Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why the pessimism?

Should we be really so pessimistic about technology, especially the emerging new media technologies? Communication is a social construct, born out of the need to be able to survive. We, the Homo sapiens, have persisted and survived, and progressed over the past 100,000 years, mainly because we have developed the skill of communicating with each other. What has really changed, is the way we have started communicating. If we overlap timelines of evolution of the present human race and that of evolution of media, media has been around for a miniscule fraction of the time.

The problem is that we have simply not been able to really understand this new form of communication. We don't know how to deal with it. We are mesmerized by the moving images, captivated by them, and are unable to distinguish fact from fiction. We develop parasocial relationships with the fictional characters on television. We are addicted to the shows, to the games we play on our play stations, and to the fascinating online social media.

When we buy a new mobile phone, we spend a few days trying out the features, playing with it, downloading apps, watching videos, taking pictures. We are in awe of the new, wonderful technology that has fallen into our hands. If you look at the larger picture, the humankind has found a new toy for communicating with each other. We are all in awe of the power of communication, and in our new- found ability to communicate. Where the traditional media failed in allowing us two-way communication, we have now the power of social media.

True, there are several detractors of new media, and they are probably right. As Jean Baudrillard says, we have become individual units, each with a smooth, cool surface of the screen, connected to each other only when we are in a network. There are several other scholars who treat new media almost with contempt. They could be right when we think of the present generations. But in the larger context, we, as humans, are in a constant state of evolution. New media technologies are a way of life today, and we are in awe of these technologies. Humans are survivors. We will get over the awe of new media in a few generations, and use it simply as a part of our life. We will learn when to, and when not to use the technology and how to use it to the optimum. I don't think we need to be pessimistic about it.

It's just a matter of time.