Does this sound familiar? A new technology comes to market and naysayers, skeptics, and Luddites proclaim the end to all that's good, holy, and human. As media studies scholar Rachel Plotnick discovered, that's how people reacted in the late 19th century with the introduction of the electric push-button.
…[P]eople worried that the electric push button would make human skills atrophy. They wondered if such devices would seal off the wonders of technology into a black box: "effortless, opaque, and therefore unquestioned by consumers." Today, you'd probably have to schedule an electrician to fix what some children back then knew how to make: electric bells, buttons, and buzzers.
"Some believed that users should creatively interrogate these objects and learn how they worked as part of a broader electrical education," Plotnick explains. "Others…suggested that pushing buttons could help users to avoid complicated and laborious technological experiences. These approaches reflected different groups' attempts at managing fears of electricity."
Read the rest on JSTOR.