02. A02.

Cyber Cultures

Technology & the Modern Day

Technology continues to improve and change. The theory of Moore’s Law states that, every 18 months, processing circuits will double in speed yet halve in price, which even 50 years on proves true, demonstrating just how progressive technology is.

The implications that this ever-changing technology has for the community are both positive and negative; some feel that it is seemingly harmless and therefore beneficial towards the community but to others, new technologies are far from beneficial.

Technology & the Modern Day

According to experts, ‘Cyberculture’ refers very specifically to new technologies in two areas – artificial intelligence (particularly computer and information technologies) and biotechnology. The concept of community has changed greatly in the last ten years due to such new technologies, labelling contemporary society as the first ‘mediated’ society in history.

Technology & the Modern Day

Community itself can be hard to define; communities are usually referred to as a certain area and the people they contain, rather than about an individual group. However, a contradicting view would be that of Wellman and Gulia, who argue that communities are about social relationships while neighbourhoods are about boundaries. By this definition, new technologies have had a great impact on community, especially since the creation of the Internet. However, the definition of community has changed over time, as new technologies have been created, and so the definition of community has changed. Community is no longer established by going to public spaces but through person-to-person connectivity. Online, more and more ‘virtual communities’ are forming, based on common interests and desires.

Within these ‘online communities’ people feel a sense of belonging, as they may have finally found people who share common interests. The implications that are brought by the Internet may be that users gain a sense of freedom; it becomes hard to adjust to real life relations in the community (bounded by boundaries). When in conversation on the internet, there is always a slight delay, a time in which you can compile your response. According to Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, technology makes it easy to communicate when we wish to but equally easy to disengage at will. This means that you can avoid an awkward conversation and choose when to deal with it. This is very unrealistic in the real world and it would be considered odd behaviour to talk the way you do online.

One of the most substantial forms of technology that has grown in the last 10 years is the Internet, which has since been integrated into modern day society; subsequently society has changed the way we communicate with each other. Jones claimed that the Internet would enhance communication and with the increasing development of the Internet, social media have been created with one of the most significant social media sites being Facebook. This has both helped and hindered the community.

A positive impact that social media sites have had on the community is to the people who have friends and family in different countries, or even different cities – in these situations Facebook brings people together and simulates being there with them. People are able to find out what everyone is currently up to and what they have done in their life previously. An aspect of the implications that new technologies have on the community varies from person to person, or more noticeably, from one generation to the next. A once common form of communication was letter writing, is now a dying art.

Whilst now you can contact your friends no matter how far away in an instant, as it takes a shorter time to transport yourself somewhere, so does the time and space of communication. There’s no longer demand for physical communication such as letter writing or seeing someone face-to-face because you can Skype, instant message or call someone instead. Alternatively instant messaging can be viewed as a great limitation. Has it created a paranoia within the realm of social networking? That if we aren’t answered immediately we are being ignored, or worse ‘de-friended’.

Technology & the Modern Day

We live more in our heads than any society has at any time in history, and for some the only reality is the one inside their heads, which can be related to technology since we have been ‘shown’ a more ‘perfect life’. On the bus, everyone stares at their phones intently, scrolling through their newsfeed, submersing themselves into a virtual world where we are constantly in contact with our friends. Every micromoment that is spent alone now has to be filled with technology, just to disguise the fact that you are briefly alone. Before smart phones and the rise of social media, people would happily sit idly or possibly start a conversation with another person in the meantime, not fearing that others are judging them for not being popular. This is breaking up the sense of community since people are no longer interacting with each other, as it would often now be considered strange to randomly start a conversation with a stranger.

What do these new technologies hold for the future? A fictional representation could be the 1997 movie, Gattaca, directed by Andrew Niccol, which depicts a world in which children are specifically made with certain qualities and those that are ‘god children’ have been deemed the underclass of society. Already, it’s possible to pick certain genetic traits for your children to have, often referred to as ‘designer’ babies. You can choose the eye and hair colour of the baby, even the sex.

Test tube babies are also favoured with a couple that have serious genetic problems, such as heart disease, with attempts to ‘breed’ these traits out, so they will have a seemingly healthy baby. Relating this to the transhumanism movement , as quoted by the World Transhumanism Association “we trust that with a right to reproductive freedom, most parents will wisely weigh the use of enhancement and reproductive technologies, and the result will be stronger families and healthier, more intelligent, and more wanted children.” All new technologies, but perhaps especially medical technologies, raise some profound moral questions.

Kevin Kelly (founding editor of WIRED magazine), mentions in a TED talk (2007) that the World Wide Web is less than 5,000 days old and that ten years ago, if you were to ask anyone about the Internet and the possibilities that it can do today, most would have said that it was impossible. Newer technologies are often described as creating a more utopian world for the human race; however other developments described indicate progression towards a dystopian world – for example, the urban dystopia of Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner. Blade Runner is an example of a situation when a technology is meant to help the community but ends up hindering it. Many technologies that are currently beneficial may, in a finite amount of time, end up harming the community. When referring to the Internet and what has become of it today, who is to say that the scenarios of films such as Blade Runner and Gattaca will never happen? Who knows what could be developed in the next ten years and the impact that these developments may have on the community.

Many futuristic/science-fiction films are based around the idea of inequality and class wars. A common storyline concept is based on real life examples, such as the civil rights movement in the 1960s in the US. Possibly in the future, class will be based on how technologically impaired you are and become a new classification process. Partially this is already happening in the community. If you don’t have the newest iPhone, you are considered not as socially acceptable as someone who owns one; someone who is not in the know. In the future, will there be a vigorous selection process of who’s suitable? With the increasing use of technology, the community are becoming more robotic, both physically and mentally.

Technology & the Modern Day

The increase of technology has improved the community’s welfare but arguably hindered face-to-face social interaction. The Internet has changed the way the community interacts; although people may “speak” more to each other by communicating online, people are interacting face-to-face less. Therefore by increasing new technologies, this is weakening the community, in which people are no longer forming relationships with each other. However the Internet has also allowed people to communicate with others that share common interests; David Bell, of the University of Leeds, argues that small, tight-knit communities are fine if you fit in, but are incredibly exclusive and uncomfortable places if you don’t. The internet allows those who do not fit into a community to find or form their own online. In the future, technology will continue to affect the community and possibly, in another 5,000 days, there will be a new technology which will make life before it impossible to remember or even conceive of….