Consider the following two passages, written in the wake of the enormous technological advances of the early 20th century:
“Technology is … no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing. If
we give heed to this, then another whole realm for the essence of
technology will open itself up for us. It is the realm of revealing,
i.e., of truth.”
— Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, 1949-50.
“During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence.”
— Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936
Heidegger’s words remind us that technology is not value neutral. If our ever expanding encounters with technology are misguided by the notion that it is a value neutral means to ends that have normative value – be they good or bad – we will fail to recognize and critically consider the complex manner in which the content of our communication determines and is determined by the mode in which it is articulated.
If as Marshall McLuhan has famously said,” the medium is the message,” it is also that the medium and the message are always bound to one another in a complex and dynamic relation.The technologies we use condition the things we say, but things we say condition the technologies we bring forth.
Here Benjamin’s quotation becomes significant, for the dynamic relation between the medium and the message transforms us, even to the point of changing how and what we perceive.
And it is this question with which I would like to end, namely, how, for better and worse, is human perception itself changing as we engage in the activity that is social media technology?