During the last two decades, we have witnessed how fast the evolution of both digital and mobile phone communications have changed our lives. Every day a new technology emergies and we are fast to consume, because we are told the new is better than the previous one. There have emerged also many companies and brands that sell the same products, each one trying to outdo the other one. A lot of resources are going into advertisement of the products. We are told that life without this or that product is not good, complete or enjoyable. Many of us have believed so and we are buying and buying without a second thought.
But wait a minute. One would ask what is the undelying factor behind the digital and mobile technologies that have made their combination the most influencial tool of communication in the modern man world? The answer is what I call the “Audio-Visual Factor”. Towards the end of the 1990s and the begining of 2000s, is when the mobile phones started catching momentum in our lives. Though it was expensive to own and maintain a mobile phone, many people made sacrifices to own one. I remember when I bought my first mobile phone in 2004 – Sagem 922, I stayed for two weeks without using it because I could not afford to buy the line which was costing Ksh 300, without mentioning the cost of calling and sending messages.
One thing I have noticed since then, is how the nature of the mobile phone has evolved. In the beginning, the only functional difference between the mobile phone and the landline phone was just that it was mobile. Instead of having to go to the telephone booth to call or to the post office to send a telegram, one could do these to major communication activities in the comfort of his or her bed. Slowly the mobile technology started embracing the digital technology.
This marked the begining of mobile digital technology that has since revolutionalized the mobile phone communication and as a result our lives and how we do things. The then majory audio and text messaging became also visual. Experts say that the combination of audio and visual senses is the most influencial learning and communicating tool in the human kingdom. The audio-visual communication therefore becomes the most effective way of delivering the information that have very striking impact on the mind of the person. Today with the 3D function, communication has become almost tangible.
Another interesting feature that I have observed its evolution and importance for the last 15 years is the SCREEN OF THE MOBILE PHONES. When the mobile phones started reaching our markets, the screen ocupied between 10%-30% of the front side of the phone. However, with the combination of digital function, the screens of our mobile phones have gone bigger and bigger up to 99% if not 100% of the entire front side of the phone. The incorporation of the touch-screen function has also made away with the buttons making it possible to maximize the screen and increase the visual space.
This Audio-visual-factor has become the most influencial too to capture the minds of the people and influence their decisions. Today one does not need a computer in order to access the internet and most of the computer functions are now available in the mobile phones. This has made it extremely difficult to censor and regulate the consumption of information by both adults and minors. Everyone with a digital mobile can easily access every information in the internet. This has not been helping much in protecting especailly the monors from what i will call “bad-digital-content” and what is now known as the Cyber Crime or stealing of personal and commercial information. Most of the marketing is now online and everyone who has a product can sell it by advertizing online at a very minimal cost especially on social media. It is no longer in the power of the parents, gaurdians or religious leaders to protect the children from bad-digital-content.
This is why a change of tactic in the way we teach good values to our people has to style up. There is a saying in Swahili that: “Dawa ya moto ni moto” meaning that “the medicine of fire is fire”. I believe there is no other better way to curb the bad-digital-content influence to our people other than the same digital technology. This means using the same technology to influence our people positively. In order to achieve this, we need, among others, the following measures:
- To create good-to-consume digital content in order to counter the bad one.
- To educate our children and the society in general on how to access this content.
- To make the content we want people to consume more attractive than the bad one.
- To make our good content affordable and easier to access than the bad one.
- To teach our people how to create and upload good content in the internet.
- To make the digital gadgets part our learning tools.
- To abandon the prejudice of the internet immigrants towards its use.
- To update our content and make it respond to the evolving times.
This is what has influenced me as a priest and a teacher on to venture into the vast digital world because I have realized that, in order to make any positive influence and contribution in our society, we cannot burry our heads in the sad and think that digital communication is always bad. Those of us who were born before the digital revolution can be referred to us immigrant into digital world and those born into it as natives. It is therefore the responsibility of us the immigrants to learn the native language of the young people we are serving, and not to use the old standards and methods to judge and teach the present generation respectively. If we do not do that, we risk becoming irrelevant to the very society we want to change for better.
In my part, I a have taken it as a personal responsibility as an educator to produce as much good-digital-content as I can. What are you doing in your part?
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD