Technological advancements have significantly changed the way people communicate. While there are many changes, I would like to highlight three of the most significant changes, along with their benefits and detriments. The three most significant changes include how people access information, the movement from a push to pull communications environment and Web 2.0 technologies.
One of the most significant changes is the way that people access information. New communications technologies, specifically smartphones, result in an environment of always being connected. According to a study conducted by Pew Internet (2014), found that as of January 2014, 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone and 58 percent have a smartphone. More than 55 percent of cell phone owners say they use their phones to go online. A study conducted in April 2012 found that 70 percent of cell phone owners and 86 percent of smart phone users have used their cell phone to conduct a “just-in-time” activity (PewInternet, 2014). “Just-in-time” activities include coordinating a meeting, solving an unexpected problem or finding information about a restaurant, sporting event or traffic (PewInternet, 2014). Additionally, many consumers use their phones to obtain immediate information to settle an argument or even get help in an emergency situation. This demonstrates how being connected at all times can help individuals in everyday situations and provide important information to manage their business and personal obligations.
While being connected at all times can offer benefit, it can also be a detriment. Paige P. Edley and Renee Houston say information communication technology (ICT) can be both empowering and constraining (as cited in Wright, K.B. & Webb, L.M., 2010). While it can better help us balance work and family responsibilities, it can also disconnect us from the real world. Turkle (2011) says, “In a tethered world, too much is possible, yet few can resist measuring success against a metric of what they could accomplish if they were always available, (p. 164). The pace set by communication technology is extraordinary. While it appears that we are more empowered by our communication technology, it actually tethers and constrains us. This is referred to as the illusion of empowerment. The illusion of empowerment brings forth the issue that we are actually not empowered by choosing when and where we work because we are actually working longer days, (Wright, K.B. & Webb, L.M., 2010).
Given the significant shift in how we access information, we’ve seen the communications environment move from a push to a pull environment. According to McNeil (2013) the key behind new 2.0 applications is that the Web is live, hence the name “Living Web” (p. 16). Consumers now navigate to the news by using a Web search to find stories of interest. There has been a shift from an editor serving as a “gatekeeper” and determining what stories appeared on the front page, to the consumer actively determining the news they read (Kovach and Rosentiel, 2010, 151). Consumers pull from a variety of sources, creating their own front page and creating their own network (McNeil, 2013). Kovach and Rosentiel (2010) state that only seven percent of Americans rely on one medium to obtain their news. Therefore, it’s less important for a newspaper or online news source to present a cohesive view of the news, but rather provide accurate information on a timely basis in the channel that resonates with the consumer. This revolutionizes the way people receive and read information.
Web 2.0 technology has also transformed how we communicate, as it enables anyone to be a publisher. Web 2.0 technology includes wikis (Wikipedia), blogs, microblogs (Twitter), YouTube, podcast, Second Life (virtual communities) and RSS (Darwish & Lakhtaria, 2011). McNeil (2013) describes this Web 2.0 networking of systems and online storytelling as transmedia. Web 2.0 technology has transformed communications by creating a participatory platform in which people both consume and contribute content (Darwish & Lakhtaria, 2011). As McNeil (2013) states, “Now, with the middle class environs of Web 2.0, we have no distance of territory. You are everywhere and nowhere at the same time” (p. 36). One of the great benefits to “being everywhere” and allowing anyone to be a publisher is that individuals, who previously were unheard, suddenly have a voice. The power isn’t solely in the hands of the mass media conglomerates. However, a detriment to “being everywhere” is feeling the need to be everywhere at all times. This drives an environment of technology driven attention deficit disorder as our attention is diverted. Additionally, given that anyone can be a publisher online, consumers must pay particular attention to the source and credibility of their news.
In conclusion, the three most significant technological innovations, including the use of smartphones to access information, the movement from push to pull communications and Web 2.0 technologies have notably changed the communications landscape. While there are both benefits and detriments to transforming to new technology tools and ways to communicate, this isn’t the first time that the communications landscape has been revolutionized. Even though we are currently undergoing a tremendous shift in communications this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced changed, nor will it be the last. This shift in communications doesn’t diminish from traditional forms of communicating, but rather it expands on the importance of communications and the desire for information.
Darwish, A., & Lakhtaria, K. I. (2011). The impact of the new Web 2.0 technologies in communication, development, and revolutions of societies. Journal Of Advances In Information Technology, 2(4), 204-216. doi:10.4304/jait.2.4.204-216
Kovach, B. and Rosenstiel, T. (2010). Blur. How to know what’s true in the age of information overload. Bloomsbury USA. New York: NY.
McNeill, S.J. (2013). Concepts in new media. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.
Pew Internet (2014, January). Mobile technology fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/
Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.
Wright, K.B., & Webb, L.M. (Eds.). (2010). Computer-mediated communication in personal relationships. Peter Lang: New York, NY.