At the center of any group’s material culture is technology. Anything that a member of the group makes, as well as the process that is used when making that object, is technology. It is clear that an aspect of culture that is this broad will have a profound impact on society. Emerging technologies continue to advance how people interact, from daily conversation to mass broadcasting.
Generally, emerging technologies are small changes to what is already in place. From time to time, however, these changes can have significant impact on society as we know it. These changes are defined today by the term “new technology”. In the early 1900s the new technology was the automobile. Today it’s generally related to computers and other mass media devices.
The importance of this new technology, however, does not lie within the item itself. Rather, the technology that a society has gets the ball rolling for other nonmaterial culture. Technology impacts how people think and how they relate to one another. A good model of this is the technology of the telephone. Before this innovation, people had to wait days or weeks to transfer information via the post office or messenger. Often citizens living in the rural south would not receive news related to elections, war, or other important events. With the telephone, information could be transferred instantly, and decisions and progress could be made much faster based on the information.
For much of human history, communication was slow. Because of this, certain sects of people tend to develop distinctive ways of life. An extreme example of this would be the Tasmanians, who were isolated on an island off of the coast of Australia. Their lack of contact with other humans resulted in a lack of knowledge of what clothing is, and how to make fire. Even today we can see the aftereffects of this type of isolation, as many cultures still hold dated customs and rituals that would not be considered relevant in modern American society. While the tribal dances and ritualistic drums of New Guinea seem ridiculous to Americans today, it is simply a result of staggered advances in communication.