Technology has been advancing at breakneck pace over the past few decades, and its impact on society has been marked and noticeable. There is almost no segment of society that has not been impacted and changed as a result of new technological innovations that have been introduced to the global community. Even regions of the world that were once left out of the industrial revolution are beginning to embrace new technology and the results on the citizenry have been pronounced. Social change is a reference made to the noticeable movement away from traditional behavior patterns within any given culture as the result of some new phenomenon that has been introduced. For this paper, the focus will be on the way that technology has changed society by looking at the impact of personal computers and the Internet, examining the three major sociological perspectives, and looking at its influence on the overall social epidemiology, health, and the environment.
The Impact of the Personal Computer, Cellular Phones, and the Internet
It is no secret that the society of a few generations ago was much more relational and personal than the modern era. Before the personal computer, for example, the main method of communication out of face-to-face conversation took place via the landline telephone. Once an individual was outside the area of the phone, he or she was simply unreachable. The commute to work used to be viewed by busy professionals as the one place of solitude in an otherwise hectic day, as literally nobody could contact you in the car. The relatively recent inventions of the computer, cellular phones, and the Internet, however, have dramatically rewritten the rules for communication. It is now possible for someone to be accessible 24 hours a day nearly anywhere they may be on the planet (Kallinikos, et al, 2013).
The means by which such communication takes place has also changed in recent years as well. Gone are the days when the majority of communication took place via voice, either in person or via the telephone. Now, much communication is in instant messaging or email form. One can communicate with hundreds, indeed thousands, of people instantly with the touch of a button on the computer or cellular phone. In this way, society has changed from a largely 8-5 operation into one that never closes for business. Some would argue that these innovations are slowly moving society away from interpersonal communication in a harmful manner, but the jury is likely still out on that one.
Sociological Perspectives and the Equilibrium Model
Karl Marx is largely attributed with developing the conflict perspective, which is meant to reflect the perceived reality that every society on earth goes through a series of stages related to their economic development. As its names implies, there is often a conflict that results in each society between the haves and have nots that is almost certainly impacted by the current technological revolution long since underway. Since technology has began to expand at a rapid rate, the divide the wealthy of the world and those less fortunate has actually increased as well. While technology can be seen to have made the lives of many people better, more efficient, and more prosperous, the reality is that social change in this area has really been slow in coming.
If anything, technology has resulted in the ability of outsourcing to become commonplace, meaning that some of the traditionally higher paying jobs in industrialized countries have been eliminated in deference to lower priced labor in other regions of the world. In addition, technology has contributed to social change in other ways as well, and this is reflective of the conflict theory. As technology advances, there is the inevitable need for fewer workers (Hansen, Postmes, Tovote, & Box, 2014). This means that the capitalists among societies elite continue to get rich, while effectively eliminating much of their labor associated expenses. This has resulted in the potential for mass unemployment or underemployment in the future, which is troubling to many. This would indicate that not all technological advances are positive for society.
Social Epidemiology, Health, and the Environment
Finally, it should be noted that technology is having a marked impact on social epidemiology, health, and the environment. Much of this change appears to be positive. Technological advances are leading to new vaccines, cures for diseases, and leading to better operating procedures within the world’s healthcare system. These are just a few of the health related benefits made possible by technology. The medical community is simply able to do much more today than at any other point in the history of human civilization. The relationship between social change and social epidemiology has been vastly improved as well at the hands of technology. Life expectancy in nearly every region of the world continues to grow, while infant mortality rates are on the decrease. This is the direct result of more advanced medical care in place throughout the global community today that is directly related to technological innovation on a grand scale.
With the rapid expansion of technology has also come a population explosion. The world continue to expand its population at an unprecedented rate, and the toll that this is taking on the environment has been a major cause of concern for many. Technology, however, is making a positive impact in this area by making possible renewable sources of energy, enhanced measure to minimize pollution, and much more (Schroeder & Ling, 2014). In essence, many of the harmful agents that use to destroy the environment are no longer being used today thanks to technological advances.
In summary, technology has promoted in social change in numerous ways. While some of the advances being made have resulted in a dramatic shift in the way members of the global community communicate with one another, the innovation that has resulted has spurred human civilization toward bigger and better things. This should only continue as society continues to advance and progress an ever-increasing speed.
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Kallinikos, J., Hasselbladh, H., Marton, A., Handelshögskolan vid Örebro Universitet, & Örebro universitet. (2013). Governing social practice: Technology and institutional change. Theory and Society, 42(4), 395-421. doi:10.1007/s11186-013-9195-y
Schroeder, R., & Ling, R. (2014). Durkheim and weber on the social implications of new information and communication technologies. New Media & Society, 16(5), 789-805.