It’s become a truism that one of the big trend drivers is technology, specifically the fact that technology is putting the means of production and expression in the hands of regular people. It’s not just the conglomerates that can create content or galvanize and attract an audience.
But how do we know for sure that this is having an impact on the overall culture? To answer this, there has to be a discussion of what the anthropologists call the “formal properties of culture.” According the Wikipedia definition, culture is generally understood to be comprised of four (4) elements: Values, norms, institutions and artifacts. The entry further explains:
Values comprise ideas about what in life seems important. They guide the rest of the culture. Norms consist of expectations of how people will behave in various situations. Each culture has methods, called sanctions, of enforcing its norms. Sanctions vary with the importance of the norm; norms that a society enforces formally have the status of Law. Institutions are the structures of a society within which values and norms are transmitted. Artifacts—things, or aspects of material culture—derive from a culture’s values and norms.
It’s the first two elements that strike me as most relevant here. The accessibility of technology impacts our ideas and sense of what’s important, be it time or expression. But that, I think, isn’t enough. Key is that it changes our behavior, institutes new codes and expectations for how we and others can, and will, behave. For example:
- If you’re of a certain age, the assumption is that you have access to the Internet.
- If you have an e-mail address, the assumption is that you check it regularly
- Those of us with digital cameras shoot more pictures because we’re no longer worried about wasting film.
In fact, noted under the definition for “technology” Wikipedia notes that the “implementation of technology influences the values of a society by changing expectations and realities.”
Certainly, these definitions could apply to other, non-technology areas that are also impacting behavior and expections.
What are your thoughts on this? If you have other examples, I’d love to hear them.