DhakaTribune
Thursday October 19, 2017 07:06 PM

Brave new digital world

  • Published at 06:59 PM October 10, 2017
  • Last updated at 07:37 PM October 10, 2017
Brave new digital world
Your brain on technologyBIGSTOCK

How the virtual world is changing our lives

Indonesian men are becoming more prone to polygamy because of the influence of an Android app known as “AyoPoligami,” meaning “Let’s do polygamy.”

Last July, a story had been circulated around the globe that somewhat aroused tensions in tech-savvy individuals: “Facebook’s AI develops its own language and starts talking that language.”

Such are regular examples of how we exploit technology and technology exploits us. Bangladesh is no exception in this case. The fundamental question is, how pleasurable will our voyage with technology be in the future?

Communication and surveillance

New media opens an extraordinary door for communication. It is thought that the users of digital media have more power, since it is not owned by any single, commercial media conglomerate.

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham proposed his model of “panopticon,” later popularised by Michael Foucault, that best describes how scattered individual users of new media nowadays are under surveillance by the authorities from a specific control point.

New forms of communication are facilitating human interaction, providing a great number of apparatuses and channels. That is why human communication in the modern age is considered completely different from the rest of human history.

Digital media is not only making bridges between individuals and groups, but is also dispersing them and creating fragmented communities and alienated individuals.

Who is who?

In the cyberspace, users live parallel lives, which often differ from reality. They choose their characteristic masks, construct identities, and display them to others.

People seek compassion and recognition from others, as human psychology says, and for that reason, they adorn their social identities with positive factors. Miscreants become veracious, and murders become religious.

What will be the future of the technology-based society? How will human interaction change?

This “second life” offers a wonderland where everything seems perfect, a utopia. Relationships, accommodations, jobs, societies, and other factors are making the pseudo-world more realistic and attractive to the netizens, who prefer to dwell in the alternative reality more than the actual reality.

Consequently, a second identity often prevails over the real identity, which can lead the real society towards catastrophe. Issues like identity theft and disguised identity in cyberspace are obscuring the “real identity.”

Relationship dystopia

People are engaging in relationships with each other in a virtual realm, where everyone is just an image, an avatar — not a physical being.

In this mediated context, one rarely has the chance to judge the “other,” the person in the opposite end — how is (s)he in real life, his or her behaviour, characteristics, virtues, incompleteness, etc. Without knowing an individual properly, people randomly get attached emotionally. Such relationships can lead to disaster.

In Bangladesh, resentment regarding virtual relationships are emerging at an alarming pace. Young people are becoming more enslaved to networking sites that offer plenty of options to choose perfect individuals for them.

Cyber crimes 

Though trolling in cyberspace is sometimes considered a means of protest, it harasses individuals and groups. Trolls and memes created using ethnic, racial, national, or individual identities can seem offensive, which can cause national, ethnic, racial, and individual disintegrations and reinforce ethno-centrism.

Making hateful statements, spreading propaganda, demeaning others, etc is symptomatic of cyber-bullying, and it happens in Bangladesh as well as elsewhere.

Increased plagiarism is another bad side of cyberspace. Several studies found that usually more than 60% of the students do their regular assignments and homework by copying from the internet, and this may very well be true in the case of Bangladesh.

A new public sphere?

Jürgen Habermas, in his theory of public sphere, called it “a virtual or imaginary community which does not necessarily exist in any identifiable space.”

Today, forms of new media such as social networking and streaming sites are working as an important emerging public sphere. The public sphere works as a suitable space in the formation of public opinion, ideological conflict, as well as integration.

Transforming culture 

Popular discontent is rising over the unorthodox cultural change in contemporary Bangladesh with the help of new-generation technology. Young people are the dominant consumers of the transmitted culture through new media and digital technology.

New communication patterns and transmitters of cultural concepts together make an immense difference between new and previous generations, causing great change in society.

The internet, as a global phenomenon, establishes a vast domain of connections between individuals, cultures, nations, and continents. Inter-cultural communication facilitates both subtle and observable cultural exchanges.

Towards the future

What will be the future of the technology-based society? How will human interaction change?

Such questions are reasonable in this technology-oriented modern world. Bangladesh, similar to the other developing nation-states, is emerging as a bigger economic zone, and economic development inevitably leads to technological development.

Sayeed Ovi is a Researcher, Jahangirnagar University. 

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