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Does culture shape technology?

September 2, 2010

We now live in the age of technology. There is an increase in the number of people reliant on mobile phones and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with each other, television and iPods to keep us entertained, computers and the internet to do business. Technology is ever-changing, but so is culture. Which one influences the other?

A study by Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist that works at Intel Research, has found that technology tends to adapt to a certain culture that fit into existing patterns of behaviour. One example she gave, was how manufacturers of mobile phones designed mobile phones that takes into account the prayer times of Muslim users. It includes a function that reminds them of prayer times, orients them towards Mecca and stops incoming calls in that 20 minute block of time during prayers.

In Japan, space is limited, resulting in privacy issues. According to the article in TopNews.in, manners are also a way of culture in Japan, as they seek to make public places pleasant for everyone, especially in confined spaces such as a train. Talking loudly on mobile phones are frowned upon, which is why text messaging is the preferred mode of communicating in Japan, rather than talking on the mobile phone. This has influenced the design of mobile phones and the services provided by mobile phone carriers in Japan. Their mobile phones feature buttons that are easier to type, with screens that allow long text messages, with cheaper rates per message sent.

It is nice to know that culture takes precedence over technology, with consideration for the usual way of life for each culture.
The world would be a boring place without identity.

References :

Japan’s railway companies try to keep passengers’ manners on track
by Mohit Joshi – March 19, 2009
http://www.topnews.in/japans-railway-companies-try-keep-passengers-manners-track-2141596

Does technology change culture or culture change technology?
by Tim Finin – July 10, 2006
http://ebiquity.umbc.edu/blogger/2006/07/10/does-technology-change-culture-or-culture-change-technology/

For Technology, No Small World After All
by Michael Erard – May 6, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/06/technology/circuits/06cult.html?ex=1399176000&en=2fbed84d2b46d2c6&ei=5007

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