Two key thinkers
“The medium is the message.” Means that, technology is a code of life. This idea is the essence of what Marshall McLuhan meant when he coined the famous sentence (Federman n.d.).
http://individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/article_mediumisthemessage.htm). Different thinkers have interpreted this sentence in different ways. Neil Postman has fought against the effects of technological change. Judith Butler has provided critique on gender roles and equality.
Neil Postman: An author, educator and founder of New York University’s Media Ecology program, Postman fought endlessly against the social dangers of the entertainment industry’s takeover of education (Penny n.d.). Postman was an extraordinary thinker and a man of many great ideas. His criticism of technological change in his speech “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change” delivered in Denver, Colorado in 1998, reveals the skepticism with which Postman viewed technology (Postman n.d.).
Postman believed “that all technological change is a trade-off” he further adds “This means that for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage”. Postman’s reservations regarding technology seem fair because when one reviews the pros and cons of different pieces of technologies that have revolutionized our lifestyles (e.g. computers, internet, cell phones & automobiles) it seems quite obvious that some changes have not been for the better (Postman n.d.). There is no doubt that computers have simplified and revolutionized the way we live,but there have been some adverse effects this change. Human culture is based on daily interactions between humans; computers and internet have provided a medium of communication that minimizes person to person contact which is the core of a community. Computers with the advent of new softwares on a daily basis are rapidly replacing human beings at various tasks. This disturbing trend is a double blow when it happens in the developing countries where unemployment and low minimum wages are already wreaking havoc .Outsourcing of jobs from the western world to Asia by the champions of globalization have resulted in further unemployment in USA especially at the time of recession, unfortunately the misuse of technology is only too obvious. Perhaps the most dangerous trends that have been set though the misuse of computers and internet are the ones involving children, as video games put a child’s mental and physical health in question, we are destined for an unhealthy future .Furthermore thousands of pornographic websites that are one mouse click away are corrupting human morals worldwide (Floyd n.d.).
Similarly automobiles are polluting the very air we depend upon, while industries are busy polluting our waters. The need for quick travel and better consumer products seems to be greater than preserving out ecosystem. It is sad to see that the disadvantages of a new technology are never marketed, people have a right to know and Postman through his writings has tried to do just that (OTONetworks,LLC 2008-2010).
Postman states that culture pays the price for technological change. Any new technology is a blessing to some but yet at the same time harmful to others, this seems logical as there could be a clash of interests. Postman viewed technological change as ecological, as the word today in the global village we live in spreads faster than a wild fire. Postman further goes on to warn that technology is not natural but rather a human attempt to alter natures ways (Postman n.d.)
In my opinion Neil Postmen’s skepticism regarding technological change is an exhibition of extraordinary farsightedness. In the modern word when such change is being accepted as a nature’s course, Postman’s works are the reality check that we all need.
Judith Butler : Judith Butler (1956-) is Professor of Comparative Literature and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, and is well known as a theorist of power, gender, sexuality and identity. In her book Gender Trouble (1990),Butler argues that the feminism has over simplified gender by dividing humans into two genders, and if a social gender based classification is to be formulated it should be based on individual traits ,thus, safeguarding the individuality of women (Gaunlett 1998).
Butler feels that dividing human race into two genders is a defeat for feminism in itself as, this would eventually lead to the generalizations about women which have shackled them in the past. In essence what butler proposes is a novel yet brilliant idea that gender should be a fluid not a fixed variable. This idea is deep rooted in realism as men and women have different traits. Even after accepting conventional gender classification there are “intragender” differences in characteristics which feminism has eventually failed to address. Butler’s approach — inspired in part by Foucault – is basically to shed the gender tags as they are determined by variables that are fixed not fluid and flexible (Gaunlett 1998)
These views of Butler spark another debate on the very term “feminism”. The reference to the female sex in the prefix of the term makes the entire movement of feminism ill planned in the light of Butlers’ views. The term itself categorizes females as one leaving no room for individuality or fluidity in characteristics. So if there is no single woman there is no single movement for them.
Butler also argues that the attitude of some radical feminists as viewing males as the enemy has not helped as it has reinforced the gender classification relegating all women to a “female category” making it easier for chauvinists’ to make ill thought generalizations (Young 1990).
Butler criticizes but provides a vague solution. She proposes that if we deconstruct society and change views about “traditional roles” of sexes, and then assign roles based on individual characteristics and qualities women would be much better off.
Butler’s views are revolutionary, but the unclear description of gender divisions she provides makes matters confusing. If human kind was to shed the bi-gender system then what would be the substitute the minute differences in individuals cannot be classified as variables to determine gender as these change with mood and time and given the population of the whole world. Where does one stop? .Another criticism leveled at butler is that she undermines the movement of feminism by proposing idealistic critique. Furthermore, the needs of women vary from country to country. Where women in UK are trying to get elected to the parliament in greater number, the women in Saudia Arabia are fighting for the right to vote (McVicar 2005). Therefore, conventional feminism works much better for Saudi women than the ones in west.
Hence, Judith Butler works provide food for thought on gender issues, but the solutions are much more complicated than her suggestions. Though media can use her ideas as inspiration and help the society understand the concept of gender fluidity.
§ Federman n.d. What is the meaning of the medium and the message?,viewed 5th May 2010,; http://individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/article_mediumisthemessage.htm;
§ Penny n.d. Neil Postman: 1931-2003, viewed 5th May 2010,; http://www.flakmag.com/opinion/postman.html;
§ Postman n.d. Neil Postman: Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, viewed 5th May 2010 ; http://www.mat.upm.es/~jcm/neil-postman–five-things.html>
§ Floyd n.d. Computer Technology, viewed 5th May 2010 ; http://www.bigearl.net/computer/computer-technology.htm;
§ OTONetworks,LLC 2008-2010,Pollution, OTONetworks,LLC 2008-2010, viewed 5th May 2010 http://www.greenstudentu.com/encyclopedia/pollution.
§ Gaunlett 1998, Judith Butler, viewed 5th May 2010 ; http://www.theory.org.uk/ctr-butl.htm;
§ Young 1990, Judith Butler, viewed 5th May 2010 ; http://www.theory.org.uk/ctr-b-e1.htm;
§ McVicar 2005, No Women Allowed In Saudi Vote, 4th Feb. 2005,CBS evening news, viewed 5th May 2010 ; http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/04/eveningnews/main671873.shtml;