Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle U Digital Design Professor isn’t “Phoney”

“I joke about it with other people, I don’t want to be phoney,” Alexander Mouton, Associate Professor of Digital Design said to me with a smile in his office.

On the table next to him was a device that many college students have either forgotten about or poke fun at: a black flip phone (circa the early 2000s). While many of us are falling into the capitalist ideal of purchasing the newest, best form of technology, Professor Mouton is proud to say that he is not.

“I have a little flip phone that I’ve been using forever,” Mouton said. “My little flip phone allows me to text, and to communicate with people that I need to communicate with, but it doesn’t have all the stuff on it that pulls me away.”

While Mouton hasn’t exiled all forms of technology, he has a definite distaste for the iPhone. Mouton commonly refers to smartphones as “anti-presence devices,” and requires his photography students to leave them inside while they’re taking pictures outdoors. “Otherwise they’re not in the present,” he said.

Mouton’s unconventional relationship with technology began in childhood; his parents did not have a television in their house. Although at the time he admits he was upset over missing out on popular shows like “Roots” and “Planet of the Apes,” he said that the extra time allowed him to read, listen to music and explore nature, museums and other neighborhoods in his hometown.

He was eventually reacquainted with technology during the 1990s when he was exploring the arts. He started to see technology as something that had infinite creative potential and that could radically interrupt existing economic systems. While he wasn’t wrong, technological developments weren’t as utopic as he hoped.

“The systems now, that’s what I have a problem with,” Mouton said. “I totally love the technology, I think it’s amazing and I’m a total advocate of it. But I’m definitely not optimistic about the future of technology like I was 20 years ago.”

He cited examples of technology abuse, such as Cambridge Analytica’s influence on the election and how popular cell phone carriers such as AT&T and Verizon often lobby for certain political candidates.

As a form of protest against corporate lobbying, Mouton uses a smaller cell phone carrier called Credo. Per Credo’s website, the company’s mission is to “give customers a powerful alternative to doing business with huge corporations whose conduct is antithetical to the political, environmental and social values we share.”

Mouton also doesn’t have Internet at his house. He admits it’s a bit ironic for a digital design professor to voluntarily have a flip phone and no Internet at home, but explains that he’s come to these conclusions due to his work and research in digital media.

“Technology is not something I outright condone, for me the piece is mindfulness,” Mouton said. “I definitely think that mindfulness is important, just to think about when to use it and when not to use it.”

One of Mouton’s missions for teaching digital design at Seattle U is for his students to develop a critical approach to technology.

“I’m going to have students engage with, think about and question why they’re doing what they’re doing, and how it’s affecting them in their social networks. At the same time that I take a critical stance, I’m super interested in the ways in which technology works.”

In fact, he claims to use Canvas more than any other professor in the Fine Arts department.

“It’s not because I’m a Luddite and don’t believe in the possibilities of technology,” Mouton said. “I think it’s a tool, and there’s benefits to the tools. I make use of digital tools and I make use of analog tools. It’s the following along mindlessly that I think is dangerous.”

So while he may sound like he is at least a decade behind 2018, Mouton argues that he is more connected with other people, technology and even his favorite TV show Adventure Time, than many others.

“I connect enough with media that I’m able to converse with people about the things I’m interested in conversing about,” Mouton said. “I definitely don’t feel like I’m missing out.”

Anna may be reached at
[email protected]

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