When I started work as a journalist, the technology was primitive. We used manual typewriters and carbon paper to print multiple copies of stories which were sorted into baskets so that they could be distributed by teleprinter to be later read on the radio. Back then, even this technology was so new to me that I had to teach myself to type…and I was in such a hurry to get a job that I only learned to do so by using four fingers with one hand and only two fingers with the other. My first typewriter, a red Olivetti manual portable made in Spain, was a design classic displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. But since then, manual and then electric typewriters and five or six generations of computers; main frames, desk tops and now even lap tops have become obsolete.
The first wave of the communications revolution engulfing us, is obvious everywhere; the digitisation of content distributed by the internet, resulting in democratised production, interaction and the forging of new alliances. Geographically centred organisations are being superseded by global communities of ideas.
A decade or so ago, I co-wrote a book, Reporting Hong Kong, about international media reaction to Hong Kong’s transition to China. The field work was conducted in Guangzhou, the research in Hong Kong, the writing in Yeppoon near Rockhampton, the editing in Brisbane, and the publishing in New York and London. Its still sold on the internet on Amazon.com. Its now cheaper and even easier to create sophisticated education tools and communicate them to collaborators and students. I work almost daily with Skype, meeting with academics and journalists in the United States, Europe and Asia.
The second wave of the communications social revolution is still gathering strength, even though its sometimes unrecognised in Western influenced countries like Australia. This wave for change is empowered by the first. It’s the growth of the of Asian Pacific internet exchanges, overwhelming two centuries of western dominance.
Microsoft founder, Bill Gates once said that in the future, intellectual workers will only need a computer and internet access, to find employment across the world. That was back in the twentieth century.
What was Bill Gates’ future is now.
But I still type with five fingers on one hand and with one finger on the other. Technology changes all the time. But old media habits are hard to break.