I took the Pew survey on information and communication technology (ICT) users I learned about on Walt at Random. It turns out that Pew considers me an "elite user" of ICT, but still thinks I'm a Lackluster Veteran, just like Walt Crawford. He found fault with the terminology, and I have to agree with him. Walt preferred the phrase "Experienced Skeptic." I like "Knowledgeable Skeptic," but it amounts to the same thing. Skeptical Sophisticate was another possible description I considered.
Here are the category descriptions that Pew uses: Omnivores, Connectors, Lackluster Veterans, Productivity Enhancers, Mobile Centrics, Connected but Hassled, Inexperienced Experimenters, Light but Satisfied, Indifferents, and Off the Net.
Notice that Lackluster Veteran is the only one that seems derogatory, and it's the only one that doesn't really describe the category of users at all. It's not that the veterans are lackluster, it's that they think the technology lacks luster. I think Pew considers the veterans lackluster, though, because these veterans aren't "passionate" about their technology, the way Omnivores are. I usually call this omnivorous category Frustrated Trendsetters, but considering how annoying "passionate" ICT users often are, I think I'll start calling them Omnibores.
I still can't figure it out why anyone is ever "passionate" about any technology. A cell phone or a laptop is a tool, useful in its place, but hardly possessing salvific qualities. ICT is good when it's needed and wanted, but hardly necessary all the time, and hardly worth the excitement. I can say this with authority, because I am an elite ICT user.
Technology is a means to an end, but the Omnibores often babble about it as if it's an end in itself. Is anyone ever passionate about a hammer or a nail file? Are there people whose lives are so sad or empty that they get passionate about their cell phones? Contrary to all the evidence of human experience, are there really people so purblind that they think ICT is going to bring on an enlightened new age? Or that the technology of the moment is more than a passing fad in the long history of technological fads? I like useful tools as much as the next gal, but I also have a balanced and rich enough life that I don't have to pant with enthusiasm at whatever new fad comes along. I know a lot, and use a lot, but don't have to keep filling my empty head with the latest technological desiderata to keep myself occupied. I use tools as means to achieve other, richer, more human ends, not just to keep myself mindlessly occupied and entertained, or to promote my career by driving the bandwagon around the country and trying to get people on the "cluetrain."
It's possible the intent was to describe the user rather than the technology as lackluster to offset any skeptical criticism. People who wet themselves with excitement when they get a new text message or hear "2.0" in conversation obviously lack any skeptical or critical capacity. Everything's just HOT to them, and they promote every new fad indiscriminately. For us Knowledgeable Skeptics, it's tempting when confronted by these Omnibores just to mutter "moron" and keep moving. The Omnibores sense this, and they want to poison the well against critical intelligence, knowledge, or skepticism. Though lacking in critical intelligence or skepticism, they're cunning, these Omnibores.
It's easy to be kindly to the Inexperienced Experimenters or even the Indifferents, because the Omnibores can feel superior to them in technological knowledge. But it's harder to act that way with Knowledgeable Skeptics, because we know about and use a lot of ICT and we know how ridiculous the hype is.
So to all the Omnibores out there, I have this kindly request. Please stop wetting yourselves with excitement over the latest fad. Someone has to use that seat next, and it might be me.