Like so many people (artists and non-artists alike), I've fought with desktop inkjet printers for years. They constituted a bit of affordable technology that always left me in a perpetual state of disappointment at the muddy prints that resulted. It was hard to even get a bit of text to look crisp, much less a sepia landscape. After this workshop I realize that the days of sub-standard output are gone but, as is true with all things digital, some potential for consternation still remains.
As the instructor pointed out in the workshop, when things go wrong in the "analog" world (the darkroom for instance) the reaction is often a dogged acceptance in conjunction with a methodical effort to rectify the issue. When things go wrong in a digital lab however, the immediate reactions are: frustration, anger, and blame. Something in our expectation about the ease and convenience of technology make us very unwilling to accept any room for error from our machinery.
The irony of this stance being (as any IT person is quick to point out) that the vast majority of the time any error that occurs is user error: the machines don't do anything that they aren't instructed to do by the user. While I've fumed at this observation before it is difficult to refute the logic. Ultimately, despite everyone's sub-conscious hope otherwise, the machine you use, be it computer or printer, cannot read your mind and divine your final intention. Instead, there must be a sort of mediated communication that happens between you, the machine, and all of the people involved with the creation of the hardware and software that seeks to facilitate that communication.
I would hazard to say that as much as any issue in a computer lab may result from user error, an equal amount of responsibility could be given to design error which, ultimately, derives from communication errors between people. A computer programmer may think they know exactly what would be required in the ideal library circulation software (after all, they've used a library before), but this assumption rarely nets an elegant bit of software because it doesn't work with the end-consumer to provide the right tools, structure, and interface. The inability for this fact to be honored and recognized by so many hardware and software companies may speak to some of the inherent arrogance of technological innovation. . . but that is a topic for another time, and the mere fact that this is how today's blog post will end just further supports the observation that, when it comes to difficulties with all things digital the inevitable outcome is blame. That's just human nature.