Throughout history, we have witnessed great change – the fall of capitalism, the Industrial Revolution, and now the technology revolution. Central to all these periods of change we find commonalities that remain true. In all periods of change – the individual never changes. Though the individual may change the way he does things or goes about his daily life, he as a person never changes, his emotions, spirit, and need for discovery of self and identification with others remains strong.
In his book The Rise of the Network Society, Manuel Castells focuses on the interface between technology and society, which he refers to as the relationship between the net and self. This relationship stems from the increased desire for identity and self discovery which is often the only source of meaning in a society that is going through rapid and radical change – such as the change brought forth in the technological revolution.
Marshall McLuhan presented similar ideas to those of Castells. McLuhan, a well-known Canadian communications theorist, coined the concept of a global village – where mass media and technology has in effect collapsed space and time barriers in human communication and interaction. The result is that people have a heightened ability to act and live on a global scale – in a sense, the world has been turned into a single tribal – a global village.
We think our current use of media and technology is bringing us together, it is in effect creating a large disconnects within our community and a discontentment within the individual. That this discontentment is a result of each individual striving to please the community rather than themselves – individuals in essence are losing touch of who they truly are because they are working so hard to mark their existence within the community. As a result of this discontentment and loss of individualism, we lose the collective strengths and power of a group of unique people. Herein lies the challenge that information technologies have presented within our societies: what can we do to resurrect the power, passion, and possibility that exists within a community of strongly defined and differentiated individuals?
As societies seemingly evolve and advance through the technologies that bring forth new opportunities for progress in production, experience, and power, there is a simultaneous rise in the need for self-discovery within the individuals of the community. Castells is correct, as each individual sets forth on a journey to discover their true identities a disconnect begins to emerge as communication starts to become more difficult due to the barriers such as politics and religion form. In effect, the original society is turned into a group of strangers because communication breaks down as the identities become more defined and increasingly difficult to share. As information technologies evolve, imprint, and engross themselves in our lives, it becomes evident that societies slowly start to become a product of the technology. Each individual seeks to define themselves in the context of the new culture and environment that has been carved out as a result of the change brought forth by the technologies in our lives.