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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Digital Transformation, Discipline, and Literary theory: The effect of Technology on discipline and theory

From as long as I can remember, technology has been an increasingly important feature that has kept scientists and inventors on the look out for better tools, in order to make the best out of society; and also to keep the society active and more developed to accommodate the new contraptions that were originated. But, the real effect of technology was to influence the people in the society to become more disciplined, and with the advancement of the science the influence and rise of technology became increasingly potent, that the view of discipline and literary theory changed. Thus, all three components were considered to be an important aspect in the transformation of technology, and its advancement towards making a better disciplined society. This effect of technology on literary theory has induced many changes whether it was on critical theory, or on the disciplinary institutions. Thus, the constructive conclusion that was the result of the evolvements of technology resulted in more positive outcomes that reached out to the extremities of the other two components (literary theory, and discipline). This, has majorly induced many changes whether in literary theory, or discipline such as the ones mentioned before, which have helped humanity become more active, and more aware of the changes around it. Each person had his or her own idea of discipline, digital transformation, and literary theory. For instance Sune Sunesson (1984) in her article “Organization and Discipline”, talks about Michel Foucault the author of Discipline and Punish, and explains that the theory of emerging discipline, the systems of surveillance and control, that Michel Foucault has put in the book raised two problems, which were affecting the society as a whole (pp.199-202). As for, Dana Van Der Merwe (1999) who explains in her article “The Dematerialization of Print and the Fate of Copyright” that the coming of the digital world has led to products that would have been impossible before, such as the personal computer and the internet, and these inventions made it simpler for a person to achieve or search for information in a thorough and efficient way without loosing precious time (p.306). But, not only did these technologies affect society, they also affected the ideas of individuals, and critics of modern literary theory. According to Henry Jenkins (1999) in “A Companion to Film Theory”, theory will be understood as any attempt to make meaningful generalizations for interpreting or evaluating local experiences and practices thus becoming a valuable precedent to the readers if theory and affecting the roles of each person in the society (p.235). This however showed that the power that technology has, does not affect the machinery used only, but it indirectly affects the lives of human beings and makes them more disciplined, and theoretical (on a non individual base, but rather on the group as a whole).

Because of what has happened all over the years with the advancement and evolvement of digital transformation people started to understand discipline at a whole new level of perception, a more progressive way. This influence of technology on some of the disciplinary institutions has made them more advanced and able to attend and supervise as many people as the facility or institution can hold. Of course, this was not very liable to accomplish when the machines of observation were limited to the eyes of human beings and surveillance cameras which were restricted from viewing freely the room. In the article “Organizing, and Discipline”, Sunesson (1984) explains to the reader that the importance of having a surveillance team puts the surveilled on their best behavior, and “discipline as a condition presupposes that officers have real control over some means of power, that is power over soldiers” (p.204) . Thus, the access to these concrete means of power secures discipline. The author, in the previous statement was trying to explain that the best way to make people disciplined is by showing the undisciplined who has total control and power. Ultimately, Sunesson (1984) suggests that “modern discipline, i.e. the new techniques of warfare so intimately connected with modern discipline, were not most efficient.” (p.205)
However, without technology, discipline would have never have evolved and the idea of disciplining a soldier would have stayed that same just as Foucault mentioned. For according to Michel Foucault (1991), in “Discipline and Punish” a soldier had to be “someone that could be recognized from afar; he bore certain signs: the natural signs of his strength and courage in a lively alert manner, an erect head, a taut stomach, broad shoulders, long arms, strong fingers…” (p.135). However, according to Sunesson (1984), and the new military concept, the idea was to change docile limp bodies into new concepts of discipline that were supposed to be given additional content, thus making the aim of the drill refer to the idea that transforming the soldier into a passive toll for the will of his superiors was the best thing to do in order to make a soldier out of a person (p.202). From that statement, Sunesson (1984) tried to explain about the power of theory, stating that with discipline theory is inevitable ; she continues to say that “ power theory is modeled on discipline theory that is about ‘power over’, not about ‘power to do’, which is to do whatever one is not already absolutely sure of.” (p.210). Sunesson, tried to explain the power of the disciplinary institutions, and how they can force the person to act in a certain manner. So, by knowing that discipline is important for the correct function of society, one cannot forget the impact of theory as well as technology or digital transformation.
On the other hand, when it comes to general theory, which if one thinks about it, is a hard subject to explain, and critics still tried to narrow down the idea and explain it as easily as possible. So, knowing what the meaning of the word theory should encompass a new view of what the word theory means and how it applies to the world of new inventions, and discipline. In “The Short Introduction to Literary Theory”, Jonathan Culler (1997) explains that “theory must be more than a hypothesis. It can’t be obvious; it involves complex relations of a systematic kind among a number of factors, and it is not easily confirmed or disproved.” (p.3). Whereas, Dan Nadaner’s (1998) article, “Painting in the era of Critical Theory”, defines that “critical theory is the grouping of semiotic, structuralist, psychoanalytic, and post modern theory.” (p.168). This shows the clear contrast between two critics who tried to explain the word ‘theory’ but came up with vague definitions that relate to the actions of the person with the world around them. But, Nadaner (1998), tries to implicate that critical theory is a combination of so many ideas in one aspect that relates or refers to one particular thing which is generally hard to explain, but he tried as much as he could to make sense of the word by giving it a relation to the common life and actions of people thus relating that theory is in fact a group of studies that relate or make up an idea of post modern theory. Nadaner (1998) also states that “critics who have digested Lacan, Derrida, and Lyotard tend to assume that implications for major changes in art are connected.” (p.170). And these implication could be true if one could relate them to art but, what critics tried to do, is to take their own understanding of a theory and transform it into an understandable sentence that would become easier for the common person to understand.
Unlike the idea of critical theory, Philip Cooke (1990) in his article “Modern Urban Theory in Question” explains that “modern urban theory failed to cope adequately with complexity …and that theory seeks to equate subject and object in a way that is universally true but it cannot.” (pp.332-335). Cooke (1990) in the earlier statement, tried to explain the concept of theory, which is practically a narrative and that stories produced about the world are from individuals that place semantic grids over perception that result in some degree of illumination to the minds of other people. Due to that, one of the skeptics according to him was Frederic Jameson who clearly recognized post-modernism as a contexted terrain in which by no means followed that someone who celebrated the post-modern critique is there by a follower of a great single idea (p.337). But reflects to the fact that the post-modern era was influenced by Frederic Jameson. From here, comes the idea that a theory based on a whole society can sometimes fall at fault if there was no transformation to the better, and that without the transformation the society in general could still be until now facing the doom of its ignorance and uncanny worships.
However, the effect of criticism may not always change the view of people on the advantage of the technological field. Thus, knowing that some people may think that technology isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be, others might see that having this aspect in their lives is a miracle by itself, since with the introduction of science into the society, poor people began to see the concept of becoming better farmers for example, and thus resulting into an educated more logical culture. Accordingly, comes the idea of digital transformation, which tends to take control over the daily lives of people since without these developments no advanced civilization would have been formed; and that made a huge impact on the cannons of literature. According to Patrick Imbert (1991) in “The Evolution of Canonical Circuits” the critic, is to make the person naively customary by the rules put in the 19th century, and then the rules that changed were put in more sophisticated manner in the last half of the 20th century, which later presided over the writing of poetic, dramatic, and fictional texts (p.168). Thus making a person a liable, goody-two-shoes, model citizen, who will with no thought act as the government wants. But this idea is also thought of being a discipline for the undisciplined, and the vagabonds, but how often does this idea tend to work?
The author tried to state here the effect that without the development of thought and writing over the past few centuries, the critic would have still been in the dark. But, due to the establishment of technologies, thought, and action that have advanced towards a greater good the thinker, or critic has now a better chance at evolving his/her ideas about the evolution of technology, discipline, or literary theory. Even though criticism states that there is a direct and transparent connection between literary and the way society functions, it is implied that the effects of technology on the society has also changed the way people started to view literary theory. Thus the way of productivity that mostly views shows ,and news reports are distributed equally over the public demands which depend upon “the reader’s assimilation of the values of economic exchange.” ( p.706). The French author formerly tried to explain how the technological advancement is now affecting the way the media and that the shows that are being portrayed to the public are either being censored by the primary viewers, or are deleted completely because of inappropriate behavior or language.
Nonetheless, technology must change people’s minds about how things should be dealt with to an extent where people would know how to act when held accountable with such technologies. For instance, the technologies used in printing or in the news rooms make our society what it is today either by portraying a certain news bulletin and rebutting the other, or by making the people chose sides whether politically or socially. And, Even though, many people might be against this encounter with technology, they cannot really escape because of the various scientific and economical breakthroughs that technology has provided us with. Eric Klinenberg (2005) explains in his article “News Production in a Digital Age” that the rise of new technologies and the corporate integration of news companies, have led to a double fragmentation: first, for newsmakers, whose daily work has been interrupted and rearranged by additional responsibilities and pressures of time and space; second for news audiences, whom marketers have segmented into narrow units and who are encouraged to forge symbolic or imagined communities on the basis of market concerns (p.51). This explains briefly what people who work in TV stations, and news bulletins are forced to be under pressure most of the hours of the day thus making them liable to the statements that other people say that would affect their opinions eventually.
Even though these technological out breaks, may sometimes be considered a curse, especially by the news groups, most of the time these types of technologies can be considered as a blessing since without the new inventions society would have stood in its ground forcing the same mindless actions aver and over again. Without these innovations, regardless of the old ones,. humanity would still be living in a state of disillusionment of the mind and soul. For example, if one can compare digital communication a century ago and now, one will definitely see the blinding difference, since a century ago there were no means of liable communication used or even effective at that point. Thus, these gadgets of communication have opened up the barriers that were built between the people of the same country, state, or even the whole world. According to Klinenberg (2005), these “communications infrastructures [were] crucial for this level of convergence since they allow[ed] for immediate circulation of content and distribute[d] information in easily editable formats.” (p.53). Other than phones or communication means, the rapid emergences of Instant Internet news sites have eliminated the temporal borders in the news day, creating an informational environment in which there is always breaking news to produce, consume, and react against (p.54). Klinenberg (2005), explained in the prior statements the importance of the means of communication whether one was in the news facility, or working in a business office, or wants something from a person somewhere. This type of communication is thus essential if used for a proper cause, and if not used at all it would lead to a miscommunication between people who work or deal together since the essence of a good relationship whether at work or in society, is understanding and communicating.
By this elimination of borders of communication, technology also eliminates the unavailability of sources. Which means that now, if one opens the internet in search of a source or information a click on the computer research center would get them where they needs to be in an instant with no loss of time. In the article “Cultural Production in the digital Age”, Eric Klinenberg and Claudio Benzecry (2005) argue that in a digital library in 1995 one could not have easily gotten any type of information or even in the year 2000; one would have at that time to travel to the periodicals section of the University, and if the information one is searching for isn’t there, then the problems begin to mount (p.6). And both continue later on to explain by saying that “digital libraries and electronic communication networks can facilitate scholarly production” (p.7). Thus leading to a better understanding of many scholarly texts and articles that several years ago would have been vague to the student or the professor. So, because of technology nowadays, a person is one click away from his/her destination, and one can access any page about any author, writer, poet, or critic. But what stays a mystery to both Klinenberg and Benzecry (2005) is that one cannot know whether “the technologies that reduce the barriers of time, space, and access help to advance social science or how they affect the outcome of intellectual work. But there is no question that digital technologies have changed the way scholars and academic institutions operate.” (p.7). According to that statement both authors are dumbfounded to see that there are no real signs of whether the technologies used in academic institutions are really working out for the better or for the worse of things.
Nevertheless, this new age of transformation of digital communication affected the way our minds function, and because of that rapid change of digital media, the state of digital theory has also evolved at a dramatic pace. Because of that, there is a change in the theories of cities (urban theories) and of the modern and post-modern theories. Henry Jenkins (1999) in “The work of Theory in the Age of Digital Transformation” sates that “theories often reflect our points of entry into digital culture…” (p.237), but there is a difference in how we perceive and acknowledge this type of theory or culture. Because, for some people, like Jenkins (1999), technology “is understood as inhuman or anti-human, [and] as destroying [a] more organic pre-technological culture.” (p.241).
Unlike Jenkins (1999), others may view technology as the instrumentation of surveillance, power and social control, rather than a tool kit for social and political transformation. However, technology is not always control and surveillance; it is also a communication mean that has made our lives simpler, and more practical. Either way, every person is entitled to his/her own ideas, and each one has a way to perceive what technology/digital transformation is all about, and how it influences our society today. Jenkins (1999), however, continues to state that digital theory only “matters politically because of its ability to envision alternatives, to imagine a better future …and new forms of social relations, which may, at least on the most grass roots of levels allow us to temporarily escape, if not fully transform, unacceptable social conditions in our everyday lives.” (p.243); in that statement, Jenkins (1999) tried to say that the freedom that one could have if technology was used to that advantage would be limited in a way that will prevent our lives to become advanced.
However, the effect of technology on discipline and literary theory has changed the perception of living, by making existing in society a more acceptable item than living aimlessly with no real heading as to where one could be going later on. Thus, now if one tries to take away any of our used-to technologies, at home whether it was the T.V, radio, or phone, we would feel alienated, unnatural, discomforted, angry, and bored; because without these contraptions life would for the ‘modernized’ person a dull life if he/she existed without new inventions every day. As Klinenberg and Benzecry (2005) state in their article “Cultural production in a Digital Age”, artists now can easily alter and repackage digitally recorded music and videos, sampling tunes or assembling images into new work making it better and easier to download, and upload music into the computer, Mp3, or even phone, thus making the road to an easier life as simple as listening to one of the recorded songs (p.8).
So, knowing that none of these actions were even recognized some years ago, nor was it simple to even download a tune now, if one opens Facebook, YouTube, or any other internet portal, one will definitely find what she/he is looking for with no strain as to how, and in what format did one get the information. In addition, the computer for Van Der Merwe (1999), is “such a novel concept in itself and one so far removed from the contemplation of the founders of our legal system, that the application of the principles formed by them often present considerable difficulty when seeking to apply them to the behavior of people using computers.” (p.309). But if one thinks that every time one opens the computer he/she will find an obstacle staring in the face, no one would even think about double checking their information. But the beauty of this technological outbreak is that every day there are new updates, and new creations that would make it easier for one to search and avoid these obstacles. In addition, the skeptics in “Cultural Production in the Digital Age” by Klinenberg, and Benzecry (2005) state that they (skeptics), believe that technology “is not a primary casual force of change as much as it is an affect of investments driven by economic, political or cultural interests.” (p.14). And both critics assume that having this type of informational technology is wrong, whereas nowadays getting used to life without these modern technologies would make it harder for one to cope in society.
However, Digital technology has become an essential part of our every day lives, making the cell phone, the computer, and the internet as natural and as essential as the food we need to survive. According to a statement in the article “Redefining Industry Structure for the Information Age”, Jeffery L. Sampler (1998), states that “a greeting card that plays ‘Happy Birthday’ when opened contains more computing power than existed in the entire world before 1950.” (p.344). He continues to state in the article that nowadays “new technologies represent a fundamental shift in the ability to capture, manipulate, store, and transfer information. So, with this change, information can now be viewed as a source of value creation, not a cost.” (p.345). From these two statements one can notice the importance of information technology, and that in today’s technological environment one could not but feel a bit disciplined, in a non palpable way, and a bit theoretical about what is happening around them in the world. To emphasize on that idea, Sampler (1998) states in his article that “the type of information that is separable tends to be low in knowledge specificity in use.” (p.353); and knowledge specificity can only be interpreted by individuals possessing certain specific knowledge. So, this rapid state at which technology is evolving and even though these advances in technology are noticeable to the public, new theories will undeniably come up with more explanations to help humanity get around these vast ideas of digital transformation, and eventually there will be no need for newly developed theories because of the inevitable technological transformation that is happening which would eliminate the use for new theories but only for old ones re-evaluated to fit for the new hi-tech systems.
Nonetheless, digital technologies have essentially changed production, whether it was news production, printing or copying. This is shown by the effect of digital transformation on the lives of humanity which could be considered to be Blogging. This aspect has become a popular and increasingly influential form of “online cultural production…” which is suggested by the article by Klinenberg and Benzecry (2005), who stated also that blogging is especially amenable to introducing negative information into the news stream and for circulating rumors as a fact (p.11). Nevertheless, these digital technologies also have had a good impact on society since Cyberspace provides a place where there is a chance for people to change their lives towards an improved state, either by looking for work on the internet, or finding information that will help them in their studies. This idea is evolved more in an article by Jenkins (1999), which states that digital theory “provides a point of intersection between the languages and practices of science and engineering on the one hand and humanities on the other.” (p.255).
So, unlike the earlier theories on the consequences of technology that state that scientific and technological developments have produced unintentional consequences, critics have found it well to cope with these new inventions since these inventions are only there to make it easier for people to cope with society around them. Therefore, according to Rene von Schomberg (2007) in his article “From Ethics of Technology towards an Ethics of Knowledge policy: Implications for Robotics”, he focuses more on the idea of the ethical dilemmas and conflicts that arise when two or more roles conflict. So, digital theory embraces the utopian imagination, not as a way of predicting the future but as a way of envisioning meaningful change and keeping alive the fluidity that digital media that have introduced many aspects of our social and personal lives. (pp. 255-334).
Basically, the good that comes out of digital theories whether in its affects on literary theory or discipline, and transformation will eventually provide answers to those who dare ask, and seek. However, this impact of digitalization could in a way affect the natural flow of life that people have gotten used to which has made the process of meditation, and thought remarkably visible thus creating new demands that show some arcane interest in media transformations mainly. But, even though most people would think that technology is a disease on society, and that it is a parasite on the lives of people, others would disagree with that, stating that if it was not for technology, a person’s life would not have become that simple. For instance writing a research paper, or searching for information with no internet would become like an impossible mission because it takes a lot of time and effort, and eventually one would give up. And if by any chance, the information gathering was easy, the reply and the sending of that information would be sort of slow, if one could look back at the time when there was no Hotmail or Google.

So, as a conclusion, I could only say that unlike the ideas of Schomberg, Jenkins, and Klinenberg, I actually am for the idea of technology which is evolving progressively into our lives, and making it easier to cope with the difficulties that are initiating. Consequently, these effects of technology have reached the minds of many people especially the minds of critics that focus their ideas mainly on literary theory, and the disciplinary institutions that have their rules based upon the organization of the technological transformations which made the evolvement of technology quite for their advantage. Ironically, digital transformation has made many positive turns when it comes to its effect of discipline, and literary theory, since it has made the relationship between the two orders quite inseparable and thus a society could somehow never be found without them both. This effect (of advancement) has and will be found as long as there are new innovations coming up every while that form a new type of advanced society that will become, in the future, with the help of technology as a ‘superior’ society; or a disciplined literary society based on the laws and criterion of the cannon of the old and new literature, which would make up a sort of powerful society full with the ideas of critics, sociologist, psychoanalysts and politicians.

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