After writing about
technology for years in magazines, Southeast Community College instructor Rod
Scher took it a step further and published a book about it.
The book, “Leveling the
Playing Field: The Democratization of Technology,” examines how different
technologies began in the hands of a few, ended up in the hands of many, and
how they changed the world along the way.
“I suspect there isn’t anyone
who won’t find something in this book that they’re interested in,” Scher said.
Scher explores different
technologies such as computers, drones and smart phones and traces them back to
early foundations such as fire and language. He said access to all these things
started off as very limited, but eventually trickled down and created a level
“Technology can be any tool
used to build, create, retrieve, repair, or modify any object, or for that
matter, any other technology,” he said.
While barriers have been
removed and technology is now democratized, there’s also a negative side. While
we have empowered the “good guys,” we also have empowered the “bad guys.” For
example, a blog can inform those in need, or it can publicize hatred and lies.
A 3D printer can be used to print guitars to create music, or weapons to cause
Another example he uses is
drones. They have come a long way and can be useful for many things, but they
can also be used to violate safety and privacy. A large drone could potentially
harm or kill someone. They can also be used to spy on people without their
“What we need to do is
regulate their use in order to enhance safety and protect privacy,” Scher said.
Scher has been an adjunct
instructor at SCC for around 11 years. He teaches reading, writing and business
communication courses. Originally from the West Coast, Scher relocated to
Lincoln when the educational software company he founded, StudyWare, Inc., was
purchased by Cliffs Notes.
He has written for numerous
technology magazines and was editor at Smart
Computing Magazine. He currently works at Sandhills Publishing, in addition
to his teaching duties at SCC.
Scher was annotating (when
someone adds notes to the text or summarizes certain parts of the book) another
book when the publishing company was sold to a larger publisher. Once he
pitched the idea for a book about democratizing technology, he got lucky.
“It was really serendipity,”
he said. “When I pitched it to the
senior editor, he said he had a publisher who was interested.”
Things went pretty fast after
that, he said. He got a book advance to start writing and was finished in about
a year. The editing process took another year. He spent any and all of his free
time writing in his basement.
“I did not have a life,” he
joked. “You have to be willing to devote that time and effort.”
Since then he’s had book
signings, spoken in front of book clubs and even made a remote appearance for
an international PC group. He wants to be clear though, that this book is not
just for technology nerds.
“The feedback I’ve received
is it’s surprisingly readable,” he said. “The title is a little misleading. I
like to think it’s a very readable book with an informal, journalistic approach
and a little humor.”
Scher has some other ideas
for future book topics, including technology warfare and survivalists (people
who believe a catastrophic disaster is likely to happen and actively prepare
for it.) He said one thing he learned from writing the first book is he would
take more time to write it.
“A year sounded like forever,”
he said. When given the deadline by the publisher, “I thought, how hard can it
be?” But it came faster than he thought it would.
“You need more time if you
want to do a decent job.”
In the meantime, he will soon retire from his
full-time job, continue to teach online, and travel back to the West Coast,
where he calls home.