Priceless reaction from tribal children discovering the online world through a tablet screen

Anthropology: Modern Technology and Its Impact on Culture and Society

Technology influences society through its products and processes, which consequently influences the quality of life and the ways people act and interact. On the other hand, social needs, attitudes, and values also influence the direction of technological development. For societies to thrive and evolve, technological innovations have become necessary. It has evolved over the last centuries from simple tools such as stone tools and basic books to complex genetic engineering, smart machines, and information technology such as TV, computers, and cell phones. As technological systems are invented by humans, they reflect the very essence of a population’s needs and culture.

I would like to discuss in this article whether the ease of access to modern technology holds significant consequences on socio-culture. How does the technology influence in shaping the society thinking, and what are the positive and negative impacts.

Technology and Socio-Cultural Relevance

The stone age technologies in the national Museum in Szczecin Poland.
Image source: National Museum in Szczecin Poland

The nature between technology and socio-culture is cyclical, where each greatly affects the other. Starting with the culture of human societies and resulting in the development of different technologies to meet the needs of the society. Let’s start with the real meaning behind technology and socio-culture.

Technology

Most people probably would picture computers and cell phones when the subject of technology comes to their minds. However, technology is a product of the modern era and a tool created from specific knowledge that serves a particular function Technological influence has been a part of life since the advent of human species, like languages, rituals, art, etc. For instance, fire and stone tools were important forms of technology developed during the Stone Age. The creation of stone tools strongly impacted the way pre-modern humans lived, and the development of their hunting skills. Just like how modern technology and social media influencing human behaviours, and shaping the way we live today.

It’s important to stay updated about what’s going on in the world, but how do you get your news? My grandparents got their news from reading the newspaper, or by interaction with other people. While my parents were able to watch TV, and follow the news daily. Today, I get the news at any time on my smartphone and via the Internet. This evolution is all due to the advancements of technology that is gradually shaping our culture and society.

Socio-Culture

Socio-Culture is a focus of study in anthropology. The term is a combination of society and their cultural aspects. Every society has a set of values, beliefs, traditions, and habits known as their sociocultural values. These values shape how people engage and interact with their environment in everyday life. They are inherited and passed from a generation to another. Although the sociocultural values are bounded, they can be changed and influenced by the development and creations of each era. Just like the development and use of technology in our modern era has radically influenced our socio-culture.

As read in Implications of Changing Cultural Values by Eldon E. Snyder. It says that sociocultural values don’t only represent ideals and goals that people in a society strive to achieve. But it also selects the means that are used to achieve these goals and ideals. In addition, it is stated that “from the standpoint of society, cultural values function as ideals that orient the activities within and between social institutions. Thus, to properly understand the functioning of the family, or political, religious, economic, and educational institutions within society requires an analysis of sociocultural values.”

So in another word, socio-culture is who we are, what we think, our goals, what we see us normal and what not. This can change over time, due to the developments of each era, as mentioned above. Therefore, technology is seen as a main impact on our socio-cultural change today.

The Impact of Modern Technology on Socio-Culture

Mobile technology influence tribal societies as well
Image source: The borgen project

Nowadays, whenever we look around us in our home, in public spheres, we will definitely see a tool of technology. Modern technology occupies an important position in our daily life by providing a sense of independence and connectedness. Human societies and their technology have become inseparable from one another, they have a co-dependent relationship manifested in co-influence and co-production. Technology influences socio-culture as much as socio-culture influences technology production.

Technology has strongly influenced the course of history and continues to do so. Thus, it is largely responsible for the change of our culture today, not only locally but also globally.

Local Impact

The multiple usage and services provided by the computar
Image source: India Today

Technologies are similar around the world, but they have encountered a diversified cognitive world in different localities. The local culture acquires the modern technologies, makes them acceptable to the existing culture, then sends them back to the global level in a continuous exchange of intercultural influences and in constant transformation.

Technology has become integral because it’s not merely the technology of lights and computers that are used in everyday life. But, also, our bodies are physically altered through vaccines and the medicine people take daily. Technology is incorporated into all aspects of culture, including travel, government, agriculture, manufacturing, medicine, education, and transportation. In addition to information processing, and communication platforms have drastically changed how people think and live.

Agriculture

Technological innovations have greatly shaped agriculture throughout time. From the creation of hoes, plows, and traditional irrigation techniques, to the global positioning system (GPS). Allowing farmers to monitor their crop conditions by mapping field boundaries, irrigation systems, and problem areas such as weeds, insects, or disease. It also gives greater control over plant and animal production, processing, distribution, and storage.

Medicine

Technological advancements have remarkably impacted the medicine field as well. By discoveries regarding treatments, data collection, disease and cure research, human-aiding devices (like sight glasses and hearing devices), and highly advanced diagnostic tools. Through the help of technology, medical and health experts can take better care of patients and can treat diseases in a better way.

Education

Modern technology has inevitably influenced the field of education as well, but probably not so radically. While the foundational system is still there, where a teacher instructs students, and students use their studies to learn and pass knowledge along to the next generation. On the other hand, the development of online educational programs had a fundamental shift on the interactions between teachers and students. Where the interactions often take place online rather than with physical presence, as it is the most adapted way during the covid times. Furthermore, with technology, particularly navigation to the internet, students have access to a wide sea of information to support their studies and expand their learning. However, as more and more schools provide their students with I-Pads or laptops, the need for standard textbooks will become non-existent.

The examples are endless. Technology plays a role in absolutely every aspect of our lives. It is not only the machine itself but also a whole set of relationships between human beings, utensils and fields of knowledge. 

Inequality in Technology Access

With the wide availability and persuasion of technology, there seems to be a rise of disparity in their ownership, and use among different socioeconomic groups. Which eventually creates two types of digital gap in society.

  • Knowledge Gap: Also referred to as the information gap, is a difference that is related to expertise, skills and know-how to utilize technology. It suggests that there is a differentiation in information access and profit among different categories of people in society. For instance, the new generation is more skilled at technology usage and comprehension, due to the diffusion of technological devices. While the older generation that didn’t have access to these technological devices have difficulty in understanding and adapting to them. Which eventually creates a division in society known as the knowledge gap.
  • Digital Divide: It is a class-based division, where technology favours the higher socioeconomic group than the lower one. Higher income people have a greater ability to buy and access technologies and smart apps than lower income people, or rural societies. As a result, it creating a strong social split.

Global Impact

For better or worse, we’re living in a technology-driven world. The rapid diffusion of new communications technology and the internet has brought by a drastic global impact on socioculture. Since the internet showed up on the scene in the ’80s and ’90s, it became accessible to the average family in the early 2000s, and eventually began to fit into our pocket with the development of smartphones. Societies around the world have witnessed such a phenomenal proliferation of communication devices that are stimulated by the internet, like computers and smartphones. Most societies are involved in this technological experience, and are very excited about its positive impact.

Media Globalization

The rapidity of communicative exchanges in time and space, made possible by the availability of the internet and media everywhere, leading to a strong global impact known as media globalization. People all over the world have access to the internet, which ensures the production, distribution, and use of digitized information in all formats.

Back in my grandparents’ generation, people used to meet together physically to discuss concerns and share knowledge. Today, meetings are often done online through social media platforms, giving the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Through social media, people have the ability to create relationships based solely on mutual understandings and shared common interests. The current process of media globalization has led to a deeper understanding between different cultures through virtual encounters.

Positive Impacts of Technology on Socio-Culture

Technology and humans hand in hand and partners in change
Image source: Pinterest

The very nature of all technological systems has altered human behaviors and interactions in some negative ways, but has also created unprecedented opportunities for modifying human behaviors in positive ways. Modern technology was initially advanced with the purpose of making our lives better, as it serves a a reflection of society’s needs and the search for comfort. Effectively, technological advancements have made life easier for multitudes, and gifted many with the resources, education and tools needed to live an easier life.

Aspects of Positive Impact

One of the aspects that technology has had a great impact on society is how it affects learning. It made learning more interactive and collaborative. Thanks to the invention of the Internet, it helps people better engage with equipment, and get better access to information at a twenty-four-hour rate. In addition, it expands the boundaries of the classroom, encouraging self-paced learning. While technology has a remarkable positive impact in the agricultural field as well. The introduction of technological innovations has facilitated agriculture and increased crop production, which in turn keeps food prices down. Farmers no longer have to apply water, fertilizers, and pesticides uniformly across entire fields, thanks to the machines.

Other Aspects

Technology has highly enhanced transportation day by day. Transportation like vehicles, trains, airplanes, boats have made it easier to get from one place to another in a much quicker way compared to the past. As much as fast delivery of goods within days or weeks instead of months. Technological innovations in the medicine field are fundamental, and are responsible for today’s advancement of healthcare. Technology has led to the provision of proper medicine, which has cleared the fear of some past life-threatening diseases. The widespread use of medical technology has the potential to improve health outcomes through earlier and more accurate treatment. 

The list of benefits and positive impacts still goes on. Technology is continually helping to save lives and improving the quality of life through its advancement over time. Technology in general simply makes day-to-day life better, but the usage of technology is completely our choice.

Negative Impacts of Technology on Socio-Culture

A technology tool feeding the baby, instead of feeding bottle.
Image source: WordPress

Today, technology dominates many aspects of our life, whether we are aware of it or not. We have become so used to it that we don’t even think about its dark side. Indeed, technology has improved many lives and made it easier, but has also inevitably left negative impacts within society. Modern technology shapes the way societies and people behave, grow, and evolve both within their own lives and in their relationships with others. Unfortunately, not all the time in a positive direction. For instance, computer systems and the Internet have altered human interactions arguably in the most critical ways.

As seen Connected but alone by Sherry Turkle in TED talks. She says, “As we expect more from technology; we start to expect less from each other”. She added that “we’re not building relationships with each other, but building relationships with technology as if it’s a real thing.” Information technologies connected people from all over the world, but also has led to an isolated and inroverted society. Since it provides us with a sense of reliance, an illusion of comfort and of being in control when we feel vulnerable. However, it can be addicting, and result in health ramifications like insomnia, eyestrain, and increased anxiety and depression.

Aspects of Negative Impacts

Technologies have its fair share of negative impacts on other aspects of life as well. Within agriculture, the excessive use of chemicals by the help of machines reduces the fertility of the land. As well as the introduction of machines that can till, thresh, plant, and harvest greatly reduced the need for manual labor. In turn, it meant there were fewer rural jobs, which led to the urbanization of society. In education, the internet and devices such as e-readers, e-books, and smartphones has dramatically influenced reading printed books. There can be no denying that printed book sales have taken a massive hit with the rise of digital technologies.

Technology has both positive and negative impacts on our lives. But the usage of technology is completely our choice. It is nearly impossible to imagine our life without technology, thus separation of technology from human life is unbearable. Indeed, technology is brought by a massive development in our society, but we should also remain aware of its excessive use and reliance.

Significance in Anthropology

It’s safe to say that technology is on an upward trajectory, and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Technology has impacted our society in ways too numerous to count over the last decades. Therefore, anthropology does not only seek to understand how one learns to become a member of a society. But it also seeks to understand how human activities and creativity modify the process of the cultural changes that have been produced by the new technologies in our society.

The push for cultural change has been greatly stimulated by technological inventions. With some saying this change is for the better and others saying it’s for the worse. Perhaps the most helpful position to take is that this change is neither wholly negative nor entirely positive.

 

Leave a Reply