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Technology driving culture of social change

Today life without technology is unthinkable
12:00 AM May 06, 2024 IST | Zia Darakshan
technology driving culture of social change
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The way technology is proliferating and making sweeping changes across sectors, makes it evident that the revolution is going to transform the social set-up of societies and communities on continuous basis.

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This is the process which is not going to end, but continue in phases accelerating social change in never-seen-before fast speed mode. In other words, no social change would be permanent when the technology is making its own processes redundant and short-lived with improved versions.

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Today, the magnetic effect of technology is so vast that societies and communities find themselves lured to use it to fall in line with the changing times. The use of technology even in menial jobs has also drastically affected the lives of people and has forced change in their learning, thinking, and process of communication.

In short, life without technology is unthinkable and both technology and society are co-related and co-dependent  with each other. Or we can sum-up that technology is now shaping social set-up of societies and communities with positive as well as negative consequences.

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Actually, it is the manner in which people use technology - whether its effects are beneficial or detrimental for society. When we look at positives, we find the impact is magical, making life much easier with improved communication where exchange of thoughts and ideas is happening at lightning speed without boundaries through  mobile phones, email, social media platforms, etc.  It has enhanced the education and learning process with easy to access information.

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Cultural  changes driven by the technology have been radical. Mode of communication is fast losing traditional face-to-face touch today, many people now fumble with face-to-face chat. in other words, most of the people have lost their ability to communicate in real-life situations and all this is influencing the culture. To be precise, it is now technology which is shaping culture of societies/communities.

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JK STORY

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In the context of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Kashmir valley, the Information Technology (IT) revolution has its own tale. This inadvertent intervention has significantly influenced the lives of Generation Z, giving rise to a new Kashmir (Naya Kashmir), what we witness today, quite distinct from the traditional imagery of the old Kashmir.

While these changes have placed Kashmir on the international map, the question lingers: has it truly transformed the face of Kashmir as envisioned? Yet many from the older generation hold the view that the valley was more idyllic in the past, reminiscing about unadulterated food, pure natural water, expansive green spaces, fewer pharmacies, diminished illness overall a happy era.

On the other hand today we have progressed in terms of better infrastructure like roads and buildings, connectivity, trains and better transport facilities, bridges and hospitals, smart projects focused to restructure the city on the pattern of some foreign look alike place.

The influx of Technology:

Kashmir, historically resistant to the rapid influx of technology, has experienced a radical shift in the past decade. The information boom, fueled by the proliferation of the internet, has not just brought connectivity but has, in fact, reshaped the very fabric of Kashmiri society. Reflecting on the not-so-distant past when mobile phones were yet to grace the valley, the introduction of cellular technology in 2003 was nothing short of a fairy tale.

My uncle once shared an interesting incident from the time when cellular phones, as they were quaintly called back then, made their debut in Kashmir. It was an era when only BSNL connections were available, followed by the arrival of Airtel and other cellular operators. During one of those early encounters with this newfound technology, my uncle witnessed a peculiar sight. A person engrossed in conversation on a mobile phone left him perplexed.

At first, he couldn't fathom as to whom the person was talking; the idea of a phone conversation sans visible connection to another person seemed ludicrous. He mistook the person for an imbecile conversing with an invisible entity or perhaps the wall.

Baffled by this seemingly one-sided dialogue, my uncle later recounted the incident to his children. It's when they enlightened him about the marvel of cellular phones. This incident, though not very distant in time, speaks volumes about the transformative power of technology, turning what was once perceived as improbable into an everyday reality.

Why has this transformation been so impactful for Kashmiris?

 

The prolonged era of conflict, spanning nearly three decades, isolated Kashmir from global changes, leaving its people preoccupied with uncertainty and chaos. The introduction of the internet and other IT advancement provided a temporary reprieve, a respite that people embraced after enduring decades of uncertainty and disconnection from the world.

When the IT revolution finally reached Kashmir, it became more than just a technological shift; The mobile revolution, in particular, was a catalyst, compelling Kashmiris to immerse themselves wholeheartedly in the newfound luxury of staying connected.

Switching from landlines to mobile phones brought about a significant change in communication dynamics. It initially brought joy through the freedom of talking or texting- SMSing (a novel feature) from anywhere for extended periods. This transition pronounced a move towards independence and privacy in communication, allowing people to connect on their terms.

The impact of information technology on Kashmiri lives in just two decades is flabbergasting. Even looking back to 2010, which may not seem too distant, reveals a vastly different vista. During that time, people were transitioning from platforms like Messenger and Orkut to the omnipresence of Facebook. The contrast with the 90s is striking; discussing that era feels like recalling the Iron Age when compared to the transformative revolution brought about by IT in Kashmir.

The subsequent surge in mobile internet ushered in a new era, and along with it, the pervasive influence of social media. This shift wasn't exclusive to Kashmir; it reverberated globally. While the world embraced the convenience and connectivity, in Kashmir, the impact was particularly profound.

The burgeoning of smartphones and mobile internet brought a dual-faced transformation. On one hand, it provided unprecedented access to information, communication, and global trends. On the other, the addictive nature of smartphones took hold, altering social dynamics and influencing behavior.

This addiction became a notable aspect of the evolving Kashmir, nevertheless to mention the complexities that come with technological advancement. The subsequent boom in mobile internet and the rise of social media also have repercussions in Kashmir. The youth, in particular, have found refuge and income in the burgeoning field of social media.

Reflecting on history, the trajectory of Kashmiri youth has shifted. While the older generation witnessed a focus on education and the emergence of professionals in various fields, the contemporary scene is witnessing a tilt towards producing entertainment-based professions.

Delving into history, back in Dogra Raj or even before that a typical Kashmiri youth would engage in laborious activities, often facing illiteracy. Contributions in fields such as science, engineering, art, culture, literature, and history were scarce, with only a handful of notable figures like the esteemed Doctor Ali Jaan remembered for their expertise till this day. Education was a privilege, primarily for the more educated Kashmiri Pandits, fluent in languages like Persian, Urdu, and English.

A pivotal shift emerged during the reigns of Bakhshi and the Abdullahs, marking a change in the educational appetite of Kashmiris. This transformation saw the emergence of great doctors, engineers, IAS and IPS officers, as more Kashmiris pursued education and left an indelible mark on various fields.

The subsequent rise of the IT revolution further propelled our evolution, resulting in the creation of intellectual assets. Many Kashmiris found success in their careers, leveraging information technology effectively. This trend continued till social media had not evolved .

It's becoming a norm to see our youth today emerging as social media personalities or shifting towards entertainment related careers. Instead of contributing to fields that align with their educational achievements, a considerable number find themselves engrossed in crafting reels, becoming social media influencers, and creating vlogs or moving to film industry or modelling.

While these pursuits may yield financial gains, there's a concern about the long-term impact and societal contribution of such endeavors. It prompts reflection on whether this trend aligns with the broader goals of societal development and the original shift towards education.

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