It is impossible to imagine modern society without huge amounts of information, which with the help of computer technologies are actively circulating in different spheres of human life and dramatically change the dynamics of social processes. The ongoing cultural transformations determine the trend of further development of civilization and the need for research and discussion. Information technologies have a significant impact on technical progress turning the modern economy into a permanently changing one and existing only within the innovation system. Transformation processes affect all spheres of human activity. The study of changes in the field of values, the specific interaction of people in the information society, is particularly relevant as cultural transformations determine the speed and direction of social change. Transformation processes affected all spheres of human life. Accelerating social development has increased the speed and complexity of human interactions as a prominent factor of cultural dynamics (Badger 54). Information technology changes the nature of human communication, influences the processes of identity formation, and converts forms and ways of perceiving and changing the world. Investigation of information technologies logic and their impact on the cultural transformation is the purpose of this article.
Information Technologies Qualitatively Convert the Communication Process in a Society
Human communication, or the exchange of information between people, is an integral part of public life. Exchanging ideas and forming a general understanding of real people organize a process of joint activities.
The communication process depends on the socio-cultural features. In traditional society, individuals live in a world of stable values. The elders using their authority elders convey basic information on all aspects of life, and they are the guarantee of their accuracy and relevance. An individual acquires knowledge about surrounding world from authoritative people, who have proved with the help of a particular job throughout the life their personal worth and competence. Stable living conditions make it possible to use this experience and knowledge throughout their lives. Modernizing society expands the horizons of human existence and complicates the goals and values forcing the individual to develop own strategy of behavior (Hughes 21-22). The process of personal identity and self-determination is actively intervened by the mass media, which forms patterns and symbols of reality perception. Huge information field created by the press, radio, and television determines and directs the tastes, preferences, patterns of behavior, and ways of thinking of the individual. It qualitatively changes communication processes in society. On the one hand, the media helps to understand the complex problems of surrounding reality covering the whole range of social phenomena. It facilitates communication and understanding between individuals who use and share the same characters. Means of mass communication offer to discuss topical events and situations, form stereotypes of their discussion and evaluation, thus, facilitate the exchange of views between individuals and contribute to the formation of one worldview as the basis for constructive interactions.
On the other hand, the use of stereotypes based on the play of signs and symbols allows mass communication to manipulate consciousness and therefore, the behavior of individuals selecting and interpreting information flows. There is a whole social stratum of professional stereotype manipulators including journalists, artists and publicists, writers, TV and radio commentators etc., who directly (through publications and presentations) or indirectly (through demonstration of their views, lifestyle) influence human worldview and behavior. In the industrial society, the way of acting in a particular situation or thinking of a subject is dictated by the pictures created by the media: movies, TV shows, and glossy magazines. Everyone can choose a hero or, conversely, generate a negative attitude towards a particular model of behavior. There are patterns of thinking, value, and behavior orientation in traditional society as well. Sometimes, they are even more stringent. Though, they are formed in the practical life of the individual selected through direct interpersonal communication, and dictate strategy of behavior in typical circumstances (Comer 41-44). It allows a member of traditional society to create sustainable value system to cope with any situation. At the same time, the stereotypes of mass communications society are fabricated by a group of people, and can express the interests of one group at the expense of another. Experts in Mass Communications sociology note that the tendency to illustrate the images of successful people from everyday life demonstrating a successful career and life success significantly reinforces the example of the existing social order. Mass media, building and intensifying the flows of information, influence the public consciousness binding norms and values with following stereotypes. According to social psychologists, perception of the world and actions of the individual are, first of all, influenced by the entourage. Interpersonal communication, the opinion of a small group, affects primarily the opinions and actions of the individual. The small group adopts symbols and stereotypes broadcasted by the media to a certain individual. All members of a small group are influenced by the mass media symbols, but the specific interpersonal communication ultimately corrects their actions and values.
The emergence of New Information Technologies
The situation qualitatively changes with the advent of new information technologies and the introduction of the Internet into the structure of human communication. The role of small group communication and formation of attitudes and strategies of behavior is played by a virtual interlocutor. It also mediates and adapts the stereotypes of mass consciousness, but it is a stereotype itself. The way of information transfer in the World Wide Web has the effect of interpersonal interaction: in the hypertext mode, you can ask any question and get the answer, you can try to take place of the interlocutor to understand his\her motivation and determine your own positions accordingly Latour, 9-11). The interlocutor, the “notional another,” is just a symbol, virtual image, but it influences the consciousness like a real subject, interesting and understandable for us. Creating huge information field and new opportunities for communication and learning, the Internet at the same time, creates new risks that must be realized in order to optimize the human relationships in the post-industrial era, the era of information technology and the Internet.
Virtual source, affecting our immediate assessment and actions, can not only manipulate our ideas and beliefs, but also initiate the wants and needs, which influence the most profound intrapersonal structures. Online interlocutors instead of the real environment may become a reference group for the person (Fourie 68). Family, circle of friends can make a room for the system of values and motivations of the individual. However, the situation is not so tragic. The very structure of a computer network includes the possibility of meaningful use. In online communications, a person is included in the set of elementary groups. It refers to a variety of virtual contacts that carry on dialogue to each other, and initiate new meanings and values of a person. In modern information society, a person enters into communication with increasingly diverse subjects both real and virtual and creates his own world in a dialogue with numerous groups and associations. The arrangement and the interaction of these groups, as well as the nature of intra-group communication are essential for the analysis and understanding of contemporary society and the individual.
Issues and Challenges
Let us consider a number of issues and challenges posed by electronic communication, which are a significant part of all human interactions in the modern world. Scientific and technological progress, which granted us such mass communication means as computer technology, has significantly enriched our communication. The person obtained an opportunity to communicate with the interlocutor instantly, share huge amounts of information, and obtain any information from the area of interest. Virtual characters allow experiencing a variety of feelings and moods, enriching human life experience, spreading the boundaries of his worldview. At the same time, it creates new problems. Being unable to imagine themselves outside the world of electronic and technical devices, people are more and more detached from the natural conditions of existence. Living direct communication is easily replaced by talking on the phone or electronic exchange of views. As a result, a direct contact of man with man, developing emotional sphere and soul, is often replaced by a kind of mechanical interaction, which creates only the illusion of communication. Electronic communication does not have nuances and tones providing a full understanding. It is deprived of warmth helping to perceive and feel the other person. Thus, there is an increase in the number of emotionally and morally deaf people. Aggressiveness, which leads to mental and behavioral changes, increases as well. Researchers record the destruction of real neighborhood phenomenon, which is a direct communication between people in real-time and space that facilitates reducing their language skills and creative abilities. Distribution of personal computers leads to fundamentally new forms of interpersonal communication: people begin to make friends, write love letters, make “affairs,” and even have sex on the Internet. Of course, this happens virtually, but human enthusiasm about the global information network makes us state the fact of joining the real and virtual worlds in a single world. Scientists predict that in “electronic era,” most of the communication and entertainment needs will depend on the information networks, so that people, in general, may lose the need to leave their “electronic cottages.”
It is a very worrying trend. A live human interaction, being a multi-level process, develops in people rational, emotional, volitional, and supersensible abilities. Understanding between people requires not only information exchange but also a spiritual interaction. Computer communication is one-sided. Perfecting a logical refinement of thought, it does not transmit non-verbalized aspects: emotions, feelings, intellectual rises, psychological mood swings etc. (Hafner 87). The very nature of communication has changed in the network: instead of warmth, sincerity, and humanity people expect toughness, clarity, practicality, meaningfulness, and effectiveness. Modern technical education preparing professionals in the computer field focus on the development of formal logical thinking at the expense of emotional and personal one. It may lead not only to the tragic gap between the technological development of society and its ideological backwardness, but to the loss of the creative potential of the human mind. New thoughts, original ideas, as evidenced by psychologists, emerge not just as a result of the logical form of operating concepts, but are produced in the process of mastering the overall cultural experience of mankind, enhancing intuition and other abilities that cannot be formalized. The scientist’s inner world contains heterogeneous strata of scientific, technical, humanitarian, and artistic knowledge which is attained in the creative process and comes into collision striking paradoxical ideas. Online communication should not deprive us of the ability to make discoveries and find alternative solutions. However, on the contrary, due to the new forms of communication it facilitates creative thinking and practical activity (Noveck 18-22).
Opinion of the Experts
Psychologists and neuroscientists are convinced that endless wandering of the World Wide Web is changing our brain structures.
Neurologist Gary Small described the following experiment conducted in his university.
A team of scientists worked with volunteers aged from 55 to 78 years. Before the experiment, half of the participants used the Internet daily, while the other had only a general idea of it. We found that with older people having minimal experience of work with the Internet, the search for information on the web could change patterns of brain activity. The Internet made it more effective just in one week (Clark, 21).
Those who live in the Internet age, think literally differently than previous generations. However, setting the endless chain of search queries jumping from one resource to another without a specific purpose we do harm to our brain. Gary Small states that although this process is very fascinating, it only leads to “computer fatigue.” The brain is experiencing increased stress when we simultaneously work with multiple sites, respond to e-mail, and talk on the phone. As a result, many of those who work for a few hours complain of fatigue, irritability, and difficulty in perception. Constant exposure to stress hormones can alter the neural circuits of the brain areas responsible for cognition and mood control. Therefore, it makes sense to break away from the screen from time to time returning to the real world from the virtual.
The Internet connects millions of computers, and humanity is composed of billions of minds. If we tie them properly, can we get a new and completely independent intelligence as a result? And if this happens, how shall we know about this? According to Michael Chorost currently, the only force that can unite people worldwide is the Internet. Rather than fight with it or worship it, we should “dive” in it to expand its borders and become stronger, and also cultivate compassion for others. We need to remember that the World Wide Web is not a product of the hostile forces commanded from outside. We are the Internet: it reflects our hopes and desires materialized in hardware and software code. Attempt to bypass the network or stay somewhere on the side of it is a losing option. The only way to overcome the Internet is to go through it.
We already know for certain that the brain is not the only one mental organ: we think with the help of our body as a whole. Martial Mermillod explains that the brain is not alone in front of the display; it is constantly engaged in a dialogue with the various organs of the body. It leads to a general stimulation of brain structures, from which a thought emerges. What happens next is even more amazing. To absorb the information, we need to simulate the muscles in the way we express such emotions as fear or anger.
In other words, we make subtle muscle movements that send signals to the brain, and these signals may play a crucial role in the decision making process (Robbins, Judge, Millett, & Boyle 48). According to Martial Mermillod, movies and TV show us life close-up providing a powerful effect on our minds and of course, determining many of our actions. The Internet is less emotionally loaded, so we should not overestimate the danger: we have no reason to believe that we will soon find ourselves in its power.
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Research in the Branch of Artificial Intellect
The importance of maintaining and developing various types of communication in the information society is demonstrated by current research of artificial intelligence, that is, computer modeling of human thinking.
Modeling of some functions of the human mind through computer technology called artificial intellect has significantly increased the amount of information circulating in the society and the person’s ability to creatively process and use this information in the activities. It has greatly changed modern society. In industry and commerce, new information technology has changed the nature of technological processes control through the use of automation management. They initiated the use of paperless methods of fixation, processing, and transmission of data which greatly reduces the time and resources needed in the process of information exchange, as well as making and transferring the management decisions (McLuhan, 48-50).
The emergence of structured databases has allowed passing to the machines the decision making process itself that promotes rapid and effective response under the complex, constantly changing conditions, for example, in social processes management. Mechanical systems of storing and processing information are creating new opportunities for the design and implementation of robotic and programmable flexible production, and management of technological processes in the situation of inter-industry linkages complication (Willinger, Govindan, Jamin, Paxson, Shenker 12-14).
Scientific cognitions abilities related to virtual modeling of various objects in space and time, formalization of the procedures of observation and description using the logical-linguistic constructs. Also, work on the creation of artificial intelligence revealed the limits of the artificial mind. A fundamental feature of the human mind is the ability for abstracting procedures, allocation of general facts, recurring in the entered information, and understanding of the heart of the matter, accumulation of knowledge in the memory with the subsequent identification, classification, and decision-making. The meaning of the operations performed by the machine is in the human head. Simulating with a computer program any mental operations, the programmer with a significant speed reproduces known algorithms developed by a man. It may be the analysis of information, search for solutions through wandering in a maze of possible situations, desire to find the best result, or even a playing chess and composing music and poetry. However, the human mind does not simply implement programs stored in the memory but generates them. Actually, the ability to self-generation of essentially new ways of achieving the objectives forms intelligence. The human mind can form a new algorithm for goal achievement, find a fundamentally different way of solving the problem never used before, apply quite unexpected tools, and give them previously unseen meanings. Since the meaning of the computer operations is out of it, talking about artificial intelligence is only metaphorical.
Human intelligence is not a simple executor of a formal logical chain of reasoning. It generates completely new directions of reflections which vary depending on the task and emerging issues. Human thinking is fundamentally creative, contextual, unpredictable, and, to a significant extent, value-oriented. In any logical calculus, all the results and assumptions from which conclusions are drawn are equal, equivalent, and identical by order of importance.
At the same time, human mind consists of a hierarchy of facts, circumstances, findings based on personal judgments and individual value preferences, which sometimes, leads to paradoxical results. In real situations, people do not often show a complete logical thinking taking into account all the circumstances and events complying with inference and validation results rules. Often, people just do not have time for this. They make decisions instantly depending on the situation and therefore, correctly because, at the same time, preliminary training, genetic memory, past experiences, cultural heritage, aesthetic and moral orientation etc. are combined in the mind. A decision made as a result of such thinking is only suitable for this particular case, though, it is not absolutely correct. Moreover, in other cases, a person makes an entirely different conclusion on similar assumptions. I addition, thinking is an organic combination of logical operations and visual images based on the functional asymmetry of the brain.
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