Positive Effects of Technology on Communication
By Laurel Storm
Technological development has had a strong impact on the way society communicates, particularly with its acceleration in the last few centuries. From the invention of the telegraph and telephone to the advent of the Internet, technology has given people tools to not only keep in touch with each other, but also express their feelings and opinions to a broader audience than would otherwise have been possible.
Keeping in Touch
For more than a century now, technological advances have brought the world closer, making communication across long distances easier. Telegrams are faster than letters; phone calls, in turn, are faster than telegrams, as well as easier and more pleasant, since they require no go-between and allow users to hear each other's voice. Cell phones take this one step further, allowing people to call and speak with each other regardless of their location. Online communication of all types is the most efficient yet, with email being a near-instantaneous version of the paper letter; webcams, paired with communication programs such as Skype, iChat or Google Video Chat, make it possible to see the person you are speaking with rather than just hear his voice.
The same technological advances that have simplified and improved personal communication have also had the same beneficial effects on business. Communication between colleagues is near-instantaneous whether they are a few rooms or a few countries apart; video conferencing allows companies to have workers scattered around the globe while but still hold efficient meetings and discussions; business networking is made easier by social media and online networks designed specifically for that purpose, such as LinkedIn. Perhaps most importantly, companies can expand beyond their local market and gain a wider customer base simply by maintaining an active online presence.
Technology has both improved communication for disabled people and made it possible where it previously wasn't. Hearing aids boost the hearing of partially deaf people, making it easier to understand speech, while cochlear implants restore hearing to the completely deaf. Speech-generating devices give people with severe speech impairments a way to express themselves: perhaps the most famous user of such a device is scientist Stephen Hawking. Further advances in technology may result in functional brain-computer interface systems, restoring the ability to communicate to people who have lost it entirely, such as sufferers of locked-in syndrome.
Reaching a Broader Audience
As people's ability to communicate improves, the reach of their messages widens. This can be especially important in politics and activism. For instance, photos and video recorded covertly through a cell phone can be quickly and easily shared online through websites such as YouTube, making it harder for oppressive regimes to keep control; social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to organize and coordinate meetings and protests. The Egyptian revolution of 2011-2012 was spurred greatly by social media.
Laurel Storm has been writing since 2001, and helping people with technology for far longer than that. Some of her articles have been published in "Messaggero dei Ragazzi", an Italian magazine for teenagers. She holds a Master of Arts in writing for television and new media from the University of Turin.