Digital Technology and Cultures/Phenomenology of Digital Networks

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Phenomenology is the science of phenomena as distinct from that of the nature of being (Oxford Dictionary).

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Peter-Paul Verbeek

Peter-Paul Verbeek interprets Albert Borgmann, a Technology Philosopher, in order to divulge how current technologies, influence our culture. He talks of how for Borgman, the most important characteristic of technology is its disburdening character (Verbeek, 2002). Devices reduce the amount of time and effort that is necessary to accomplish task. According to Borgmann, technologies create a pattern in the way people live their lives (Verbeek, 2002).

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Albert Borgmann

Kim Jahoon talks of the original intentions of the computer, and how it’s moved from just a simple “number cruncher”, to an information processing and communication platform (Jahoon, 2001). He further explains how “the age of computerization” produce text in the form of digital texts from computer files and programs.

Phenomenology of Digital Networks


Phenomenology digital networks reflects the aggregation of millions of single experiences and allows insights into thousands of varied life worlds to generate a new collective consciousness.

There have been suggestions on how to interpret the network theory and the manner in which people communicate on the global scale. Manuel Castells explores the various implications that this trend has on the social structure and the global economy. Castell's conception of the network society and node data relates to what other scholars suggest are a shift in the societal power structures. Albert Borgmann would agree with the plausibility of this conception. Borgmann’s philosophical analysis of information in Holding on To Reality indicates his concern that technological information could “overflow and suffocate reality” (Verbeek, 2002). The very warning Borgmann suggest, is theorized as true today.

Castells positions the source of power as individuals who can control the flow of information within a networked society. These phenomena, changes the very fabric of human operation and interaction as we know it. The source of power is greatly altered and so is the logic by which it operates. In this regard, a networked society has allowed the organizational to be rendered timeless and placeless. Castells explains that the more organizations depend on technology, especially the flow of information; they become less likely influenced by the social aspects that are related to location (Dershowitz & Nissan, 2014). The previous platform in which technology was developed, according to Kim, seems to be moving in a completely different direction all together (Jahoon, 2001). Castells argument follows growing independence from the societal logic from the organizational logic. In essence, the capacity of individuals in power to remain in the same status is determined by technology. For instance, the format and the distribution of information (Kroker, 2004). In addition, the source of power can also be used as a source of resistance. What Kim describes as a different platform for translated text, is thought to create positions of power. Technology is building a completely new avenue in which known processes were established. By definition, phenomenology is the science of phenomena as distinct from that of the nature of being. Is the nature of being changing beneath our feet?

Although Castells argument is very compelling, there are different views among authors with regards to this network society. While Castells argues that digital network has become a more defining feature of the modern society, authors such as Jan van Dijk questions the primacy of such arguments as applied technology or digital networks. On his part, Dijk contemplates on the benefits of digital networks in his article, The Network Society (Dijk, 2001). He suggests that social networks are vast with complex structures, which should include both online and offline modes of communication. This is a complete 360 view point from Castells mentions entirely. What Dijk is suggestion, is that Castells view point is very one sided, and that there are many other structures that are developing. His distinction has been used in the context of organic and social communities, especially in political discussions and the powers that are related to technology (Dijk, 2001). Therefore, he suggests that technology and network structures enable both centralization and decentralization and predicts the position of people in media networks.

The changing technology landscape has been explored by focusing on the physical aspects of media technology and telephony. In the early 1990s, the Internet became more accessible to the general public (Shilling, 2005). Kim talks about this phenomenon as “the age of computerization” (Jahoon, 2001). He is not alone, various other writers, such as Negroponte, published books which set out to document the impacts of the technological shift from analog to digital, to provide qualified predictions on the technology evolved over the past two decades. Some of the publications, such as Being Digital by Negroponte, take into account what happens when technology or media is no longer "mass" hence questioning the manner in which the public communicate once media has become tailored to an individual's interest and can recall the users' discretion. In the text, Being Digital, the author cited on-demand television and an increasing number of channels for each, instead of having media being pushed to the public or a target audience. In such cases, it is believed that the audience will have to pull the technology towards themselves.

The information model is perceived to be more flexible and paved the way for a globalized economy coupled with an interconnected society, which experiences time and place. Meaning that communication can seemingly move instantaneously and eventually determined the social processed (Gane & Beer, 2008). On the other hand, the acceleration of innovation is perceived as a major condition, which influences the globalized economy. Through innovation, there has been a technological acceleration, which has also transformed the location of power within networked societies. Therefore, better outcomes in design and development will be achieved if an information system is understood as communicative acts. This is because date tends to become information in the consciousness of the human.

Additional Viewing

Theories of Power - Manuel Castells