The chapter titled “Making New Media Make Sense” in Nancy K. Baym’s book, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, offers commentary and analyses on four different perspectives people can have towards new communication technologies
The messages we communicate about technology are both reflective and productive. This means that these conversations reveal information about both communicators and the technology they’re discussing. This also means that conversations about technologies can help in developing new ones, as well as finding new meanings and uses for them.
The first perspective toward new communication technologies is known as technological determinism; a belief that these technologies force people and society to change. The social construction of technology argues the opposite; that people are the agents of change when it comes to technologies and society. Social shaping is the perspective that falls in the middle of technological determinism and the social construction of technology. It argues that both new technologies and people have the ability to significantly change or influence one another. As time passes, once-new technologies will be integrated into everyday life with no question of their potential effects on people in society. This eventual process that occurs is known as domestication.
Baym also addresses recurring themes in how people react to new technologies. These can range from utopian to dystopian predictions about how the world will change due to specific advancements in communication technology. Some hold the belief that new technologies are ruining authentic or real human connection since much of it has turned digital, but others still think that these new technologies only improve the ease and ability for humans to connect with one another all over the world.
How people respond to the introduction of new communication technologies can be influenced by a number of factors. Janet Fulk’s proposed social influence model (1993) was based off research that suggested that the perspectives of ones’ peers, especially those they shared better working and personal relationships with, were strong influences on that person’s attitudes toward new technologies. The research primarily was focused on the NCT of email, but this still applies to NCT’s of today, like the internet.
Today, the internet is considered to be a domesticated NCT. However, the domestication of this technology doesn’t mean that people are still wary of the potential effects it can have on human interaction and behavior. We need to look at the features of NCT’s and how they can each specifically influence the way we communicate with other people. In doing this, we can further our understanding of the complex relationship between digital media and its social consequences.