ICTs – Instrumentum or locus of transformation?
don’t—these days everyone’s lives are transformed by new media like the internet, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.
”(p. 2). To my mind, opinions about the cultural and social impact of new technologies is initially polarised intoextreme positions. On the one hand, it is those who create a lot of
about the wonderful, uniqueadvantages of the technology –this view is referred to as
. On the other hand there are those whoappear more
about the terrible effects they foresee –known as
.Following Postman’s conception (1993) about
, a world whose advancement is characterised only by technological innovation
, Graham (1999) addresses this tension very clearly,
“At the same time, to declare all doubts and questions about the Internet to be luddite, is to run the dangerof falling victim to the other extreme, an extreme we might call ‘the ideology of technology’. The ‘ideologyof technology’ is most evident in Technophiles: those who believe that technological innovation is acornucopia which will remedy all ills… Their motivation lay … in the fact that they were intrigued by thetechnical problems. This is one aspect of the ‘ideology of technology’– technological problem-solvingbecomes an end in, and of, itself irrespective of larger considerations. To say more accurately, thequestion of means is the dominant (even sole) consideration and the question of the value of ends towhich they are the means is left to take care of itself. A second important aspect of the ideology oftechnology is its assumption that the most technologically advanced is the best. This might be taken as thedefining characteristic of technophilia, in fact. It is also the belief that has ushered in ‘Technopoly’ a worldruled by technological innovation (Graham, 1999:pp.9-10)
In this light, Kling (1996) defines what he sees as the basic beliefs of the ‘utopian’ and ‘dystopian’ visionspeople tend to have regarding the effects of ‘computerisation’ on human interaction and social life. Theutopian vision emphasises the life-enhancing, exciting possibilities of CMC with claims for globalconnectivity, democratisation and the opening of the frontiers of human experience and relationship. Theanti-utopian vision concerns itself with people’s enslavement to digital technology, their growing dependency as well as the relentless, unstoppable growth of technology which brings with it information overload and thebreakdown of social structure
. So too, this may suppose with ICT. The world is indeed being altered by it and will continue to be. But thescale and depth of the alteration will not be of the sort that either optimists or pessimists predict, and the task is to explore the perennial issues which need to be understood if we are to make a reasonable assessment of its value and significance. To my mind, steering a reasoned middle course between luddism and technophiliarequires the following: that we are not swayed by technological innovation for no better reason than that it is
Postman (1999) contrasts the modern world, especially in America, with earlier ‘tool using’ societies, when technology was the servant of otherindependent purposes and regulated by them. Technopoly, by contrast “
eliminates alternatives to itself
” (p.48). Although criticised as puttingtoo much generalisation, Postman identifies an important assumption that all that went before is redundant and to be discarded becauseinferior. With this, also comes another assumption, that countries and individuals who want to increase or preserve their prosperity must investheavily in hi-tech.
With reference to the Internet, Berland (2000) in similar way refers to ‘cyberutopianism’ to explain what she observes as the ‘overly optimisticbelief’ often held in society that technology necessarily means progress and, therefore, what is new is always good and always better thanwhat went before. This also assumes that progress is always a good thing, which may explain why many people rush out to buy the latestversion of everything.Sometimes people forget that the new product may not be better but that we are told it is in order to satisfy the interests of hard corecommerce. This view, supported by the current practice of neoliberal economy, changes entirely the way society perform. If Descartes werearound, he might say “
Emo ergo sum
” (I shop, therefore I am) instead of “
Cogito ergo sum
” (I think, therefore I am). This is my personal note tothis issue, which is published in an English newspaper in Indonesia. See: Nugroho (2002)