The Granite Tower
FEATURECOVER STORY
Rolling: The Deep Side of Society-Technology
Kim Hyoun Jung , Kim Dong Eun  |  dooli1994@korea.ac.kr, mikkola@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2014.11.05  10:10:09
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One of Korea’s entertaining TV programs called “The Human Condition” caught people’s attention when it was first broadcasted. It dealt with how to live for a week without using or having certain products, services or goods that are necessary in human lives and see how people’s behaviors change during a week. One of the episodes of “The Human Condition” was to live without TV, the Internet and smartphones for a week. At first, all of the celebrities in the program were frustrated because TV, the Internet and smartphones are essential to their daily lives.

In The Human Condition, celebrities became comfortable to live without any of those products after few days. Looking at how the celebrities’ behaviors change, it seemed not to create much difficulties or obstacles that hinder their lives. Through the episode, people will empathize that they are too much dependent on and addicted to TV, the Internet and smartphones that they do not realize how those products are influencing their lives.

   
▲ Lee Nara believes that education can help us rethink about culture Photographed by Kim Dong Eun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As such, development of technology do not only affect individuals’ lives but also have an impact on the society as a whole. It has long been established that technology has brought drastic changes but still, people seem to be awed at its influence that it brings. Technology related with computers and the digital media sector seem to have the most significant impact on society as they are closely integrated in people’s lives. The transition from the digital divide to the mobile divide and alterations in education as well as in arts are the main changes that are occurring in contemporary society.

Status Quo Of Digital Divide

It was not long ago that the term “digital divide” became a hot potato in contemporary society. The term was used to describe the gaps between people in terms of possession of computers and the ability to utilize the Internet a few decades ago. Once the Internet and computers were accessible to the public, there were people who were not only surprised by its usefulness but also perplexed by not knowing how to use them. Such division was also observed between developing and developed countries.

To reduce the gap, the Korean government carried out the Silvernet Movement in 2000, which helped the elderly become familiar with the use of computers and the Internet. In addition to that, the government planned to train 100,000 young adults and middle-aged people in order to foster experts in the IT sector. At the international level, Nicholas Negroponte, the head of MIT Media Lab, distributed computers to developing countries for about $100 per computer so that the developing countries would be more exposed to up-to-date technology and it was carried out for about six years.

These efforts reduced the digital divide significantly. In the case of Korea, 75.2 percent of people now possess computers and know how to use them according to the National Information Society Agency (NIA) 2013 statistics. Therefore, the digital divide in Korea is now mostly resolved because 75.2 percent is considered a saturation level. This is a significant development considering the fact that only 45 percent of the people possessed computers in 2004.

The mitigation of the digital divide in the first place seemed quite difficult because computers and wired Internet were too sensational when it was introduced. Thanks to proper policies that targeted specific groups of people that were less exposed, the digital divide was resolved within few decades. As society as a whole moves toward even higher IT and technology expectations, society is preparing for the next generation of technology by learning from past experiences.

Is It Then The End Of Any Digital Divide?

Some might ask, “If the gap of the digital divide were reduced, would any other forms of digital divide exist in contemporary society?”. The answer is yes. Since the advent of smartphones, there have been new digital divides like the “mobile divide”. It was sensational when smartphones were introduced to the public. No one thought that accessing the Internet with a phone could be possible. The gap of the current mobile divide is about to be enlarged.

The main difference between the digital divide and the mobile divide is that the latter accommodates comprehensive aspects of society. Professor Lee Won Jun (College of Information and Communication) explained, “When we talked about the digital divide, there were only two related subjects, computers and the wired Internet. So, we referred to it as a uni-digital divide. However, in the case of the mobile divide, wired Internet, wireless Internet and the integration of various aspects of society such as Social Networking Service (SNS) and communication are included. That’s why it is described as the multi-digital divide.”

Now that smartphones are portable, social participation and communication becomes more convenient and active. Consequently, anyone who cannot utilize smartphones have higher tendency to fall behind societal norms of participating in social interaction, communication and politics. Taking such characteristics of smartphones into account, the  measure used to calculate the gap between the public and marginalized people has changed.

   
▲ The professor is explaining his opinions and facts related with the digital and mobile divide. Photographed by Kim Dong Eun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This measure is called Digital Divide Index (DDI). There are three categories : accessibility, capability and application. Accessibility refers to the possession of computers or smartphones. The capability category measures people’s ability to use computers’ or smartphones’ simple functions. The application category analyzes whether individuals who own computers or smartphones are able to exercise a variety of activities such as networking, social communication and economic activity.

In the case of the digital divide, a greater portion of the percentage was allocated to the application category when calculating DDI. However, with the mobile divide, there is an equal emphasis between capability and application categories. Professor Lee said, “Seeing such change in calculating the index, it can be seen that marginalized people have more difficulties in using smartphones’ functions rather than merely owning a smartphone. Since there are myriads of activities that people can do with smartphones than with computers, simply knowing how to perform few functions with a smartphone is not enough.”

How To Tackle Mobile Divide

When it comes to division, there are gaps among different groups of people as well as gaps within a certain group. It is easy to overlook the fact that there are mobile divide within a certain group but such a divide is important to solve mobile divide. In the case of the marginalized group in Korea, there are four subgroups : the disabled, low-income, farmers and fisherman and the elderly. The NIA reported that low-income people have a higher capability index than other people of the marginalized group.

What might be a creative solution for the mobile divide is infusing knowledge regarding smartphones to people who do not own computers. They might be more willing to accept new technology. Professor Lee stated, “People who own computers and know how to use them efficiently might be more reluctant to absorb new information about smartphones. It makes them feel more complicated and is tiring. However, people who do not own computers will be more interested in smartphones since it is their first time encountering up-to-date technology.”

If proper implementation of policies and aids are exercised to reduce the mobile divide, the gap of the mobile divide will definitely be reduced. The government is holding an IT competition in which citizens of all ages compete by using computers or smartphones. Also, the government is hosting mentoring sessions and seminars for the elderly and adolescents promoting the application ability of IT-related gadgets and hopefully fostering experts in the future.

The reduction in the gap will not have an immediate effect but is a long-term phenomenon with the results revealed slowly. Professor Lee added, “I believe the mobile divide will be reduced somehow in the future as digital divide is now compared to few decades ago. However, there will be a new paradigm appearing at the point when mobile divide is at saturation level. Just like when digital divide was mostly resolved, mobile divide emerged. ”

What Would Be The Next ; Internet of Things (IoT)

In a few decades when the mobile divide is reduced, there will be a new paradigm, IoT. IoT refers to the infrastructure in which all objects are connected with the Internet so that they can share information with other objects or humans and communicate together. An interesting feature about IoT is that it forms a connection beyond human to human relationships because it further creates links between objects.

One of the examples of IoT is that it allows people to see their homes with smartphones when they are in remote places. This is possible because a camera that is attached to a robot vacuum is linked with smartphones. Another example is putting micro-chips in sneakers so that when jogging, the jogger can count how many calories are burnt and how long they have run. It is estimated that there will be about 2.6 billion IoT objects by 2020. Professor Lee said, “When IoT becomes more prevalent in the future, its impact will be more significant than smartphones. What we have experienced until now will be just the tip of an iceberg. There might be more tremendous consequences of IoT and the gaps among different groups of people would be much more extended than the mobile divide.”

Even though Korea is nowadays attempting to reduce the mobile divide currently, it is more important to see the forest than the trees. It does not mean that when the mobile divide is resolved Korea will become a IT leader. The original paradigm, if grasped, will shift in the future with the advent of IoT. It would be wiser to be prepared for the new paradigm step by step by focusing on solving the mobile divide.

 

Whenever a new paradigm of technology is introduced to society, there seems to be two big alterations that are taking place. One can be seen easily such as the digital divide or mobile divide that happens when the technology itself is simply dividing the whole into groups. The other is implicitly fused into society. People’s behaviors, perceptions and attitudes start to change slowly as more and more people become familiar with the up-to-date technology.

New Technology, New Education

Along with the mobile gap, the advancement of technology has brought other implicit changes that are often hard to recognize without attention. Although people are often impassive to the changes brought by the technology, these transformations bring more significant results than the public often imagines.  Education is one part of our lives that may be most affected by the technology. As education slowly becomes fused with the avant-garde technology, the fundamental definition of education may also change in the future.

“The shift in education due the advancement of technology can be most clearly seen with three main characteristics in recent education: increased opportunity, ubiquitous education and sharing education” said Yongjin Lee (Center for Teaching and Learning). These three characteristic are all interrelated. Nowadays, even the students in rural areas can get educated if they have access to the internet. This further suggests that ubiquitous education is made possible by the advancement of technology. By Ubiquitous Education, Lee means that unlike before, people can collect information from anywhere. Education is no longer limited to physical locations or timely limits. Finally, with the ubiquity and opportunity, sharing of information and education in different parts of the world has increased.

Nowadays, we can easily see students watch TED talks or other education-related videos online. High school courses and even college are taught on the Internet. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University have created online based education system in 2012 called EdX which according to their websites “is a non-profit created by the founding partners at Harvard and MIT whose mission is to bring the best of higher education to students of all ages anywhere in the world, wherever there is Internet access. EdX's free online MOOCs are interactive and subjects include computer science, public health, and artificial intelligence,” With EdX, anyone that has access to the Internet can receive college courses online. 

Similarly in Korea, there are many colleges that provide courses online. KU has also established cyber education system which began in 2001. As the education system developed, it became a cyber-college in 2008, and became the Cyber University of Korea in 2012.  Since then, it has tried to add different courses for students to learn through cyber space.

“Combining the offline education and the online education is referred as the Blended-Learning,” said Lee. According to Professor Lee, the recent implementation of Blackboard system by KU could also help to facilitate blended learning. The KU Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has opened workshops for the professors and students in an effort to implement Blackboard. Although the main purpose of Blackboard itself is not entirely for blended learning, it shows that blended learning is becoming more approachable due to the changing school systems. This higher education available on the internet raises the crucial question whether offline education will be needed in the future.

Future Education

Information technology has made it available for people all around the world to retain astronomical amounts of information just within seconds. Although it seems like offline education is no longer needed due to online technology, it seems unlikely that only online education will exist in the future.  “Education is not only about providing information to the students,” said Lee. Although there is abundant information available on the web, it does not take away the role of instructors. In fact, Lee argued that the role of the facilitators will become even more important.

Future education will be more centered on fostering leaders with the ability to choose wisely the data from the internet and apply it to different situations. These leaders need to be both creative and decisive in approaching different problems. In order to nurture these leaders, the instructors will also have to provide diverse information and teach the students to analyze the data from different angles. In order to teach the students how to collect and apply the existing information with efficiency, the instructors will be required to have increased professionalism in teaching.

Chang Technology, Changing Art

Another easily neglected, yet inseparable development in technology that is beginning to affect culture is art.  In fact, art and culture are most heavily affected by technology, as they often reflect and symbolize the era. Art and culture are the direct result of our living styles and society’s values that most directly represent society. Art and culture are often transformed and shaped by the era’s characteristics, and nowadays art and culture are defined by its approachability and speed. 

Anyone, Everyone can Become an Artist

For artists or creators of art works, the technology has altered the fundamental definition of the artist. “In the past, a common prototype of an artist was someone that bears the imprint of genius,” said Lee. These genius often worked alone in order to make masterpieces that people studied deeply. Mozart, Beethoven, and Picasso were common examples of true artists from the past. Nowadays, however, an individual can easily become an artist.  The term artist changed from an individual to a “group” term, where no one is exceptional. Anyone can make their own artwork, and post it on the internet so that they can share it with the public.

The most common example of this would be taking photographs. Before cameras came into wide use, only a selected group of people that owned cameras and learnt how to use them were able to create art. Currently, most cell phones have cameras with avant-garde technology and additional functions with high quality filters. Programs such as Instagram further enables the individual artists to easily share their art works. Other than photography, singers often post their music on YouTube and writers post their works on their own blogs.

A well known Korean singer, Ailee was also once an ordinary individual artist who posted her works on Youtube. She first became known on the YouTube video “Hero”, a cover of Mariah Carey. Her video was viewed by over three million people, and she achieved fame afterwards. Thus, individual artists can easily make their own works and share it with the public without going through the complicated process as in the past.

Changing Art Trends

The influx of artists has produced a higher number of art works. The variety of the art works has also increased, as more diverse individuals approach art from a different angle. According to Lee, the purpose of art itself also became more of an entertainment for increasing number of people. In the past, many art works had to be studied thoroughly, as they contained deep meaning that could not be deciphered unless audience paid particular attention. Today increasing number of art is becoming fun and fast.  Majority of the people are no longer willing to spend long time on one art piece. Rather, they would like to enjoy art works with a lighthearted manner.

There are, however, inevitable side effects that come from art in modern times. Many art critics believe that technology is going to destroy, and produce simpler and frivolous art works. “A common characteristic of technology is its fast pace. Culture, however, is the opposite. It should be built on the past and be appreciated with time” said Lee. If we try to approach art works only with fast pace and quick changes, it seems like characteristics of technology, are violating the very nature of art and culture.

In order to stop this from happening, according to Lee, educators need to provide education about art and culture to the public. Public will have to learn to appreciate art works from all angles, including both heavy topics and lighthearted art works. Without these efforts, the past arts will be forgotten, and they will turn into nothing more than simple entertainment.

Although the society is shifting and some of their unique features are also affected by IT and technology, it is only natural. As society develops, change is inevitable. In particular, the mobile divide. Not to be overlooked, of course, are the cultural and educational changes because they are inevitable since these factors are closely related to our daily lives. In particular, culture has been the crux that has been evolving constantly.

Culture is ever-changing and is formed by its shape based on the era and environment. Technology has infiltrated culture and is creating phenomenal changes. Education, on the other hand, needs to evolve so that it will teach the people to adapt to the fast changing environment. Since change is a natural phenomenon, although there is no need to worry, society will have to be cautious about how to use IT for its own benefit. Depending on how people use technology, they can either change for the better, or deteriorate.

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