The communication technology I have chosen for this blog post is the intercom system. An intercom system is found anywhere from homes to airports and enables a cross-communication between two or more parties. In a basic set-up the intercom system allows someone in one room to press a button and transmit an oral message to a receiver in another room. This provides an efficient method for communication and is convenient in a large building or house. The dystopian consequence of the intercom system is that someone may secretly eavesdrop on another person having a conversation by easily pressing a button that connects to a separate room.
A few communication technologies come to mind from 1984 as being comparable to today’s intercom system. The first is the surveillance microphone found in the trees and bushes of the outdoors and the second is the seemingly ubiquitous telescreen. When Winston meets Julia in the forest for their first meeting, for example, they survey the nature and Julia decides that the trees are too thin to hold microphones in them, thus their location is “safe” from the Party and Big Brother. Likewise, when Julia and Winston meet in the rented room on top of Mr. Charrington’s shop, they are delighted that they can relax in the serenity of having no telescreen. Without the presence of the telescreen in their room, they develop a safe haven, in which they can drink real coffee, make love, Julia can wear makeup and Winston can read The Book.
In analyzing the intercom as a communication technology, it is not fair to claim that the intercom is an inherently dystopian technology. Indeed the efficiency by which messages can transfer from humans, or the safety by which airport personnel can make important announcements over the booming intercom system is quite useful in our society. Particularly in a school setting, a principal may make a critical message over the intercom system that can be hear by everyone in the building.
One communication technology that comes to mind as being essentially dystopian in its nature is wiretapping. When the Federal Government of the US sanctions the use of wiretapping, there is most likely a negative concern that gives rise to the need for wiretapping. Perhaps the concern is the people who live in the US are secretly discussing ways to overthrow the democracy of the country and plan a terrorist attack. I have yet to hear of a positive outcome from a wiretapping case.