Keep your heart with all vigilance,

for from it flow the springs of life.

Communications Technology: Lessons from Television

Nordmende television set, 1970s

Nordmende television set, 1970s

With each new advance in communications technology, educators and society respond in an almost predictable pattern: excitement, exaltation, condemnation. These debates may seem like a by-product of the 21st century. Instead, it is at least 50 years old.

I visited 50 Years of Television: An Exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore and was struck by the comments and quotes taken from the time television was introduced. Two quotes particularly stood out as it beautifully captures the divide:

"Frankly, I can't understand why there's such a clamour for something that has been proved to make people more lazy and children more crazy." - Mrs Lucy Teo, letter to the Singapore Free Press, 25 July 1960

"Tonight might well mark the start of a social and cultural revolution in our lives. If used intelligently and responsibly, television can, far more effectively than any other medium of communication broaden the intellectual horizons of the ordinary man." - S. Rajaratnam, Minister for Culture, 15 February 1963

Replace 'television' with your favourite piece of hardware or software and it will be evident that both statements ring true today as much as it did then. The truth in both quotes show that technology is just a tool; more important than the tool is how it is used: Is it being used intelligently and responsibly?

"Twenty-five years after the advent of television in this country, its invasion of national life would seem to be almost total. It is not just in every household; it has entered other major precints like Parliament and schools and now the hawker centre." Russell Heng, The Straits Times, 1 May 1988 

Not a Unique Problem

Clarity of Responsibility