The Digital Environment: Taking the Long View

4. As in good baking: Changes in the dominant media in a culture take time and the proper conditions.

  • 30 year rule:
    • Communication technology innovations take approximately 30 years to become "everyday." When innovations "hit," although they were a long time in development, they appear "overnight."

      This is a corollary with McLuhan's notion about us seeing new media in the rear-view mirror.

  • Ev Rogers' Diffusion Theory (about when technology will "take", not about how news spreads). In order for new technologies to diffuse, they have to meet a number of challenges:
    • Relative advantages? Is the innovation really better?
    • Compatible with current technology?
    • Easy to use?
    • Reliable?
    • Observability/word of mouth? Especially from early adapters.
    • Fidler adds:
    • Bridges of familiarity (especially metaphors/icons).
    • Motivating socio-economic-cultural opportunities.
    • Suppression of radical potential. (we'll return to "control" in later concepts).
  • Technological Complexity Paradox:
    • Increasingly complex technologies are headed for users with decreasing levels of preparation for using technology.

Twitter has become secret-handshake software

  • Curve of Complexity:U-shaped complexity curve

    • high at first; drops and evens out; then rises sharply with innovations
    • The same technology that simplifies life by providing more functions in each device/process, also complicates life by making the device/process harder to learn and use.

Concept application article:

"They Really Don’t Make Music Like They Used To."

Want to Learn more?

Jonathan Taplin. Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2017.

Nicolas Carr, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, Norton: 2014.

Bauerlein, Mark. The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don 't Trust Anyone Under 30). NY: Penguin Books, 2008.

Regarding suppression of radical potential, The International Journal of Communication (IJoC) special feature section, "The Arab Spring & the Role of ICTs." (scroll down to FEATURES then scroll down to the bottom of that section and click the +more features tab). If you read these, remember that we learn even more about how totalitarian regimes use social media against protesters as time passes.