Technology has been a force of social change since the dawn of Humankind. From fire, to the wheel, to agriculture, and the modern computer, technology has caused intensive evolution and growth within Humankind's social dynamic. This is especially noticeable in the modern age, with the unprecedented global connection which modern communication technology, most noticeably the internet, has brought, and the subsequent global revolutions and shifts in cultural consciousness which have occurred due to this facilitation of communication. Change has been able to spread throughout a culture at a speed which would have been unfathomable in previous eras, and has allowed people in oppressive hegemonic states to realize the truth of their situation, and furthermore has given them the tools needed to facilitate change against their situations. In a more mundane sense, the average potential of an individual to gain knowledge has been increased tenfold in the modern era, with nearly all possible information available at the click of a button. Socially, the average person now has the ability to communicate with others from widely differing cultural and social backgrounds instantaneously, something which allows a person to gain new insights and perspectives which would have been near unattainable for the average individual before the advent of present day technologies. This change has been an extremely positive thing, as many scholars have asserted, due to the overall benefit of technology in strengthening the connections one has to another and the evolution of the social and cultural paradigms to a more encompassing whole.
One of the most prominent ways in which technology has facilitated social change in the modern era is the social interconnection which has been brought about by various websites, such as Facebook, and new forms of communication, including texting and email. This social interconnectedness has been of benefit to the individual, as noted by scholars Donna and Frasier Reed in their paper "Insights into the Social and psychological effects of SMS messaging." Their paper states "it was also found in the present analysis that the more lonely and socially anxious were better able to express their real-self through text, and for it to impact on various aspects of their relationships." This shows the benefit of texting, and all technological facilitation of communication, in improving the ability of those who would, due to psychology or perceived social worth, otherwise be locked in a self-imposed prison of isolation. This also improves the likelihood of one being more honest in what they present to another person, and allows one to truly discuss their beliefs rather then suppress themselves in the name of social conformity. As people begin to throw off the shackles of impeded self-expression, a true dialogue begins to emerge on both the individual and collective level, and allows for a social "revolution" of sorts to occur, in which people can come to a true discussion and dialogue as equals without the ego-created hindrances towards these discussions and dialogues which were much more present before the advent of these technologies.
Another way in which technology has caused a "revolution" within society is through the information available to the average individual over the internet, and the increased educational possibilities which are associated with this increased availability of information. As noted by instructor Roger Hiemestra in his paper "How the Internet is changing Self-Directed Learning", "...the Web supports self-directed learning by both increasing learner control and providing mechanisms for learners to determine what information is pertinent to them." He also states "...people in isolation because of fear, undocumented status, lack of language skills, or poverty can obtain knowledge and learn what they have to learn once they can access the Internet and gain a little experience with it. In essence, if adults have the motivation, drive, and patience they can learn much by themselves." From both of these statements, it can be seen that the internet is of enormous benefit to the individual without either monetary or physical access to education, in that it allows a sufficiently motivated individual the ability to gain an understanding of any subject imaginable. This will have, and already has had, enormous implications for the growth of all fields of knowledge, as the informational bottleneck which existed in previous eras has been released, something which allows for any person to contribute to the pool of human knowledge backed by their ability to draw new conclusions from the enormous ocean of data now available. This freedom of information has also allowed for a much greater number of people to form their own, self-directed opinions on issues of which they would otherwise have media, cultural, or government imposed limitations. This growth of free thought has already seen several direct outgrowths within the world, with one of the most notable being the "Arab Spring Revolts", as they are colloquially known.
The Arab Spring Revolts were a series of protests which sprung up in the Middle East during the month of December in the year 2010, and focused on the oppressive regimes which were present in those countries, and the people's refusal to allow these regimes to continue. These revolts have directly led to the overthrow of several governments, including those of Egypt and Libya, and the change in the power structure of several others, including Yemen. Technology played a central role in the facilitation of these protests, as these protests were arranged with the aid of the social networking websites Facebook and Twitter. These websites allowed protesters to spread their message of revolution at a rate which would have been unachievable without these websites, and further allowed for direct reporting, intelligence sharing, and coordination on behalf of the protesters. As noted by Alex Cominos of the Association for Progressive Communications in his paper "Twitter revolutions and cyber crackdowns," "In Egypt social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter were used to announce and publicize the initial protests of 25 January 2011." This role of modern technology in these protests has also been noted by researcher Ekaterina Stepanova in her paper "The Role of Information Communication Technologies in the 'Arab Spring'," in which she states "In the 2011 “Arab Spring” protests, social media networks played an important role in the rapid disintegration of at least two regimes". Without the facilitation of communication provided by modern technology, it is quite possible that news of these protests would have been localized, allowing for a quick government crackdown on these protestors and the relegation of this chapter in the Arabic world's history to a mere sentence of reported "insurrection and subsequent government intervention" in legal records. Technology, also, facilitated the spreading of the news of these protests to countries across the globe, and allowed for those countries which, at least on paper, support democracy and oppose authoritarian regimes, to lend their political support to these protestors, ensuring that violence against these protestors would be lessened.
Another way in which technology has cultivated the new global revolution is seen through the global Occupy protests. These protests have spread throughout the globe, something which would not have been possible without modern technology and the benefits associated with such. These protests were first called into being through a Canadian web-based culture jamming group which goes by the name of AdBusters, which posted a message on facebook for people of all creeds to "bring a tent" and "Occupy Wall Street" on the 27th of November, 2011. It can be seen that these protests were inherently founded through the internet from the start, and so shows the way in which technology has facilitated this new stage of the ongoing global revolution. The availability of statistics and facts relating to the core issues of the Occupy movement, which include economic inequality and the corporate manipulation of the political process, have also facilitated the growth of this movement, as it allows the average individual to do independent research unfettered by media or corporate skewed information, and to see the unbiased facts about what has been the trend in many developed countries for the few past decades.
Lastly, technology has played a central role in the growth of culture itself. Through the internet, ideas are exchanged at a lightning-fast pace, something which allows for a cultural growth which would have taken years in the past to occur over the course of months. A new informational theory, that of memetics, has risen out of this exhange of ideas, and explains why and how this growth of culture is occuring. A meme is defined, on the Mirriam-Webster website, as "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture", and memetics is therefore the study of these so-called "memes". Francis Heylighen & Klaas Chielens, in their paper "Cultural Evolution and Memetics," state "The transmission of cultural traits is a process that in many ways resembles the spread of an infectious disease: the carrier of a certain idea, behavior or attitude directly or indirectly communicates this idea to another person, who now also becomes a carrier, ready to “infect” further people." As the internet allows for an unprecendented volume of idea exchange, culture has begun to evolve at a much faster rate, as these "memes" are spread much more quickly then was possible before the advent of modern communication technologies. Specific examples of this growth of culture include the amount of new music which is shared daily, something which is facilitated by the website Youtube.com, and the emergence of internet slang and trends, notably the usage of the guy fawkes mask to symbolize anarchistic ideals, into the non-virtual world.
Technology in its present incarnation has facilitated the growth of revolutions within all frames of society, including the cultural, the social, and the political. This has been a positive thing, as it has allowed people an unprecedented amount of self-determinism and freedom, which then leads to a mindset which promotes equality and self-determinism on behalf of all people. This has also allowed for several negative practices on behalf of government and corporate entities to come to light, and has given the people the means necessary to change these practices. Technology will continue to evolve, and will continue to contribute to this positive revolution of mankind.
Cominos, Alex. "Twitter Revolutions and Cyber Crackdowns." Apc.org. Association for Progressive Communications, June 2011. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. .
Heylighen, Francis, and Klaas Chielens. "Cultural Evolution and Memetics." Pespmc1.vub.ac.b. Principia Cybernetica Web. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. .
Hiemstra, Roger. "How the Internet Is Changing Self-Directed Learning." www-distance.syr.edu. Center for Distance Learning, 25 Apr. 2009. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. .
Reid, Donna, and Reid, Frasier. "Insights into the Social and Psychological Effects of SMS Text Messaging." 160characters.org. 160 Characters, Feb. 2004. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. .
Stepanova, Ekaterina. "The Role of Information Communication Technologies in the "Arab Spring"" Gwu.edu. The George Washington University. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. .