I could start with telling you how digitalization has changed the landscape of media, information and society but rather, an example will do this right. One of the most popular global magazines, American’s stalwart Newsweek, released its last print issue in December 2012. A magazine more than 80 years old, that has had prominent figures on its cover showcased its New York office building with the words ‘#lastprintissue’ on its final cover. The magazine covered major international stories from the Second World War to Watergate to the Gulf War to the Chechnya insurgency and now after a gallant run, digitalization laid claim to another tradition. We don’t have to look far for its effect on print media really. Our own publications’ e-prints are very sought after. A magazine like KTMrocks that used to be a staple for every music lover is now solely an e-magazine. Perhaps, the editor for Newsweek put it best when she said.” The magazine could not realistically stay in print due to the new economics of the media industry.” The rules have changed drastically, while print media still has its appeal and charm, it is but the last outlaw against the world wide web.
Look at Television, most shows are now caught on the Internet, or downloaded. Now sitting at home I can watch shows that air in the U.S on the same day. No longer do we have to wait months for their airplay on the channels available, and honestly, the news, entertainment are now mostly sought on the web itself. Therefore you see TVs boasting of internet, touch technology and a plethora of options JUST to stay up to date, and do enough to capture the attention of you and me. The constant flow of gadgets and technology is enough to make your head spin. Those who get left behind are told incessantly on what they are missing out on; and the effect of being on the outside looking in, doesn’t just end on an individual level. Oh no, the torment has been far worse on companies who have failed to change with times. Kodak unceremoniously left the industry that it started by filing for bankruptcy last year. They had to halt making pocket video cameras and digital cameras to cut their losses and focus on something more profitable. To put into perspective what is the socio-cultural impact of this departure, Kodak was used to make Hollywood films for most of the 20th century, including 80 Best Picture Oscar winners, to record the Queen’s coronation in 1953, and was used by Neil Armstrong to take close-ups on the lunar surface on the Apollo 11 mission. Even some 10 years ago, they would’ve never even thought of such a day when the digi-cam was at its zenith. A company 133 years old, devoured by creative destruction of digitalization. And because they couldn’t catch up with how rapidly the industry changed around them.
A Kodak Moment, no more.
Another facet that is felt the brunt of digitalization is people’s means of purchasing and their purchasing power in general. With Amazon celebrating over 15 years of e-shopping in 2013, it just goes to show how people have taken to one-click shopping rather than visiting their local general stores. Another initiator, E-bay introduced the world to online auctions and a new age had dawned as to how people would pay for modest items using the internet. In Nepal, the pioneers were Muncha House, and while many ridiculed its early conception here, they still stand tall and are now surrounded by those who came after. The concept of buying in Nepal for US and vice versa was a stellar hit and Harilo.com compounded on that as well. With Bhatbhateni going online, easy re-selling with HamroBazaar.com, the cycle is but starting and the Nepalese folks are taking to e-shopping rather comfortably.
The commercial aspect of e-shopping cannot only be felt by those who purchase, but even by those who don’t. Your public libraries are a good example of that. Long gone are the days of people running to libraries to research their subject. Now the online portal opens them up to fresh and detailed information, just a search engine away. The libraries have suffered because of this. The little fee that they would charge for your admission and issuing of books, is now no longer a source of income. People can easily download a book on their e-reader and they are on their way. There are a few traditionalists still around. Those who prefer the touch of a hard cover over the scroll of an Iphone, but this is a dying breed. Another 30 years, and libraries might as well be museums.
But is it all that bad? Has the rise of the machines just destroyed age-old companies, turned print media into dinosaurs and thrown privacy out of the window? Well, to really understand that conundrum, we have to look at the other side of the spectrum; how the world is far more transparent than it used to be. This in itself is a blessing to mankind. The role eyewitness accounts and the sheer speed, in which news is reported plays, enable us to respond faster and possibly, save lives. Wikileaks shook the world with its revelations. The soldier involved stands trial in the US government as we speak, but what it did was throw down the curtain put up by governments’ top bras and people’s mentalities to believe whatever they are told. E-reporting has galvanised issues of places that would have never had the chance of having any spotlight on them without it. This is perhaps, the greatest contribution of digitalization. From the ground reporting of the Palestine conflict of 2008 by bloggers, to the uprise in Egypt to the war atrocities in Sri Lanka, there is a white knight alive, and it is online. People now demand that they be provided better connectivity by their government and it has become a regular platform to air your grievance and to get the rest of the world to look at the plight you incur. Governments come under pressure faster with how quick information travels now. Even if it maybe miniscule, online reporting has done, (and still does) its bit to control nepotism, corruption, violation of human rights among many others. The liberty of having information an internet connection away shows you sitting at home or reading at work, that you can do your part. If there is something you believe in, there is a way you can help now. Whether it be by spreading the news or donating or encouraging the cause, information is a weapon, and the internet is your cannon. Detractors can point out, and rightfully so, the evils of the internet but there is a higher purpose it can serve as well. It is an opportunity, an opportunity to do something that the lack of technology hadn’t presented to us.
For that, we are grateful.
The future of digitalization is up in the air, and at the end of the day, it depends on where we take it. Whether the spread of technology will be used for the evolution of man’s knowledge, to better understand the oceans and space, to spread messages of civility and conflict or, just to post what you had for breakfast. It is here to stay, it is here to see. It is here to rule.
We are but flies, in the world wide web.