Week 6

For this week’s readings, the topic was related to new technologies that surfaced in an older time period. Specifically, the chapters from Standage’s book, The Victorian Internet, discuss the invention of the telegraph, explaining some of its positive and negative effects.

While the telegraph at the time seemed like an outstanding tactic for communicating, Standage actually points out many of its failures in his readings. While the purpose of the telegraph was for North America and Europe to be able to communicate, Standage observed, “[the telegraph] was not suitable for distributing the news to large numbers of readers” (Ch. 9, pg. 149). Additionally, Standage offers the optimism associated with the telegraph for world peace: “The rapid distribution of news was thought to promote universal peace, truthfulness, and mutual understanding” (Ch. 9, pg. 163) and in actuality, world peace did not occur as a result of this technology.

The Jamieson article observes the new technologies of the radio and television, following the telegraph. Particularly, he discusses each of their effects on political campaigns and in contrast to Standage, mostly recognizes their positive influences on communicating. Specifically, Jamieson points out that the radio and television made it possible for the politicians to connect with their supporters and voters all over the country, by allowing them to listen to their speeches, policies and promises.

At the end of chapter 6, Standage writes: “Unfortunately, the social impact of the global telegraph network did not turn out to be so straightforward. Better communication does not necessarily lead to a wider understanding of other points of view; the potential of new technologies to change things for the better is invariably overstated, while the ways in which they will make things worse are usually unforeseen” (Pg. 104). Do you agree or disagree with this statement in regard to the present day Internet?

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3 Responses to Week 6

  1. ekaz95 says:

    To answer your question, I have to say I mostly agree wholeheartedly with this statement. We’ve seen firsthand that while the Internet we know today has done wonders for the advancement of technology and information spreading, it certainly comes with a cost. For one, it is true that better communication doesn’t necessarily lead to a wider understanding of other view points. The fact is that most people still do not seem to care about what is going on around the world because it not always relevant. Beyond that, any information taken in about another country is perceived through the tinted lenses of American media, complete with biases and stereotypes. People who lived before the telegraph network could at least say that outside information wasn’t available, but we have no excuse for not being more globally conscious and less egocentric.

    I also agree with the claim made about the potential of new technologies being overstated as changing things for the better and how its consequences are unforeseen. We see this when comparing Shirky and Morozov. Shirky claims that that internet has immense powers for democratization – putting the people back in power to check their governments. While the potential for that is always there, the reality can sometimes become what Morozov describes with authoritarian governments using the Internet as a surveillance method. The fact that they can keep tabs on their citizens and also directly control the information that gets let in to their servers shows how easily this democratic tool can be used for other, less righteous purposes.

  2. rebyi says:

    I disagree with the statement, “better communication does not necessarily lead to a wider understanding of other points of view.” I believe better communication and new technology does help widen people’s views and broaden cultural knowledge of different countries. However, this being said, while reading these readings I didn’t agree with the people during the time of the telegraph where they believed the telegraph would help lead to world peace. Even with the Internet, being able to communicate with large amounts of people and getting messages sent across the globe in a matter of seconds still doesn’t change that these technologies can’t create world peace. Although, new technology can widen the understanding of other points of view, that doesn’t mean people will necessarily agree and follow those views, causing dispute. Also, even with better technology, miscommunication is inevitable because of cultural differences, misinterpretations, and other humanistic norms that still affect us today. Therefore, the idea that new technologies (from the telegraph to the Internet) are going to change things for the better is true, but I agree that this idea is overstated.

  3. kbyrd23 says:

    I would definitely agree with this statement in regards to the present day Internet. I do believe that increased communication due to social networking has caused people to at least be exposed to different views and new ideas, which is a step in the right direction. I agree that the change for the better as a result of new communication technology is overstated. I believe this because of Morozov’s argument that social media and other new media technologies are used for hedonistic purposes and not socially enriching purposes. New media technology may very well have the power to help people widen their understandings and create a more peaceful world, however the user may not use the technology for this endeavor, instead focusing on updating their Facebook status or reading celebrity gossip.

    Also, since the technology is new, it is impossible to clearly see long term consequences of using the new media on the Internet. Already we can see some short-term consequences from social media and Internet use. People becoming more socially isolated on social networking sites for example. Health risks from over-use and lost time that could have been spent on more enriching activities are some other problems that I can think of off the top of my head.

    There is a lot of promise for the Internet to have positive social ramifications if the users of the Internet actually use the medium as a tool to enrich perspective and knowledge. If this type of Internet can be effectively encouraged and the potential problems resulting from the Internet can be diminished or resolved, I think that the medium may very well increase peace and understanding.

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