Masthead CMC Magazine September 1, 1995 / Page 6


Technological Determinism?

by John December (

I've never loved technology

Earlier this week, watching the TV ads featuring the Rolling Stones singing "Start me up...", I realized I'll need a faster microprocessor and far more RAM and disk space on my laptop computer to run Windows '95. Great. I'll have to buy another computer.

Also, my phone hasn't been working so well. It hangs up on the first ring when someone calls. Setting my answering machine to pick up on the first ring seems to solve the problem. For now.

Windows and DOS, telephones and answering machines, to me, are maddening in their cludgy complexity. Yet I use them because they offer me a decent way to exchange information. Windows lets me transfer information from one application to another (for example, among the programs in Microsoft Office). Also, I realize that some of these programs have become a standard for communicating with others: the coordinator for a conference where I'll present this fall asked me to prepare my presentation using PowerPoint graphics; my book publisher uses Microsoft Word for copy editing and author review (although they have tolerated me turning in manuscripts in HTML). But now I have Microsoft Office (for Windows 3.1), with Word and PowerPoint, but I use it out of necessity and convenience, not desire.

So Who's Driving?

So am I driven by technology?

There are some who believe that technology drives the world: build it, and they will use it. What comes out of Microsoft or Netscape will conquer the world. Some people look at the growth charts of the Internet and, by extrapolation, come to the conclusion that everyone on the planet will have an Internet account by the start of the next century.

Are technology and technophiles driving the enormous growth and interest in online communication? Is there really an interest and value in online communication? Or is it all just hype, much as Clifford Stoll claims in his book, Silicon Snake Oil, reviewed in this issue.

Is the Web "Everywhere"?

I've been making my living over the past year writing books about the Web. During the last fourteen months, I've worked on three books, including two editions of one of them. Sometimes I want to get away from all of this, and avoid discussion of or even references to the Web: but references to the Web seem to pop up in what I think are unlikely places:

Is the Web this popular? Or are journalists and ad people caught up in some kind of hype (that I've contributed to myself)?

Should the Web be a focus of communication?

People sometimes ask me what the Web is, in questions with odd syntax (my favorite: "What is Web?"). I explain what the Web can offer and how its works, but I often find myself wondering why the person asking me feels that they need to know. Sometimes they feel they'll somehow fall unmanageably behind and not "be current" if they can't decipher a URL and have a Web browser to display it. What does it say about our society if they do feel "behind"?

And Web technology isn't stopping: if you thought Netscape has changed the face of the Web with its browser, wait until you see Java, a language for creating true interactivity on the Web. Java's capabilities outstrip anything that can be done presently using only HTML: Java can transform the Web's static pages into places of activity, with a far greater degree of real-time and customized interactivity. And Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) is another wonder: it promises to bring new capabilities for expressing three-dimensional worlds on the Web. This Web technology is not just on the horizon; it is already here. What is its cost?

Call for Papers for a Special Issue: Technological Determinism

CMC Magazine seeks papers exploring the relationship of communication technologies and human needs. The theme for the special issue is technological determinism. Technological determinism is the view that technology does and should drive change with humans playing only bit parts in the drama. I'd like essays that define, critique, and put into perspective a variety of responses to technological determinism.

Questions that essays in this issue might address include, but are certainly not limited to:

I'm looking for insightful essays which explore these and more aspects of communications technology and social issues.

I'd like to know why that Wal-mart circular had a URL on it, and if this means anything about the way online communication plays a role in people's lives, perceptions of themselves, and their perceptions of media.

Contact me if you have an idea, would like to nominate someone to write for this issue, or would like to be a reviewer of papers which will be appear in the issue.

For more information, about style, format, and audience for CMC Magazine, see the submission guidelines. [CMC TOC]

Deadline for paper proposals: October 15, 1995.
Deadline for final paper: November 15, 1995.

John December is publisher of CMC Magazine. He's fueling the fire of technological determinism with his latest books, Presenting Java and HTML & CGI Unleashed, published this month.

Copyright © 1995 by John December. All Rights Reserved.

This Issue / Index / CMC Studies Center / Contact Us