Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Future Shock" Yes and No

Stress can be both a useful and/or destructive force.  Stress properly focused can direct and lead through pressure to positive results.  Regular newspaper deadlines are an example of positive stress.  Stress can also be highly destructive physically and emotionally and can stifle one's creativity and overall quality of work and life.  I would argue that stress has plagued man since we were painting caves and hunting beasts for food.

That said, I personally understand and agree with Toffler's argument of "future shock" that rapid technology changes are stressing people out and causing anxiety.  I can see examples of future shock throughout my life.  Technological innovation such as personal computers with high-speed wireless Internet access, e-mail, cell phones and text messaging have created a work-life environment where a person never really has a day off of work because they are always connected to their work, boss, staff, clients or products.  Text messaging has allowed for work or social information to silently enter any environment no matter how prestigious or sacred.  Have you ever texted a friend during a meeting, class or church?  This constant connection for many people, myself included, takes away from peace of mind.

The other side of the coin is that many people lose their peace of mind from not being constantly connected to every available media and information device.  I do think that many, but not all, in society have adapted to the root concerns of Toffler's "future shock" argument.  Many people are no longer shocked by constant technological upgrade and change.  An example of this can be seen in the waiting lists to get the newest editions of I-Phones or Blackberries.  Many are in fact impatient for the next innovation.

Just how will this effect the news and information media?  Well it could very well end newspapers as we currently recognize them, and fundamentally evolve them and save the newspaper industry.  There is a wonderful article in the Feb. 16 issue of Time titled, How to Save Your Newspaper, that states that newspapers and news magazines and other forms of traditional journalism are more popular than ever but the problem is that few of these consumers are paying for content.  The article makes the point that some news organizations might choose to get users to pay for the news services and journalism they provide through an ITunes-esque method of small, one to five cents, one-click micro payments.  

Certainly there is a great deal of information available, and the new medias and information technology have made the information available more popular than ever.  Look at sites like Google or Yahoo News.  It's likely this new technology will not be the executioner of traditional medias but rather a high evolutionary forcing them to adapt and innovate, and in the process base their future and their quality of work on their customers rather than their advertisers.     

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