Last Updated 24 Mar 2020

Disconnection in the Midst of Connectivity

Category Community, Internet
Words 1522 (6 pages)
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The revolutions in the area of information and communications technology have brought the world closer. Literally, the world has shrunk because people from Europe can readily communicate with people from Asia; a daughter in the United States can easily contact her parents in South America. The mobile phone networks, the chat rooms and instant messengers in the internet, together with e-mail have significantly lowered the cost of inter-continental communications and have literally transcended space and time.

In addition to this revolution, there is also a great deal of developments in the technologies available to humans in doing their chores and conducting their businesses. Even the simplest task can be automated and would require only a touch of a button for it to function. Washing machines, refrigerators and all sorts of electronic gadgets and equipments have indeed made life easier. This is especially true in the case of developed countries where these technologies are readily available.

Life has no hassles and lifestyles have become as easy as pushing another button on the remote control of the television. In less developed countries, however, this is not the case. The tendency is for them to rely on traditional means of doing things and conducting their business. Most of these countries in Asia, Africa, and South America doe not have access to most of these new technologies. As a result, they still tend to use their own bodily strength in conducting their businesses and going about their daily lives.

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For example, in farming, people from less developed countries use their own muscles and animals to till the soil and harvest their agricultural products later on. On the other hand, those in the developed countries tend to use heavy machinery to conduct the same set of activities. Has the use of technology led people and society to become lazy, apathetic and disconnected to the rest of the world? What about individuality? Has it been enhanced or is it being challenged by these new technologies? As the world is shaped by these technologies, will individualism be melted into a smorgasbord of collectivity?

Connectivity, Individuality, and the “Global Village” Marshall Mcluhan (41a) declared that the world has become a “Global Village”. He said this statement back when the use of the internet is not yet as widespread as it is now. This global village will come about as humans become increasingly dependent on electronic media and other forms of electronic technologies. Through this “electronic interdependence, the visual culture created by the coming of the printing press and the publication of books, humans will come to use electronic media more and more.

Through the increasing popularity and acceptance of electronic media and the culture it develops, a new age will come in which humans will develop a collective consciousness and identity and individualism will be integrated into this collective consciousness. McLuhan declared his thesis in the early 1960s, back when the Internet revolution has not yet started climbing its ascent. This is due to the utilization and because of the message propagated by media since according to him “the medium is the message” (McLuhan, 20b).

He also gave warnings that this global village, if its citizens were not aware of the impact of media and its effects on them as persons, then terror, totalitarianism or anarchy will reign in this village. Technology is, in itself, free of normative standards. When it is used towards certain ends, then it becomes an important tool in shaping the concept of the individual about himself, the relationship of other people to him, and how he stands in relation to the society that he lives in.

McLuhan assumed that print technology is the bastion of individualism and that if it were rendered in electronic format, its effects on individualism would also change. (McLuhan, 158a). How do these new technologies increase the connectivity of people around the world? According to Alstyne and Brynjolfsson (4), the speed of the transmission of data and communications has become very quick. In addition, millions of people have access to them, thus increasing the connectivity between and among people all over the world.

Although this is the case, the capacity of individuals in absorbing and interacting with so much information is limited. The creation of a more or less uniform social consciousness based on connectivity is simply impossible. There are around 33 million articles and web pages in the Internet in May 1996 according to AlaVista (Alstyne & Brynjolfsson, 4). Transcending the Nation: Emergence of New Imagined Communities Benedict Anderson (6) in his book that sought to describe the nation and why people were so attached to it described the nation as an imagined community.

This community was conceived in the minds of people with powerful bonds and relationships that are usually defined by religion, race, or language. Anderson traced the development of the nation as an imagined community and pointed out that the printing of books in the people’s vernacular and the industry of publication or “print-capitalism” is instrumental in the emergence of this imagined community. The result of the diffusion of this medium of communication is that people across geographical areas bound by common languages started to drew together and conceptualize themselves as members of a community, albeit an imagined one.

It should also be remembered that during the period of the rise of nationalism, the divine right of monarchs to their thrones were being challenged. Later, colonized people were also revolting against their colonial masters in a bid for independence and autonomy. As such, the common struggles, common language, and other commonalities brought these people together through the print media (Anderson, 7). Although it could be surmised that the people in the nations described by Anderson were still individuals, they were bound by a collective consciousness that led to the development of the nation.

From the explanation of Anderson regarding the role of print media in developing imagined communities; as well as the discourse of McLuhan regarding the effects of the changes in the print media, it can be concluded that print media and more recently, electronic media have a huge impact in creating a collective consciousness. The problem of today’s electronic media, especially the internet, is that the message is diverse and there is no single coherent message that is being promoted.

Rather there is a hodgepodge of messages and millions of files, most of them are unrelated (Alstyne & Brynjolfsson, 5). Given the bulk and diversity of topics in the World Wide Web, Alstyne & Brynjolfsson (5) have argued that what is happening is that there is a “cyber-balkanization” and fragmentation of internet and technology users according to their interest. As such, there are various cliques and groupings of individuals that keep out others who do not share the same interest with them.

On the other hand, Pack (16) conjectured that the television is very powerful in shaping the perceptions and understanding of people about the world. Since most of the people of the world are exposed to the television, the advertisements, the shows and even the news reports among others are instrumental in the development of new imagined communities based on interest. Communication and Disconnection As people learn to communicate better in the setting of information and other communication technologies, there is a tendency for people to lose their non-verbal and non-linguistic communication skills.

Because of the large amount of time spent by individuals in communicating online or using various information and communication technologies, they spend less time interacting with others, and thus might lose other non-verbal communication skills. This will be a significant loss for society if information and communication technologies hamper the traditional means of communication of individuals in the society. Conclusion Information and communication technologies, as most products of science and innovation, have contributed to an easier lifestyle.

However, there are tradeoffs to this. The traditional means of communication are being undermined by the excessive use of these technologies. In addition, the internet, the television and similar technologies are giving rise to new kinds of imagined communities based on common interest and pursuit. These imagined communities, however, lack a single coherent message in comparison to the “print-capitalism” discourse of Anderson (7) that gave rise to nations as imagined communities.

Instead, what is present are a lot of several seemingly disconnected messages that bind certain groups of people across geographies through the process of “cyber-balkanization” as described by Alstyne & Brynjolfsson (4). In certain aspects, there is also an empowerment of individuality in information technology, especially in the Web 2. 0 technologies that seek to give more preference to the way that individuals conduct their computing and extend their presence online (O’Reilly, n. p. ).

In the ending of Big Brother (Orwell, n.p. ) the characters in the novel were subjected to extensive brainwashing through the media—visual, print and even coercion. The novel also showed the potent power of media in propagating a message, even a wrong one at that. Such a scenario, however, is unlikely to happen with the current information technologies available since there is no centralized group or person controlling these technologies. Technologies may have had negative effects on the communication skills of people yet individualism is here to stay.

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