Sunday, March 20, 2011

Technology, Copper & Fiber Optics

NHK World - Photography Mike-85-3-1
It's been a busy couple of weeks for me which explains in part why I haven't posted here recently. Watching events unfold in Japan has also played a part.

It would be impossible to imagine what happened and is happening there. The scale, scope and tragedy that has unfolded are beyond my comprehension and based on some of the footage I've seen well beyond anything that Hollywood could imagine either. Cracks opening and closing in the earth, walls of water rolling over everything in their path. Houses and businesses carried away. Total destruction. Likely tens of thousands of people dead. By way of contrast, Hurricane Katrina had a final death toll of under 2000.

Disasters of this magnitude have happened elsewhere and images of the aftermath have been available at least in limited quantities. I don't recall ever seeing so much footage of the actual event itself. A decade into the 21st century citizens of wealthy countries such as Japan have the ability to document and record events at a scale and level of detail that is amazing and more than a little disturbing when viewed in this case.

Japan's NHK world English language broadcast via the web is also providing more information and insight into the aftermath than I've ever seen before. I'm used to seeing world events through the filter of the US press, or occasionally the BBC. Being able to view something a lot closer to the source has a different impact. When we're viewing local media covering remote events I think it's harder to maintain emotional distance.

What's going on in Libya right now is a different sort of tragedy but again, we're getting much more raw on the ground perspective that we did even a few years ago.

We used to get news in a very structured and polished form. There were up sides to that approach, but it was also kind of sterile and limited. Vietnam was the first televised war, and the images that appeared on Americas TV's had a profound impact on peoples perceptions and the final outcome of that conflict.

We've moved a level or two beyond that now with Facebook, YouTube and other forms of online media providing forums and channels for people and groups all over the world to deliver raw footage and opinions on what is happening. We've already seen people using these new tools for positive change.

New technologies provide new tools that can be used for good or ill. As always the actual impact of a particular tool is going to be determined by individuals and societies. So far I've seen more positive than negative to the creation of the Internet and I very much hope that continues.

Image by Ryuugakusei via Flickr
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