Throughout history, developments in technology and communications have gone hand-in-hand, and the latest technological developments such as the Internet and mobile devices have resulted in the advancement of the science of communication to a new level.
The process of human communication has evolved over the years, with many path-breaking inventions and discoveries heralding revolutions or a lift from one level to another.
- The invention of pictographs or the first written communication in the ancient world gave us written communication. These writings were on stone and remained immobile.
The invention of paper, papyrus, and wax, culminating in the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, made possible transfer of documents from one place to another, allowing for uniformity of languages over long distances.
- The latest revolution is the widespread application of electronic technology such as electronic waves and signals to communication, manifesting in the electronic creation and transfer of documents over the World Wide Web.
Speed and Costs
The most significant impact of technology on communication is the spread of the Internet and the possibility of sending emails and chatting. In the pre-information technology days, a document often required re-typing on the typewriter before the final version. Sending the letter across a distance to someone else required a visit to the post office and a postage stamp. Faster methods such as telegrams had severe limitations in text and were quite costly.
Computers and the Internet have made the process of creating and editing documents and applying features such as spell check and grammar check automatically easy and natural. Email let us send documents to any part of the globe within seconds, making telegrams and even ordinary letters mostly obsolete. The Internet has thus increased the speed of communications manifold, and reduced the costs drastically.
The huge amount of knowledge accessible by a click of the mouse has helped improve the quality of communication. Translating a text from an unfamiliar language to a familiar language, seeking out the meaning of an unknown word, and getting followup information on an unfamiliar concept are all possible thanks to the internet.
Technology allows easy storage and retrieval of communication when needed, especially verbal communication, the storage of which was very difficult before. It now becomes easier to rewind and clear misconceptions rather than make assumptions, or contacting the person again to clear doubt.
Change in Style
The invention of new gadgets such as mobile phones made communication easier by allowing people to communicate from anywhere. An underestimated impact of mobile gadgets is the effect they have on the nature of communication.
- The possibility of high quality communication from anywhere in the world to anywhere else at low costs has led to a marked decline in face-to-face communications and to an increased reliance on verbal and written communication over electronic mediums.
- The small keyboards on mobile phones and other hand-held devices that make typing difficult has resulted in a radical shortening of words and increasing use of symbol and shortcuts, with little or no adherence to traditional grammatical rules. Such change now finds increasing acceptance in the business community.
- Communication has become concise and short, and the adage “brevity is the soul of wit” finds widespread implementation, though unintentionally.
The answer to the question of how technology has changed communication is incomplete without a mention of technology's role in the democratization of communication systems. Technology has brought down the costs of communication significantly and improved people’s access.
The proliferation of online forums, live coverage of news, and other such media-related initiatives have resulted in world wide access and participation in news and information for almost everyone.
In the realm of business, access to communication or privileged information was hitherto a major source of competitive advantage. Technology helps remove such barriers and ensure a level playing field in this aspect for the most part.
Nature of Communication
The ease of communication and the spread of interactive communication methods such as instant messengers and video conferencing have increased the volume of communications but reduced their average length. People now communicate whatever comes up instantly, and tend to break up different topics into different communications.
Finally, technologies integral to the Internet help spread the net of communication by tracking down old friends, shedding light on new business opportunities, creating new opportunities for business and personal purchasing, and similar ventures.