Technology, Then and Now.

March 17th, 2011

As Holmes predicted in his essay “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph”, “The consequence of this will soon be such an enormous collection of forms that they will l have to be classified and arranged in vast libraries, as books are now. The time will come when a man who wishes to see any object, natural or artificial, will go to the Imperial, National, or City Stereographic Library and call for its skin or form, as he would for a book at any common library”, which changed object and image accessibility, and sparked debate regarding the individual’s perception. With access to a wider variety of places and ideas through photographic technology, the debate of the positive and negative consequences of this technology undoubtedly changed the culture of the 19th century. Theorists argued that this new technology would drive us further from nature, and the connection to our own consciousness would be disrupted.

This probably sounds familiar to all of us living in the 21st century absorbed and affected by technology on an everyday basis. The extreme use of technology that we live by the day is the source of many debates regarding our generation. Our culture has been affected by technology in regard to our generation’s deteriorating social skills, and the ability to retain information that is so very easily accessible outside of our memory. These are similar arguments to the 19th century arguments on whether or not photographic technology would weaken the individual perception. Today we have to worry about technology weakening our retentive and creative potential. As Rebecca Solnit states in her book River of Shadows regarding Eadweard Muybridge’s work, “The art of the hand had been replaced by the machinery of the camera; the travel of the, foot, human or equine, had been replaced by the pistons of the locomotive; bodies themselves were becoming insulated from nature by machinery and manufactured goods; and memory had been augmented and partly replaced by photography” (18), technology was at that point in time taking over part of the human experience in regard to both mental and physical experiences. This is in essence the same argument that is being debated upon in our present time.

Tim Gunning explains this argument in his essay “Animated Pictures” when he writes, “But the danger inherent in modern life derives from cinema as well. The proliferation of moving images threatens…to destroy rather than preserve memory, substituting widely circulated institutional images for the most personal resources of imagistic recall” (Visual Culture Reader, 101). Gunning is expressing the threat that cinema has on our memory, an argument that today still exists. Our society celebrates the Internet. The Internet provides us with the ability to access information in seconds, communicate with each other and many other everyday tasks as minor as buying groceries. Activities that once broadened our physical, social and intellectual experience are now being replaced and inhibited by the cyber experience, which in turn administers the same fear that the 19th century community felt. Our generation is being driven further from nature and the physical world, and has become dependant on technology.

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One Response to “Technology, Then and Now.”

  1. Dominique on March 29, 2011 1:11 pm

    Solid summaries of Solnit and Gunning and excellent use of Holmes, Cassie.


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