Digital Revolution indicates deep social changes in sight

May 16, 2012
Digital Revolution Sparks Profound Social Changes, Transforming Communication and Society as We Know It
There is no sector of society that has not been profoundly impacted by the digital revolution. The discussion about its effects becomes more intense and frequent when economic aspects are the subject, because after all, it's money that always makes the headlines. However, digitization is a profound change in the way we communicate. Except for oral tradition, for the first time since the time of caves, humans have established a communicative code that does not have a physical representation (written communicative code, well-understood, because radio transmissions had done this before with voice and images) - in virtuality, all content depends on an electronic decoding of content transformed into bits to become understandable to human receivers. When we write on the keyboard, none of the content we write goes to a rock, parchment, or paper. There are no physical traces, visible to the naked eye, of our writing - just electronic codes. This change in communication paradigms is revolutionary and revolutions in communication, historically, lead to profound social changes.
One note: why did I avoid using the word "revolution"? Because the word "revolution" carries a large ideological stigma and there are many writers and thinkers who have used it lightly, in the eagerness to attribute some sudden historical change and, almost always, revolutions are not sudden, being built very slowly, with the overlay of tiny layers that go unnoticed until they constitute a more radical change.
James Beniger says that information processing and communication are indispensable components of the control function of society and that these components are directly linked to the development of information technologies. In the development of society, profound technological evolutions, when they consolidate, redesign what that society is capable of doing, redefine the extent of its limits. And then, the processes that will lead to a climax that people normally identify as "the revolution" begin. In the history of communication, the developments that changed paradigms initiated processes of change in the same way as the slow movement of tectonic plates erupt in earthquakes. The consolidation of digital media as a form of communication is one of these developments and social changes (like the Arab Spring), behavior (new languages for use in messengers and text messages), economic (explosion of e-commerce and digital advertising and evolution of data mining) and human (change in the ways of relationship between individuals) are clear signs of this.
This is the scenario where current journalism is located, a backdrop in profound change. It is not journalism that has changed, but society - and a lot. It is in this depth that journalism needs to learn to deal with if it really wants to keep up with the times. Thinking about changing the packaging of a product that was already made until now is more than naive, it is unintelligent and inappropriate, to say the least. Established foundations serve established sectors. This - digital communication - is still a baby in its first steps, which will certainly lead to even more radical social changes, unimaginable and unpredictable (and unfortunately, not necessarily positive). Previous technologies tend to be restricted to niches after a given space of time and will certainly not meet the demands of society in the near future, which also needs to deal with the paradigm shift. The more time is lost to accept and incorporate the new reality, the worse - both for journalism and for society.

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