Technological Determinism & Social Media

Communication technology has exceedingly changed the way we send out messages and receive them from the opposite. Communication barriers are eliminated and the forms of communication have been transformed significantly. For the past centuries, development of technology has played a critical role in improving and shifting the ways certain activities are used to be done, particularly human activities. There have been discussions regard of the influences in which technological innovations impose on the development of society’s cultural values and norms, such belief is called ‘Technological Determinism’. Various social evolution theories have also mentioned likewise by illustrating an example of the creation of social media which enabled us to connect with others anytime and anywhere. However, such changes of communication also led to less genuine human interactions, face-to-face conversations. The value of social interactions gradually declines while the use of social media increases continually. Clearly, social media which is a technological innovation has brought people closer as well as unintentionally isolated us. Technology is able to bring about changes in so many different ways.

According to Marshall McLuhan, he mentioned that we should pay attention to the form of a medium rather than the content it carries. Basically, it is the message itself when we get a message that is the message, the content rather than its form. However, McLuhan focused on the medium itself as he argued that throughout centuries the messages that are communicated among us have been less crucial than the form of its medium. Technological innovation in term of communication which transfers messages changes human and the society, in the way that it unifies people, encourage participation, and expand the scale of impact. The form of communication changes the emphasis on the way we recognize and react to the information. We are unconsciously adapting to modern telecommunications while such medium has contributed to the increase of our capacity to deliver content. For example, it is undeniable that a combination of an online media technology with offline activities bring about advocacy campaigns which greatly create social movement and impactful changes.

In the era of digital media, we can extensively reach to audience and carry out engagement at a very low price. Thus, if you are able to make a campaign to become rapidly popular on the internet, or basically go viral, then the ability to influence general public, organizations, or government sector, or even to provoke movement will become much more possible. The coordination of online media to offline media is essential whether the intention of a campaign is to fulfill the needs, solve problems, or create profit. Without an online platform which enhance the capability to reach to audience, the results of a campaign might appear otherwise. This example could possibly demonstrate why we whould be paying attention to medium rather than the content it carries.

Therefore, technology itself does have a dominant force over the formation and scalability of human activities. Nevertheless, it might not completely define the nature of its given society nor has an absolute controlling power over the formation of social values and norms. It tremendously affects the scale of human interactions, but does not simply have a complete control over human activities. Instead, technology can bring about different outcomes in which they are also socially constructed. It is a tool that are used for activities which can produce either benefits or harms, depends on the purpose of action. It is the choice of individuals which direct the process and outcomes through technological innovations. Even though technological advancement leads us to changes in economic, political, and cultural aspects of society, ultimately it is the man who invented technology and decide to use them in a certain way. Technological innovations are neither good or bad nor neutral, it is unable to function and bring about any effects without participation from human. Thus, technology might not necessarily be regarded as independent variable which completely determine changes in society as itself alone would not be able to determine aspects in society, it is the combination with human activities which give them the power to do so.

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Hess, D. (2015). Power, Ideology, and Technological Determinism. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, pp.121–125.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Aug. 2017].

(Vorapilailuck Thitivesa)