The shape of things to come


Free culture incubator info board at Festival for Art, Music and Digital Culture in Berlin, Germany. February 2010. Photo by David Domingo and used under Creative Commons license.

As digital technologies change the way we interact with the world and with each other, what is the effect on our culture? In a world where everyone can be an artist, what makes art? A new documentary, Press Pause Play, promises to explore these questions.

“The digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent of people in an unprecedented way, unleashing unlimited creative opportunites. But does democratized culture mean better art, film, music and literature or is true talent instead flooded and drowned in the vast digital ocean of mass culture? Is it cultural democracy or mediocrity?”
~ Press Pause Play

I’m certainly interested in seeing what this documentary has to say. These questions of how technology shapes a society are not easy to answer. Sometimes the answer seems to depend on who you ask. It can also turn in to the classic “chicken-and-the-egg” question: Does technology shape us or do we shape technology? I tend not to subscribe to “magic bullet” theories — the idea that media affect us whether we want them to or not. However, I do think media technologies can start to shape behaviors as they become part of a cultural fabric. For example, the rise of the printing press and the written word also resulted in the change from an aural/oral society to a visual society. It changed the way we stored, remembered and used information. So it’s not unreasonable to think Web 2.0 and other digital technologies could have a similar effect.

Here’s the trailer for the documentary. Enjoy!


Anachronistic City

I know this commercial has been around for some time now — it premiered during the Super Bowl — but I just like seeing all the “old” technology in it. It’s like a museum in a Hyundai commercial! The commercial is titled “Anachronistic City” and you can read more details about it — like who made it — here.

If you want to see old communications technology up close and personal, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. is of course a good place to start. It is the official national museum for such things, after all. Their collection of early communication technologies includes Alexander Graham Bell’s box telephone and a Morse telegraph register.

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Immigrants embrace tablets: A question of numbers

ownership graph

Graphic from Rebtel.

Rebtel, an independent mobile VoIP company, recently conducted a study of U.S. immigrant and first-generation consumer mobile use and behavior. Their results, released yesterday, indicate that 13 percent of respondents — representing about 5 million people — already own a tablet device. Meanwhile, Read Write Web, in its take on the results, points out that according to the respected non-profit Pew Internet & American Life Project, 4 percent of Americans own tablets and 5 percent own e-readers. Why the gap in adoption rates between immigrants and citizens, Read Write Web ponders. A good question, but perhaps a misleading one.

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