It accelerates and informs our culture.
Sometimes, it evolves slowly.
Sometimes, it evolves at the speed of light.
Sometimes, it is light.
When we talk about technological development, we’re not talking only about technology as we know it today. And by that, I mean computers, the Internet, and everything associated with the word “tech”.
We’re talking about the evolution of aspects of daily life across time, which can manifest in many technological forms.
Technology involves the evolution of the way we, as humans, live and interact with the world.
How we make ends meet.
How we get from here to there.
How we share our lives and record history.
Some examples of technological evolution:
- Transportation: the wheel->carts->roads->road networks->bicycles->trains->automobiles->planes.
- Communication: oral tradition->written word->telegrams->telephones->email->text->instant message->social media->videocalling.
- Industry: the invention of steam power->the use of steel and iron->development in coal industry->advances in engineering->development in chemical industry.
These are just three areas of our technological evolution that have changed cultures all over the world.
How Do Technologies Change Culture?
As Charlie Gilkey put so eloquently in his article, “Technology and Culture Influence Each Other”:
“As much as technology is created from the fabric of our culture, technology also creates the fabric of our culture.”
Let’s take one of our examples from above to illustrate this.
Just imagine how different life was way back when the only means of communication was oral tradition.
Instead of instantly sharing one’s thoughts with all the world, Bob had to travel to George’s house in order to deliver a message.
Communication, therefore, took much longer, the audience was limited, it relied on memory, and it likely relied on more forethought too, because, due to these limitations, it was infinitely more important that Bob conveyed his message correctly the first time.
Then, there was written word. It could be conveyed and delivered to the recipient with more directness and accuracy.
Next, telegrams. Then, telephones.
When telephones were invented, you could call up your mom and ask her when you had to be home. And now, you can even see her face when you do so.
Communication has taken on new, more instant forms – from emails to texts to IMs to Tweets. These more instant means of communication can rapidly impact culture. In fact, they’ve created tsunami waves in the form of social media movements.
For instance, as described in “Fashion, Tradition & Cultural Clothing Movements,” a social media movement in Iran has and is changing the status quo when it comes to women wearing hijab in public.
Such movements are so impactful that they are altering the tides of history.
We’ll talk more about that next week.