The films at the first festival were interesting illustrations of the polarised views of the impact of technology on society. Both Collossus and Bendito Machine depict a swing from hopeful utopian visions of the benefits of technology to society, for example world peace in Collossus, to the dystopian fears associated with technology taking control resulting in a loss of human agency etc. For me, a question that these films raised was why are these positions polarised? Why don’t we see positions representing a spectrum of possibilities along the dystopian/utopian continuum? Why the dichotomy? Two elements from my lifestream offer some explanations for this. The Gartner hype cycle describes a cycle of expectations from inflated promise to dissolution associated with the appearance of new digital technologies and their assimilation into our digital environment. While the initial excitement surrounding a new technology might align with a more utopian view in terms of its impact on society, the trough of dissolution does not necessarily represent a dystopian perspective.
However in an article I came across recently Fisher (2001) does unpick these polarised view points in terms of Ogburn’s theory of ‘cultural lag’. The idea put forward is that it takes time for a technology to become assimilated into the cultural landscape and that early in the process of assimilation opposing positions are voiced representing hopes and fears rather than actualities. As the technology becomes embedded in the fabric of society knowledge increases about what its capabilities are and so claims about its impact become less extreme. Interestingly the process of assimilation seems to be as much about society being shaped by the technology as vice versa.