Mosco writes at length about what he sees as certain absurdity in the narrative surrounding technology and the current time. He critiques heavily the concept that human beings are now living in a truly transformative age. While Mosco does not necessarily disagree with those who would assert that computers and technology are important, he suggests that perhaps the writings surrounding the meaning of today’s technology are shrouded in myth. He uses many examples to highlight that society has elevated the current technological advanced—including computing and the Internet—to mythical status. It is critical to understand technology through this frame because it provides a link between what human beings are doing in this society and what they have always done. There is one problem with humankind living in the existing universe. With millions of years of history, human beings on the planet at any given time are only a small speck in reference to what has happened and what will happen. Human beings, then, have a difficult time recognizing their place in history and contextualizing their own impact. By framing the current rise of technology in terms of mythology, the author is demonstrating that we are no different from those other societies in the past who, like us, had a limited capacity o appreciate the historical context of their own knowledge or developments.
Mosco outlines many different elements that make something a myth. For instance, he writes that a myth is characterized by some inoculation, or “the admission of a little evil into the mythic universe to protect against a more substantial attack” (Mosco 34). In essence, he is writing that when building a myth, the myth builders must allow for some weaknesses in the myth to protect against accusations of the myth not being realistic. In the context of the Internet and technology, Mosco points out that people can do bad things on the Internet, that privacy breaches take place more easily with technology, and that there are patches in the service that mean some people are not allowed to participate in this societal movement. The myth must be inoculated with these small problems to protect it against claims of bigger, more damaging problems. Toffler’s book Future Shock demonstrates this even in the entire concept that led to the name of the book. In that work, Toffler writes about the life-changing nature of technology and how the 21st century is changing almost everything around human beings. However, with this kind of change comes a sort of “future shock,” or a culture shock on steroids that can make life more difficult on average people. He writes of “future shock,” “It is culture shock in one’s own society. For most Peace Corps men, in fact most travelers, have the comforting knowledge that the culture they left behind will be there to return to. The victim of future shock does not” (Toffler 11). In doing this, Toffler is letting into the equation a slight negative in order to protect the myth from bigger attacks. The negative, in this case, is that society can change so rapidly that people are forced to deal with the loss of their cultural center. In comparison to all of the other things that might be said about changes in society, this is a relatively small “evil,” and demonstrates clearly Mosco’s point about the inoculation of the myth against bigger danger.
Mosco also discusses the denial and transcendence of history as one of the ways myth builders tend to build the myth. In the context of new technology, he notes that there is an encouraging effect whereby writers ignore history because the Internet and new communication are something entirely new. If these things are entirely new, they suggest, then what good will it do to examine history? In this, the myth builders are suggesting that today’s changes transcend history, which demonstrates a weakness in the argument. It is myth because it needs to ignore history and push it aside because of the potentially damaging effects of analyzing that history. Toffler demonstrates this clearly in his work, as he dismisses the other important things that have happened in history offhand without any real reason for doing so. He is simply willing to note the transcendent nature of current technology without any desire to acknowledge the things that have happened in the past that might have been considered just as important by the people who lived through those changes. To this point, he writes, “For what is occurring now is in all likelihood bigger, deeper, and more important than the Industrial Revolution” (Toffler 12). Toffler builds the myth by suggesting that the Industrial Revolution was just a thing that happened, but the new development of technology is more than that, being bigger, deeper, and more meaningful within the context of history. While the Industrial Revolution was history, the new movement transcends history. This is a perfect example of the myth Mosco describes in his work.
Surely Toffler’s work is a great example not only of how the myth is created, but of why it is critical to view these things in terms of mythology. People have long had a desire to believe their time, their developments, and their accomplishments were the world’s best and most meaningful. Understanding this in terms of a myth is an excellent way of demonstrating that what is being done now—in terms of building up one’s own society as the most important—is no different than what has always been done.
- Mosco, Vincent. The digital sublime: Myth, power, and cyberspace. MIT Press, 2005. Toffler, Alvin. Future shock. Bantam, 1990.