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Technological Determinism in the Digital Age of Communication

By Lucy Harmon, Creative Coordinator, Fall 2021


I initially learned about technological determinism in a communications class during my sophomore year at Loyola. The term references technology's control over humans and our use of it. The lesson instantly reminded me of a tweet I had seen which stated, “describing in detail what kind of rug I want out loud so I get a targeted ad for the perfect one I’m envisioning on Instagram”.

This statement is funny, but it also alludes to the reality of how information technology encourages users to share about themselves. Whether it is a software that actually listens when those in close proximity speak or programs on social media apps that track every post a user likes, saves and shares to make assumptions about their preferences, the presence of the theory of technological determinism within modern society is true.

Granting our technology access to an abundance of personal information while creating various accounts and engaging with them has become increasingly common as social media platforms have become more and more popular.

Doug Rushkoff, a Communications professor at CUNY/Queens, created a video i titled “Program or Be Programmed”, in which he emphasizes the vital awareness users need to have when navigating the technological world. The inability to code or fully understand the software one is using surrenders control and allows a person to be vulnerable and easily shaped by the intentions of the app creators. .

It seems as though the power and magnitude of technology is understood within society, but the correct and actionable steps to respect the control are not taken. The dangers are researched and understood, but many are hesitant to give up current pleasantries and luxuries of the present moment to prevent potential pitfalls in the future. The benefits of receiving perfectly tailored ads for our purchasing preferences overrides the unsettlement one feels when giving away an abundance of personal information. Our reliance on technology to aid us in every aspect of our lives is deemed acceptable, despite the fact that it worsens our attention span, patience and ability to be present in real life situations.

At what point does the cost of deteriorating in-person communication, lack of exercised patience and privacy within society outweigh the benefits of instantaneous satisfaction?

The convenience, excitement, and widespread nature of technology, especially social media and the use of virtual networking f is constantly evolving. It is becoming increasingly important for participants to check in and evaluate how much information they have entrusted to various technological platforms to attempt to understand software or to learn how to code. Acquiring these skills would make users less vulnerable to manipulation and would reinforce human autonomy over computers.

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