Technology: Empowerment or enslavement? Egalitarian tool of the people or digital divide?
Those are the questions (or mine anyway!) This is an interesting dichotomy for someone who has online communications technology open and in use constantly – it is a fundamental tool in the development of my work product; as a communications device with family and colleagues; for use as a 24/7 source of “did you know” factoids on everything from entertainment to politics. I have it at my fingertips, therefore, this must be truly an egalitarian info age in which we live as it empowers all who have access. Do all have equal access?
Ah, Barbrook and Cameron in “The Californian Ideology” (1996) caution against the “apartheid” (p. 61) created by information haves and have-nots – a social divide then, that is not equally empowering, and in fact, could be viewed as democratically polarizing. This is a thought- provoking position. Radnovic blogs that it is critical that we bridge socio-cultural gaps not only in access to technology, but in the associated required skills, since by not doing so, we risk further polarity in education and opportunities. Food for thought, indeed. (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/12/14/digital-divide-and-social-media-connectivity-doesnt-end-the-digital-divide-skills-do/).
Extending the idea of unlimited access to technology and its impacts, Barbrook and Cameron suggest “what is unknown is the social and cultural impact of allowing people to produce and exchange almost unlimited quantities of information on a global scale” (1996, p. 52). While I embrace many aspects of the electronic age in which we live, and I am in the baby-boom demographic still impressed by new and emerging technologies, I see constantly, the mixed impact of tech communications tools. On one hand I can create a slick and interactive online Slide Rocket presentation, publish it and have global participants – great and makes me feel validated as a technology current individual (more or less). On the other, I observe mounting evidence of technology dependence –e.g. texting and driving, walking or using a public washroom. Davidow (2012) cites truly frightening statistics of a neurosurgeon who texted 10 times during an operation causing the patient partial paralysis (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/technology-addiction-will-lead-to-our-evolution-or-enslavement/250951/).
Is the need to feel connected at all cost healthy or harmful? Am I empowered or enslaved? This is a dialogue worth having.
BTW, did you Google today?