There is no doubt that the advancements in communications technology over the past 100 years has been a turning point for humanity. Every event can be recorded and analyzed to the most minute details, exposing every evil and challenging every claim. Some of these advancements, like the iPhone, have changed the fundamentals of how we communicate. We make choices of what we put out there knowing it can be viewed forever and cannot choose to escape external pressures anymore. We can easily connect with people around the world but be judged just as quickly. Communications technology has undoubtedly changed people’s lives, but the question is for better or for worse?
The Watergate Scandal
When the floodgates opened and all of the details of The Watergate Scandal washed over the public consciousness, America was outraged at their president’s involvement. People assumed that Nixon was a terrible person for being involved in a plan to undermine the American political system, but he likely in fact was no worse than many presidents who came before and after him. The only difference was that he got caught. Due to the automatic recording systems installed in the White House, the crimes of Nixon were able to be made public across the U.S. Some claim this was a good thing as it allowed America to pressure him into resignation for his crimes, but it could also be seen as a bad thing for Nixon now could not initiate more good change for the country such as the connections made with China. This event would have panned out quite differently without the recording technology.
The Watergate Scandal shares striking similarities to modern-day cancel culture, another societal change brought around by communication technology. I explored this video and found that people claim the act of boycotting a presence online can be once again good and bad. In some cases it can create the pressure needed to address serious problems, such as the crimes committed by Harvey Weinstein, but it is important to remember, as Barack Obama states in the video, that an overuse of cancel culture will not move our society forward. Communication technology has allowed this sort of backlash to flourish and can have both benefits and negative consequences.
The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was unique as improvements in recording technology made it the first war to be extensively photographed. When the horrifying photos of death and destruction reached America an unforeseen consequence surfaced in the form of incredible public backlash. The war was fiercely protested for years across the country as people could now see its true evil thanks to these cameras. People’s ethics then overrode their belief in the political benefits of the conflict and protests broke out across the country, eventually culminating in the election of Nixon and the end of the war. Without the presence of cameras on the battlefield, America may have been oblivious to the horror overseas and many more may have died.
I remember feeling terrified in 2014 when I saw news footage of the Ebola outbreak. This feeling was shared by a number of my classmates and it was hard to calm us down with the televised images stuck in our minds. If we felt this way about a disease halfway across the world however then I can’t imagine what people must have felt during 9/11. The instant the first plane hit the World Trade Center it became a top news story on every channel. People in New York, Washington, Canada, Europe and everywhere else across the globe witnessed the horror unfold in real-time and with a collective sense of panic. If a similar event happened a hundred years prior, only those in the direct vicinity would know immediately and everyone else would find out through still, black and white newspaper images. With the advancements in colour television, live recording and global communication however it was almost as if everyone watching was there. This kind of terror can throw a country into disarray and create trauma which was why I believe it was an ethically good decision for media stations to not show bodies. Advancements in communications technology allows us to experience the terror of disasters in real-time, and I assume the implications of this will only worsen in the future as technology gets better.
When we think of modern advancements in communications technology we of course think of the iPhone. Everyone, even those in developing countries, can now have the internet in their pocket and can phone someone in their house as quickly as someone across the world. I believe this technology largely is a good thing, but others claim, as shown in sources like this, that it can also hurt us. I used to assume that being in a digital age meant we would understand others better, but now I realize the ability to find internet tribes who think exactly like us can actually close our minds and create polarization. There are also the issues of privacy concerns, an inability to escape cyberbullying and the ability to communicate in hurtful ways. I believe that we will have to wait to see how these new communications technology developments unfold into our future to truly understand the degree that the iPhone was hurtful or helpful to society.
I have been finding excellent arguments for developing communications technology to be both helpful and harmful. Almost everything from the politics to the wars we have explored can connect back to this central thread and I am considering developing it for my final project of this unit. As I stated in my last post however, keeping an open mind is the best way to move forward so I am not set on this idea nor if I am making the argument for it to be hurtful, helpful or both. I am excited to see where this thread goes in the future.
Speaking of being open-minded, I realized that I did not understand the key concept of Zettelkasten when I developed my system in my last post. I realized it worked quite well as a mind map system but not as a second brain, or something that could make connections for me. Due to this, I am open to revamping it and currently am in the process of moving to the app Bear. I am liking it so far but will have to try it out this week to see if it’s effective. This experience has taught me that I need to explain new systems I create to my teachers before I go forward with them to ensure they meet the criteria.
– https://youtu.be/I9WiyxZqoUE – A rather recent and relevant source that lines up with my personal experience online.
– https://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykarcz/2017/01/09/apple-iphone-10-year-anniversary/?sh=6ce7bf1a77d0 – Lines up with my personal experience and previous knowledge + biased and fact checked: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/forbes/