On communication and technology

by Joe Jean | on Sep 08, 2015 | under: communication & technology


As human beings we have a natural need to communicate with one another. In order to do so, we use different tools. Such tools include language, gestures, drums, computers, cellphones etc... To me all those tools that facilitate communication among humans are technologies. In a more general sense, a technology is anything that improves the life of humans.

In the first chapter of the book "The Information" by James Gleick we see how the same technology can be used differently in different cultures. The author tells how the drum is used in sub-Saharan Africa as a tool to share information --many sentences-- over a long distance. But this was a big surprise to Europeans who were living in sub-Saharan Africa at the time. In their culture the best they could do with the drum was transferring a set of one-word long messages such as attack, retreat.... This anecdote reminds me of how versatile a technological tool can be. How a certain technology is used is up to the creativity and imagination of whoever is using it. This makes me wonder, do we, as humans, always use technology in way that makes us better?

Well, in "The Machine Stops" by Edward M. Forster, we see how human beings became too dependent on technology. Face to face interactions are almost non-existent and the humans use technology for everything in our life. It is like they are living in a virtual world. People have friends they have never met in person. I personally sometimes would send a Facebook message to my roommate who is just sitting in the living room while I'm laying in bed in the bedroom. While some might consider this an efficient way of communicating, I do think that, as human beings, we definitely need more direct and physical interactions. Sometimes it definitely makes sense and is more convenient and efficient to use technology to communicate. For example, it is so convenient for two people who are located thousands of miles apart from each other to communicate via email or Skype etc

All in all, I think human beings need to strive to find the right balance between using technology to communicate and having real interactions. It is so easy to always resort to technology whenever we need to communicate with someone else, but if we pause a second and ask ourselves “can this be done in person” we realize that technology is not always needed for us to communicate.


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