Digital is a revolution the cuts into the flesh of our culture
Dec 13, 2011
Digital Revolution Reshapes Communication and Society, Paving the Way for Journalism's Evolution
Every corner of society has been dramatically transformed by the digital revolution. While the economic implications frequently dominate the conversation - after all, money always grabs the headlines - the truly profound shift lies in how we communicate. For the first time since the days of cave paintings and oral tradition, we've established a communicative code that lacks physical representation. In this digital realm, all content hinges on an electronic decoding of the contents transformed into bits. As we type on our keyboards, our words don't etch themselves into stone, parchment, or paper; they exist solely as electronic codes. This seismic shift in communication paradigms is nothing less than revolutionary, and history shows us that communication revolutions precipitate deep societal changes.
One might question the avoidance of the term "revolution". It's due to its heavy ideological overtones and misuse by those eager to label every historical shift as a "revolution". But real revolutions aren't sudden. They're built gradually, layer upon layer, until they culminate in a radical change.
James Beniger asserts that information processing and communication serve as vital components of society's control function and are inextricably linked to the advancement of information technologies. Technological evolutions, once established, reshape society's capabilities and redefine its limits. They set in motion the processes leading to the pivotal moments people often recognize as "revolutions". Throughout the history of communication, paradigm-shifting developments have sparked changes akin to the seismic shifts of tectonic plates. The emergence and consolidation of digital media as a communication form is one such development, and the ensuing social changes, new behaviors, economic shifts, and human adaptations are clear indicators of this fact.
This is the dynamic backdrop against which modern journalism exists. The ground beneath us is shifting, dramatically and relentlessly. It isn't journalism that's changing—it's society, and profoundly so. It's these deep currents that journalism must navigate if it hopes to stay relevant. Merely repackaging the same old product is not merely naive—it's shortsighted and insufficient. The old rules and established foundations hold little sway in this brave new world of digital communication—a world still in its infancy, with the promise of even more radical and unforeseeable societal changes ahead. Previous technologies, relegated to niches over time, will fall short of meeting the needs of a future society grappling with a new paradigm. The longer we delay embracing and integrating this new reality, the more detrimental it will be—both for journalism and society at large.