A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (Educator, Activist, World Citizen)
“The King of Pop has died”
This was the headline that flooded the media just over two weeks ago. Since that time, Michael Jackson’s death, and in some ways his life, has transcended “the intersection of what we might simplify as technology and society” (Latham and Sassen 2005 p 1). While Latham and Sassen (2005) may have been looking more to political structures being blurred by the lack of traditional boarders in the technological sphere, this case does clearly exemplify many of the points they are attempting to articulate. Further, the reciprocal relationship that Sociologist C. Wright Mills (2000) first introduced in the 1950s and discussed indirectly by Latham and Sassen (2005) is ever-present as the world looks on, participates in, and feels a connection to a greater social structure than they had been before the death of Michael Joseph Jackson on June 25, 2009.
Humans are re-scaling the space of existence within the non-borders of the cyberworld. Every day new images surface, new text emerges, all coded and stored for future use, as well as those immediate ones. People seek out stories and develop ways to participate simultaneously with other Michael Jackson fans, hoping to feel connected in some way.
Whether the fan-dom or the technology is driving the interaction, one may not know for sure. The very structures, digitized in the world of the Internet, clearly “exhibit dynamics of their own that derive from technological capacities that enable specific patterns of interaction” (Latham and Sassen 2005 p 5).
But wouldn’t the interaction be as expansive without the Internet and technological domains?
Possibly, but likely not. There was an instantaneous spread of the information through multitude of technological channels. Ultimately, the availability of (inter)connectivity through these technological channels has changed “the relationship between information and a broad range of entities and conditions” (Latham and Sassen 1005 p5).
The world, or the people in it, simply is not the same as it once was.
People are connected in an electronic space across the globe, an idea some have trouble grasping its full meaning and implications. It is about the merging of the physical world in which one lives and the virtual world in which people are most likely to operate. There is an “expansive range of realized and potential relations and actions that can unfold in and across such environments” (Latham and Sassen 2005 p 10), creating a place where a new social existence is created, an existence taken out of time and space as once was understood.
No longer are social interactions limited by the physical space in which they reside.
At the same time, however, there is a push to maintain a connection to the real world. In the case of Michael Jackson, the virtual world has been flooded with people trying to sell tangible connections to the physical world. A perfect example of how society, even with all the needed technological advances, cannot seem to exist without connection to the past and the physical world.
The social and the technological world are indeed interdependent. In the world today, existence without one or the other would be difficult, if not impossible.
Latham, Robert and Saskia Sassen. 2005. “Digital Formations: Constructing an Object of Study,” in Digital Formations, pp 1-33. Princeton University Press.
Mills, C. Wright. 1959 (2000). The Sociological Imagination, 40th Anniversary Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.