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TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY - PAST & FUTURE

TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY - PAST & FUTURE

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This paper will first discuss the profound impact that technology has had on the cultural homogenisation of developed societies in the last 30 years and then will discuss how technology will potentially continue to catalyse homogenisation and contribute to the emergence of increased global monoculturalism in the next 20 years and beyond.
This paper will first discuss the profound impact that technology has had on the cultural homogenisation of developed societies in the last 30 years and then will discuss how technology will potentially continue to catalyse homogenisation and contribute to the emergence of increased global monoculturalism in the next 20 years and beyond.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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12/28/2013

 
 Name: Jimmy ClearyLecturer: Brendan TangneyWord Count: 1959TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY - PAST & FUTUREWrite a 2,000 word paper critically addressing one aspect of society whichtechnology has profoundly affected in the past 30 years and predicting another aspectof society upon which technology will have an equally profound effect in the next 20years.
Abstract
This paper will first discuss the profound impact that technology has had on thecultural homogenisation of developed societies in the last 30 years and then willdiscuss how technology will potentially continue to catalyse homogenisation andcontribute to the emergence of increased global monoculturalism in the next 20 yearsand beyond.***Progress in the development of technology has been immense in the last 30 years andthere has undeniably been a substantial impact on many aspects of society as a result.Perhaps the most profound change to society in recent times has been the emergenceof globalisation and the decline of local customs, traditions and culture in thedeveloped world. This paper will attempt to convey how the development of technology has been a vital part of these radical changes in society. It is imperative,therefore, to first show that these radical changes have indeed occurred, and to thenexplain how technology has had such a significant role in facilitating these changes.This paper will then explore what the future holds for global culture and the roletechnology will play in its development.Culture is not easily definable or quantifiable, as it encompasses so manydifferent aspects of societies. For the purpose of this paper, “culture” will refer to thegeneral behaviour and interests of people from a certain society, and aspects of culture which will be analysed in depth will be language, entertainment and morality.Language has traditionally been seen as a core aspect of a societal culture.This can be seen in works by 18
th
century German philosophers such as JohannHerder, who asserted that a nation could not exist without a language[1], and Irishrevolutionary, Pádraig Pearse’s famous quote, “Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam”(Acountry without a language is a country without a soul). However, in the modernworld, such views are becoming less and less common. In the distant past, languagesdied and vastly changed due to invasions and conquests, with the language of themore powerful nations becoming ultimately more widely spoken. However, in thelast 30 years, it is information technology which has contributed to the decline and proliferation of certain languages. The predominant language of the developed,
 
modern world is English. This is primarily due to the fact that US television programmes, films and music have saturated the western world. And how was thismade possible? The invention and development of media distribution technology;Satellite and cable television, VHS, the cassette tape, walkmans, CDs, DVDs, andnumerous others. In the last decade, the rising popularity of the internet, which primarily utilises English, has also contributed greatly to this. English is now themost widely spoken foreign language in the EU[2] and is also spoken widely enoughelsewhere to be referred to as the modern “lingua franca” by many linguists[3].While the development of technology in the last 30 years has not caused anycountries’ mother tongue to be replaced by English, the majority of moderntechnological terms are coined in English and either not translated into other languages or simply used interchangeably with their translated counterparts.The saturation of the western world by US television, music and films wasreferred to in the context of the proliferation of the English language. However, thishas affected a lot more than just language. American culture is now not exclusivelyAmerican – it extends far beyond the borders of the USA and is present in most of thedeveloped world, as well as in many other areas. Children around the world arewatching the same television programmes, the same blockbusters are shown in everycinema in the west and the most popular music artists in the world areoverwhelmingly predominantly American or British[4]. Perhaps the greatest exampleof how American culture has infiltrated other societies is MTV. Launched in 1981, itrevolutionised the music industry, giving artists an outlet to promote and showcasetheir music to a massive audience. By 1993 it was being beamed into 210 millionhouseholds in 72 different countries[4], with minimal localisation. MTV has been akey factor in the homogenisation of global youth culture. English speaking musicartists are dominant and music styles in pop music generally have their origins in theUS or Britain. And without technology, it would not have been possible. Its prehistory lies in the development of “Qube”, the first interactive television system,launched in 1977; it was a technological wonder for the time, but a commercialfailure. Nonetheless, MTV continued to thrive on one-way cable systems, a lesswondrous, but equally important technology, and continues to do so. It clearly portrays how technology has come to globalise and homogenise. In recent times, theinternet has provided another, more versatile medium through which US culture is propagated (Though it can be argued that it has also brought isolated supporters of non mainstream cultures together also).Morality and traditional values have also been profoundly affected bytechnology. When television was first introduced, it was generally censored andregulated by each state[5]. Only programmes which reflected the ruling parties’ policies were shown. However, as the technology became more advanced, cheaper and more widespread, and as political policies changed, this censorship and regulationdeclined and political control of the media declined. As a result of this, the media became more and more self-regulated, and therefore more and more capable of  propagating new ideas, without having to adhere to any external code of censorship or traditional values[5]. Keeping in mind that the vast amount of television programming came from the US, it is easy to see the impact that would have been hadon societies with a history of isolation. Though the secularisation of the west had begun many years before the coming of uncensored satellite and cable television, thecoming of global, mass electronic media certainly accelerated this greatly. A keyexample of how cable and satellite television changed and homogenised societalmorality and values is the Netherlands. Dutch society was originally divided into
 
several different subdivisions, each with their own school systems, churches andindeed media. However, with the coming of mass electronic media in the 70s and80s, Dutch society radically changed. They became individual consumers rather than part of a certain subdivision, and the country as a whole became increasinglysecularised[5]. In the Netherlands, as well as the rest of Europe and other developedsocieties, as technology developed, churches and political parties became less and less powerful, and the electronic media became more influential, propagating mainlysecular and US values.Besides secularisation and Americanisation, another aspect of morality andvalues that has been affected globally is desensitisation. With the absence of strictcensorship, films and television programmes in the 70s, 80s and 90s becameincreasingly gruesome and explicit in their content. In the late 90s and 00s, theinternet, which is a much less censored medium, has desensitised people of thedeveloped world even further, primarily children. Nowadays, the contrast with even10 years ago, the availability of explicit media is phenomenal. The internet pornography industry is huge, and pornography, as well as horrific “shock sites” areeasily accessible by people of any age, and they are indeed accessed by many.Prudishness is becoming a thing of the past as homogenised, global, liberal moralityhas emerged.It is clear that the development and advancement of technology, in particular media distribution, information distribution and communications technology, havecontributed greatly to globalisation and the homogenisation of western cultures in thelast 30 years. It has changed the way we live our lives and perceive the world, in away that would simply not be possible without these technological advancements.With no signs of these advancements slowing down, what can be expected in the next20 years?Throughout this paper, the “western” or “developed” world has beenfrequently referred to. This implies, correctly, that this cultural homogenisation has predominantly occurred in first world countries (although there has been substantialimpact in many other areas also). What this means is that in the next 20 years, if technology becomes more common in countries where there is little, culturalhomogenisation could expand to many more global societies. However, it will not bea simple process. The culture of Islamic countries in the east is perhaps the greatest barrier to the expansion of global homogenisation. While business links with thewest, made possible with communications technology, have increased fluency inEnglish in Islamic countries, technology has not yet empowered the media and it hasnot yet catalysed the overthrowing of the regimes in these countries and changed thecore values of their people, which remain fundamentally opposed to westernsecularist views.China is also a barrier to the expansion of this Americanised, homogenised,global monoculture. With its economy and population growing at the rate that it is,and with its people emigrating in their thousands, it would not be unfounded tosuggest that Chinese culture might begin to be proliferated outside its borders, andthat Mandarin Chinese might become as widespread and important a language asEnglish. In terms of China adapting to the monoculture of the west, it is notconceivable in the near future to the fact that censorship is alive and well in China.With everything, including the internet, censored, it seems difficult to imagine theChinese adapting to an external culture due to technology.Despite these barriers to the expansion of homogenised culture, will itcontinue to grow due to the advancement of technology? It certainly seems likely.

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