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Technology and Australian Popular Culture

H64 Assignment: Australian Popular Culture - 1950s to the Present

Jack Donnelly

on 17 November 2013

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Transcript of Technology and Australian Popular Culture

Since the end of world war two, governments have supported the development of technology as an investment in efficiency. As a result of such support, the first fully functional computer, the ENIAC, was invented in 1942 and constructed until 1946. Many subsequent and improved designs followed this, as the computer market realised its commercial potential. The invention of transistors —computer components made from semiconductors— sped up the development of computer technology exponentially.
Gordon Moore, the head of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductor recognised the increasing development rate of technology and formed a hypothesis based on the trends of time, in a 1965 internal paper "The future of Integrated Electronics". He stated that:
"The number of transistors incorporated in a [silicon] chip will double approximately every 24 months"
This hypothesis (although intended as merely an observation of trends) became publicised amongst hardware developers, who popularly referred to it as
"Moore's Law".
Hardware developers took the law as a goal which they aimed to meet in development. Moore's Law has predominantly been met by developers, as shown in context of middle-range computers. The graph to the right shows through a logarithmic scale that Moore's law has been met.
As technology changes according to the laws of technological development, it will become more advanced and adopted in an increasing number of applications in society. This, in turn, results in a change in popular culture through popular behaviour and reactions, especially on social media, in addition to shaping economic and political behaviours and methods, particularly through communication technologies.
Firstly, Technology affects popular culture by changing popular social habits, influencing the way people react to events and express themselves.
This is displayed through the widespread adoption of social media as a popular form of socialisation. People increasing rely on social media, as both a source of information and expression. This, in turn, has led to the rise of an internet culture and ethics, also called 'netiquette'.
Francis Bea, an author for 'digital trends', discusses this, stating that most people have a
"terrific interest in knowing what's going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being left out of the loop"
As a result, depression caused by social media is also becoming increasingly common, especially amongst teens and young adults who are the largest users of this technology.
To find more about netiquette and steps which can be adopted to reduce chances of misinterpretation online, click here: http://www.networketiquette.net/index.html
Another effect of the widespread adoption of technology is the creation of a culture where technological developers, especially scientists, are held in great social esteem. People are increasingly dependent on technology, especially social media, to function in today's society. Consequently, part of today's popular culture is a reverence of the creators of such technology.
Steven Epstein, a professor at the university of Berkeley, California, describes this as a "translation" effect, where people "translate" their dependence on technology to a respect of its creators.
"Through techniques of 'translation', the interests of other actants (anything that acts, whether biological or natural) were reconstructed to align with those of the scientist, who thereby positioned his or her own claims as "obligatory passage points" for subsequent action. In the process,
the scientist became a powerful spokesperson who was capable of marshalling the forces of all the other actants."
Consequently, the image of the scientist or technological developer is often used in today's society to gain the trust of society, particularly in advertisements.
Further effects of the adoption of technology as a part of popular culture is its employment as a form of social expression and activism. This is shown in society today through the increasing use of social "genes", called "memes" to convey political messages.
P Rey, a sociologist at the university of Maryland, discusses the aspects of online activism through memes:
"In the age of social media, brands are no longer a thing that is created by the few at the top and consumed by the many on the bottom, brands—or, more broadly speaking, memes—are circulated and recirculated, simultaneously being produced and consumed by participants. These little cultural nuggets are, at once, decentralized and universally recognizable. Regardless of origin, memes take on a life of their own, being reinvented with each repetition"
Memes are a popular form of social expression and political activism as they are completely anonymous, and evolve once introduced, with members of society modifying each message slightly and re-distributing it via the social media. Memes allow activists to publish messages without fear of being identified, and the knowledge that their message will be received by the general public due to their infectious nature.
The two examples of memes shown on the left were circulated via social media in the immediate aftermath of a police disruption of a peaceful "Occupy Wall Street" student protest at the University of California.
The message the memes convey is that the police reaction was a draconian and excessive response.
The first generation of the meme uses the policeman with the pepper spray to provide the context of the incident, before making a humorous connection to star wars in order to better broadcast its message.
However, other contributors modify the original meme to apply a different context, with an additional message. The second generation of the initial meme shown changes the context of the original one to the signing of the US declaration of independence.
Thus, the message of the meme is extended, to suggest that not only was the reaction draconian, but also contrary to the values of the US.
In this way, a meme that was originally intended as a humorous protest to a police reaction, once distributed through technology, evolved into a much deeper political protest.
The "Occupy Wall Street" movement realised this, and shifted from physical protests to online activism via social networking.
The current revolutions taking place in the middle east, the Arab Spring, are also made possible with technology. Activists distribute political messages such as memes across social networks to rally citizens against authoritarian governments. Because of the lack of control which governments have on the internet, social media succeeds where other, more traditional protests (such as posters) fail. Therefore, the Arab Spring gained its momentum through social media.
The technology of social media not only allowed protestors to rally internal support from the citizens of their country, but also
external support
by sending images of the government's cruelty around the world. This was essential in the Libyan uprising of 2011, where images of government cruelty prompted the implementation of a 'no-fly zone' essential to the rebels' victory. In the case of Libya, technology, especially social media, was the difference between victory and defeat.
Social media, through the distribution of memes, plays an important role in popular culture today, by allowing the effective distribution of political messages to occur in oppressed societies.
The technology of social media affects popular culture in three ways:
1. Social media creates a
popular 'internet culture'
, where people feel the constant need to stay socially informed
2. As a result of the importance of social media as a popular culture in society,
the scientists and developers of such technology receive greater respect.
3. Social Media and other technologies create and distribute 'memes' , social genes which people use to
convey political and cultural messages.
The popular culture of technology has a significant impact on business and political practices and techniques, through implementing:
1. Changes to the way the general public behaves as a consumer group, particularly through the
increasing use of online shopping
to purchase goods.
2. The increasing adoption of
internet advertising and market research
as a result of the prevalence of social networking.
3. The increase in
political campaigns conducted over the internet.
4. An increased use of
technology in diplomacy
, in order to counter the increasing availability of news to the public.
The development of technology, especially the internet, has brought about a fundamental shift in the way businesses and consumers operate.
Consumer behaviour has been altered with the introduction of online shopping as an important part of popular culture. Internet sites such as eBay, Amazon, and more locally, the Trading Post and Gumtree make immense profit each year by facilitating online transactions between people wishing to sell and buy goods. The Australian Bureau of Statistics' ICT summary for 2012 found that over two thirds of Australians aged 15 and over had purchased or ordered goods from the internet 2011, up 6% from 2010.
Consequently, many businesses are beginning to adopt websites and online stores in an attempt to keep up with consumers' demand for convenience and efficiency.
Another fundamental shift in the way businesses operate is the way they use technology to conduct market research and raise product awareness through online advertising. Businesses are increasingly adopting online market research such as online surveys instead of traditional face-to-face or telephone methods as it is often cheaper and more engaging.
"the emergence of, and future increase in the shift from traditional face-to-face and telephone communication to 'listening in on' the opinions, wishes and preferences of individual customers, expressed by customers in their online communication through various social networks, as well as using questionnaires and online panels" (Salai, S,2011)
Businesses such as SurveyMonkey provide cheap, easy-to-use tools which allow businesses to compete in an increasingly competitive online environment.
Apart from being cheaper and more engaging (a result of the internet playing a large part in popular culture) online surveys are also more effective as
This cartoon, by Peter Steiner of the New Yorker in 1993, displays the popular belief in society that one is anonymous over the internet. In context, this results in people voicing their opinions more vehemently over the internet, thus making online surveys more effective.
"consumers are freer and more open when they are anonymous"(Salai, S, 2011)
Essentially, the computer screen provides the illusion to the general public that they are completely anonymous on the internet. Aside from being completely untrue, this belief results in people expressing stronger and more accurate opinions (relative to what they really think) over the internet, where in a face-to-face of telephone conversation manners might have held back potentially valuable feedback.
Similarly, online advertising is becoming increasingly important to businesses. Online advertising is effective for two reasons.
2. When combined with the vast amount of personal information on social media, internet advertising can be tailored to be delivered to the
target audience only.
1. Online advertising is relatively cheap and seen by a large audience.
This means that, if a company wanted an advertisement to be seen only by single men under thirty, an internet advertiser such as Facebook would use the information on profiles to deliver that advertisement to only the 'target' (intended) audience. This is far more effective than, for example, television advertising, where the advertiser can only choose what time it is aired at. Thus, online advertising is increasingly popular as it is cheaper and more effective by guaranteeing delivery to the target audience.
Thus, the popular culture of technology and social media has affected business through changes in marketing, market research and consumer behaviour.
As aspects of popular culture —the beliefs of the people— technology and social media have naturally affected politics. Politicians have begun using the internet and social media to publicise their views and policies, similar to the way businesses use it for advertising. Technology is extremely useful in bringing politicians together with potential supporters, in addition to co-ordinating campaign events in elections.
"it is crucial to have the ability to target voters and technology is a sure-fire way of finding like-minded people to agree with a candidate's issues and values" (Singh, R, 2009)
As a result, many internet based political campaigns have been fought in recent years. The Rudd 2007 and Obama 2008 campaigns are widely considered examples of such, as both candidates used the mass media to gather the momentum and presence used later in physical campaign events.
Technology has also impacted diplomacy, through the increasing adoption of communication technologies to facilitate appropriately timely responses to global crises. As a result of the prevalence of mass media and internet, in the contemporary world people are informed of global events almost instantly. It is thus important that diplomats be able to communicate as quickly to maintain peace in the face of a crisis.
As a result,
Because of the informed nature of society today as a result of the technological advances of the mass media, diplomacy has been forced to adopt technologies to allow instant responses to global events in order to maintain peace.
Technologies such as videoconferencing tools have been adopted to achieve such instant communication, as these technologies show reactions, which is important in an area where "so much of what you are doing is gauging reaction and reading body language" (Heyward, P)
"The nature of diplomacy has been forced to change in order to cater for the removal of speed and distance barriers involved in the general diplomatic process" (Grech, O, 2006)
The popular culture and prevalence of technology in society today has affected education in two ways:
is being increasingly incorporated as a
key learning area.
2. Technology is being used to give a greater number of people access to education, through
"distance education".
Technology is becoming an increasingly important part of education in schools. Education is preparation for society, and therefore reflects relevant the social trends of the time. Thus, today's technological education is merely a reflection of the popular culture of technology and social media. The draft Australian Curriculum, designed as a national curriculum for all schools, particularly emphasises the importance of technology in education:
"Information and communication technologies... transform the ways that students think and learn and give them greater control over how, where and when they learn"
The Draft Australian Curriculum includes an ICT (information and computer technology) element in each of its KLA (Key Learning Areas), though this is already reflective of the approaches which many schools take. The fact this assignment is entirely electronic merely furthers this point. Debate over whether technology is more beneficial than distracting in classroms is ongoing, however it cannot be denied that the prevalence of a popular culture focused on technology mandates its presence in the classroom.
Technology is also used increasingly to create completely virtual classrooms which provide an education to students who would not normally receive one. These 'distance educations' are important in Australia, where significant amounts of the population live in remote, rural areas. In cases where boarding is not an option, distance education significantly helps students achieve academic qualifications without moving from their home.
There are also significant advantages for the student using online technology.
"Virtual tutors will out perform traditional face to face techniques because in traditional lectures vital information flows past students, whereas the virtual tutor can wait until a student demonstrates a clear understanding of the information or knowledge repository." (Singh, G.; O'Donoghue, J.; and Worton, H, 2005)
Technology creates additional educational opportunities ('distance educations') for those who would not normally be able to study an academic degree.
Through the use of advanced technology, students who have previously not had access to higher education now have the opportunity to study at the location that best suits their needs (Sadler-Smith 2000)
Technology, especially social media,
sculpts the landscape of society today
. As technology has developed, so too has a popular online culture, particularly focused on social media applied in day-to-day life. This in turn has significant ramifications for business and politics alike. In an attempt to prepare the youth for their technologically orientated lives, society has also integrated ICTs into education.
Regardless of the future of technological development, it is certain, having being ingrained into the core structures of modern society through a popular culture focused on technology, that it
will have a significant influence on the society of tomorrow.
The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men,
but that men will begin to think like computers.
- Sydney J Harris
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For more information on the context of the incident, visit
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