Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Final Exam Part 2: The Rise of the Digital Medium

The world is in the midst of another information revolution, just as civilizations past underwent revolutions from oral forms of communication to written forms of communication, and subsequently written to printed.  The advent of the new digital medium with the invention and popularity of the personal computer, internet, and more recently the laptop and smartphone changed the way people communicate and share knowledge with each other. Although these new media have already had great impact on both everyday interactions and the world of academia, they are not yet the prevailing form of sharing knowledge. Print is currently still the dominant medium through which knowledge is shared; however, in the very near future due to the desires of the rising generations as well as its ability to synthesize all forms of communication, the digital form will become the most popular knowledge medium.

                There are those who would argue that digital formats have already taken the place of the printed as the dominant medium in the world, and this may be true among some demographics (such as teenagers and college age students). This cannot be said of the global population in general, however. For instance, a limited part of the people of the world has ready access to computers and the internet. A medium cannot be considered “dominate” until it reaches to every corner of the globe as written language and print have. Even within first world countries, there are those that simply do not use these new media because they didn’t grow up with them and aren’t used to them. In our group discussions in the salon, the point was made that the older generations, especially senior citizens, still largely receive their information from printed media like newspapers and magazines. There is also of course the general perception, especially among the scholarly world, that printed sources are more reliable and can be trusted more than online sources. Andrew Powley, for example, stated in his post on  about his final paper,"there is still no subsitution for actual printed materials, no matter how free information is on the internet." Until these obstacles are overcome, print will remain the dominant knowledge medium in the world.

                At the current rate it is advancing and with its popularity among the rising generations, the digital medium will not take long to overcome these obstacles. For those who disagree and think that printed knowledge will remain the dominant medium for a long time to come, I urge them to look at history as an example. If we look at the advent of the PC as the beginning of the digital age, that would put us at about 35 to 40 years in. Now look at printing 35 to 40 years after the printing press was invented, approximately 1480. Print was still in its infancy! It was nowhere near what it is today or even what it was in 1650. This new digital media has already progressed at a much faster rate than print, and just like print it will eventually become the dominant medium and change the way information is shared.

                The power of the digital medium comes from its versatility and ability to bring together all forms of knowledge. In our salons, we discussed that folk and oral knowledge help build close, human relationships because of personal interaction. The digital age’s answer? Youtube and Skype. People can now learn directly from others on Youtube, and hold personal, face to face conversations on Skype. Also discussed in our salons was how written language and printed media allowed knowledge to spread to wider communities at a much greater rate than ever before. This is exactly what is occurring now with the internet. The advantage that the digital medium has over any other is its inclusion of all forms of sharing knowledge. It utilizes important aspects from all of the forms of communication listed.

                So while printing is the dominant medium currently, is quickly being overtaken by digital forms, which will become the new power in sharing knowledge in the very near future.

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