Friday, September 3, 2010

Blossoming enlightenment or Technologically uneducated?

Does seeing mostly a beneficial side to technology hamper ones ability to judge a new form of communications potential? Does technology provide the same benefits to those outside a western ideological standpoint or can it degrade a nation of its identity?

These aren't questions that came to mind the first time I stepped foot into class but as a typical American(assuming I have a similar thought process to my peers) focusing on the possibilities of new technology and communication as something that connects people and brings them closer seemed like a positive, progressive thing. This comes from someone who sort of grew up with an emerging technology namely the computer and the communication form known as the internet. I always saw things like: E-mail, IM, Chat, Skype and (holder your breath for this) Facebook as something that allows/ed me to keep in-contact with friends and co-workers that I meet abroad or even through forums (yes, I am one of those that meet people and took cyber-friendships out into the real world and wasn't unpleasantly surprised). It wasn't till I took a step-outside my realm of positive thoughts and really took a good look at many of the concepts brought up in say The MacBridge Comission we discussed briefly in class, that I began to question my previous thoughts regarding the use of certain forms of communication outside my own nation.

The MacBridge Commission in 1977 looked at the problems that exist in the study of communications, things like the current state of world communications, the problems surrounding a free and balanced flow of info. and how the media could be the vehicle for educating the public about world problems. What peaked my interest and maybe opened my eyes a bit wider was the amount of focus on the nation-state and the political, if not cultural propaganda that was introduced shortly after a new technology and communications that became readily available to the public. I wasn't aware before this class of the massive influx of information that wasn't centered on understanding variations of cultures or bridging gaps, but rather that with every form of new technology formed, some new way of exploiting it for national gain occurred, often hampering or causing retaliating affects from other nations and non-governmental organizations.

Take the radio for instance, beyond being a new way to connect people, it was soon distributed, broken into long wave, short wave and medium wave bands, restricted to government, private and then public use. Beyond this the positive gains of hearing from other countries: their music, radio shows, opinions etc. Things like unending propaganda programs/ messages and culture up-rooting education were introduced. Turning what was undeniably a military tool gone entertainment into a political or soft-power tool.

But I wonder with all this spewing of good intentions gone bad is: what do we take from this? How do we balance the good intentions and benefits of a new form of technology (say the new i-pad or i-phone) and the grayish intentions of organizations and nations as they use it to promote their own ideals?

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