Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Anthropological Perspective on the Media

Recently a close friend of mine has is doing a fast of all media for 21 days. This means he can’t watch TV, read certain sections of the newspaper or go on any social media sites. The real kicker? He works for Apple. Meaning this is going to be a lot more difficult when he goes into work every day and is surrounded by the tools they he has sworn off. This is actually very inspiring to me and has brought up a lot of issues that I have thought about for awhile and is why this is posted on my Anthropology Blog and not my regular one.

See since getting my Anthropology Degree I have this habit of looking at everything through the “anthropological veil” (hmm… maybe I should coin that term?). It’s hard for me to discern through the news and information without taking the perspective of an anthropologist. This news is no different.

While thinking about it I’ve realized how reliant we are on the media. I mean think of how we get our news. We switch on the TV to watch our morning news shows, go online to the New York Times or Washington Post website and go on twitter and facebook. Now obviously if you all know me you know that I am as guilty of this as anyone (in fact maybe even more). But let’s take time and think about this. What would happen if suddenly the internet was wiped out? What if the cable and TV was suddenly cut off to the masses? What would happen to us and more importantly what would happen to all that documented information?

Technology is both our gift and our curse. It’s a gift because we can always be in the know of what is happening all around us and across the world. We can store tons of information on tiny devices so we can go back and look at it over and over again. We can record important television events to keep in archives for decades and centuries.

On the flipside this is a horrible thing. If there is some kind of huge destruction of our world and all technology and media is wiped out then all the information is useless. So what if you have hard drives filled with data and Databases of every news clipping dating back to the 1700s. How will we view it? If computers are wiped out, DVD players destroyed, other technologies reduced to rubble how will we get this information? The answer: we can’t.

So what does this mean when it comes to preserving our past for future generations? Well that’s the issue at hand. Let’s say our cities here in the US are reduced to rubble come a thousand years from now and archaeologists come along and want to learn about what our society was about. Well unlike many ancient societies our ways of life are immortalized on disks and files in trillions of gigabytes of data. But what’s the use if they can’t be viewed and examined? Of course archaeologists can find about our ways of life by artifacts just like past societies have been examined but all the news? How will they tell how our government was run? How will they even know that we had a government?

As per usual I will relate everything back to ancient societies. Let’s look at the Ancient Mesopotamians. We have tons of records on them that have lasted thousands of years. The reason for this? They carved everything into stone. Stone beats Technology every time because stone can survive brutal attacks by neighboring kings and regimes. Not only did they right out the list of kings, their economic standings, social hierarchies and resources into stone but they also would carve scenes in history into stone.

There are many depictions of great battles carved into stone pillars on temples, in pots and sometimes even into the ground itself. We can then see what was happening at this time and get a much better understanding of the culture. This is something that we are lacking in our society. Now am I going to take up stone carving instead of updating my facebook status or tweeting? Well let’s be real probably not. But it gives us all something to think about.

One thing we do have is our monuments. We have great monoliths like the Washington monument, the WW II memorial, other war memorials and countless engraving on plaques around our nation describing what had happened. This is our ticket to immortality as a society. We need more of this! More physical documentation near important sites around the country that will be a permanent fixture and will hopefully be preserved for future generations. We need to stop this constant inputting of data in databases and computers to “preserve” it because chances are it won’t be preserved as well as something that is carved into the ground or on the side of a building.


Lilac Wolf (Angie or Angela) said...

It's something we think about on a regular basis in my house. Doesn't stop me from embracing technology, but it's a fear in the back of my mind anyway.

Lilac Wolf (Angie or Angela) said...

I do tell myself if all technology were wiped out I personally wouldn't care about what I had on my computer. I'd be sad to lose some of that stuff, but on the other hand I think I'd be really busy just trying to survive.

Sam Curtin said...

I completely agree! I would be really upset if I lost my writings that I have on my computer, but because of this I always have a hard copy printed out of everything important.

TTN said...

It is back to square one.Every tech revoluion has this dark side. Future generations take great pains to reconstruct their past as we are doing now.Let us hope some new technology would be available to decipher the remaining digital bits to reconstruct the past.

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