The most interesting topic that came up for me during this section was the history of technology and the evolution of communication. I loved learning about how people expressed their fear and wonder of the new emerging technology that could allow for greater communication. If history is anything to go by, methods of communication have been dominated by those who were powerful enough to control it. Thankfully, today governments and other influential organizations have lost some of the control they once had. Now anyone, with access to the internet or a mobile device, can communicate faster, farther and easier than before.
For a long time the only forms of communication were the spoken and written word. However, neither could reach great distances. For the Greeks and the Romans, town criers would receive the “news” of the town and speak about it. The invention of the printing press in the mid 15th Century allowed books to be printed and distributed more frequently to those who could read and afford the prices. The invention of the telegraph, radio and then television provided, those with the means to do so, a way to send messages to others far away. Phones, computers, tablets and even the internet, were created to incorporate societies need to communicate quickly and efficiently. Email, text messaging and applications have facilitated the change from letters and telegrams to instant communication.
It was fascinating to read about the fear Walter Benjamin had that governments would misuse technology for their own, possible evil, deeds. In his article, Benjamin writes that,
“If the natural utilization of productive forces is impeded by the property system, the increase in technical devices, in speed, and in the sources of energy will press for an unnatural utilization, and this is found in war. The destructiveness of war furnishes proof that society has not been mature enough to incorporate technology as its organ, that technology has not been sufficiently developed to cope with the elemental forces of society.”
During the class discussion however, my group discussed how technology has been able to stop or at least limit how much propaganda governments create. Modern media methods counteract any government oversight. There are sites that allow users to live stream events recorded by people at the events. Its because of these sites that protests from parts of the world that are normally ignored by large media outlets.
Websites and pages on social media are dedicated to speaking out against corruption in other governments all around the world. Even locally, small new outlets, independent journalists and/or bloggers are able to spread socially important stories over the internet that while they may not be important to large media outlets, certainly matter to most of the population.
Sites like Humans of New York on Facebook have connected people from different backgrounds and parts of the world. In the collection of Syrian refugees, the photographer was able to demonstrate the struggle many went through to escape their war torn countries and the difficulties they’ve faced finding a new place to call home. Millions of followers of the page have helped raised funds for those in need. Some have reached out to the people mentioned on the page to either help with living arrangements or to put them in contact with other people who would be able to help.
The most important aspect of the Humans of New York (HONY) is that it connects people. I don’t think that even Walter Benjamin could have imagined how powerful technology could become or how it could connect people from different parts of the world instantaneously. Thanks to sites like HONY, the photographer, Brandon, has been able to document and shed light on the difficulties refugees face when trying to enter a new country.
Hackers (even though it is illegal) are able expose corrupt people or organization because of technology. Recently, the group known as Anonymous vowed to expose prominent members of the KKK and ISIS. By using their computers members of Anonymous used the social media as a tool for social justice. Their actions are another example of how the Internet, another element of technology, has been able to help fight against corruption and prejudices.
While the internet was designed to expand communication between everyone, many people have used the internet to post or dismiss ideas. Facebook itself has become a daily news source where regular people can post “news” about themselves. Cellphones, laptops, tablets, have given media mobility. Live-streaming from mobile devices have allowed people from all over the world to watch and witness protests, speeches, demonstrations, and any other public events from different parts of the country or world.
Many argue that cellphones and computers are limiting communication. I agree to come extent that this is true. Text messaging is not the same as having an in person conversation. Text messaging doesn’t convey emotion the same way as a verbal dialog. However phone calls and even video messages have replaced letter and in live communication. With a video call a person can be across the ocean and a group of people can have conversation face to face. There are limits to these forms of communication unfortunately. Video calls can only be made by people with computer and Internet access. In a way this is similar to the letters before computers and cell phones. If a person couldn’t write, they couldn’t communicate.
There is even technology that allows people with verbal or textile difficulties to communicate. So yes, technology can be used to spread evil doctrines and hate. However, technology can be used to counteract those actions as well. Therefore, people can argue that technology is neither a positive or a negative. It just exists as a tool in this time.