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Today, technology constitutes a great part of our everyday lives. It is difficult to imagine a world without modern appliances, means of transportation, personal computers, and mobile devices, or the Internet. Technology changed every aspect of human life to the point people stop noticing it.
One example of this is the way people do not regard home appliances as technology anymore. In his article, What Else is New?, Steven Shapin argues that old technologies are so intertwined with our everyday lives, they are not regarded as technological innovations anymore. Shapin describes numerous technological innovations that surround him in his kitchen, including various tableware, “a cordless phone, a microwave oven, and a high-end refrigerator, and [a] a laptop” (Shapin, 2007, par. 1).
In a third paragraph, the author argues that such things are not regarded as technological innovations now, and the term “technology” is limited to the description of new electronic devices and digital services which have an immediate impact on people’s lives. To support his argument, he describes the position of a well-known British historian David Edgerton, who believed that our understanding of technology is distorted because we associate technology solely with the invention, rather than something that affects our lives through everyday use.
For instance, although airplanes are hardly considered a technological novelty nowadays, their technological significance is unprecedented due to the fact that they allow fast transportation of goods from one place to another. The introduction of airplanes into the logistics industry allowed people to enjoy goods and products from all over the world. Ultimately, the significance of any technological innovation is exposed when the novelty of this innovation wears off, and it infiltrates our lives.
The rapid expansion of the web led to the creation of numerous tools and services that made people’s life easier.
The Internet also made knowledge much more accessible, to the point where the web is considered the universal source of information. In his opinion piece, Danny Heitman wonders if Henry David Thoreau, one of the most well-known skeptics of technology, would connect his desolate cabin near Walden Pond to the internet. Although being skeptical of the importance of technology, Thoreau had to get to the libraries at Harvard, Cambridge, and Boston by train in order to get access to the knowledge in books.
Heitman (2012) makes a valid point that the interconnected nature of the modern world meant that today Thoreau would not have to do that to get access to knowledge, and could access a near-infinite pool of knowledge from his laptop instead (par. 16). In my opinion, these two facts prove that technology influences the lives of all people, no matter what opinion on the technology they may hold. Complete denial of technology means going back to the time before people started creating the most primitive tools for cooking and hunting – the first artifacts of a technology.
The point made by Heitman also highlights the tension that exists between personal privacy and interconnectedness. The ability to access information anywhere, anytime means people are accessible anywhere, anytime. In the professional sphere, it means that many people continue to work even after they leave office, receiving and responding to messages and calls on their day off. The connected nature of the modern world means that where work-life balance used to be, work-life integration exists today.
However, the personal lives of people are also affected by the connected nature of the modern world. For example, social networks greatly affect the way we interact with each other in real life. The rise of social media led to the collection of large quantities of user-generated data, and it was only a matter of time until businesses started using this data to improve operational efficiency. For the last several years, big data has been a major point of interest for companies around the globe, which see it as a key to an increase in revenues. In his article, You Are What You Click: On Microtargeting, David Auerbach explains how numerous companies exploit search and social network data for data profiling and microtargeting.
The author discusses at length how the improvements in data aggregation and processing allowed the interested parties to collect and store users’ personal data, which can be used to create precisely targeted advertising campaigns. The author calls the companies behind data collection Big Salesman, an allegory to Orwell’s Big Brother (2013, par. 5). Auerbach claims that the value of data is revealed when large quantities of it are processed (2013, par. 5).
For example, the analysis of Google search trends may show advertisers when people are interested in their service the most and time their advertising campaigns accordingly. The impact of technology on advertising is also discussed by Joseph Turow in the podcast How Companies Are ‘Defining Your Worth’ Online. However, Turow claims that although big data is already used for advertising, today’s advertisers “are still in the beginning stages of tracking users” (How Companies Are ‘Defining Your Worth’ Online, 2012, par. 8).
Every internet user has seen businesses’ confused attempts to predict our behavior by what we buy or search for. For instance, when I was looking for a camera bag, I was shown ads prompting me to buy the camera I already had. Personally, I do not believe that data collection and analysis en masse and for reason, it is used today is a privacy concern. The individual data has no value for the advertisers, and people are still responsible for the information they put online.
The rapid development of internet technology affected people in other, curious ways. In the early days of the web, bots were created to replicate human behavior in chat rooms. Nowadays, bots became so sophisticated that they trick people into thinking they are human. Ian Urbina (2013) introduces many examples of the way a large number of social bots were used to sway the public’s opinion on Twitter. Urbina argues that social bots are used to monetize dating websites or lure new users in. Automated likes and messages sent by bots make these sites feel more alive (Urbina, 2013, par 10). These facts show that the impact of social media is so widespread it requires the regulation of transparency laws.
There is no denying that technology in its many forms had a tremendous impact on our lives. Technology allowed as to exchange goods and ideas between continents improved the quality of life globally and changed the way we interact with each other. The adoption of the web and the introduction of smartphones made the world an always-connected place where all kinds of services, goods, and information are available anywhere, anytime. It also raised questions of ethics and privacy which may eventually lead to changes in the regulatory sphere.
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Auerbach, D. (2013). You Are What You Click: On Microtargeting. Web.
Heitman, D. (2012). If Thoreau were to move to Walden today, would he bring the Internet? Maybe. Web.
How Companies Are ‘Defining Your Worth’ Online. (2012). Web.
Shapin, S. (2007). What Else is New? Web.
Urbina, I. (2013). I Flirt and Tweet. Follow Me at #Socialbot. Web.