How Is Technology Driving Social Change in the 21st Century?

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The Major Question:

The major question that has slipped under the mat and hasn’t been yet answered: Can the Silicon Valley giants be considered modern agents of social change?
The Internet has been viewed as instruments of social and political change — connecting communities, educating the youth, and creating social networks previously unaccounted for, like virtual groups. “These people are coming together,” said Philip Rosedale, the founder of  Second Life, “ and are building essentially a new society in cyberspace.” What effects might that virtual society have on the real world? 
This scepticism is non-existential in Silicon Valley, from where large tech companies operate to change the world and also a large amount of money in the process. The awkward fusion of market values and vague humanitarianism has become the defining feature of contemporary Silicon Valley ideology. They all play a sort of huge role in our lives, not just personally but also at the society-wide level.
Facebook has changed how we keep in touch, Facebook changed the way we share our lives, the way we consume content, the way we view privacy, the way people are bullied and the way businesses interact with customers. At the same time, Facebook has created millions of jobs. Google has changed the way we perceive information, the way information is delivered, it makes us know and learn what it wants us to, it changes opinions, makes us imbibe new habits, and has the potential to change our entire lifestyle just with the single click. 
Whereas Amazon, the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos brainchild can influence the consumer experience, purchasing capacity and choices by just playing out advertisements on almost every page on google. These companies now wield power to shape culture and politics and are powerful agents of social agents. While preaching the values of freedom and independence, these firms collect vast amounts of information on their users and use this abundance of data to influence our behaviour.

The Other Problem:

There is growing concern that apart from addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. But these problems are trivial when compared to the bigger picture- the devastating impact upon the political system that can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it, they have the potential to render democracy obsolete. 
For instance, take the example of the US presidential elections 2016- where Facebook’s ad campaign influenced the choice of many and helped Donald Trump win. These tech giants have ingrained themselves into the daily lives of digital-age users in a way that life is almost unimaginable without these. Get online for democracy and freedom. 
Increasingly, the distinction between online and offline lives is being blurred, as the use of smartphones and social media increases rapidly across the world. These companies make the news, break the news, and decide what is news. 
The assumption that technology is inherently a force for good and that the social changes it brings are inevitable and irresistible contributes to the power of multinational corporations, discouraging their users from demanding better protections and more regulation. Rather than a decentralized, democratic public square, the internet has given us a surveillance state monopolized by a few big players.

The Greener Side:

The tech industry has developed an uncanny ability to draw worldwide attention whether wanted or not. Like when a controversial Arkansas law was seen as an assault on gay rights, a national activist group took out a full-page advertisement to draw attention- in the heart of Silicon Valley. 


For many people thinking about what does it have to do with us, a lot, it turns out the decision by the Human Rights Campaign to place the ad saying Arkansas was closed for business  “due to discrimination,” is one of the latest signs of Silicon Valley’s growing symbolic power for causes of all stripes.


Also, in the Arab World and the Middle East, such technological developments have been hailed as tools for the empowerment of marginalized communities. It has also brought new opportunities that have resulted in the breaking of the communication monopoly by those in power and the creation of a new communication environment. Such an environment has — as part of its manifestations — the current social transformations that the region is witnessing. They are also altering the global society adding in new members such as the middle east and various such countries.


The argument holds that tech corporates’ surpluses could be used to set up foundations and subsequently donated to worthy causes as part of corporate social responsibility programs. Social change must come from the grassroots and increasingly, this comes in the form of social enterprise. Gone are the days of reliance on philanthropic, charitable donation.


This isn’t a topic or time for people to disconnect themselves from or take any stringent measures rather, this is a calling for awareness to be raised and people to educate themselves about social space and the kind of influence all these tech giants have on daily lives. 

Written By: Jeevana Allu
Edited By: Harshit Agarwal

How Is Technology Driving Social Change in the 21st Century? How Is Technology Driving Social Change in the 21st Century? Reviewed by EMN on March 30, 2020 Rating: 5

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* The views expressed in the above article are of the writer and not Eat My News.
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