My Take on our Information Society

This blog prompt is pretty “heavy,” but I’ll give it the old college try. “Information Society” to me is reflected in the three prevailing technologies: smartphones, laptops, and the internet. The first two devices give us access to the largest, dirtiest, most prosperous, and most insightful library and news room ever created: the internet. Look down the hallways of school buildings, look at people walking across town or across campus, and look at people sitting in their rooms: you would be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t looking at a screen of some kind (television, smartphone, laptop, tablet, e-reader) and using it to access information. Information–from scholarly papers to news updates about the Ukraine to “5 Complex Languages Invented by One (Crazy) Person”–is all out there for the taking. In short, “Information Society” to me means a lot of tools used to access a lot of information.

Unfortunately, what will often occur in the wake of all this technology and information is a “poverty of attention,” as discussed in the Anderson article. In its most humorous form, poverty of attention results in active phone users bumping into one another. But since the technology is so new, we have yet to realize its implications (in much the same way that we’re unsure of the long-term impact of ADD/ADHD medicine, which interestingly enough is used to counteract this poverty of attention). One thing researchers like David Meyer have illustrated is that “multitasking, at least as our culture has come to know and love and institutionalize it, is a myth” (Anderson 191). What follows is a TEDTalks video that also explores multitasking.

Another downside to all of this information is that now everyone is an expert in “nothing.” What I mean is that people can look up the director of The Professional and cross-reference it with his other work (most notably The Fifth Element), but does that mean we really “know” it? A simple IMDB search gave us that answer, and I could probably spit it back out again. But do I really have a deep understanding of Luc Besson’s work? To roughly quote Chuck Palahnuik’s novel Survivor, nobody is asking “how” anymore; they’re asking “What’s that from?” Another quote from this novel says: “People used what they called a telephone because they hated being close together and they were too scared of being along.” If you accept this social commentary as true, are we losing our humanity through technology?

But if that was the case, then every new technological revolution would be a change in the definition of “humanity.” As Anderson points out, people have been prophesizing the end of human nature since Socrates, who lamented over the fact that writing would destroy the brain’s ability to memorize entire epics (Anderson 188). With the people who lived through the Gutenberg Revolution, I’m sure there were modern equivalents: people who didn’t take up books/literacy probably wouldn’t have Facebooks in today’s day and age. And to think that reading has always been seen as a positive force in people’s lives. Will tweeting and posting someday achieve the same reverence as reading?

Both Kelly and Anderson pointed out the benefits of technology.  The technium improves quality of life and can help to maintain the organic ecosystem because it depends on that system as well (Kelly 6). Also, revolutions in medicine and architecture have come about thanks to technology. Anderson pointed out that no one ever focuses because the idea of focusing is a paradox (Anderson 203). We need technology to develop and grow, and we need to allow our minds to wander just a little bit.

More insights into technology’s impact can be found in this TEDBlog. This blog also contains links to other fascinating articles, such as Adam Gopnik’s article titled “The Information.”

 

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