Media technologies have made great impact on how we communicate personally and professionally. Technological convergence has accelerated the speed of media technologies. It is important that we understand the different new media technologies that are available today. This is because our lives and our global economies have become dependent on them.
Positive impact of new media technologies on social and societal issues
New technologies have made our communication life easier than we ever imagined. Unlimited media is becoming less expensive for many people to purchase. Our society has moved from writing, printing to instant interaction among family, friends, and organizations. There is internet with emails, blogging, chatting, twitting and Facebook. Other new technologies include the smart phone that can take pictures, text, video, calculator, organizer, music player or games. We have unlimited media in our society today and our desires of today’s world have been altered by unlimited media access. As Bucy (2005) puts it, “The desire for: play, routine, diversion, orientation, representation, to feel, or to flee from all – all these human desires in their complexity and contradiction are indulged in a vast circus maximum, our cultural jamboree of jamborees” (p. 144). The media has a pivotal role in not just informing the people, but in influencing their thinking along with shaping their attitudes. The internet has become the fastest growing and widely used medium, especially in the Western world. It was estimated that as of August 2001, there were 513,410,000 internet users worldwide. Another indicator of the internet’s rapid growth was the period between the internet becoming widely available to consumers and its having 50 million users in the United States; it only took five years, as compared to 13 years for television and 38 years for radio (Rooh-e-Aslam, Ali, & Shabir, 2009). Technological convergence has made it increasingly easier for employees to work from home or anywhere instead of always being physically present at a particular location.
Negative impact of new media technologies on social and societal issues
On the other hand new media technologies have created some challenges and made our lives more complicated than we imagined. We have become consumed by these technologies that we have lost interpersonal communication among our family, friends and professional colleagues. The person who watches television does not interact with anyone while watching television. It is disturbing to learn from the findings of a national survey of media conditions among American children aged two through eighteen that “the average child spent six hours and thirty-two minutes per day exposed to media of all kinds, of which the time spent reading books and magazines— not counting schoolwork—averaged about forty-five minutes” (Busy, 2005). Unlimited media comes with so much action that we constantly want to change, no wonder we constantly flip the channels during commercials. We are becoming impatient and wanting things to change immediately.
Even though there is constant streaming of new technologies, digital divide have always existed in our society and it will continue to exist. Digital divide is the disparity in accessing information technology. Digital divide has been a concern for parents, educators and policy makers. The debate about digital divide and its effect on our society has been debated for some time (Bucy, 2005). There is no doubt that there is digital divide in our society, but this gap can be closed if policy makers and educators make computers and computer trainings available to people at free or reduced cost. Also, increased access to computers and training citizens to acquire various computer skills at free or reduced cost will help with the digital divide that we have today. Just providing everyone with up to date technology tools will not guarantee everyone then comes up with modern technology. Access to technology may not close the existing digital divide, but it may help not to make the digital divide too apparent. Bucy (2005) gave an example of the hand-held calculators, which represented a new technology at the time and the results of making such devices available to students a few decades back. “The access gap has closed, but the performance gap has not. According to the NAEP, among fourth graders, 50 percent of African Americans, 44 percent of Hispanics, and 27 percent of Whites report using calculators for math class. Students who now use calculators at the highest rates—racial minorities—tend to have the lowest mathematics performance in school and on standardized tests. Inequalities in outcomes for students, what really matters, did not substantially change, despite access to calculators.” Digital divide initiatives can help low-income Americans who are segregated in poor neighborhoods gain new job skills. Simultaneously with digital divide initiative, transportation also needs to be provided in order to allow practical access to existing employment opportunities.
Although new media technologies are more available than ever imagined, the digital divide that we are experiencing today will continue to widen in the next five years and beyond unless the government and individuals do something to bridge the gap between users and non-users.
Rooh-e-Aslam, Ali, S., & Shabir, D. (2009). A Critical Study about the Impact of Internet on its Users in Pakistan. China Media Research, 5(4), 95-108.
Bucy, E. (2005). Living in the information age: A new media reader (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Neuman, W., & Robinson, J. P. (2001). SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE INTERNET. Annual Review Of Sociology, 27(1), 307.