nilda diaz - research paper


The idea of tradition is one that lies in the consciousness of an individual and is rooted in the dominant ideology of the cultural period within which that consciousness is molded. Culture is the natural and spontaneous outgrowth of forms of human interaction made possible by the dominant technologies of a period. Communication technology is of particular significance as this defines the quality of that interaction and profoundly influences not only the way people learn and share information vital to their survival, but ultimately the way they perceive themselves. For example, a child born into a cultural environment where the dominant mode of communication is verbal would perceive reality as a close interpersonal construct. Existence, then, becomes a feature of a communitarian spirit where everyone participates in a commonality of being. This gives rise to a cultural homogeneity that becomes a primary stable value within that culture. But technologies change and the basic values that are identifiable and articulated in the consciousness of a society are perceived as being absolute values in themselves. What often gets lost in the evolution of a culture is that its natural unfolding is a process of constant accommodation of emerging values to the point at which an entirely new system of norms may be identified. Yet those who were molded in the way things were hold on to the belief that the value systems of an age gone by form the basis around which all culture should revolve.


This dialectical tension between what exists and what is emerging is analogous to values grounded in nostalgia, struggling to accommodate those values that are more closely related to the needs of changing communication technologies. There is a change in the needs of society in terms of how they access information and how they learn. The relationship, therefore, between technology and culture is an intimate one and the dominant mode of communication within a culture profoundly influences its values. Communication in an ancient tribal community was a feature of geographical demarcation and isolation from other communities. Belonging was defined by the existence of a hill or river or forest that would separate one group from another. These boundaries kept the information dispersed in one community available only to that community. Since the dominant mode of communication was verbal, communities were often built around a single source of the most information- a king or shaman- and values tended to be of a homogenous nature. Everyone in this kind of societal structure depended on the information received from the head thus allowing for a commonality of values. With the invention of the printing press in the 17th century, tribal values began to be eroded. As information became accessible through the printed word, transfer became less a feature of interpersonal interaction and more one of individual effort. This was the genesis of a celebration of the individual and saw the tribal head king being questioned as individuals experienced themselves as being capable of acting on their own volition. Learning was transformed from being one teacher or person giving information to an individual analysis and interpretation made even more accessible through the computer. With the advent of computer technology, the teacher in some cases is no longer in the classroom. The teacherís role in supporting or implanting values into the student is now redefined as the student is exposed to a diversity of values through the computer and television. What is happening is there are no values being transmitted to the student via the teacher and this leaves room for individual interpretation. Here we see individual values being born and old cultural norms and values being modified somewhat, to allow for the inclusion and acceptance of diversity. Diversity now becomes a norm because our children are so exposed to it in all aspects of culture. The literate age therefore served the fragmentation of society in that its proliferation made access to information an individual preoccupation. The essence of literary culture is that while the basic mode of information transfer is primarily non-interactive and individual, it gives rise to a political philosophy of independence and nationalism. Both individualism and literacy are then primary values, which would be perceived as absolute as again, new technologies and new forms of interaction propel society into new ways of being. These absolute values like individualism and nationalism would become elements of nostalgia in a current electronic or computer age. In a computer age like today, we are already seeing that literacy is no longer a primary value. Our children do not read because the information for their survival and daily interaction is no longer exclusively contained in the printed word. Modes of teaching in some cases have changed from books to electronic aids. Equipment such as projectors, screens, television and video presentations are used in the classroom as teaching aids. Another area of this communication technology is not only the modifying of how students are taught, but where they are taught. The virtual institute is a concept that has gained momentum since the computer age and allows students to stay at home or where ever they may have access to a computer and be a part of a class. Information is accessed through the computer and there becomes no need for a classroom. This lack of interaction can lead to a change in social behavior. To keep up with the technological advances, companies are producing entire courses on CD ROM in an effort to support the changing communication culture The evolutionary stable strategy, which is the spontaneous shifting of consciousness to the necessities for survival, would dictate that print may not be as essential as it used to be. Childrenís brains are not lazy; they merely need a different mode of information transfer. Computer information is presented in a more imagistic and iconic form. Its encoding would demand a system that would be understood by the widest possible audience. This means that information sharing has to have more inclusive approaches that would reach into a broad tapestry of cultural experiences in order to conceive of modes of transfer. Cognitive processes in this environment will pull from the diverse and multi-leveled experiences of different cultures. This, will in turn lead to the multiplicity of values presented and result in the revolutionizing of what is acceptable values in society. Whereas electronic communication technology allows for this richness of virtual experience, the linear forms of print and the literate age are perceived as stark and mundane when compared to the all inclusive forms of television, film and video or the expansive potential of computer communication.


At this time in our history, computer technology offers a holistic approach to information sharing. Individuals anywhere can access the same information and make decisions about how they can put that information to work for their own benefit. People online in any part of the world, from any culture, can share ideas and feelings about a particular piece of information. Decision making, is now a feature of an international perspective. This has the capacity to create and unify communities across mountain ranges, oceans, nation or even planet. It is not that everyone everywhere has a computer but that once the technology exists, there are no intrinsic barriers to access. The immediate effect of computer technology on culture is the disintegration of what we may see as our traditional values. Information is iconic and visual and is conveyed in a universal language that is not totally dependent on print and which can transcend nation, language and culture. The collective mentality has been "us against them" with "us" being the ones trying to keep things the way they were in times gone by and "them" referring to those who can conceptualize and participate with confidence, in the changing times. Todayís technology is proving that traditional lines of demarcation between cultures are becoming so blurred that community is now grounded in the notion of shared interest. These often have nothing to do with family, nation or physical proximity. The possibility exists for commonality in diversity and this has permeated our collective consciousness and is truly a reflection of an all inclusive communication technology. As often happens, individuals in a society are not sensitive to or aware of these changes and persist in the anxiety that our traditional values are being eroded, seeing this as a cultural negative. There is little understanding that cultural evolution is vital to human survival and adaptation to the effects of technological change is key to the continuation of society. The electronic age is the catalyst for the dispersement of information at all levels, all at once, thus offering a multiplicity of options presented. With this abundance of information and the widening of interaction possibilities that could further qualify and offer differing perspectives to that information, true freedom is now a possibility. Freedom is really the availability of choice. Computer technology presents a cultural unfolding that is clearly pointing the way to an internationalization of purpose that is opening up new and exciting vistas of human interaction. Freedom can only exist in an environment that is based on the free flow of information. With electronic technology freedom cannot be confined to any nation or group but must reach all cultures. Centers of learning all over the world are frantically investing in inter-cultural programs in order that we may understand each other better. This is the approach that our educators must take to ensure that our children are not left behind, but are allowed to grow with the technological changes and benefit from the diversity. Electronic communication facilitates an atmosphere of harmony in that there are channels for constant and ongoing dialogue. This is the legacy of computer technology. While nations globally are seeing themselves as centers in their own right, they are, at the same time, accepting that there is a global economy and a universal family. It is the technological process by which we can forge a true synergy of purpose that is really the primordial quest of mankind. The more the technology undermines the notion of separateness, the more enhanced is the possibility of true human dignity in a world of shared interests and common purpose.




Avery, Sarah. "Schoolís In, TVís off." The News Observer 20 August. 1998. http://www.

Freire, Paulo. "Education for Critical Consciousness." New York: Seabury Press 1973, 111-16.

Hernandez, Merlin. Personal interview. 22 Nov. 1998.

Lapham, Lewis.H. Introduction. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. By Marshall Mcluhan. Cambridge: MIT UP, 1994. 200-310

Peters, Sandy. "Violence on Television". Topics Magazine 14 April. 1997. 2/TV-Violence/tv-v. html (12 Nov. 1998)

Nilda Diaz - Research Paper