I just finished editing a manuscript, and I realized that my eyes tend to glaze over when a writer gets into discussions of technology. It's not that I don't like technology; in fact, I love it. What I DON'T love is lazy writers' tendency to use technology as a substitute for good detection.
And I'm seeing a lot of this lately. There's a fictional (or perhaps it's nonfictional) assumption that you can simply click on Google and find accurate answers to any question you may have, including personal information about just anyone (for a price, with a subscription). Now, I know that a lot of this information is indeed available to the public. But there's a limit; the Internet doesn't know where my mother and father met, why my wife and I gave our first child the name we gave her, or who my best friend in second grade was. And yet, so much fiction these days assumes that a quick trip across the Web tells an investigator everything s/he needs to know. (Case in point: Many Websites claim to be able to give you information about who owns a particular license plate. That information is NOT available to the public and requires the services of a professional P.I.)
Something else that's getting on my nerves is the hacking Wunderkind who, in two or three keystrokes, manages to hack the database of a major corporation (or government), add a virus or two, and save the world. I have read a few books about hacker culture, and it's pretty fascinating stuff; and one thing I have learned is that it is NOT EASY. That's part of the challenge for hackers.
So why do my eyes glaze over during these passages? I think it's because I think, "Yeah, yeah, we know that technology is going to give you exactly what you need, so why are you bothering me with these ins and outs? The outcome is going to be the same: Your detective will get what s/he needs." So all the verbiage is there to give a sense of verisimilitude to the procedures, etc., which then seems to me to be the narrative "protesting too much"--in essence saying, "Rather than think up a really clever way for my investigator to learn this info, I'm going to throw a lot of technological mumbo-jumbo at you to make excuses and to imply that brain power isn't necessary when technology does everything for you, even when it actually does not."
To be fair, I'll admit that I see this phenomenon more in thrillers than in mysteries.
So what shall I do? I think I'll continue to encourage my authors not to use technology as a substitute for good writing and plotting. And I'll encourage readers of Mysterious Matters to do the same.