The readings this week have focused on the Actor-network theory and how this theory would apply to technologies, humans and the social. The theory seems to emphasise the idea that all these things are interrelated, and if one things changes, it changes the others within the network. For example, technology is constantly changing before our very eyes, and it’s changing the way we do things as well. There are more and more technologies available to enable easy publishing, anyone can publish and information is becoming available to anyone who wants it or has access to technology.
All the actants involved in this network are constantly changing: the human and non-human. All the technologies: computers, laptops, the Internet, Ipads, E books, Kindles, Nooks, Blackberries and mobile phones are slowly replacing paper, ink, books, journals and printed works. This change in the network is changing other parts of the network: humans and the social, how we interact, how we complete certain tasks and how we live our lives.
People are now able to access information with the click of a button wherever they go. People used to talk to each other face to face, because that was the only option available, but now it’s more convenient to text, email, Facebook or Twitter someone. Any change in technology affects the human way of life and social interaction. If you ask someone today if they could survive without their phone or the Internet for a few days, their answer would most likely be no, or at the very least, they would admit they would greatly struggle.
It’s not only difficult for the individual to stop using such technologies because that’s all they’ve ever known; it’s also the world itself and the rest of human civilization. Technology advancements have changed the world forever: how people communicate and the daily routines of individuals. All these technologies are seen as the norm of how to do things. If you transported someone from the 21st century to the 1950s, they would struggle, because the technologies of the 21st century weren’t being used in the 1950s. The person wouldn’t know how regular daily tasks were done in the 1950s without the technologies they’ve known all their life. You can’t contact your friend through any social media site, email them, or text them. All these ways of publishing didn’t exist back then.
Picture source: http://lolzombie.com/tag/facebook/page/2/
As publishing is so easy now, people seem to publish every little thing that goes on in their lives through social media websites. This sometimes makes it difficult to start a conversation when meeting someone face to face. Have you ever tried so hard to think of a question to break the ice, and you finally think of something to talk about, but the other person responds with, “Oh yeah, I heard about that on Facebook…” *Insert awkward silence here*. And you think to yourself, should I even go on?
Or you’ve been that person who has said you’ve heard about it on Facebook, and you’re not sure if you should’ve mentioned that you’ve heard about it or not. It just seems to make the whole conversation and relationship with the other person impersonal, shallow and fake, when potentially there could’ve been a strong connection.
According to the Actor-network theory, such actor-networks are “potentially transient, existing in a constant making and re-making.” This means that relations need to be repeatedly “performed” or the network will dissolve (Actor-network theory, Wikipedia 2011) . So, for technologies to continue to develop, grow and change, people need to keep using them. People need to continually use technology for it to stay within the network.
There are the few people from older generations who have not succumbed to the pressure of using new technologies, because they never used them when they were growing up, and see themselves as too old to start learning how to use them now. This is an example of a conflict in the network.
As publishing changes, so does the way in which we live our lives. If we want a book, we don’t have to leave our house (E-books). To talk to our friends, we don’t have to even hear their voice (texting, email, Facebook, Twitter). To publish something ourselves, we don’t have to meet with a publisher and we can let everyone know what our opinion is on a particular subject (the Internet).
People also feel comfortable publishing things they ordinarily wouldn’t publish in real life on the Internet because they can remain anonymous. This has allowed us to discover new things about the human psyche and discover more about ourselves, pushing human civilization forward with ideas, concepts and knowledge.
The ease of publishing nowadays is also creating more archives, but at the same time, these archives can be easily lost. As the Internet is a major platform for publishing, web pages can be edited and deleted permanently without them being archived. In a way, we have lost a piece of history if we are unable to retrieve a web page that was once made. There are also other ways to archive e.g. Facebook, email, text messages and Youtube. As long as they’re not deleted, they’re archives, because you can retrieve them at a later date. Archiving is important as it allows us to see how our civilization is developing, who we are and what our culture is etc. With all these new technologies that exist, archiving electronically is becoming more common. I myself am more comfortable with archives being in print form as I still see it as more permanent if it’s physically there. I also think people are sometimes forgetting to archive things nowadays because a lot of publications are electronic, even if it’s possible.
Actor Network Theory’ (2011) Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory>