Technology’s Social Circles
People have embedded electronics in almost every facet of our society. Electronic devices enable an information-based economy to exist. But persons do not exist independent of other persons. Our inherently social nature drives our use of technology, almost independent of our awareness of social influence.
I had been thinking about this feature of our technological society for sometime. When addressing issues of within a consumer-society, one easily falls into the trap of placing the blame on the consumers. After all, I am responsible for what I purchase, how I use what I purchase, and how I choose to dispose of my purchases. Such thinking, I would imagine, forms the basis of rational choice theory. But that thinking does not seem to have room for the social space created by influence. Indeed, it seems that many decisions come from opportunity and influence. [It’s also worth mentioning that I am assuming a particular Western cultural orientation by postulating this issue in terms of choice.]
Yet, we also run into the problem of social obligations. Increasingly technology mediates our social obligations, even to the extent that we’re willing to play a “game” like Farmville [NB: I am a COMMITTED non-player of any FB game.] Yet, if I did not carry my cell phone and have significant internet bandwidth for services like Skype, I don’t know how I would manage to carry out real-time relationships with most of my friends and family.
Our social frameworks have changed. We have gotten comfortable with relationship at a distance. And the more we relate at distances, the more we require technology to support those relationships. We also learn of must-have technological devices through our social networks (a causal relationship that gets more and more convoluted by social networking software on almost a daily basis). We might have more technology; but it seems that we have introduced very different features into the fabric of our relating.
Technology enables us to share an incredible amount of content, creating a collective that interestingly enough does not seem to threaten the personal and local all that much. [NB: I don’t know if I necessarily buy that last sentence but there might be a shred in there I agree with, especially after reading an article in the NY Times called Do-It-Yourself Culture.] We seem to be in the simultaneous tension of living both our corporate and personal lives in hidden visibility as remarkably few decisions are truly “personal” Our web of connections enables us to cover choices by relying on communities that do not talk to each other.
So we weave a very complicated web.