|Firstly, make sure that you are capable to do this paper, then accept this order.|
Take a specific example (Wanna do the essay on Uber) of digital media, and discuss its impact on contemporary social life, drawing on one or more of the conceptual frameworks for understanding technological change that we analyzed in week 2. (week 2’s slides is in the attachment)
this is a short essay. While you will be expected to show a level of independent research, the emphasis is on demonstrating your understanding of conceptual frameworks for thinking about the relation between technological change and social effects. Class time will be allocated for further discussion of what is expected in this essay.
Thank you very much.
Uber as a Digital Media
Digital media refers to any device that holds digital data in the form of audio, video, graphical or text media that can be converted to machine-readable form (Howard & Hussain 2011). The recent years have seen an advent of new technological inventions affecting scientific, artistic and cultural aspects of life. The 21st century has also witnessed far-reaching changes and modifications to the existing technological concepts and ideas. These changes in technology have undoubtedly had far-reaching implications on contemporary social, economic, psychological, and emotional elements of people’s day-to-day lives. Scholars worldwide, for example, Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law have attempted to explain these technological changes using certain conceptual frameworks and theories (Couldry 2012). This paper seeks to discuss Uber as a digital media and its impact on the contemporary social life of human beings by drawing on the conceptual frameworks for understanding technological change as described by these scholars.
Uber Technologies Inc. is an American multinational transportation company that has its headquarters in California. The company develops and runs the ‘Uber App’, an application whose idea was first developed by Travis Kalanick and Garett Camp in Paris in 2008 after they had trouble hailing a cab. It allows users with smartphones that function under iPhone, Android of Windows operating systems to submit requests for a ride. The app automatically sends the request to the nearest Uber driver upon receiving it. It also gives the driver the location of the prospective customer while simultaneously giving the client the photo and contact details of the Uber driver. Uber drivers operate with their own cars. This application is currently functioning in over 66 cities worldwide. Fare payment is automatically calculated based on a predefined rate (Gillespie, Boczkowski & Foot 2014).
One of the theories that has been formulated to try and explain the rapid changes in the technological industry is the Actor Network Theory. According to John Law, this theory deals with social technical networks and describes the process by which inventions and technological systems may either materialize or fail to come into being (Callon & Blackwell 2007). It views the different nodes of the network as ‘actants’ and gives each of them equal weight in terms of importance to the entire system. Actants may be humans or material artefacts and they are all linked together within the network (Law 1992).
Uber’s concept of ‘online taxis’ has several social effects on the users as well as on the technology itself. For instance, the Uber App has changed people’s transport habits and even the hours they stay out. Due to its quick and efficient concept, more and more people are opting to use Uber as opposed to taking conventional taxis. The Uber user’s themselves also have a say in how the business operates and how the app works. In case of a comment or complain, the users can direct their grievances to customer care representatives on the company’s social media pages or by making a telephone call. This ties in perfectly with the concept of the Actor Network Theory that states that the different actants can influence each other within the network (Angus 1998). Traditional offline taxi operators do not necessarily require user validation for their operations to continue. In contrast, Uber taxis rely greatly on the validation of users to assess the success/ profitability of the system. This is the evident in the driver-rating technique where each user is expected to rate his/ her driver after a trip. The business model also requires users to embrace and be eager to learn how the new technology works. This effect illustrates how the success of new technologies is hinged on the cooperation of potential users (Law 1992).
It is worthwhile to note that the Uber application works hand in hand with Google Maps to locate individuals geographically as well as to view the drivers present in a given locality. Another beneficial feature is its compatibility with Android, iPhone and Windows devices. Together with the use of Google’s technology, this compatibility element shows the importance of a new technology in securing the cooperation of other nodes on the network (Latour 2005). Uber’s efficiency has made taxis more affordable for many middle class citizen and they have also created employment opportunities for the drivers and the technicians working behind the scenes.
Another theory that explains contemporary technological change is the Materiality in Communication Theory. Formulated and advanced by Harold Innis, it states that society is represented as a complex structure of expressive media whose bias determines the specificity of a culture (Littlejohn & Foss2009). It also posits that the physical and material features of technology are likely to comprise outcomes/products of social factors, cultural pressures or economic factors (Gumbrecht & Pfeiffer 1988).
Uber was developed as an advancement of the current taxi system worldwide where a potential user identifies a taxi on the streets, enters and negotiates payment and route information with the driver. In contrast, Uber uses the Internet to connect available drivers and potential customers using its application platform. The need for a more efficient, mobile and dependable taxi system facilitated the invention of Uber taxis which most users now consider as a breath of fresh air and a welcome break from the traditional taxis. The development reflects changes in technology due to societal pressures (Gillespie, Boczkowski & Foot 2014). The popular culture of instant gratification of Americans and the need for prompt delivery of services necessitated the availability of taxis that arrive almost immediately they are called greatly contributed to this innovative business model. This technological change was also influenced by economic factors such as people’s preference for cheaper and more affordable products (Gyabak & Solis 2011). Uber taxis are relatively cheaper than the usual taxis and this has resulted in people spending more on transportation and increased dependence on this private transport method by the ordinary citizen.
The final theory discussed in this paper to explain technological change is Winston’s theory. Developed by Brian Winston, it states that the development of communication technology follows a distinct sequence or pattern (Winston 1998). The first one is the process of scientific thought and understanding, whereby the idea is formulated, thought over, examined by different scholars and finally approved as a viable and plausible invention. The next step is the actual development of the idea be it using prototypes or implementing the new technological systems. The final step entails diffusing the invention or the communication technology into society (Munro 2009). After development, the new technology catches on through customer recommendation, advertising or whatever other appropriate means the proprietors may use to get the word out there (Leonardi & Barley 2008).
The Uber App has had many positive effects on the contemporary social life of human beings. Its development invoked research in the field of transportation and efforts to find a way to computerize the process of booking or looking for taxis (Winston 1998). This led to more companies and researchers engaging in research and development (R&D) of prototype systems to solve this problem. Uber’s rise also led to the development of similar apps worldwide, for example, the emergence of Little Cab, developed by Kenyan-based telecommunications multinational company, Safaricom. This phenomenon illustrates the diffusion stage of a new technology as stated in Winston’s theory (Winston 1998). On the same note, the establishment of the concept of using mobile phones to track one’s location and linking him/her up with the available drivers in that vicinity has evoked interest on the use of technology to solve day-to-day problems (Virilio & Rose 2012). It presents a window of opportunity for the creation of technological solutions applicable not only in transportation but also other sectors of the economy such as finance and administration.
The effects of digital media on present-day life are evident in the way humans carry out their technological, social and economic activities. According to the Actor Network Theory, Materiality in Communication Theory and Winston’s Theory, digital media has resulted in numerous positive effects on the way people lead their lives in contemporary societies. Together with other changes in technology, it has necessitated the rise of rapidly changing times, social pressures and hugely successful efforts to revolutionize the people meet their economic needs. The case of Uber demonstrates how digital media and the underlying technological developments can transform society. Thus, instead of opposing or resisting such change, users should be quick to embrace and adapt to new ideas and technological development for humankind’s overall advancement and development.
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