I was in high school, I saw a documentary that really opened my eyes about technology. The narrator explained that the purpose of the documentary was to explain how machines work. To this end, first the documentary was going to start with simple machines.

The first simple machine to be explained was a teeter totter (lever).

The second was a spring.

The third was a combination of those two simple machines: a doorknob.

A doorknob is a technological innovation. In comparison with the whole of human history, spring-controlled doorknobs aren't even that old.

"Technology" doesn't just mean computers, or cars, or radios. It doesn't only count if it's something you're not interested in.

And really: the average typewriter user in the 1970s knew how to change the ribbon, make basic screwdriver adjustments, and clean the machine's innards as necessary. They also knew how to change from Courier to Elite, black to red ink, memo paper to letter paper. They knew how to centre a title and right-align an address.

The average laptop/tablet/smartphone user should be able to do the equivalent. Nothing "technical" about it.