How does technology of communication influence the nature and identity of community?

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How does technology of communication influence the nature and identity of community?

Technology has dramatically influenced the way in which communities are understood. With

the invention of new technology, it can be argued that technology has steadily allowed more

and more people to simultaneously interact and to share their perceptions of the world beyond

boundaries of physical proximity. Joshua Barker and Sharon Kelly in “Technology and

Nationalism” in Guntram Herb and David Kaplan (eds), Nations and Nationalism: A Global

Historical Overview, Vol. 1, ABC- CLIO, Santa Barbara, (2008, pg. 130) explain that

“modern technologies caused people to interact with one another in ways previously not

possible and broke down many old divisions, both geographical and social. This in turn

precipitated a shift in how people understood their role in society and the place of their

society in the broader world.”  Humans get their sense of identity in part of their involvement

in the communities in which they interact and so technology has radically changed the idea of

what a community is as the birth of print and technology created “imagined communities”.

Prior to the arrival of technology most communities were face to face and so to speak of

“imagined communities” is a referral to communities that are not face to face. With the face

to face communities eroding, people turn to the “imagined communities” of the nation,

achieving a sense of self-identity through the “imagined community”.


This paper sets out to explore how technology of communication in particular, influence the

nature and identity of community.

In order to understand how technology has influenced the way communities are

understood today in a modern context, it is necessary to first understand what the basis and

history of a community was before technology came and shaped the way we view

community. Andrew Webster in Lecture 3 of Ideas in Action (SSH100) entitled “The

technology of imagined communities” explains that previously community was found to be

entirely local for most of human history. Information came by means of travelers or story

tellers who brought news of the world outside and information was passed around at summer

gatherings. These gatherings can be compared to the internet or newspapers of today. It was

an oral tradition of passing information from person to person. As such, knowledge in that

particular sense was experiential. The knowledge they possessed was very limited. This pre-

modern age was a world that understood knowledge in terms of the spoken word which was

received directly face to face with little change over time and narrow boundaries. Face to face

communities were more prevalent and abounding as compared to today.

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Furthermore, prior to the rise of the nation, governments explained to people why they have

the right to conquer them. They called it their divine right that God gave them the power to

do so. Both Joshua Barker and Sharon Kelly in “Technology and Nationalism” maintain that

“Prior to the 18th century, large-scale communities took the form of monarchies and religious

communities. Neither of these kinds of communities endowed their members with inalienable

rights. Whereas monarchies imagined persons to be subjects and religious communities

imagined them ...

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