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New technologies and social pathologies
Effects of actual communicative technologies act more on the senses and on more persons than other types of technology: this is due to the ability of utilizing these (from mobile phones to television and computers) and economic accessibility and the diffusion through loud speakers which effect large covered spaces.
Society not always metabolizes transformations with the same speed in which they are manifested but the utilization of informative technologies is changing our ways of communicating and receiving, without adequate regulation and control.
We can individualize this state as a form of chronic anomy that’s able to cause wide- spread distraction with effects which involve relationships between man his environment and community, with sometimes dramatic consequences regarding road accidents.
This can be verified when, the use of entertainment technologies is widespread. It is necessary to distinguish between the practical use of technology and that of entertainment. The latter specially involves individual emotions.
Communication between persons who are distant from each other has always had fascination, and widespread messages invade the mind independently from the interest they create. Moreover, technological communication requires the use of particular energy as it is an artificial extraneous body medium.
In the present context of amplified sounds and dynamic images, the individual is submitted to numerous stimuli in a role as potential consumer of services and products. The effect of this continued stimulation of the senses is not so much due to technological innovation (at the base of acoustical reproduction there is always a simple loud speaker) as it is to its diffusion in terms of space and density.
Generalized behavioral patterns of absence and disorientation, cause continual alterations in relationships. At this rate, we will probably soon have a society in which communication between individuals depends on activation, or not, of these hearing devices that completely isolate the individual (as it is already happening) in a total transfiguration of social interactive space. At the moment however man depends on ways of interaction and movement that require active participation of the senses and their complementarity. Those who can not hear because of physiological deafness are able to make up for this deficit through sight, while those who can not hear because they’re listening to something else don’t even visually focus on what is before them or around them.
A phenomenon that is manifested with symptoms that are not generated in the individual not only represent a form of social pathology but also of environmental origin. While a doctor analyses the symptom of a patient using standard clinical analysis with indicators and parameters through tests, the sociologist analyses generalized social phenomena, as for example the increase of road accidents, hypothesizing a relation between these and possible causes related to the effects of technology. His duty is to verify the hypotheses and initial conjectures.
In reference to the theories of experts who have studied cultural anthropology and urban sociology, (M. Augè, M. Gottdiener, S. Sassen, R. Sennet), models and ideal typologies must be formed using secondary sources (statistical data) taking advantage of observant participants and utilizing interviews for determining uneasiness (and in particular distraction and disorientation).
If manifestations of environmental pathology like air pollution are scientifically recognizable (for example the access of anhydride in the lungs), the same is not true for environmental acoustical pathology: distraction of the driver could be caused by personal reasons, psychological etc., the same for pedestrians or students who are not able to concentrate. However, closely observing the effects of new communicative technology on attention, it is possible to establish the symptoms: the glassy eyes of cyclists who are isolated in iPod caskets; the varying speed of a person on the telephone in the car; the deafness of one who doesn’t react to a call because of the noise around him. Moreover it should be kept in mind that the effects of communicating technologies while different from personal thoughts, block the perception of external stimuli like claxon signals.
If new informative technology improves living conditions annulling distances, speeding up bureaucracy, offering more opportunity to the disabled etc., social pathology of acoustical environmental origin represents the part that is less innovative, the one involving simple repetition of sounds and images with the object of entertainment.
If the collateral effects of pharmaceuticals can be a witness to the exact contrary (kill instead of cure) the collateral effects of new technology are moving in an alternative direction, regressive in respect to the prerogative of innovation and communication opportunities that is distraction, risk, real solitude, and the slowing down of communication itself.
In fact, it’s possible to combat these pathologies without giving up the progress that new technology offers. For this reason it is necessary to give them an identity, to make it possible to remove legality from the conduct that provokes them as routine.
It is a question of reacting to this form of social anomy with political intervention at a level with other environmental pathologies like passive smoking and poisonous substances, to avoid that progress increases pathologies that originate in the environment and have an effect on the individual: from the victims of road accidents to the person who is not able to sleep because outside his home there is a noisy group of people, to the student who is not able to concentrate because he spends to much time amusing himself with technological devices.
Since these phenomena inevitably tend to increase, the duty of the researcher is to come up with an objective representation underlining factors and causes of it, with creation of models of analogical typologies, taking advantage of classical sociological theories, and rendering them valid in respect to the new context.
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