Technology on Society

The use of modern communications technology is widely considered to be positive, reducing barriers to communication and facilitating new powerful forms. St. Amant (2002) argues the counterpoint, that computer-mediated communication “amplifies cultural rhetorical differences, and there should be greater examination of potential conflict. Ma (1996) notes that computer-mediated communication between Asian and North American college students offers tremendous promise, with respect to breaking down barriers that exist in face-of-face communication. He notes that the increase in communication between these groups allows them to learn about each other’s communication styles, and adapt their listening, reading and writing habits to suit their audience, thereby fostering a higher degree of communication between the two groups.

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Adair and Barker (2013) argue that the use of smartphones and other similar technologies among young children is detrimental in a number of ways. In particular, they argue that family relationships suffer in an age when children engage more with their devices than with their parents and siblings. Leroy and De Leo (2008) note, for example, the value of computers in mediating communication with children who on are the autism spectrum. If nothing else, this shows that not all computer use among children is an negative as portrayed by Adair and Barker.

Ethanol fuel is a potentially valuable energy source but Pimentel (2003) argues that, on balance, its environmental impacts are negative. At the heart of this argument is that crop growing for ethanol production reduces land available for food crops for humans. On balance, too much arable land used for producing things that do not feed people is a negative, in this argument. Balat and Balat (2009) argue the counterpoint with respect to this technology. They note that petroleum fuels have strongly negative characteristics, and that ethanol production displaces the use of fossil fuels, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Nuclear power is especially controversial. While most science journals are focusing on identifying problems and finding solutions, there is considerable opposition to the use of nuclear power among the public. Visschers, Keller and Siegrist (2011) discuss some of the roots of this opposition. They note that members of the general public will never understand the technology and science, so they form their opinions based on other factors such as their perception of the risks and benefits, social trust and the way that they weight climate benefits and energy security. Siegrist and Cvetkovich (2000) note that building social trust can be difficult, but that it is one way to alter people’s perceptions about the hazards and risks inherent in an unknown technology. So the two papers look at the opposition to nuclear power as a threat, but then examine how nuclear power opposition can be overcome.

Pfeiffer (2006) notes that fossil fuels are an integral part of our agricultural system. Advances in converting fossil fuels into fertilizer have driven industrial production of food, allowing us to feed an ever-growing number of people. However, there is a downside to this, in that we are consuming our supply of fossil fuels rapidly, and thus far the technology does not exist to product the same amount of foods without these fertilizers. Ramirez and Worrell (2006) discuss the issue further, noting that even more advances in technology with respect to fertilizer are likely to improve fuel efficiency and that energy advances elsewhere can allow for fossil fuel consumption in other fields to be reduced. Despite the differences in their arguments, both authors urge caution with respect to the use of fossil fuels in the agricultural system going forward.


Adair, C. & Barker, T. (2013). The big disconnect: Protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age. Harper Business.

Balat, M. & Balat, H. (2009). Recent trends in global production and utilization of bio-ethanol fuel. Applied Energy. Vol. 86 (2009) 2273-2282.

Leroy, G. & De Leo, G. (2008). Smartphones to facilitate communication and improve social skills of children with severe autism spectrum disorder: Special education teachers as proxies. Claremont Colleges Scholarship @ Claremont.

Ma.R. (1996) Computer-mediated conversations as a new dimension of intercultural communication between East Asian and North American college students. Pragmatics and Beyond New Series.

Pfeiffer, D. (2006). Eating fossil fuels: Oil, food and the coming crisis in agriculture. New Society Publishers: Gabriola Island, BC.

Pimentel, D. (2003). Ethanol fuels: Energy balance, economics and environmental impacts are negative. Natural Resources Research. Vol. 12 (2) 127-135.

Ramirez, C., & Worrell, E. (2006). Feeding fossil fuels to the soil: An analysis of energy embedded and technological learning in the fertilizer industry. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. Vol. 46 (2006) 75-93.

Siegrist, M. & Cvetkovich, G. (2000). Perception of hazards: The role of social trust and knowledge. Risk Analysis. Vol. 20 (5) 713-719.

St. Amant, K. (2008). When cultures and computers collide. Journal of Business and Technical Communications. Vol. 16 (2) 196-214.

Visschers, V., Keller, C. & Siegrist, M. (2011). Climate change benefits and energy supply benefits as determinants of acceptance of nuclear power stations: Investigating an explanatory model. Energy Policy. Vol. 39 (2011) 3621-3629.

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