Technology has a great influence on me and my daily life.  I enjoy learning new things that will enable me more production out of each day.  Below is a paper I wrote that is dated, proof that technology is ever evolving.

-Terrence

Technology’s Influence on Everyday Life

Technology has the ability to influence language.  In today’s world of none stop communication, slang and new phases can spread like wildfire. Our personal lives have been affected by technology, it gives us the ability to pass information rapidly.  Today we can pick up a phone from almost anywhere in the country and call anywhere within the world.  We have a direct line of communication.  Most communication from distant places comes to us indirectly over the TV, radio, newspaper or Internet.  All these sources have an impact on our language and they way we communicate.

Technology has influenced the way people interact and communicate.  The first real advancement in technology that aided communication was the Printing Press.  Before the printing press, history had to be explained or passed down directly through conversation.  Have you ever been involved in a story chain?  Lets say Jim tells a story to Karen and Karen tells the story to Bob and so on until five people down the line the story doesn’t even resemble the original.  The printing press allowed people to communicate clearly and directly.  Documentation of real life events could be put on paper neatly and mass-produced for all to read.  We all know today that the daily newspaper can influence your mind. We all seem to know what Enron-itous is, don’t we?  Maybe you have heard of World Com-unism?   These are all words the media has push upon us and we have embraced.  What our mind absorbs can quickly be turned around and spit back out, with out us even noticing it.  

Technology has changed the way we communicate in many areas of our daily life.  Technology has impacted the way we handle and take care of our personal business and leisure time. The way we handle these issues today is a lot different that we did a few years back. Years ago, you either paid your bills through the mail or would drive to the establishment and pay what you owed. But today, with automated phone services and interactive web sites, we can pay our debts without ever talking to a person.

For example, SBC Ameritech is a phone company that offers a full service web site. You can order products and services, cancel products and services, make payment arrangements and even set up an appointment to have a repair personnel come out to your house through their service department.  This can all be done without even speaking to a person.  A second example, Capital One, a credit card company has an interactive web site, which allows you to view your statement, pay your bill on line, and even request credit increases. They also offer many investment information and opportunities.  Another example, Mobil, one of the many gas card companies, also offer similar services on their web site. All three of these companies also offer automated up-to-date information about your personal account, either by internet access or by the phone system. By choosing the right number corresponding to the option you are inquiring, your personal account information is available for you to hear over the telephone without speaking to a person at all.

Banking on the Internet has also become very big. You can check balances, pay mortgages and loans, but you can also check on savings, IRAs and other investment balances. As an example, First Federal’s site offers all these services, allowing you to see how much money you are spending, how much you are making; how much you are worth. This site also offers the ability to transfer money from one account to another. This is all done without human contact. Anything possible can be purchased on the internet. Some things include prescriptions, clothes, shoes, and personal hygiene products. Other things include furniture, linen, vehicles, and even airline tickets. Just imagine all the stores your parents needed to go to purchase these items. All you have to do is sit on a computer.

            This whole process of buying products on the computer is killing personalism.  There is no need to be nice, or to say please or thank you. No human contact to converse with or to smile and ask about the weather.  No friendly salesperson to hand you your products and wish you a good day. Just a printed out page saying your order has been confirmed. Ebay is a site where you can buy and sell products from other people.  This is the computer-equivalent flee market.

           Technology can dehumanize common interactions inhibiting the passing of common language in our personal life.   The best example of this is email or pay at the pump transaction’s with a machine and your credit card.   With email you are communicating with another but interacting or communication your thoughts to a machine.  The common jesters or body language cannot be viewed.  How many times have your e-mails been received with the wrong interruption?  You must use care to fully explain your views over e-mail because the visual senses cannot be implemented by those who are reading your mail.

Leisure and recreational activities are becoming less personable. Here’s an example of a vacation that starts out more impersonable than intended: You’re feeling a little down lately and your doctor says it due to the lack of socialization.  All you do all day is work on a computer and at night you sit and watch TV.  If you do converse with anyone, you do it through email. The Doctor tells you to go on a vacation and do a little more socializing.

So, you go home from the doctors office and email your boss to tell him you decided to take a few days off-doctors orders. You check your calendar on line and cancel a meeting scheduled in two days. You put an automatic reply on your email to let everyone know you are gone and when to expect you back. Then you email your co-workers asking then to complete certain assignments for you. You search the Internet to find what places you would like to go, figuring how long you would like to drive and conclude what your options are. After you have picked a spot, your search the motels in the area in which you are going. When you reach the motel’s web site you enter your credit card number to reserve a room, providing your expected arrival and departure. With confirmation via internet, you receive the access code to the lock on your motel room. Since you will be driving for most of the day you decide to order food to be delivered to your motel room. Finding the appropriate web site, you use your credit card to order a pizza to be delivered after you arrive.

You pack up the car and go to gas station, put the gas card in the pump and fill up your car.  You see vending machines outside and decide to get a sandwich and drink. As you start out, you pick up the cell phone and call to see how the road conditions are.

A police officer spots you speeding. He photographs your license plates, writes the information off his radar gun onto his tablet. He will later submit this to his station and they will send you a ticket in the mail.

            You reach your destination and relax, watching television.  The room has no computer and you are missing yours.  When you hear a knock at the door, you jump up to answer it.  There, standing in the doorway, the pizza delivery man holds your dinner.  You are so excited to actually talk to a person.  Telling him jokes, you pay the person not wanting him to leave. You talk on and on while your pizza is getting cold and the delivery person finally tells you he has to go back to work.

The incredible impact of rapid and significant change in communications technology has forever altered the way business is conducted in the workplace today. Dramatic leaps in product development have resulted in greater productivity, improved efficiency and better availability. What has triggered this tremendous evolution and specifically how has it affected the ability of employees to better communicate? Perhaps a short review of how companies used to communicate would be beneficial, before answering that question?

Business people in the past were used to more conventional means of communicating. Use of a telephone (before voice mail became “chick”), drafting a memo or outside letter and face-to-face meetings were all part of the way business used to be conducted. Many employees were located either on the same floor or usually in the same building. Companies were more on the local level rather than the global conglomerates they are today. Because people were in such close proximity and business needs were on a much smaller basis, the need to employ better office tools and automation really didn’t exist. However as business became more globalized, demands for greater profits echoed from shareholders, and employees were decentralized, sometimes across continents, the need to greatly improve communications arrived.

So what changes in technology have affected communication in the past decade? I believe it’s best to break them down into several categories and discuss the results of each independently.

I’d recommend we start with voice communication. Although voice and data pager technology has been around for a number of years, it’s growth has exploded since the early 1990’s. Coupled with the rapid ascent of the cell phone as a critical business tool, the need for people to be available has driven use of both technologies to all time highs. Major communications companies have been unable to successfully meet the demand, more so because of a lack of telephone numbers than the actual hardware sets.

Voice mail has been available for general business use since the early 1980’s. Its original intent was to replace employees’ responsible for monitoring telephone switchboards and answering calls. However, it has evolved into something entirely different. Because telephones do not have the impact of a face-to-face encounter and voice mail can be very impersonal, many people choose to avoid a confrontation by going directly into another’s voice mail box rather than speaking to them. It’s much easier to drop a nasty message and run rather than handle a conflict head-on.

Since we’re on the subject of impersonal, let’s discuss automated voice response systems. These, like voice mail systems, were also developed to reduce staff and save personnel costs. Banks, utility companies, local, state and federal governments as well as many other businesses choose to use AVU’s as they’re called, to handle most customer inquiries. Unfortunately for the customers, the effects have been far from desirable. Systems require a touch-tone phone – there are still significant numbers of people who use rotary phones. Getting into a system is easy – finding what you need, can be more difficult. Listening to ala carte menu choices, attempting to reach to a human, hopelessly caught in a maze of looping messages, or having the system hang up, leaves one wishing for the good old days again.

Written communication and the capabilities thereof  have also seen huge gains in technology. No one could have predicted the outcome of the development of the personal computer, but this single tool alone has revolutionized both front and back-end operations of most companies. Software tools such as Microsoft-Word or Corel’s WordPerfect have caused the literal extinction of the typewriter. Not only can you draft an electronic version of a document; the ability to alter its shape, form and content is dynamic and nearly immediate. Spell check, grammar check, word count, reference look-up and thesaurus capability, are just a few of the many built-in features offered by the software.

Email has totally revolutionized the written communications industry. The days of writing a letter, stamping it, and mailing it to whatever destination will soon be over. While original email software systems were developed so people could communicate within a company’s communications structure, the creation of the Internet and the ability to pass electronic messages anywhere in the world have opened up windows of opportunity never conceived before. To draft a message, review its content, attach digitized documents or photographs and send it to any location in the world in a matter of seconds is simply incredible. Further, the cost to perform these tasks is either minimal or non-existent, and limited only by what Internet provider you use. Estimates are only 3% of the worlds population ha access to the Internet and email – what will happen when these numbers jump to 10, 20 or even 50%?

An important part of any email system is the ability to either send instant messages or chat. Basically this is an online, real-time conversation with either one or more people without the use of a phone. Capabilities like these were only dreamed of five years ago and today they’re a reality. Literally tens of millions of users access these systems on a daily basis. They conduct business transactions, converse with people from a different continent, access groups of people with similar likes and perform other business functions as well. IM and Chat both offer an excellent alternative to speaking with someone on the phone, especially if they can’t get to one, although companies need to watch the time spent by employees using these tools.

Further examples of how technology has affected communication in the workplace are video-conferencing through webcams, hand-held PDA (personal digital assistants) units and customer-friendly kiosks. While the cost of video-conferencing is considerable, the need for people to travel is removed. Like meetings of yesteryear, face-to-face contact is maintained although everyone is not in the same room. PDA units are basically hand-held PC’s that are used to pick up voice mail, email and perform other business-related tasks at a minimal cost (average $400). Kiosks are a fairly new item that companies place in strategic locations throughout an organization and are meant for employees who have no normal access to the Internet. Employee purchase, flexible spending, 401k and other related company benefits and programs can all be accessed through this kiosk, or PC.

While technology has greatly affected communication within a business, it has also noticeably changed language. Acronyms, abbreviations of several words in such a way that the abbreviation itself can form a word, are much more prevalent in business today than just a generation ago. This is especially true in the Information Technology field where it seems everything is identified in this manner. From BASIC (Beginner’s all-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) to CICS (Customer Interface Control System), there are literally thousands of these acronyms which describe hardware, software or some other type of computer-related product. No one really knows the actual product name, but they can tell you the acronym for it.

A second part of language affected by technology is relatively new and realized explosive growth with the advent of the Internet and Email.  Emoticons, forms of acronyms, or emotional icons, are becoming extremely popular ways of expressing oneself. The ever popular LOL (laugh out loud) is easily recognizable from anyone who’s ever been chatting online. In addition to letters forming specific meanings of words or phrases, special characters also have distinct meanings. :) for a smiling face, :( for a frown, or :-0 for a yawn are unique examples of how people communicate through these newer methods.

As technology evolves at a fast and furious pace, with leaps in magnitude of features and functionality, it’s worth noting that businesses will have to decide what aspects of these changes will need to be implemented to stay competitive.

Technology isn’t reserved for just adults.  Computer programmers have written programs for children as young as nine months old.  “According to Knowledge Adventure Company, nine month olds can benefit from computers (C. Stoll, 1999).  This is rather interesting considering most adults become intimidated when faced with a new technology.

 Now instead of sitting our children in front of the television, we are putting them in front of the computer screen.  They learn computer jargon from the time they are toddlers.  Computers are found in our children’s toys.  The speaking dolls, Playstation, and Nintendo, too name a few.  We even have computers built just for children.  Children easily learn the logic built into programs.

  Seymour Papert (1999) has built an entire teaching system around children and computers.  Computers are replacing toys in our grade schools.  Is this a wise thing to do?  Is there enough interaction with other children going on in the classroom?  Children are bringing cell phones, beepers, and palm pilots to school.  Children need to learn to interact with others as well.

The cost of technology in the classroom has increased dramatically.  Now almost every classroom has a computer.

Software and network technology as well as Internet sources are replacing and adding to traditional teaching.  We now have on-line research libraries, computer assisted learning software, on-line lectures, college courses.  Students e-mail their teachers now instead of speaking to them in the classroom. 

“In a study involving six schools and 803 first and second graders, researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology studied the effectiveness of using computers to enhance creativity and motivation in primary school children.  They found that the children who used computers appeared to have a more positive attitude toward the technology-a finding consistent with a number of North American studies.  Computer use did not, however, encourage greater creativity or motivate the children to study more.  What did motivate them were creative experiences such as reading books and saying rhymes (Armstrong & Casement, 2005).”

There are schools that have computers set up so that children can learn a subject at their own pace.  The program teaches the child, keeps track of the progress, and gives problems at the child’s level of learning.  Is this the best way for teachers to interact with our children?  Is this best for our children?  “Inexperienced teachers who rely on computers in the elementary school years may be unwittingly abandoning their students because the makers of many software packages stress the fact that these will “free the teacher” to work with other students.  This means that when students are occupied with the technology, they often receive little or no attention from their teacher (Armstrong & Casement, 2000)”.  This could provide for forgotten students.  Also students will be missing out on group activities, such as story time, class lessons, or group discussions.

The future is now.  What forms of communication technology will come to us in the future?  How easy was it to conduct a meeting on the star ship, Enterprise?  Captain Kirk could flick his communicator and talk to anyone he wanted to on the ship.  When you think about it, we can do that today.  Cell phones use voice recognition that can enable us to dial up whomever we desire at the sound of our voice.  Connecting and Communicating is as simple as just saying a name.  When Captain Kirk wanted a face to face encounter with someone he just communicated with him or her through the video screen, likewise today when using video conferencing.   In many ways what we perceived as the future is here today.

The future of communications will enable us to move and travel freely without restriction as we do today with or mobile phone.  Mobile communications are changing the way people work and live.  You no longer have to say at home to wait for that important phone call.  If the office needs to get in touch with you they just call your cell phone, there is no need to call and check-up with the office like the days of old.  In most resent events the World Cup soccer tournament has spurred up use of wireless data services for fans worldwide.  In Germany for instance, fans can place bets on the outcome of a match right up to the final minute of play via their cell phone or wireless web device.  Soccer betting is offered by Microsoft’s online service, MSN.  In the United States AT&T is offering games update via it’s voice information service. (Wireless Week, 6/3/2006) 

Education in the future will change dramatically.  A common thought is that technology could dehumanize education.  But the truth is that technology will increase communications between others enabling students to learn from a much wider perspective.  If you can imagine an American child sitting in a classroom learning Japanese culture from there Japanese peer.  Nations will be brought together and will learn together.  Technology we be used as a tool of communication. .  Teachers will not be replaced by technology rather they will use it to translate better to their students.  When explaining a concept to a student, teachers will be able to tailor the information quickly so all learning styles will grasp the concept.   If a student doesn’t understand subject he or she would have multiple sources to inquire and cure their curiosity hunger. 

Communication in business is ever changing.  The business world is the main drive behind communications technology.  We work in a global economy.  Businesses need the ability to communicate with the world.  As our comuication with the world increase our ability to communicate in other languages will increase, further changing our interruption, as we become cultured.  Anyone who has traveled to Europe knows it is not uncommon for Europeans to speak two or three languages and sometimes as much as five.  Europeans are able to interact with each other because of their country close proximity.  In time technology with bring us closer than we ever imagined possible.

 
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