Thursday, June 17, 2010

Modern Instances of Digital Divide

Every night a world created, complete with furniture—friends made and enemies established . . . Every night, relationships that make a world, established; and every morning the world torn down like a circus.
At first the families were timid in the building and tumbling worlds, but gradually the technique of building worlds became their technique. Then leaders emerged, then laws were made, then codes came into being. And as the worlds moved westward they were more complete and better furnished, for their builders were more experienced in building them. (Grapes of Wrath page 194)

This passage, through illustrating the journey of the migrant farmers displaced by the technology of the farm tractor in The Grapes of Wrath, reiterates the process by which people come to relate to and adapt within a new environment when driven out of familiar territory. This situation from the novel is applicable to the same situation digital immigrants must contend in the process of adapting to the continually changing cyberscape of Internet and new media technologies.

Like the migrating farmers of the 1930s, digital immigrants too must discover their relationship with the constantly changing environment in which they find themselves. At first, the alien unpredictability surroundings causes voyagers to proceed with caution in crossing the transient new land. Then, as the nomads of these spaces become more adept at identifying patterns, they are better able to set up and settle into temporary outposts as the process of constant movement and change becomes routine and confidence in adaptation improves.

The Record Label Evolution
My English professor, Dr. Gideon Burton, suggested that song artists of the entertainment industry have found themselves caught in the transverse between the swiftly changing lands of the music industry over the course of the Digital evolution as their way of selling music has been displaced by technology of the Internet. Many popular recording artists have, within the past decade, been compelled to bridge the growing Digital Divide between the technologies of CD and MP3 in order to remain in business. Additionally, many have had to deal with copyrighted music leaking onto the Internet.

Still, according to a study called “MP3s Are Killing Home Taping: The Rise of Internet Distribution and Its Challenge to the Major Label Music Monopoly” Wilco business manager Tony Margherita considers that music leaking onto the Internet is “like the sun coming up” in the sense that “It’s an inevitable thing and not something we ever percieve as a problem” (Devenish 524). In essence, musicians have to alter their revenue strategies over time just as surely as a people must work their lives around the forces of nature. Both arise as the simple, yet unavoidable facts of life. To disregard such facts is to inconvenience oneself in the long run.

In expressing similar sentiments, co-founder of the Future of Music Coalition Brian Zisk explains that “What we find historically, is that the folks who do best are those who embrace the new technologies . . . Radio was also supposed to ruin the recording industry” (524 Devenish). Instead, radio expedited the development of the recording industry because of providing mass culture greater access.

Today, several bands including Radiohead post their music for free on their websites in order to attract listeners to concerts which is where they make their greatest earning dividends. The moral of this story to modern society is that change is constant, change is incontestable, but as long as the people continue on this journey of change, they survive.

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