Running head: Isolation 2EVERHART
Technology ended the physical and intellectual isolation of Americans by introducing them to the people and cultures of many nations around the world, not to mention other people in America that were not logistically close enough to interact with before technology permitted them to do so. This new technology allowed not only information, but the people themselves to travel greater distances faster than ever. News that used to take days, weeks, and sometimes months to arrive at its destination, could now get there in a matter of minutes. Trips that used to take months could now be made in hours. Americans could travel across the ocean in only a day rather that than the months it would take by boat. Technology has allowed Americans to expand their horizons, to learn and incorporate others cultures and ideas in their own way of life much more rapidly than this would have happened without these technologies available to them.
One of the most important advances in technology was made in the venue of communications. With the ability to move information over radios and televisions, Americans could see the experiences they’d previously only read about in newspapers or heard via word of mouth. This exchange of information was also immediate, whereas having to wait for a printed version of the news could take hours, days, weeks, or longer. The military found the faster relay of information extremely useful, as they could create a strategy, and relay it immediately to their troops on the other side of the world. The troops could also send information back to the
Running head: Isolation 3EVERHART
Military command, so that strategies could be changed as necessary. These communications became so important to the military during World War I that civilian radio activities were suspended during the war, as the radio industry was taken over by the government. Numerous military applications were developed, including direct communication with airplanes. The war also exposed thousands of service personnel to the on-going advances in radio technology, and even saw a few experiments with broadcasting entertainment to the troops. Of course, this also meant that Americans were made aware of the events of the military in other countries more quickly as well. The information they were given could either bolster patriotic pride, or greatly increase their dissatisfaction with the government relating to the events they were hearing about. Often, this information was manipulated for a desired effect on the views of the American public. In an article, Michael Traber wrote, “Though the State does not exercise total control over information and media, it relies on them in order to function. The State and the media interact with each other-but in a manner that does not allow proper participation by the general public.”(Traber, 1995) He goes on to discuss how the government (or State as he refers to them in the article) uses the media to slant Americans’ views towards an intended goal. I have seen evidence of this myself, by watching the same news stories on American news channels and Brasilian news channel. Each organization told the same stories, however many
Running head: Isolation 4EVERHART
Times the story, though containing the same subject matter would be completely different, having been skewed towards each government’s political agenda. What we can deduce from this is that the invention of new communications technologies became a great tool for the American government, as well as other governments, to inform or manipulate the American people, and as with all technologies, had bother good and bad aspects to it, depending on how that technology was utilized.
The development of transportation technologies, however, had mostly a good aspect to it, allowing Americans to distributed goods and services, as well as themselves, longer distances. Food could be brought into the cities from the farms by using large trucks, stocking stores where people could go buy everything they needed. Automobiles allowed people to travel away from their localities, whether it was to move or just to visit a new place. They could also travel to visit relatives, allowing people to spread out across the country a bit more than they had previously.
The aviation industry added greatly to the freedom of movement Americans now experience. After the invention of flight Americans were free to fly. They could go anywhere in the world now, allowing them to explore every country and culture about which they wished to learn.
Running head: Isolation 5EVERHART
Realizing the dream of flight was more than a story of technology; it had important cultural consequences as well. The brilliant demonstrations by the Wright Brothers enabled those who followed them to use flight for a variety of reasons besides getting from point A to point B without touching the ground. These included racial uplift (Bessie Coleman as the first African American pilot in 1920), personal adventure ( Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic for the first time in 1927), gender equalization ( Amelia Earhart becoming the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928), commercial gain (engine manufacturers, mechanics, and pilots all contributing to the airlines industry), African American equality (the Tuskegee squadron of African American pilots in World War II), military superiority (the development of the U.S. Air Force in 1947), and eventually space exploration (NASA landing on the moon in 1969).(Bowles, 2011).
With the invention of personal technologies such as the computer and the cellular telephone, people could now leave everything they knew behind, yet still take it with them. Computers allow people to write instant letters via email, video conference, and send documents and photographs to each other, in essence taking their friends and family with them wherever they went. These items also allow people to work on the go. No longer are we tied to a desk waiting
Running head: Isolation 6EVERHART
on a phone call. Meetings can be done online, rather than traveling long distances, wasting valuable time on travel. A downside to all of this, however, is that people are expected to be available all the time now. More work is expected, phone calls are presumed to always be answered or quickly returned when they aren’t. Sherridan Hughes, a psychologist specializing in career consulting writes, “There have always been workaholics, but I believe new technologies have certainly contributed to many more people taking work home and not properly switching off (literally and metaphorically).” (Hughes, 2012)
In many ways, personal technologies are also creating a new personal isolationism. Rather than congregating in public arenas more people are gathering online using social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. They are buying their goods online, utilizing websites such as eBay and Amazon, never having to leave the house and therefore missing the chance of meeting new people. While they are meeting more people, learning more about those cultures and the world in general online, people are becoming tied to their computers. Social niceties are becoming a thing of the past, as more and more people are integrating the shorthanded communications that are prevalent during faceless interactions such as email, texting, and online chatting into their everyday conversations. The need to leave the house for social
Running head: Isolation 7EVERHART
Interaction has lessened with the advances in personal technology. Computer systems can restructure social relationships by altering the kinds of information readily available, reorganizing patterns of access to information, altering the cost and work of organizing information, and shifting patterns of social dependencies for key resources. (Kling, 1991)
Technology opens up many doors for students at all academic levels to do real work as they study a particular subject. Integrating a curriculum with technology involves making technology into a tool to enhance learning in a content area or multidisciplinary setting. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions, as accessible as all other classroom tools. For me online schooling has helped me maintain my job and my household without the hassle of having to try to find the time to fit all this in my daily schedule. Students are starting to work from home and receive their high school diplomas.
While this is by no means a complete list of technologies that have affected the isolationism of Americans, they are the main ones, and the creation of each of the technologies discussed here has created many sub-industries or technologies. These lesser categories create more employment, and many times lead to even more technological inventions. Most give Americans the freedoms to learn, travel, and generally not be tied to one place, thereby ending both the
Running head: Isolation 8EVERHART
Physical and intellectual isolation that had previously been standard in America. Some have had the unintended side effect of a new personal isolation. The results are that Americans may now choose the degree of their own isolation or lack thereof. We are no longer tethered by geography, logistics, or lack of information available to us. The world is open for any explorations we choose to make and information we wish to learn. Technology has given us the freedom and ability to accomplish things our ancestors never dreamed possible, and is ever changing the face of the physical and intellectual isolation of Americans every day.
Bowles, M.D. (2011). Retrieved November 5, 2012, from American History 1865-Present:
Hughes, S. (2012, November 5). Retrieved November 5, 2012, from Upmarket:
Kling, R. (1991, summer). Computerization and Social Transformation. Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol 16, No3 (summer, 1991).
Traber, M. (1995). Retrieved November 5, 2012, form WACC—Promoting Communication for Social Change: http://waccglobal.org/en/20063-communication-for-development-and-social-justice/597-Beyond-patriotism-Escaping-the-idelolgical-prison.html.
White, T.H. (Unknown). Radio during World War One (1914-1919). Retrieved November 5, 2012, from United States Early Radio History: http://earlyradiohistory.us/sec013.htm.