Communication Technology: Gift or Curse?

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On a quest as old as civilization itself, people everywhere have been in a never-ending pursuit of ways to overcome physical shortcomings; like no known animal before it, man has relentlessly sought ways to bend the laws of nature in his favour. First using crude tools to compensate for physical limitations, slowly growing ever more complex as we developed; soon looking for ways to shorten travel and communication times - evolving from foot to horseback to the locomotive and eventually to Mach 3 jets and satellites that are quite literally, 'out of this world'. The advents of electricity, wireless technologies and the Internet have played leading roles in this triumph over geography; while making everyday social interactions infinitely more convenient, they have also become more impersonal and increasingly less genuine, with the emergence of essentially faceless communication not necessarily creating an illusion of intimacy, but rather putting it into new context and forever redefining it. Thus having a wide range of effects on people's relationships, many appearing very contradictory, as people can be connected at any time from any place in the world, yet feel cut off from the world at the same time. With this wave of permanent connectivity, normal daytime hours no longer restrict one's availability, pervading the private spheres of many and disrupting normal schedules resulting in an unhealthy lifestyle and without escape from the daily grind. This erosion of the distinction between private and public spheres carries both positive and negative features, but taken as a whole it upsets social balances and as such, is gradually shifting our culture to a faster paced lifestyle with less emphasis on authenticity and direct interaction. This phenomenon, largely driven by capitalism capitalizing on globalization, is blatantly obvious in western culture and is slowly permeating the ways of life all over the world, allowing communication technologies to - while making life easier on the surface - alter our everyday as well as private lives, making us heavily reliant on them and thus incredibly vulnerable as little people in a big world.

Today's globalized world of advanced technology has had one most notable effect: the death of distance. The death of distance as a determinant of the cost of communications is and will likely continue to be the single most important economic force to shape society in the near future. With profound implications for both individuals and organizations; the ability to work 'anytime, anywhere' allows so called 'road warriors' to work without offices on planes, in hotels, or even from the comfort of their own home/office, and enables information workers to 'telecommute' from their homes rather than traveling to work. This unprecedented flexibility serves as a double-edged sword to affected parties, who can work from wherever they choose but may never fully escape their 'virtual workplace'. Organizations choose this option to reduce overhead costs and boost productivity, but must quickly learn to manage a decentralized work force. Today these new telecommunications technologies are the 'electronic highways' of the international age, equivalent to the role played by railway systems in the days of industrialisation.

In accordance with the ideas of John Tomlinson, globalization (over the last several generations) has increased both literal and virtual travel. Tomlinson maintains that all forms of travel (and even the perception of all human senses) are however, mediated in some way or another. This mediation can be simply defined as, "a matter of bridging time and space in communication"(152). He argues that the usage of modern technologies including telephones, computer networks and the mass media are all forms of mediated experiences (151). He puts forward the notion that "the local face-to-face context is somehow 'pure' and thus the most valid form of communicative interaction, and that the direct...
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