No, I’m not comparing myself to the titular bear, but doesn’t all of this lingo remind anyone else of that tongue twister?
Anyways, let’s get down to it: Adam Gopnik, in his New Yorker article, “The Information,” lays out three categories of people, divided according to how they feel about the evolution of technology. The Never-Betters feel very optimistic about technology’s continued evolution; The Better-Nevers, as a foil, feel equally pessimistic. The Ever-Wasers have a more ambivalent relationship to technology—or, at least, they accept it for what it is currently and acknowledge that it will continue to evolve and change.
I’d sort myself into this third category. Quite frankly, the Golden Era rhetoric is getting a little tiring. I get that for people whose livelihood/identity was associated with the Internet at a specific point in its evolution, there’s more on the line. They have a horse in the race that I admittedly do not. I think also for my generation, who grew up as the Internet was growing up, maybe it’s easier for us to take these changes in stride.
But I also think that underlying this conversation is a bit of a blindspot regarding technology and evolution. Technology and media exists as a continuum, and it’s never really been stagnant. People have always been pushing forward—be it by combining different parts of the printing process into one mega machine, putting telephone’s in people’s homes, or building smaller (and then bigger) and smarter cell phones. Also, at every point in history, as technology has evolved, there’s been someone saying that it was so much better before X existed, and that X is corrupting The Youth, ruining humanity’s collective existence, etc. Perhaps the issue is that technology evolves faster and more dramatically than we do.
There’s also a part of me that feels like the Golden Era rhetoric is ageist. Saying “the Internet/technology was better way back when” is at least similar to saying “my Internet/technology is better than your Internet/technology” (which, also, returning to my previous point, is more or less the same as “my generation’s music is better than your generation’s music”.) I feel like it goes hand in hand with “you had to be there”. But we weren’t.
Finally, an issue that was raised in this week’s readings that I feel relates back to this conversation is the issue of the Internet/technology being misused and generally evil. I resent the implication that humans for the first time in history are being mislead or being exposed to biased information. Media and news has always come from somewhere, and as long as it’s been coming from anywhere, the framing and colouring of the news has reflected the views/biases of the person writing the copy, or paying for the broadcast station.
Technology is not any better or worse than it’s ever been. It may be stronger and bigger, but I’m positive that in 20 years, someone will look back and call this a golden era. So, relax. These are the golden days. They always have been. They always will be.