What began as a network set up to enable government laboratories to share information with each other has set off a revolution that has changed the entire world. Today, the digital media revolution has moved beyond the virtual world and has transformed all facets of modern lifestyle and culture. There is hardly any aspect of modern society that has remained untouched by the digital media revolution.
Even nations with a history of respect for democracy and democratic institutions have struggled to achieve true equality. Money and muscle power continue to dominate global politics. However, digital media provides the masses with a medium to express their views. Today, politicians can opt for crowdfunding through digital media to avoid becoming pawns of political donors. While direct democracy has long been considered impractical in countries with large populations, digital media provides an opportunity for citizens to enjoy direct participation in political and public decisions affecting the nation.
The world has become a global village. There was a time when people would live and die without even seeing a single foreigner. Today, it is possible to interact with people living halfway across the world on a daily basis. People chat, exchange jokes, discuss politics, and learn more about each other. Stereotypes are getting shattered as direct interaction takes place through digital media. Attempts to sow discord through terrorist attacks fail as digital media enables the civilized majority to speak up and denounce such acts. Digital and social media helps people learn about touching stories of people from different faiths and communities helping each other even in the face of certain death. Digital media presents a unique opportunity for mankind to aspire to a truly tolerant and civilized society.
On a personal level, digital media has rendered physical distances irrelevant. A child of divorced parents can see, talk, and interact with both parents irrespective of who has been granted custody. Grandparents can see and talk with their grandchildren on a daily basis. Photographs and videos can be exchanged on a real-time basis between cities, countries, and even continents. While digital media cannot make people stay close, it is a great channel for those who are eager to have a close and fulfilling relationship with their friends, relatives, and family members.
A knowledge-based society
Never in the history of civilization has so much information and knowledge been available and accessible to so many people. From ancient Hindu philosophies to the works of Shakespeare, digital media has the potential to transform our society into a world where there is an unrestricted flow of information. Governments are trying to harness digital media to make education more accessible. A single tablet can contain millions of books, and such a device, in the right hands, can educate an entire society. Prior to digital media, ensuring access to information and knowledge was an impossible task. Today, it seems like just a matter of time before this problem is banished forever.
Despite the social, political, and educational potential of digital media, it has become the most convenient way to consume entertainment. Movies can be streamed to mobile devices, songs can be played on compact and versatile music players, and social media sites can be accessed on smartphones – all thanks to digital media. Before the digital media revolution, people could pit their video gaming skills against just one or two other players. Today, millions of people from all over the world play World of Warcraft (WoW) on the internet for hours at a stretch. Entertainment has become a truly social experience where people can interact with others who share their interests. In the case of WoW, what was originally a real-time strategy game has become a global phenomenon with a massive cultural impact.
Digital media has enabled fans and enthusiasts to come together and enact their favorite quests and replicate their favorite characters in LARPing or live action role-playing events. The impact of the game can be assessed by the fact that Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, the company that owns the game, had to issue a clarification to reassure fans who were worried that a proposed movie based on the video game would not be made. The movie, which is awaited by fans and industry watchers alike, is set to be released in 2016. The game’s popularity on digital media has contributed to its immense cultural legacy. The revenue generated by the game has enabled Bobby Kotick to set up organizations and endowments for the rehabilitation of military veterans.
Digital media has contributed to social change even through entertainment options like the video games. In the past, almost all popular video games portrayed women as delicate and weak characters who had to be rescued by strong male players. WoW included many strong female characters and allowed male gamers to play as women. The presence of female characters attracted the interest of female players, which, combined with the game’s popularity on digital media, contributed to a significant change in archaic social stereotypes.
Transforming the world of commerce
Digital media has converted the entire world into one big marketplace. An artist living in Australia can provide graphic design services for clients all over the world. Digital media has simplified the process of sale of products and services to a global clientele from the comfort of one’s home. Companies have the option of hiring people who work from home, which often leads to numerous lifestyle changes within the family. Apart from simplifying the existing setup, digital media has created numerous career opportunities that simply could not have existed in the past.
The world is moving to a society where the internet will no longer be restricted to humans alone. The Internet of Things is set to create a network of interconnected devices that will result in many more changes to our society and lifestyle. With growing emphasis on universal access to high-speed internet, it can safely be said that the digital media revolution is likely to result in many more changes in the functioning of modern society.
header image courtesy of Thomas Pomarelle