Techology – Mirror or Sword?

Thanks to Dirk Konig at the Grand Rapids Community Media Center for bringing this to my attention.

During the 2003 meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society, UN Secretary-General delivered the addressed linked above to the gathering of government, business and civil sector representatives.

In speaking about the emerging information society, Annan stressed the power of technologies to “advance the cause of freedom and democracy, vehicles with which to propagate knowledge and understanding.” Yet he also spoke about the various divides that still exist (technological, content, gender, commercial) and the potential of the various sectors to create “an open, inclusive information society”.

Yet the most powerful part of Annan’s delivery was this:

Yet even as we talk about the power of technology, let us remember who is in charge. While technology shapes the future, it is people who shape technology, and decide what it can and should be used for.

So let us embrace these new technologies. But let us recognize that we are embarked on an endeavour that transcends technology. Building an open, empowering information society is a social, economic and ultimately political challenge.

For some theoretical thinking in these directions these two essays can provide some grounding:

Bertoldt Brecht – “Radio as an Apparatus of Communication” – http://www.tonisant.com/class/2001/fall/brechtradio.htm

Hans Mangus Enzenberger – “Constituents of a Theory of the Media” – http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1567

For more writing on WSIS look here and some small reflectiosn from me here.