Transforming Cultures through Changes in Technology
This section presents the responses of an interviewee to the questions of the researcher. The data gathering method chosen by the researcher was semi-structured interview. The researcher designed a guide questionnaire to aid in the data gathering. The interview was conducted in the house of the interviewee and was done in an informal manner. The interviewee is a 50-year old married man who owns a small business and is a father of three children. The interviewee, being a businessman and a father of there children (20 y/old, 17 y/old and 12 y/old) is quite familiar with the different information technologies both at home and in the workplace.
1. What are technologies that you are using at home and at work?
The frequently use the internet for research, business and entertainment purposes. I also use different internet tools such as online chat and online social networking. For business, I also use the internet to communicate with customers, business partners, and employees and for online business transactions such as online banking. In the workplace we use computers, printers, faxes, and phones. I have a mobile phone and a laptop computer for both personal and business use.
2. What were the technological changes that you witnessed 20 to 30 years ago especially in the area of communication.
Before, there were only phones (landline), faxes, and snail mails and telegraphs. These were the common mode of communications during those times. If you want to see a movie you go the cinemas, now we have different options, we can watch movies online. Before the only sources of information are newspapers, the radio and television. Now because of the internet, we have access to endless information from different parts of the world. Mobile phones and the internet made communication from any point of the world a lot easier.
3. Do you agree that these technological advances make our lives easier than before?
Yes. I feel like the geographical barriers to communication are now gone. You can communicate with a person in real-time even if he or she is miles away from you. This was not possible before. If you want to communicate with someone, you send them mails, which took days or weeks to receive. Now communication is much easier.
Transforming Cultures through Changes in Technology
Internet and information technology affects cultures in the Asia-Pacific region. These countries are being exposed to the internet culture which is primarily Western. Moreover, there is a growing belief that the rapid growth of the internet will propel the development of a global culture – one resembling the cultures of Europe and North America. Through internet, Western values and beliefs are being promoted and embraced by countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Values and beliefs including equality between men and women, the right to speak freely, democratic participation in government and the pursuit of pleasure through consumption are readily diffused throughout the world over the Internet (Giddens and Griffiths 2006).
Communicative space or platform created by the internet is not culturally neutral or value free space in which diverse individuals communicate with equal ease. Like all technologies, the Internet was and is socially produced – and all social productions are informed by the cultural values of their producers. The creators of the Internet were predominantly Anglo-American engineers and scientists seeking quick and open access to others like themselves.
More than the benefits gained through internet, many are more concerned about how the internet affects cultures. The internet advocates Western lifestyles. Websites display various aspects of western society and life and the overwhelming majority of them have positive portrayals of the western lifestyle. It makes people believe that the West seems to be countries of absolute freedom and paradise for individual achievement where private life is without obstacles and external inferences. Partial information such as this is particularly appealing to our youths whose life philosophy and worldview have yet to mature. Many of these youths aspire with great diligence to go abroad just to change a way of living. The Internet helps dominant cultures impact and homogenize cultures in an inferior position. Because the Internet overwhelmingly is a culture of the English language, it further strengthens throughout the globe the culture based upon the English language. In comparison, cultures based upon the Chinese, the French and other languages have been weakened. Because of the introduction of the Internet, some under-developed countries have made themselves vulnerable to foreign dominant cultures, busy defending themselves. This situation has become so bad that scholars in some developing countries are concerned about their indigenous cultures being homogenized and have provided proposals to counter “cultural invasion” on different fronts.
Cross-Cultural Encounters Mediated by Technological Environments
According to Rooksby and Weckert (2007) one of the central consequences of the growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web is the facilitation of cross-cultural encounters of a speed and scope that would have been unimaginable in the era of print and post. The internet is one of the most powerful tools now in information and communications technology. This can be attributed to the characteristics of the internet: first in contains the biggest resource of information in the world and second, it enabled people to obtain an interactive mechanism to instantly communicate with each other. This goes with the views of the interviewee who primarily uses the internet for business, research, entertainment and communication purposes.
The Internet enables its users to transfer information quite rapidly. There are different tools and applications that make this possible such as electronic mail, newsgroups, newsletters, video, and graphics with the help of using a WWW browser and much more. People are able to join chat forums online while also being able to play bridge with the help of the Internet with somebody geographically far away or just down the street (Gattiker 2001).
There are different views on how the internet and the world wide web facilitate and affect cross-cultural encounters. For optimists, the net represents a new stage in the development of human culture. This global culture, existing in ‘cyberspace’, enables human beings across the planet to share and invent new ‘virtual realities’ to be free and to communicate via new forms of art, and to collaborate in the development of scientific understanding and new technological developments. For pessimists, the net is one more part of a process whereby American (or Western) capitalism imposes a commercialized and vulgarized English-speaking culture of pop songs, pornography, block-buster films, jeans, hamburgers and commercial profiteering on a previously much more diverse and culturally sophisticated world (Tansey 2002).
Mediated communication among cultural systems is a pivotal form of intercultural communication. The mass media and information technologies play an important role in compressing time and space, shortening the distance between people (Gudykunst and Mody 2002). The internet is proving to be an especially important force for cross-cultural communication. People throughout the word can interact easily with each other through their own personal computers or those at Internet cafes and, increasingly, through mobile phones that integrate Internet access and text messaging with voice capability (Quelch and Deshpande 2004). Information and Communication Technologies gave rise to an Electronic Global Village wherein communication is being facilitated. In this electronic global village cross-cultural communication is mediated. The Electronic global village is the hybridization of facsimile, VCRs, answering machines, compact disks, cellular phones, video games, computers, telecommunications networks and high-definition television. The systematization of the electronic global village are as follows:
1. Information infrastructure composed of the following elements:
- Information utility (telecommunication services, the internet, computers)
- Electronic money
- Electronic knowledge
- Information systems
- Information services
- Info-communications systems (such as e-commerce)
- Information policy
2. Digital organizations, such as
- Virtual school and university
- Virtual enterprise
- Online government
- Electronic global citizens
3. Digital social structures
4. Global society
5. Global culture
6. Cross-cultural communications (Drake 2003)
Developments in Media Technology and Their Effects on Culture
One of the most prominent theorists in the filed of media technology is Marshall McLuhan. One of the major themes with McLuhan’s work is his treatment of media as extensions of the human body (Fishman 2006). McLuhan’s view of media as technological extensions of the body is his basis for conceiving of four media culture which are brought about by shifts from oral to written communication, from scripts to print, and from print to electronic media. These four cultures are:
1. A primitive culture of oral communication
2. A literate culture using the phonetic alphabet and handwritten script which co-existed with the oral
3. The age of mass-produced, mechanical printing
4. The culture of electric media – radio television and computers
According to McLuhan (1994) media technologies have the power to structure social arrangements and relationships, and have mediating aesthetic properties. They mediate our relations to one another and to the world. Aesthetically, because they claim our senses in different ways, the multidirectional simultaneity of sound as against the exclusively focused attention of a line of sight, the fixed, segmenting linearity of printed language and high resolution of film or the low resolution of TV, etc. McLuhan stresses the physicality of technology, its power to structure or restructure how human beings pursue their activities, and the manner in which extensive technological systems form an environment in which human beings live and act (Lister 2003).
Drake, M A 2003, Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, CRC Press.
Fishman, D A 2006, ‘Rethinking Marshall McLuhan: Reflections on a Media Theorist’, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 567+.
Gattiker, U E 2001, The Internet as a Diverse Community: Cultural, Organizational, and Political Issues, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.
Giddens, A and Griffiths, S 2006, Sociology, Polity Press.
Gudykunst, W B and Mody, B 2002, Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication, SAGE.
Lister, M 2003, New Media: A Critical Introduction, Routledge.
McLuhan, H M 1994, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Quelch, J A and Deshpande, R 2004, The Global MarketL Developing a Strategy to Manage Across Borders, John Wiley and Sons.
Rooksby, E and Weckert, J 2007, Information Technology and Social Justice, Idea Group.
Tansey. S D 2002, Business, Information Technology and Society, Routledge, New York.
Wood, A F and Smith, M J 2005, Online Communication: Linking Technology, Identity, and Culture, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.
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