It is no secret that the way the world communicates is largely fueled by technology. Communication between people is affected in both a large-scale and small-scale way. In a media-driven society, it is understandable to question whether people are too involved in technology and less involved with the relationships life allows them to have. The role technology plays in society’s communicative patterns is strong and can be either advantageous or destructive.
The introduction of technology has made a huge impact on the world. Craig Brown, professor of communication studies, said there have been benefits of technology in the form of the printing press.
“The printing press revolutionized the way that everything works,” Brown said. “Before, information was transferred by oral tradition or letters were written and then we had to wait for horses to bring them over mountains.”
He credits much of the ease of communication in society today to technology.
Another benefit that technological innovations have lent the world is the ability to contact people all over the world.
“When I was in school, Hale subscribed to four international papers. If it was not in Hale, it was hard to get,” said Brown, a K-State alumnus. Now students have access to every major newspaper in the world.”
Brown said he encourages his students to contact experts regarding questions they may have on a particular subject. Brown said he sees the value of the advancements, and whether the relationships formed over the Internet are “real” does not matter.
“Students are allowed interactions with people they may never get to meet,” he said. “The relationships may not be the most meaningful, but relationships with friends that you see now are not necessarily meaningful either. The nature of the relationship is not significant.”
Communicating throughout the world is an advantage for companies and business professionals, but gaining the ability to communicate across the globe on the relational level is the common interest of all parties. Beyond e-mailing and blogging, people are keeping in touch via social networking sites and other similar sites. It is not uncommon to hear that a website or a chat service is “addicting” and it can be concerning how involved people can become in cyber communication.
However, Brown said technology is not to blame for a lack of communication in relationships.
“Technology does not affect how well someone communicates,” he said. “The advancements simply provide a new venue to express existing strengths and weaknesses in communication.”
While the advantages with technological advances are opening doors that were closed to societies before, Becca Norman, senior in anthropology and vice president for the anthropology club, said there might be pressure on a culture to accept such advances.
“Technology is a great thing, but that is a Western standpoint,” Norman said. “First World countries are processing the revolution but don’t need it so they don’t push it.”
She said there is no reason for some countries and societies to join in the technological revolution. Farmers who can only afford to sell their product to local business have no need to access the world of potential clients, Norman said.
“The main concern is not about whether society is becoming too mediated or too involved in technology, but instead we do not fully understand the affects it has on us,” said Michael Wesch, associate professor of anthropology.
He said people could be allowing technology to play a major role in their lives without intending for it to be.
“Learn to harness media so that it doesn’t harness you,” Wesch said.
This allowance by people with the media does not always come in straightforward fashions. Wesch said sometimes this overruling of media looks like “ignoring people right next to you so that you can check Facebook or Twitter.”
Undoubtedly, new doors have opened with advancements in the technological department. How it is exploited for use is virtually uncontrolled. One can argue for the pros or the cons of technology on communication skills and patterns, but as Wesch said, “Technology is no more and no less than what we make of it.”