Essay on Culture and Technology

It is known that culture and technology are two different fields which, at the same time, are closely connected with each other. Both fields incorporate many interests, disciplines and theoretical approaches. According to Andrew Murphie and John Potts, “in academic terms, disciplines such as media studies, cultural studies and sociology have conducted theoretical inquiry into the complex relationship between culture and technology” (1). It is not a secret that the emergence of an absolutely new form of art which is called “multimedia, cyberculture or digital media” has become the key issue in art schools across the world (Murphie & Potts 1). Interaction of culture and technology at all levels of human activity opens up new opportunities and creates conditions to promote further development of our civilization. The lectures of Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Christakis help to better understand the relationship between culture and technology. Both lecturers focus their attention on the area of humanity’s existence with culture and technology. Culture and technology have an enormous impact on human interactions. Only in case the use of technology is under control, cultural values will not vanish without a trace.

Sherry Turkle, a Social Studies of Science and Technology professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a well-known specialist in sociology and psychology and digital technology researcher whose research on relationships between people and technology has attracted attention of thousands of people from all over the world. It has been found that the feeling of emotional dependence on digital devices has always had an enormous impact on interpersonal communication. Turkle’s research represented in her book Alone Together explores how new technology is changing the way people communicate with one another. In addition, in Turkle’s lecture on her book Alone Together, the author discusses an interesting issue that many people in today’s society use technology in order to isolate themselves from other members. For example, many people prefer to send text messages instead of talking on the phone. Sherry Turkle says: “It used to be that people had a way of dealing with the world that was basically, I have a feeling, I want to make a call. Now I would capture a way of dealing with the world, which is: I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text” (Turkle). This statement means that today people depend very heavily on technology. They prefer text messaging over face-to-face conversation, because when they are face to face, they “can’t control what they are going to say, and they don’t know how long it’s going to take or where it could go” (Turkle).

Nevertheless, Sherry Turkle is sure that these weaknesses of conversation can be viewed as actual conversation’s strengths. In fact, face-to-face interactions can teach “skills of negotiation, of reading each other’s emotion, of having to face the complexity of confrontation, dealing with complex emotion,” Sherry Turkle mentions in her lecture. She is sure that those individuals who feel they are too busy to have face-to-face conversations fail to make emotional connections with others.

In addition, Sherry Turkle discusses another important topic – how the use of new technology has been connected with the metaphor of addiction. She criticizes this metaphor, and states that the metaphor of dieting is more suitable. People become extremely involved with the use of technology, but the metaphor dieting means that people have an ability to control the use of electronic devices.

In the lecture The Hidden Influence of Social Networks, Nicholas Christakis, a physician, social scientist and a Professor of Medicine, Health Care Policy, and Sociology at Harvard, shows the impact of social networks on the physical and emotional states of human beings. He argues that “we form social networks because the benefits of a connected life outweigh the costs” (Christakis). Nicholas Christakis’s lecture helps to examine the psychological, biological, sociological, and even mathematical rules that govern human life and create social networks. In his lecture, Nicholas Christakis describes such phenomena as obesity, smoking, emotions, ideas, germs, and altruism and explains how they are spread through social ties of individuals. The major goal of the social scientist is to shed light on how individuals should understand the role of social networks in their lives. He argues that “the spread of good and valuable things is required to sustain and nourish social networks. Similarly, social networks are required for the spread of good and valuable things, like love and kindness and happiness and altruism and ideas” (Christakis). This fact means that social networks have become an essential part of human lives. Social networks help to develop culture and promote communication practices, unite people and make their lives better.

Such thing as “technology culture” exists in our world. Although the relationship between technology and culture creates many complex issues which should be discussed in more detail, “technology culture” has positive impact on human lives as a whole. Technology “shapes the culture” into which it is introduced, according to Andrew Murphie and John Potts (11). It is necessary to refer to the term technological determinism which is closely connected with the idea of progress. Historically, “it was forged as a social attitude in the Victorian period, in which progress was measured in industrial terms, such as speed of movement and volume of production” (Murphie & Potts 12). Today, technological determinism also exists in our society, but now it is generating new type of society: “the information age”. New technological advancements have led to the so-called culture shock. According to Gary J Krug, “culture and technology mutually create and reflect each other” (11). As today technology is accelerating at the unprecedented speeds, there may be further changes in culture and interpersonal communication.  Moreover, “technology has become central to discourses on progress and development” (Krug 143). That is why technology can be viewed as an instrument in moving culture toward the state of perfection in this world.


            In conclusion, it is necessary to say that culture and technology are interrelated. Although new technology changes the nature of human interactions, it has contributed to the further development of our society. New technology creates a new potential for human thought and expression and offers an opportunity for human activity. Of course, today people have become engrossed with the use of technology and practically live in the virtual world. In many cases, they expect more from technology and less from each other. However, it is possible to control the use of technology and pay more attention to human relationships. The works of Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Christakis help to better understand the link between culture and technology and to change the so-called “technology addiction” to “technology dieting”. Technology can be treated as a powerful cause of cultural change in today’s society. That is why technology and culture are not separated phenomena, as these phenomena are interdependent.


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