What about the non-believers?

I had a thought yesterday, but I didn’t get a word in, so I thought I would make use of the blog this morning:

When Mosco provided examples of past myths in Chapter 5, my first reaction was to laugh at their ridiculousness. Although, his point was, in some ways, that we are being ridiculous today in clinging to the unfounded myths of cyberspace, while forgetting that this myth is merely part of a cycle that has occurred repeatedly over the past century. However, it then occurred to me that not everyone believes myths, and it made me wonder whether the voices of such people were drowned out over the years. After all, while there are loads of ignorant people, technological experts have also existed over the past century; the builders of radios, airplanes, and computers have obviously been around during the heydays of their respective myths. I mention these people because they are the most likely to disregard unfounded rumors regarding their professions. Now, I wonder, did these people attempt to tell the world that certain myths were ludicrous, or did they simply sit quietly and otherwise fail to report on the rampant ridiculousness?

-Byron

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One response to “What about the non-believers?

  1. As I was reading Mosco’s book the same idea crossed my mind and I thought it out a bit. Here are some of these thoughts in response to your questions.

    A caution on the ridiculousness of myth

    The myth functions to explain or reframe a phenomenon. In retrospect, some of the myths listed in Mosco’s book may seem ridicuolous, but that is only because we have developed better myths which align with our current world view. Trust me, people of the future will look back at us and think the same thing you’re thinking right now.

    Of Non-believers

    Also, in your post there is the issue of people who provide countering myths or anti-myths. I classify these people/ groups into three types: nay-sayers; the forgotten; and losers.

    Nay-sayers

    When a new technology enters the market its accompanying myth creates an expectation or a promise to fulfill a need. Consumers are made aware of this need and seek to fulfill it.
    Skeptics of technology enjoy pointing out what a product is incapable of doing or how this technology is unable to fulfill a promise. Unfortunately, these skeptics are unable to provide their own counter product or solution that fulfills the myth better. Given the choice between a technology that tries to fulfill myth and nothing, the former will prevail as it is the best solution available to satisfy the newly created need. Once people accept this new technology they ignore the counter argument

    The Forgotten

    Believe it or not technologies fail. This partially occurs when a myth is unable to gain traction with its audience. The reason why we dont remember these products and their myths is because a new successful myth always comes along. Products and their myths become obsolete before we can store them in our cultural memory. Thankfully, technology websites need news filler so here is a link to some poorly executed technologies: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=printArticleBasic&articleId=9012345

    Losers

    Often two technologies emerge that fulfill the same need and carry a similar but different myth. Think Blue-Ray vs. HD-DVD (BTW I think they will both be proven losers in the near future). This relationship is not too different from the one between a new technology and “nay-sayers”. Normally, the first group to emerge takes on the role of the new technology and the second product becomes a nay-sayer. The difference here is that the nay-sayers have a solution to back up their skepticism. One technology successfully moves forward and the other loses out.

    It is important to note that the success of a technology is only partly due to its myth. Economics largely dictates if a technology will survive. Products supported by popular myths can fail and vice versa. We must vigilantly observe technology with both eyes. Mosco’s other book is worth checking out as it talks a bit about the political economy of technology.

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