Patterns

Readings:

  • Winston, Media Technology and Society – “Introduction” and “Chapter 1: The Telegraph”
  • Fidler, Mediamorphasis – “Technologies of the Third Mediamorphosis”
  • The Economist – “How the Internet killed the phone business,” 17 September 2005

Patterns is the theme that emerged from this week’s readings. The central premise of Winston’s book is to look at the evolution of communication technology and identify patterns/models of change by tracing key technological inventions, and studying the social dynamics that drove their adoption –he even makes some rather confusing diagrams to illustrate the process.

It’s a common practice to look at history to understand the current situation. And yet, how come we are unable to predict the future? I think human evolution is more akin to Theory of Chaos; it’s so vast we are unable to predict it. Historians have helped create the illusion the past is a linear set of facts that are in direct consequence of one another. I think it’s just the result of looking at the past through narrow lenses (i.e. only looking at inventions by men in developed countries), not that it’s a useless activity, but one should recognize its limitations (Winston saves himself by admitting some limitation at the end of his introduction).

However, I agree that finding patterns in the past helps us better understand the world because it offers us an interpretation of why things happened they way they did. Such is the case of the suppression and control dynamics described in the readings on the advent of radio, telegraph, and VOIP.

What is evident is that there is a vast set of dynamics that converge behind every major technological advance. And that even though communication is a very basic human need, it is much more complex than it appears.

Questions to ponder:
(1) How and why have we capitalized (and developed enormous industries from it) the basic and “free” act of communicating with one another?
(2) Can, and will, the commercial communication industry coexist with the non-commercial communication activity on the same “stage”?
(3) Can the unorganized and uncontrolled nature of the Internet continue to survive in the face of the organized power of capital society? And what will we miss out on, if this does not happen?

Advertisements