Week 2 reading reflections

This week’s readings explored the nature of technologies and their effects and the famous statement by McLuhan “the medium is the message” (Murphie & Potts 2003, p. 11). I disagree, at least fundamentally, with the technological determinism theory, that “society is shaped by its dominant technologies” (Murphie & Potts 2003, p. 12). Technologies are born from and into a certain period in history, and in some cases are not simply the next logical step in the evolution of technical development but a direct result of that time and the events that shaped it. This rejection of technological determinism pushed me in the direction of cultural materialism and its acknowledgement that “the characteristics of a society play a major part in deciding which technologies are adapted, and how they are implemented and controlled” (Murphie & Potts 2003, p. 20). What else could account for the failure of the segway? However, at the same time it seems undeniable that technologies do have inherent characteristics that determine the way we use them and therefore the effect they have on society, at least to some degree.

This is why I found Saskia Sassen’s (2009) idea of forcing our own logic, not that of the engineers’, onto technology so interesting, especially as programs and systems are becoming more flexible making this more and more possible. We are able to create our own flows – choosing what feeds we follow, how and when we follow them. Tiziana Terranova (date unknown) spoke of the flood of data and how it both equalises and overwhelms and I think we need to choose our own logic to navigate this, whether it’s to cling tight to the tree branch of traditional hierarchy or let go and go with the flow and become strong swimmers.

I feel like the message and the medium have become more tied together, as media become even more interwoven into everyday life and interaction. For example, we share so much because we can, it’s normal now, and because we share so much new and better ways of sharing are created – so we share more. So which came first – the ability to share or the desire to? In some ways, it’s a chicken or egg scenario, a continuous cycle, blurred by the speed with which new technology develops and how quickly society reacts to it. An interesting area for research, perhaps.

Sources:

Murphie, Andrew and Potts, John (2003) ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ in Culture and Technology London: Palgrave Macmillan: 11-38

Terranova, Tiziana ‘Tiziana Terranova introduces Liquid Democracies’, transmediale (date unknown) [2 March 2011] <http://www.transmediale.de/tiziana-terranova-it-introduces-liquid-democracies>

Saskia Sassen (2009) ‘The Internet as Playground and Factory’ [2 March 2011] <http://vimeo.com/6789940>

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