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Technology and Change

Donald G. Perrin

Technology is a driving force for innovation and change. Communication technologies shrink time and distance and share information resources at the speed of light. As they become  universal, inexpensive and ubiquitous they change the way we work, think, and relate to one another

In 1923, Bela Belazs, a Hungarian writer and philosopher, described the change process:

The discovery of printing gradually rendered illegible the faces of men. So much could be read from paper that the method of conveying meaning by facial expression fell into desuetude.

Victor Hugo once wrote that the printed book took over the part played by the cathedral in the Middle Ages and became the carrier of the spirit of the people. But the thousands of books tore the one spirit, embodied in the cathedral, into thousands of opinions. The word broke the stone into a thousand fragments, tore the church into a thousand books.

The visual spirit was thus turned into a legible spirit and visual culture into a culture of concepts. This, of course, had its social and economic causes, which changed the general face of life.  But we paid little attention to the fact that, in conformity with this, the face of individual men, their foreheads, their eyes, their mouths, had also of necessity and quite concretely to suffer a change.

At present a new discovery, a new machine is at work to turn the attention of men back to visual culture and give them new faces. This machine is the cinematographic camera. Like the printing press, it is a technical device for the multiplication and distribution of products of the human spirit; its effect on human culture will not be less than that of the printing press.

The printing press, photography, cinema, radio, television, computers, internet, cell phone and beyond continue to change our world. Electronic communications shrink time and distance and create new relationships between people and cultures. Miniaturization gives mobility; networks give instant access to people and information anywhere-anytime.

In the first half of the twentieth century we developed mass communication technologies like film, radio and television. In the second half we moved increasingly to individualized technologies like computer based training and personal computers. These were combined in global networks to launch the Information Age.

Technology changed the way we communicate, the way we live, the way we think, and the way we learn. It is no longer necessary to go to the centers of learning or information repositories or centers of commerce. Much that requires travel is accessible instantly via computer networks and smart cell phones. Each new innovation presents challenges and opportunities to live life more fully as we move into the future.


Bela Belazs, Theory of the Film: Character and Growth of a New Art. 1952 Translated from Hungarian. London: Dennis Dobson Ltd.

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