Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Are our communications capabilities really improving?

Posted by auroracitizen on April 9, 2012

It is with a certain amount of regret that I read that Aurora Citizen is connecting through both Facebook and Twitter – this will allow you to “receive and comment on the platform of your choice.”

What has been becoming increasingly clear to me is that it is the content that is important, not the manner in which it is transmitted or received.

When man’s ability to communicate with his fellows was restricted to visual gestures or grunts, this communication required physical immediacy. Over tens of thousands of years these grunts became what we can today identify as primitive words, and pictures were used to embellish these. Hieroglyphs evolved, a form of pictorial writing, symbols of some complexity as in ancient China and Egypt several thousand years ago. There followed the creation of letters in one of the several existing alphabets and writing progressed from clay tablets to papyrus, animal skins and to paper, always by hand and always by only a few, those known as scribes. Smoke signals were still useful in communicating messages over a distance, much faster than a relay or runners either on foot or on horseback, but these latter could provide details of events, thus news.

Books began their existence as a rarity, produced laboriously by monks in gloomy rooms with, at times, inks of splendid colour when illustration and emphasis were required. But these were time consuming, costly and only for the church or the very wealthiest of titled individuals, Lords or Counts. In time a revolution occurred that was the most significant in man’s communications history – the printing press. This instrument would see the written word literally flood the world, starting with books and then with newspapers and magazines, so that even the poorest could get their hands on something written, often by someone on the other side of the world.

Man’s capacity for technology and ingenuity resulted in a crescendo of discoveries that would speed and enhance the ability to transmit information. The telegraph, the telephone, underseas cables, wireless, short-wave signals and television revolutionized man’s ability to communicate, and also to make war. During the 20th century the technology of communication and indeed of the ability to access and transmit knowledge grew exponentially and devices for these purposes became more sophisticated and cheaper so that today they are in common usage globally.

When I first started communicating internationally I would call the operator at CN-CP Telecommunications at day’s end, and dictate messages that would be cabled overnight around the world. Then came the telex machine that permitted one to write a message onto a paper tape, like a ticker-tape. When the message was completed it was carefully rolled up, with the edge feeding into the gearing, then dial the country and city codes and then the actual telex number and when connected you fed the tape through the machine which transmitted the hieroglyphs to their destination.

The fax machine was the next technological advance and today we appear to have the ultimate in email.

But what concerns me is that the “evolution” of social networking is to a very great extent simply the ability to transmit junk and waste people’s time, especially that of young teenagers, whose lives are already filled with games until they come out their pores. Our bright teenaged granddaughter disdains Twitter as something rather silly; her actual words were considerably stronger.

Our “serious” media have become polluted with a lot of this “instant news” that is taken as factual simply because it might have appeared on one or another of the social networks, possibly as a wild speculation or a gross exaggeration. There no longer exists the need for two or three independent and verifiable sources for a story to be accepted as gospel. The major news television networks and respected newspapers are guilty of running with a rumour, turning it into fact, to be the first with “breaking news.”

I realize full well that there are useful and responsible roles for this latest technology, and no doubt there will be those who, reading this, will condemn some of my opinions. I expect that. If you didn’t I would be disappointed. But I hope that you have the ability to admit that not all that pours forth from this “brave new world” is necessarily good and that there is great room for improvement.

Somewhere, someone sits down with a fountain pen and a piece of fine cream-coloured paper and begins to compose and write a love-letter. Twitter does not seem like the right way to express that person’s feelings.

7 Responses to “Are our communications capabilities really improving?”

  1. Anonymous said

    Very well written, and your points are certailnly good ones! However, I am not sure that the evolution of technology is the fault of the Aurora Citizen.

    “It is with a certain amount of regret that I read that Aurora Citizen is connecting through both Facebook and Twitter – this will allow you to “receive and comment on the platform of your choice.”

  2. Anonymous said

    There is an article in yesterday’s New York Times. I will quote the first two paragraphs:

    “It took only two minutes. An unfounded report on a little-known blog claiming that Gov. Nicki R. Haley was about to be indicted rocketed from South Carolina political circles into national circulation, along the way becoming the latest lesson in the perils of instantaneous news culture.

    The item’s rapid journey from hearsay to mainstream journalism, largely via Twitter, forced Ms. Haley to rush to defend herself against false rumor. And it left news organizations facing a new round of questions about accountability and standards in the fast and loose “retweets do not imply endorsement” ethos of today’s journalism.”

    This reminds me in a way about the recent defamation lawsuit that gripped our town’s attention. If unverified rumours are spread via a “social medium” and these often turn out to be malicious in nature, it should be the responsibility of some department of justice to cancel that particular company’s/individual’s ability to continue to function. You may say that this is a form of censorship. Yes it is, but only on those who abuse the responsible use of our communicative media.

  3. Anonymous said

    Who in this day and age sends love letters anymore, written or electronically transmitted?

    • Lover said

      People who are in love.

      Or does that no longer exist now that we can all make our wickedest dreams come true through social networking?

  4. anonymous said

    See you and raise you. Auroran article on dangers of online activities. ‘Having a Facbook account makes a teen a ‘sitting duck”

  5. anonymous said

    Christopher almost had me turned around when Tommy Jordan in North Carolina used his 45 to destroy his daughter, Hannah’s, lap top because of what she was posting and Councillor Ballard included quotes from his dog on Aurora taxes on his Blog. It might be great but we are hearing increasingly about the damage that can occur when one is de-friended. Talk to anyone who has tried to get off Facebook/Face/ Book, Face -book. They need the numbers to sell the product. It’s like the Heritage Centre e-mailing list. You’re on it for good. Sorry, Christopher, tried to get the spelling right but sometimes your spelling needs work too.

    • jd said

      I am not on Facebook or any othersocial networking site. I prefer to socialize face to face where the art of real conversation is not quite dead. If I need to contact anyone electronically, email still works for me and I have even learned how to text.
      I think there are too many disturbing things about soocial networking emerging, especially for young people who do not have enough insight to understand the possible consequences of their actions.
      I am glad to be somewhat of a dinosaur when it comes to social networks!

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