This essay argues, that both are connected, as media technologies , which will be my main focus, causes and at the same time consequences Of social change. My arguments of consequences side are more explored , as technology is not isolated field of human activity, but will look at the both sides of the spectrum, as try to figure it out, what is more accurate. First view is, that society was determined by media technology. Technological determinist or in this case communicative determinist believe, that technology generally causes the social changes and it is ‘outside’ society.
One of those determinist was Canadian media theorist Marshall Mclean, who said, that communication technologies ,like television and printing press transformed society. He believed, that it is a form that matters, not a content so much. In ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’, Mclean famously said that ‘the medium is the message’. He believed, that no matter what content new media has, new forms of communication causes social transformation itself, because the media extend our senses, for example electronic media allow us to hear sound, as print media was not able to do.
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This way we can reconnect our senses and social change happens on its own (Mclean, 1964) A good example, how a media technology is changing society would be J. Moneywort (1985) remark on television and children. He saw, that television transcended physical boundaries, as before our social roles were tied to the physical places. He points out, that before television, children would have to read to access adult life, but as visual medium does not require literacy, it allows children to access hidden worlds of adults and line between adulthood and childhood is not so clear.
The result is in providing such access, television competes with the socializing role of parents, schools and provides children with ideas and images that often contradict the stories and myths handed down in the family and at school. ‘i That concludes a case of media technologies being a cause of social change, as from the last example we see, that change happened on its own. W. F. Osborn said, ‘technology changes society by changing our environment to which we in turn adapt.
That means, media technology forces us to change our lives as, for example, film medium changed the way, we consume entertainment and allowed us to watch a medium of sound and image, which was not possible before. Now we use more senses to consume film and that is a big change in society. These examples only show, that social change was hugely influenced and possibly caused some social change. Contrary to technological determinist, another view is, that technologies are determined by social change.
Scholars are not denying technology importance but cultural and other factors are important too. A technology can’t create or change itself without a human interaction. The sociologist Ruth Finnegan says, that ‘the medium in itself cannot give rise to social consequences – it must be used’. Ii(1975, 108). For example, printing itself doesn’t do anything, if people themselves are not ready to do something with it after written word. What is important, how these tools are used, but not themselves, which was Mclean point.
This point of view is often called voluntarism, which is opposed to determinism and believes in control over change. Being more concrete it is often referred as audience determinism, where people are doing things with media instead of it doing things to people. Corporations will produce technology to benefit themselves, governments will influence their decisions of the use on new media. So it is often determined by the action of people, which proves the truth of voluntarism. Brian Winston in ‘Questioning the media’ , argues, that change do not happen because of materials.
He gives an example of sound in motion pictures, which technology was waiting to be seed, but was delayed because of the WWW and fear of public reaction of this new tool. He disagrees with Mclean arguments, saying that his determinism is based on loose historical causality, as, for example, printing press took centuries to manifest themselves. He argues, that ‘If technology is an external force, like nature, it cannot easily be subjected to social control’. Iii That means, we are helpless to change it, rather than to control and adapt it to our needs.
Winston position claims, that social context, that forces social change, not anything else. If people are not ready to change, they are not going to adapt to new technologies, with what many determinist disagree, saying, that technologies themselves spread out and people are servants to them. Like internet absolutely changed our lives , starting with social interaction changes, as isolationism and multiple fears . It had an inevitable social impact, for us and by us. Are we in control to change it, if we want? Humans can create machines, humans can destroy them too or can’t they?
Maybe it is a part of us now? Social change is too complex to be explained in arms of media technologies cause- effect link. When we consume media, we both use and are used by it. It is all connected to science progress and people input on it, economic and cultural factors. Tech oenology cannot be outside of society as not all social changes are dependent on technology. Text messages, for example, are sent electronically, but the mobile phone cannot send messages on its own, so that means technology only goes with people, who are willing to contribute.
Use of specific technology in a specific context makes a social change happening. Sometimes these changes are big, like the invention of internet , sometimes only for specific group of people, like hearing gadgets for deaf people. To end this paragraph, I will finish with J. M. Culling words: ‘We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us’, which concludes the fact, that our own created technologies afterwards shape us and provoke social change, as film, radio, television and print media in reality certainly did. In conclusion, media technologies and social change can’t be separated, one does not go without another.