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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.

Originally posted to ol man Willo on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 11:06 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip cup (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, possum

    Tried to direct myself more this time :) comments are super welcome.

  •  I See a Different Pattern in Media Evolution (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ol man Willo

    All new media are invented by techies and initially developed by content specialists. You've seen this with internet media such as USENET discussion, blogs, and youtube.

    For a time they can be very small d democratic. Radio began this way, the first broadcaster hadn't even thought of the idea of commercials I think as late as after going on the air, as I recall from an NPR interview.

    But once the artists and small businesses have demonstrated there's serious interest, they must become bought out and dominated by big business, even if technicalities give the people some access. This happened to radio by the big band era with national networks and corporate sponsorship.

    This all happened twice with radio I'm pretty sure. Big network programming left radio for TV in the 50's, clearing the way for small ownership and very independent music programming. That's why the folk and rock explosions took place, in ways that let a great variety of music be heard by all the common people.

    Eventually big corporate came back and we have Clear Channel. Music has variety but it's highly segregated for market efficiency, and talk radio despite Progressive Talk is some 90:1 conservative favoring big corp. 10:1 at best.

    Our new internet media that helped turn 2 elections are barely 5 years old. History tells me that they will remain democratic not much longer. Maybe a decade, maybe 2, maybe 5 years, before big business figures out how to dominate all but small niche markets as they do with all media.

    I've never heard of anything that can compete with the modern corporation.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 11:17:48 AM PST

  •  all things do have ends (0+ / 0-)

    Think back to the Catholic monopoly of everything in Europe, it was maintained through some use of force and use of economic power. It resembled in a lot of ways big business of today. If I were to name one source of its down fall, I would point to the printing press. It changed society so drastically that its control fell away. Couldn't the internet be the new printing press and break the current power block? But what power block would rise in its place is another important question.

    •  Further distance (0+ / 0-)

      current transmission rates are fine for global communications.  But consider what happens when you expand beyond the earth, to the solar system.  Those kinds of transmission delays and travel times, where you are talking substantially more for, minutes to hours for information travel, and days to months for physical travel - that can have a huge impact.  

      •  on spacefaring (0+ / 0-)

        if all tech is ecological ... and we would require a load of new tech/ways of using resources to accomplish this ... the effects would be soooooooo much more far reaching than just information travel and communication. The entire culture would change from a terrestrial culture to a multiplanetary culture or what ever we would call it. What it means to be human would be different. The concept of home would be different. Old words would grab new meanings and be used in contexts sounding familiar but completely outside of our sphere of vision. That would be totally transformational.

        Yet, I would like to remain focused on the now, but at the same time remain future sighted. So thank you for the comment, and I hope they continue to flow.

        •  It might not be as far away as you think (0+ / 0-)

          The biggest issue in becoming spacefaring is cheap access, and while I am sure that at a minimum, we are very close to having it, its much more a matter of deploying the technology.  

          Furthermore, I submit that what we might see rise is the concept of "Greater Earth" (although it was not I who came up with that concept), partly because it won't just be multiple planets, but you also need to consider stations, and moons, and asteroids.  

          Now, getting to that level is quite a few years off, but I also think that its quite likely that when Cheap Access finally starts moving, we'll see it grow quite rapidly - not as fast as the internet, but certainly within a generation or 2, we'll see major changes.  

          •  think on this (0+ / 0-)

            If we are still using a fuel driven system of movement the resources on this planet will not sustain spacefaring. But if we do manage it our bodies are evolved to the gravity, air composition, and several other things of Earth. The human body being brought outside of that for considerable amounts of time could have profound effects on the body. Also the economics and the desire to leave are also required.

            Aside from that, I would be more interested to hear your thoughts on what effects such a shift would cause within the culture. If we were spacefaring how would our habits differ. Would there be culture shock when coming home from a moon colony if you lived there your whole life and went home to Earth. Does the ability to travel that far affect the ways in which we think? Those are the thoughts i would like to hear from you if possible.

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