I have recently finished reading Hand’s ‘Hardware to everyware: Narratives of promise and threat’ and once again I am mind-boggled at the impact that technological advances have had not only on the individual, but on a global scale. It feels as though my thoughts and feelings are now finely balanced on a see-saw as I am unable to decide on who cyberculture (as we know it now) ultimately benefits.
To quote Hand (2008):
“Power in digital culture indexes an increasing tendency toward the total surveillance and administration of society, now conducted through globally gathered and sorted information. The results of this will paradoxically be greater insecurity, an intense amplification of existing social divisions, and the consumerization of democratic citizenship” (Hand, 2008, p 39)
On one hand (excuse the pun), I am excited and optimistic about the opportunities that digital cultures will provide people with. It is truly thrilling that technology allows us to connect with people across the world that we would never have been able to without it. From this arises empowerment of the human race to achieve what may at one point have been unthinkable. As I have acknowledged in my previous blog posts it is almost impossible to imagine any real barriers to what can be achieved.
On the other hand, however, there are real threats and dangers that have arisen from our craving to introduce technology into everything. Similar to the real and physical world there are some negative and counteractive influences over digital cultures. An example of such would be the so-called “Dark Web” in which, metaphorically speaking, can be considered the digital equivalent of the underworld. Having conducted some brief research of the Dark Web, I learned that it can be summarised as an encrypted version of the internet where people can mask their true identities and locations to engage in online activity that would be considered inappropriate (if not illegal) in normal circumstances.
Hand would suggest that digital influence merely exaggerates and amplifies the characteristics of society. If true, then inevitably we will have to look beyond the romantic notion of technology as an enhancement to everything and consider the possibility that there may be unwanted implications too. I noted that Hand also made reference to global inequalities and the effect that digitisation has on widening gaps that exist between existing cultures. I was reminded of a personal experience from a few years ago when I was sat at a bar on the island of Boracay, Philippines. On one side of the bar sat a young English family whose 6 year old boy was entertaining himself by playing on an iPad. On the opposite side of the bar was a Filipino boy of a similar age who was trying to make money for his family by selling handmade personalised bracelets. It was a sobering experience to witness such inequality between to boys whose only main difference was the culture in which they grew up. Until now I hadn’t considered the role that technology played in creating this inequality.
I guess that I am concluding that as long as there is human influence in cybercultures then it is difficult to determine who ultimately benefits. Perhaps there is no sole beneficiary but instead a new set of opportunities and problems for everyone. And everything.
Hand, M. (2008). Hardware to everywhere: narratives of promise and threat. In Making digital cultures: access, interactivity and authenticity. (Aldershot, Ashgate): pp. 15-42.