Neil Postman a researcher in the field of Media Studies introduced the idea that technologies and media have inherent biases. In his argument he also states that once a technology enters society it plays out its hand. Meaning it will do what it is meant to do regardless of efforts to stop it due to it having been unleashed. One such modern example is the internet, primarily designed for military communications and data transfer became something totally different due to its inherent biases. It became a public means of communication both visual and textual and a main source of information for the masses. It caused a diffusion of power allowing for a more pluralistic society, Obama can be seen as a result of this transformation. He used this new technology as a resource to mobilize the people, and create a political force unlike any seen before it. But, could this have been for seen when the military was developing it?
This and many more technologies being admitted to the culture may have far reaching effects both good and bad.
My understanding of this theory is that all technologies entered into culture bring both blessings and burdens. This seems simple enough but the next step is that technology is ecological as opposed to additive in regards to culture. The best example given was if you add caterpillars to a new environment it is not just that environment + caterpillars it is totally different. The same goes for technology. If you add a new technology to a culture it isn't going to be that same culture + that technology, habits will change, perceptions will change and the culture will change for better or for worse. If this is taken to be true then the addition of new technologies to culture can not be taken lightly.
I wrote a post on this issue very recently but I want to attempt to take a more clear stab at it this time. I am not saying new technology is good, nor am I saying it is bad, I am saying that the addition of new things to a culture that potentially drastically change it should be considered carefully before they are admitted.
Lets look at the computer for example. 20 years ago I was 5 years old and the computer wasn't all over the place yet, there was a strong sense that people needed to learn spelling and other such things. Records were kept on paper, type writers were still at least somewhat in use, and life was a different place. As the computer progressed and started playing out its hand life became more and more dependent on the computer. Information was now stored on computer as preferred to hard copy. Information traveled differently as a result of a technology that was a result of the computer the internet. Science was able to further itself in new ways. But there were also losers in this development. Less paper was used, the old who couldn't adapt lost their jobs. Older people stopped being a reference point for information, they became the helpless, and information was always at the finger tips. This skewed our culture even further towards youth as they are the people who can keep up with the constant changes most adeptly due to the more malleable mind of youth. the economics of the household changed ... due to the rapid developments in the computer field forcing families to keep up with developments or be losers. Either losers in so far as they don't have access to the newest software and thus do not have information that is compatible with the newest things, or they take a hit in the pocket pushing them to make room in the budget for annual or biannual purchases. The need for large numbers of people to manage the money of business was vastly reduced cutting many jobs which once were important. Conversely many jobs were created to facilitate the computers rise and maintenance. Super corporations rose to fill in every little inch of the computers capability and profit from it. While older institutions like libraries and public centers fell into disuse. The internet/computer changed the nature of personal communication. Text messaging was born, the voice became less commonly used. People had less need of face to face communication. As a result social habits changed.
I could go on and on, but one can see that the landscape of our culture was transformed by this technology. Consider that all technologies play out their hands into culture, consider that while their hand may not be as strong as writing was or the computer is they do play out their hands. Imagine a world without cars, or without the microwave... or more importantly think about how those inventions changed the cultural landscape.
Both of those inventions caused profound changes in our culture, in our habits, in our way of life. I think things like this should be considered. I think people should be aware of what goes on around them and within them. Technologies don't just affect small spheres around which they were created to function. They are like rocks dropped in a puddle that don't stop creating ripples.
I just think we need a more aware society.
But I don't know the solution... I don't agree with censorship because it really has a bad connotation and I don't like putting people in control. But at the very same time the ability to just invent and drop into the cultural puddle is extremely dangerous especially since we have stretched the world to near capacity and it could fail if we push it too hard. A hard problem ... but one that needs to be thought about.