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Technology: Blessing or curse and the social divide caused by technology

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The advent of electricity (technology) not only affected families internally, but it also affected social conditions, on-going economic change, new political trends, and cultural shifts over time. There was a revolution driven by technological, political, and economic services that changed the structures and practices that make up society. The development of electricity and new communication technologies transformed the way society socialized and communicated with one another.

The American era of modernization and the commercial era the followed produced a strong division between economic classes, ethnic groups and other racial divisions in America; such as those expressed in its economic, social and political events. In the 19th century the ruling classes were omnipotent while the working class was numerous and very poor. The social divide was extremely clear. Those in the position of power wanted to keep the power and new technologies amongst them selves. Marvin states, “Asymmetrics of dress, manner, and class that identified outsiders and were immediately obvious in face-to-face exchange were disturbingly invisible by telephone and telegraph, and therefore problematic and dangerous” (86). The elite of 19th Century wanted to keep the telephone to them selves because God forbid the common person get a hold of it, which would surely upset the hierarchy in class and status.

Around the 1880’s, the telephone was still a new idea and was regarded as a technology for the elites. But then the lower class also wanted usage of the technology and so the telephone became self-governing. There were social conflicts due to this because it was said that telephone was only needed by important people for example, doctors and businessmen. But in 1920s and 1930s, telephone evolved from being an object for the elite to being an object for everyone. Today the telephone has become more than a extravagance or a convenience; it has become essential to mans existence.

In the 19th Century, society was divided into three separate classes: The upper class, middle class, and the lower class. The upper classes were the individuals with money and power. The middle class was made up of factory owners, bankers, shopkeepers, merchants, lawyers, engineers, and other experts, in addition to some clergymen. The poor were also seen as the working class which included laborers and the poor also consisted or those that didn’t work and was receiving some sort of charity or welfare. The world of the upper class was so entirely different from that of the lower class that among the wealthy, there was little understanding for the poor. Because there was little understanding, there was often little compassion, and rarely any really significant attempts to make the lives of the lower class any more agreeable. Eventually, most people were granted access to the telephone but it was no longer viewed as a luxury.

Those with little social power were considered outsiders and they were made fun of because they lacked the basic knowledge of how the telephone and electricity worked. There were some that didn’t even know how to turn the lights off. The people that were in positions of power and authority couldn’t fathom common people having use of these amenities. Even the people responsible for electricity were seen on a lower level then society’s elite. The looked to the experts to maintain and repair technology, but didn’t consider them on their level. Women were at a severe disadvantage because they weren’t allowed to work out side of the house. When the telephone came along, they were sent off to become telephone operators.

Marvin also suggests that implementation of new technologies begins in documentary (or in virtual) reality with wild projections of massive transformation by futurologists and with descriptions of high hopes for the realization of widespread social and economic reform, and end up in actual reality with failed predictions and quashed hopes. The advent of the television transmitter also changed the way people communicated with each other. People began to stay in the house and watch television instead of congregating on porches or public spaces. Marvin pays particular attention to the telephone, describing how it disrupted established social relations, unsettling customary ways of dividing the private person and family from the more public setting of the community. On the lighter side, she illustrates how people would talk when calling long distances or how they were fearful of catching a disease through the telephone.

America and most of the world has had an insurgency in information services, in the model of communication and in culture itself. Expansions in information technology have happened so fast, and contemplation of the implications of the technology on society has been slow forthcoming. The role of technology in distributing information has often made it more difficult to separate perception from fact, analysis from speculation, interpretation from fiction. The areas of the world with the most access to new information technologies have an advantage because of their power to represent and influence society. The digital divide is the gap flanked by those individuals who have and those who lack access to information technology and, in particular, the Internet is a notion aired less in recent years than a decade ago, but it perseveres.

The individuals in the world that do not, or possibly cannot, use the Internet may not be as visible as before but there still remains the risk that those individuals being overlooked will fall farther behind in a society that seems to expect Internet literacy. Even for those with the ability and resources to surf the internet, they can still experience trouble with internet jargon. HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language), is the computer programming language used to create web pages. The internet and its users have a language all of its own. Culture has drastically changed from oral and print communication to digital communication in which language is expanded to include image, sound, and motion.

School aged children begin learning how to operate a computer and surf the internet in the kindergarten. By the time they reach high school or college, they are proficient in the use of a computer. Adults like me, who enter college well into their adult years, are at a great disadvantage because we weren’t exposed to computers and the internet at an early age. It is especially hard to teach old dog new tricks, so I struggled hard in my first semester. It still amazes me when my eight year old helps me with my computer. It is obvious that society has put great emphasis on the internet. Almost every commercial that comes on the television, have a web site you can go to for more information or to order something. I think about my sixty-three year old mother that calls me two hundred miles away when she wants to order something from the internet. She can barely work the DVD player, let alone use a computer. My mother and many other older individuals are the losers when it comes to new technologies like computers and the internet.

Information technology without a doubt is the basis of a new economy, with conveniences such as internet banking, online shopping and, being able to view the standard of living around the world. Information technology has opened the world to new jobs because someone has to repair and maintain the computers. On a not so good note, computers have taken away many jobs. The need for file keepers, book keepers, medical transcribers are declining because the computer can do it all for you. The Internet has now made it possible for anyone, anywhere to send and receive information to and from anyone, anywhere. There are many displaced workers due to computer technology. If you take a look at companies that downsized, most times the IT department went unscathed. Computing technologies affect the social climate of the institute into which they are introduced.

As new technologies have taken grasp and increased all through out society, there has been steady discussion about the positive and negative effects of these technologies on our social and political systems, particularly how new technologies affect inequality throughout society. It has been observed how superior access to new technologies by those in higher socioeconomic positions and inequality of access to technology, in turn leads to more social freedom, therefore widening the socioeconomic gap between the information wealthy and the information deprived.

The effects of computer access on inequality mirrors the concerns of individuals who feels that special access to information technology is the key fundamental in increasing concentration of power in the hands of a few powerful elites. The transformation of the economy and communications is resulting in many positive benefits for many individuals in society, but there may be unintended consequences in this change and groups that may become excluded or ignored in the process. This transformation must not widen the gap between the haves and the have nots in society. Technological illiteracy will most certainly exclude people with low income socioeconomic backgrounds from finding gainful employment.

The first computer I ever saw occupied two walls in a fairly large was. I believe I was on a tour with my first grade class to some kind of museum. I can remember this humongous computer because I remember thinking that it look scary. It looked like something from a science fiction movie where the computer came to life and ate everybody. Now, I’m sitting at my own computer writing this paper and I think about how far computer technology have come over the last twenty-five years. Technology changed over time from satisfying the basic provisions such as food, clothing, shelter and security to the comforts that enhance the quality of life and living, and finally to luxuries fulfilling the unfathomable span of our desires.

Humans must learn to adapt and adjust to new technologies. Just when we think we got the grasp of how something works, they come out with a bigger, better version that we must learn how to tackle. Over the years, the shape of computers has changed, the size decreased, and they are made to do everything from doing taxes to playing video games. They have been made to fit our most basic needs. Inventers seem determined to make sure we can’t live without them.

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