We've been talking an awfully lot about the differences between a decentralized, two-way medium like the Internet, and the centralized, one-way broadcast approach of television. This post illustrates how the nature of a medium's content and user experience tends to correspond to its underlying technical architecture. It follows, perhaps, that by helping to shape cognitive, psychological, and social processes, technology plays an important role in shaping us.
Let's look first at some of the characteristics of the television broadcasting model, namely its content and user experience for example, and compare them with those of the Internet.
These probes can be situated among a broader, perhaps more basic set of shifts stemming from a critical new approach in our media's architecture.
Technological determinists, like Marshall Mcluhan for instance, believe that while we create technlogy, the technology that we create then forever after shapes us. These forces which shape us might be intended (air conditioners in the Southern States intended to make for cooler indoor environments in the summer) or unintended (as a result of cooler indoor temperatures, the workaday schedule, fashion, and social patterns of Southerns was affected). Inventions such as fire, language, the printing press, electricity, and television, are often cited, prominently, for their profound long-term effect on society. The power of the Internet, its myriad applications, its rapid adoption, and its ability to integrate and extend all which came previous, may place it in a class of its own. Social determinists question the validity of technological determinism because firstly, people are involved in shaping their tools and secondly there is too much unpredictability in the world and our evolution relies too much on chance, or that which is still unknown, to conclude that technology has such a distinct role in our development. While a balance surely exists between these two opinions, we cannot deny the powerful social effects of the forces which can be attributed directly or indirectly to the advent of this networking era. While the shifts that make up our current transformation are strong we should not conclude they will be absolute. A role will continue, however marginalized, for tangible goods, for central institutions, for hierarchical structures, and so on. New forms could be born as well. We should think of these shifts as ongoing cyclical forces which over time strive for equilibrium and balance. Exactly where that balance lies is up to us.
Posted by Mark Hemphill on November 9, 2005 | Permalink
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After talking about this in class, I started thinking about what TV has been offering lately. In class we talk alot about the future of Television, and that it may become integrated into super internet television. Television is already starting to show signs of integration...Like TiVo or DVR which has taken over the digital viewing experience. Or Even just through simple things, like the different kinds of options TV is giving us today, such as timesharing packages. The idea that when I sign up for service I can choose packages such as the Sportsnet package, which gives me Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific. I can now watch a Senators hockey game on Sportsnet East, then as soon as its done, change it over to Sportsnet Pacific and watch a Canucks game. These options probably couldn't or wouldn't have been done before the advent of the internet. These options are also making TV just a bit more interactive to the viewer. Not forgeting that TV still has a very much top down structure, but ideas such as time sharing is giving the previous useless viewer a few more options.
Posted by: Chad M. | Nov 10, 2005 1:34:25 PM