Lecture 1 – Invisible Technologies

One of the mandatory modules for Semester 1 of my 3rd year, studying Media here at Sheffield Hallam University, is Media Technologies. The module focuses on the technologies – old and new, that we use in relation to the media, both in the present day, in the past and for the future. Not only does this include the obvious technologies such as mobile phones, the internet, laptops, cameras etc., but also things like radio, analogue television, the written word, virtual reality, the Raspberry Pi and more.

The first lecture acted as an introduction to the topic and to get us starting to think about the technologies we use, why we use them and how. My media technologies lecturer is very interested in the idea of ‘invisibly technologies’. What technology do we use every day and take for granted? What technology do we not see at all and yet depend on?

We began by discussing the idea that we ought not to be ‘monkeys with weapons’ – meaning, we must understand the technology we use, what it does, how and why. This has never been more important than now, as technology has become more and more powerful, the mobile phones we carry in our pockets are highly capable machines, the social networking sites we use so much can be used for many reasons and we should understand the power of technologies such as this if we are to use them properly and safely. By understanding the technology available to us, we can control it, rather than letting the technology control us. For example, we may use our mobile phones for many things however, are they safe? Can we use this technology and still maintain our privacy?

We then moved on to discuss how advances within the industry of media technologies can disenthrall users. We are constantly improving and developing the technology we use however; does this make us numb to possibilities? For example, over the last 5 years what advances have really been made in terms of the technology used on the iPhone? And has this made any difference to the number of people who have purchased the latest iPhone within 3 months of its release? Are we blind to the possibilities of the technology around us because of what we already have? For example, are we so impressed with what the current iPhone can do that we are not interested in what it could be capable of if it were further developed?

Our thoughts then turned to some of the first media technologies humans used and relied on. Although many do not consider it to be so, writing is in fact one of the most popular media technologies to ever have existed. As it is often overlooked as a technology, it can be referred to as a common ‘invisible technology’. Before the written word was created, people could only communicate using voice and relied on societies and communities – news and information could only be conveyed directly from person to person. Thus, writing is the definitive media technology, in that it requires a physical tool –  for example, a pen and paper. It is also still the most common media technology, whether using a laptop, mobile phone or good old fashioned pen and paper, it is still one of the first things we learn as children.

These are the main points I picked out from this first media technologies lecture, although we also looked at a number of Greek philosophers and writers, as well as various language traits and writing patterns, I feel that these are the most important pieces of information to take away from this particular class. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out more about our assignments and the topic in general in the coming weeks!

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