Amplification: The Evolution of ICTs



It’s pretty remarkable, especially considering the rapidity of it all, just how sophisticated our technology has become. It is estimated that, nowadays, a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than the average person would have stumbled upon in all of his or her life in the eighteenth century. Surely it comes as no surprise that the accelerating innovation of ICTs is responsible for such progress. (Jungwirth, 1)

It wasn't always this way, however. In the context of our contemporary information age, we were borderline blind once. So what exactly was it that inspired such radical growth? What was the facilitating force of the frameworks necessary for them to become what they are?

If you note all of the most successful technology today (smartphones, personal computers, iPods, et cetera), you can find an interesting commonality: they all build upon the momentum of technology successful in the past. Amplification is the societal theme here that we should be mindful of. The basic premise is that new technology is amplified in its use in relation to its older counterpart. Instead of technological progress being revolutionary – something novel is seemingly suddenly released – it is evolutionary, instead building upon what’s worked in the past.

ICTs foster an advanced ability to manipulate and communicate information, so let us understand how this ability evolved. By far the most innovatory, mind-blowing technology ever invented (in spite of its comical primitivism by today’s standard) was the telegram. This is as simple as telecommunication gets: one sender, one receiver; point-to-point communication.

Amplifying this, the next trend elaborated on this principle of point-to-point for a more effective agent: the telephone. Instead of deciphering dots and dashes, one could now verbally communicate. The next major innovation challenged the idea of point-to-point, augmenting the receiving end: broadcasting. The radio, still having one sending signal, could now have multiple listeners tune into it. Implementing a point-to-mass system changed everything within the realms of marketing, entertainment, news, and so forth. Amplify that even further and you get television. Again, note the framework: still point-to-mass, however now executed through a more expressive medium. (Pavrin)

With the introduction of PCs and the internet, what makes ICTs so adept is that they have redefined the dynamic of sharing information. Amplify a point-to-point system, and you have a point-to-mass system. Analogous to this is the idea of a family tree: technology branches out, becoming better, more resourceful, yet still affording the functionality of its predecessors. Information is no longer a one-way street… Amplify a point-to-mass system and you achieve a mass-to-mass system: ICTs. As opposed to being a lecture, information has now become a discussion.

This is why it’s interesting to note things like 3D televisions. Notice how they aren’t as hyped as they once were? What happened to all their popularity? Were they just a fad? Perhaps. Perhaps not. However, the central reasoning is for their straying of the amplification process. Never had a framework existed for personal 3D machines. (Cass, 1) Where is the connection between old and new? There was no technological momentum to begin with, nothing to expand on. Not only did this result in relatively poor designs, but it also sought to create a market we were not ready for. (Pavrin)

What might be most inspiring, perhaps even frightening, about the idea of amplification, is its “learning curve,” the exponential nature. Its accelerated returns, if you will. We need to grasp the reality that within our students’ lifetimes, the rapidity will transcend expectation. For example, try to spot any patterns within these stats...

In reaching a market audience of fifty million, radio broadcasting took thirty-eight years to do so. Television did it in thirteen. In broadcasting alone, amplification sped up the process nearly three-fold. With the introduction of preliminary ICTs, the internet amassed fifty million users in just four years. Amplifying both telecommunication and these preliminary ICTs, the iPhone reached that same number in only three years after its launch. Instagram did it in two years. Angry Birds Space… in thirty-five days

In adopting this mass-to-mass system, one can only wonder how much further we can go. If a handheld device is now capable of doing everything its predecessors once did, what could possibly come next? What is the next game-changer? One thing is for certain: society and technology is no longer one-sided. (Pavrin) Whatever is amplified next will not only amplify the hardware and software, but also the auxiliary threats and opportunities, the issues and developments we try to be aware of now.


Works Cited:

Spencer Cass (January 7th, 2014). “3D TV is officially dead (For Now) and this is why it failed” IEEE Spectrum.

Vera Pavri, Understanding Cyberspace professor, interview by Dennis Bayazitov, November 13th 2015.

Bernard Jungwirth, (February, 2002). “Information Overload: Threat or Opportunity?” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy