How Does Technology Enable Social and Cultural Change?

How Does Technology Enable Social and Cultural Change?

Technology enables social and cultural change by challenging traditions and shaping cultural narratives. It can also promote cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, or reinforce harmful cultural norms and values.

The development of new technologies often involves complex processes that require specific skills and training. In addition, the use of certain technologies can cause pollution and deplete natural resources.

1. Innovation

Technological innovation is one of the most important driving forces behind social and cultural change. It is a catalyst for business ventures, restructuring of social relationships, and the development of new ways of living and communicating in society.

The impact of technology on culture can be positive or negative. While it has enabled people to connect and share cultural ideas and values around the world, it can also create and support global popular culture that can overshadow or displace local customs and traditions.

In addition, technology can amplify existing cultural inequalities and marginalization through technological exclusion and digital divides. Those who do not have access to technology will be left behind in terms of opportunities, information, and resources, which can further marginalize them.

Another way that technology can influence culture is through the speed of its diffusion. Some technologies may be adopted and used very quickly, while others take longer to spread. This can cause generation gaps, where a younger generation embraces the latest gadgets while older generations resist them. It can also lead to a gap between material culture and nonmaterial culture, as the introduction of a new object or idea can take time before it becomes part of societal norms.

2. Access to Information

While technology enables people to connect with each other on a global scale, it can also alter cultural norms and practices. Some cultures embrace technology, integrating it into their daily lives. Others are more resistant to change and preserve traditional ways of living. Despite these differences, technological advances are not value-neutral and can amplify existing cultural inequalities or marginalisation.

In order to counter these effects, it is important that information technologies are designed and developed with cultural values and contexts in mind. They should also incorporate a diversity of formats in order to be widely accessible to all users.

The right to access information, or freedom of information, is an essential component of a democracy – empowering citizens to request and receive information from public bodies (with some exceptions). It involves both the right to know and the obligation to publish proactively. Access to information allows citizens to hold their governments accountable, and highlight corruption or maladministration. It has also been used to promote human rights and development, as highlighted in IFLA’s response to a 2019 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights questionnaire on this issue.

3. Communication

Modern technology is an essential component of societal culture. It enables new forms of cultural expression, facilitates interaction across distances, and promotes diversity and inclusivity.

Technology can also challenge and reshape traditional cultural identities. For example, the printing press and the Internet have allowed people from all over the world to interact with each other in a global space and explore different cultures. However, this can also erode some cultural traditions and lead to new social inequalities.

Communication is important to societal change as it can create awareness about injustices and reframe public discourse. Additionally, it can empower activists and encourage action.

Many cultural changes are driven by technological advancements, including business ventures, social interactions, and the structure of society. While these changes can be beneficial, they can also have negative consequences like environmental issues, inequality, and unequal access to resources. It is therefore important to understand how technology impacts society, and work towards equitable and inclusive technologies. Technology is not neutral – it is shaped by the values and biases of the people who design, build, and use it.

4. Social Interactions

The social structure of human interactions plays a key role in cultural change. It encompasses cooperation or competition, influence of status and social roles, leadership, conformity, and a sense of belonging.

It can also challenge traditions, reshape cultural narratives, and enable intercultural exchanges. However, these changes can also blur traditional cultural identities and lead to a form of cultural assimilation.

It can also contribute to the digital divide, exacerbating existing social inequalities and marginalization of certain cultures. This is why it is important for technology to consider cultural implications and ethics during the design phase. This ensures that the new technologies do not reinforce existing power structures or perpetuate social inequalities. By taking into account cultural values, it is possible to develop technology that enables people from diverse backgrounds to engage in meaningful social and cultural interactions, while simultaneously promoting global cultural integration. The six components of a social interaction were defined by the first author, who then trained two research assistants to code 72 randomly drawn descriptions of such interactions. The resulting codes were compared and discussed, and in cases of diverging ratings, further clarification was provided.

5. Changes in Society

Modern technology has impacted society in various ways. For example, the advancement of the post and telegraph allowed for regular communication between individuals from across the country or globe. These advances in technology have had positive effects on culture by enabling people to share ideas and interact with each other more regularly.

Another way that technology has impacted society is through changes in agricultural techniques. Using technological innovation, large corporations have developed more efficient irrigation methods that use less water and allow them to grow more crops with less land. However, these technologies have had negative effects on the environment and the culture of the local farmers. The zapatista movement in Mexico was formed over these types of issues.

Cultural theories on technology argue that different cultures adapt to technology differently. This is because of the influence of cultural values and biases on technology that can lead to unequal access to technology and a perpetuation of existing inequalities in society. It is also important to consider how technological advancements can amplify cultural inequalities and marginalization.

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