Different types of technology have impacted the world we live in. Among those, information technology has perhaps had the widest area of influence, and the Internet in particular affected the flow of information the most. While the predictions were that it would be overwhelming, the ability to transfer data globally had a positive effect. This change is widely recognized albeit not always directly. To give credence to the entire claim, we’ll use a Pew Research Center survey from December 2014, which analyzed 1066 Internet users, age 18 and older. So, without further ado, let’s get straight into how technology keeps us informed.
1. Products and services
Roughly 81% of American users online stated Internet and smartphone use made them informed about services and products compared to 5 years before (2009). The impact of digital technology on sales can be easily seen from a typical shopping experience. Users can see the pictures, read the description and/or specifications. Plus, they get access to independent guides, impressions, and reviews, on the marketplace platform or dedicated websites like Trustpilot or Yelp. Moreover, there are non-profit and for-profit organizations that collect, arrange, and rate information about products, services, or brands. Finally, users can acquire information from the seller(s) directly. Even better, bots can provide an answer within seconds, or redirect the user to a human representative.
The survey suggests that 75% of Americans think technology provided better knowledge about national news. The number dropped slightly, to 74%, for international news. This is evident once you begin following mainstream news sources. When put side-by-side, many users discover that the media companies often cite the same source and almost regurgitate the content. This is fine when the source is truthful. However, the existence of the Internet, digital technology, and software let users get different, even opposing perspectives and opinions. They can then come to conclusions based on multiple sources of information.
3. Popular culture
72% of the surveyed users found technology keeps us informed about popular culture drastically better. Among those, 84% were between the ages of 18 and 29, 77% were aged 30-49, and 68% were aged 50-64. It’s obvious how. We have social media, file-sharing, streaming apps, website memberships, and digital/online publications. Don’t forget piracy, which has a massive influence on availability to readers, viewers, listeners, or users. Despite evident legal problems, free data or information is known to boost sales positively.
If you read Joel Waldoes’s 2019 book Digital Renaissance: What Data and Economics Tell Us About the Future of Popular Culture, you know the number of new songs tripled that year. Additionally, a large portion came from independent record labels. This is due to moving away from traditional marketing, a boom in audio streaming app use, artists’ online presence, and AI-based music recommendations.
The number of self-published books on USA Today‘s weekly best-seller list went from 0% years before to 15% in 2019. Also, self-published romance books made up nearly 50% of the genre on the list. Among other reasons, this is due to authors having access to information required for writing, editing, publishing, and marketing online. The sales, once again, came from algorithms for book recommendations.
Keanu Reeves’ debut comic book, BRZRKR (2021), is one of the highest-ordered first issues by comic shops in the 21st century. The best part? It was published entirely via online crowdfunding and fan campaigns. This level of independent success wasn’t possible a few decades ago, since the information couldn’t reach such a large audience.
4. Friends and family
About 67% of the surveyed adults said digital technology keeps them better informed about their friends in 2014 compared to 2009. Similarly, 60% of the adults said they knew more about their family members in 2014 than half a decade ago. The timeline matches perfectly with social media development. Connecting and exchanging information with people across the globe is also one of the main pros of social media. Things such as messaging apps, video conferencing, and cheap international calls and forums helped too. Plus, the GPS in smart devices, paired with Google Maps, made obtaining personal information easier. When combined with yellow pages/background check websites, we can find personal information with almost nothing to go on.
Approximately 87% of participants stated the Internet and smart devices helped them learn new things. Of those, 53% said it boosted this ability “a lot”. What’s more, only 26% felt overloaded with the information they obtained in this way. In contrast, 72% stated they liked having access to such a large flow of information. This ties in perfectly with the fact that 76% of the participants stated the two technologies made an average American more knowledgeable. Additionally, 77% of them said the same for today’s students. We already went over the effects of technology in education, positive and negative, and examined ways modern technology helps education.
6. Community and government
Only 49% of the adults found that digital technology keeps us better informed about government and civic activities within a community. Well, the number would’ve been much higher today. Both government, business, and non-profit organizations have websites, social media presence, multiple ways of contact, and even bots that answer FAQs. Civic technology is constantly improving access to data and its transparency. It also affects various data collection, including resident feedback, and assists with public decision-making. On a community level, the efficiency of sharing information via forums, peer-to-peer, or crowdsourcing/crowdfunding platforms, increased significantly in recent years. This improves data organization, the process of electing community representatives, and releasing updates about recent procedures and their status.
7. Natural disasters or emergencies
Remember fires in California and Australia, the Indonesian tsunami, or the Sichuan and Haiti earthquakes? If so, what about how widely and rapidly the information spread globally afterward? And not only that but the repairs that followed? The quick collection and delivery of funds were possible only due to technological improvements in banking. Transportation technology was responsible for delivering goods and services. We also previously analyzed ways technology keeps us safe and stated researchers are already training AI to predict natural disasters and inform us ahead of time. We even mentioned how algorithms can replace the jobs of journalists, and inform people about an event within mere minutes.