Part I: The communication technology that I chose to assess is one of the most widely used and obvious of all of the technologies: the telephone. We have talked about the technology of the telephone multiple times in lecture, but specifically in the March 16th lecture entitled “You Live in an Interconnected World (Globalization)”. In this lecture we discussed how communication technologies are loaded with identity markers.
Part II: Features of generativity of the telephone:
LEVERAGE: According to Zittrain, leverage “makes a difficult job easier” (71). The job that the technology makes easier is, obviously, communicating with one another. Specifically, communicating across long distances. Before the invention of the telephone, communication took a lot longer and required a lot more effort (i.e. writing letters). But because of the telephone, we can communicate with virtually anyone in the world in mere seconds.
ADAPTIBILITY: Zittrain states that adaptability refers to “how easily the system can be built on or modified to broaden its range of uses” (71). Since its invention, the telephone has proven to be quite adaptable. It is obvious that we have come a long way since the first telephone with new models such as cordless phones and cell phones. Also, the invention of the internet was made possible in part because of the telephone as telephone lines were first used for connecting.
EASE OF MASTERY: Ease of mastery, according to Zittrain, refers to “how easy it is for broad audiences to understand how to adopt and adapt” the technology (72). As we learned in lecture, when the telephone first became a household item, it was somewhat difficult for users to understand how to both answer it and make calls. However, slight confusion can be expected with any new technology. But nowadays, new phones and modifications to phones seem pretty easy for users to adjust to, and the general functionality of the phone has remained constant.
ACCESSIBILITY: Zittrain defines accessibility as how easy it is to obtain access to a technology as well as the “tools and information necessary to achieve mastery” of it (72). As we also learned in lecture, at first telephones were not something that were very often seen in households, but now it would be rare and surprising for you to meet someone that does not have a cell phone.
TRANSFERABILITY: As defined by Zittrain, transferability “indicates how easily changes in the technology can be conveyed to others” (73). I believe that the transferability of telephones would be assessed as pretty high. At first, telephones were really only modified by the professionals. Modifications, such as style, design, and other features such as caller ID, are ever changing. However, more and more we are seeing modifications being made by the users and average Joes. This idea can be seen in the applications designed for the iPhone. Some are developed by professional computer programmers, while some are made by amateurs, young people, and people just doing it for fun.
Part III: I believe that it is very hard to say if communication technologies are generally becoming more or less generative. I am more inclined to say that they are becoming more generative, but there are always exceptions. As I mentioned earlier, the iPhone is a technology that seems to have a high transferability. Also, I believe that the iPhone can be assessed as being very leveraging and adaptable because they help people perform tasks easier (i.e. checking email, accessing the internet, etc) and they have the same general functions of the telephone (i.e. making and receiving calls). However, their ease of mastery would range from user to user, with some people having a very hard time mastering the iPhone and other people understanding it right away. Lastly, as stated earlier, the iPhone has a high transferability, and this can be seen in the different applications. As Zittrain states that “the five qualities of leverage, adaptability, ease of mastery, accessibility, and transferability often reinforce one another” and “the absence of one of these factors may prevent a technology from being generative” (74). This reinforces the idea that it is hard to deem communication technologies as a whole as becoming more or less generative because there are different contributing factors that effect how they are assessed and the generativity for each communication technology will likely be different that that of other technologies.