WE live in a different world-and it is a mind-boggling world. For one who lived in the days when copy was hand-composed-and what perfectionists were the “composers”-and printing was a laborious process, to live in a world where one speaks casually of internet, intranet, extranet, google and search engines, is to live in a world of maya. In the latest issue of Vidura (July-September), there is an article by Dr Ankuran Dutta and Anamika Ray on e-tools. It is headed by a cartoon showing a young man working on a computer and an elderly person reading a book. Says the young man: “What, you don’t use a computer? Man, I have mails, chats, games, blogs, social networks, forums, movies, music, news, medical advice, books, videos, telecoms…. heck, everything on-line. What do you have?” And the elder replies: “A life”.
Go to any middle class home and the most likely scene one will witness is a youngster sitting in front of a computer, looking deadly serious. He-or she, as the case may be-is resourcing-the correct word is ‘visiting’-a website. Time was when we had books, booklets, pamphlets, leaflets and what have you. Today one visits a website which is basically a set of related web pages, published by an individual or organisation. Website is one of the most popular e-tools for Public relations. Very soon, we are told, Oxford University Press well stop publishing the Oxford English Dictionary, a prized possession in every students home. No longer. In years past, for writing an editorial, or even an article, an editorial writer would call the Library Assistant to send him relevant clippings from newspapers, documentary records etc. Again, no longer. Today he visits the Internet where all information is available and can be “retrieved” by a single catalogue.
Millions of individual files reside in the net. One can use the “Search Engine”-and that’s an entirely different subject. If internet brings the entire globe in one’s study room, intranet is a private computer network system where Internet Protocol Technologies are used. The purpose is to share any part of an organisation’s information or operational systems within that organisation. Intranets are generally restricted to employees of the organisation but extranet may also be accessed by customers, suppliers or other approved parties. Then we have Telnet. Simply stated it means that a person living in some corner of the world can connect to a computer in London or Paris or New York to share his thoughts and ideas. It would take whole book to describe other related gimmicks such as Chatting, Blogging and Conferencing. By now most educated youth can tell you what is meant by RSS-not Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, but Really Simple Syndication, Internet Telephony, FTP (File Transport Protocol), Twitter, Yammer, Orkut, Wiki, Podcast, Linkedin and Facebook.
Folks, don’t get scared if your head is reeling. Leave the youngsters to their fate. They don’t know multiplication tables or how much is 13 by 13 or 16 by 9 or 14 by 18, or even 9 by nine. Sit back and relax. There is so much to live for without having a computer as a threat. Elders complain that their grand-children at home talk less and books largely remain unread. If it is not the computer which is the distraction, it is the Television which is the greater threat to family life. Visuals capture attention. Information is “Breaking News”. What would a child think watching children of his age throwing stones at soldiers in Srinagar? What kind of education are we giving to our children?
Actually, Vidura also has an article by Syeda Afsana, Senior Assistant Professor in Media Education Centre, University of Kashmir, on the subject of TV news coverage as a reckoning force. Ms Afsana was referring to the coverage of the crumbling structures of the World Trade Centre in New York. The American channel producers were very wise. True, dramatic was the way the whole thing was caught live on cameras and broadcast worldwide. The coverage was non-stop, saturating, as Afsana put it. The stunning images and frightening visuals shaped the nucleus. However, Afsana notes: “A semblance of sombre sensitivity was observed. No blood and gore was televised. There were no shots of bodies, no gruesome picture of arms and legs sticking out of the rubble….”
Compare that with Indian TV channels showing 10-year old children throwing stones at Indian Army men, their faces livid and twisted with rage. What is it that our channels are trying to communicate? Hate? The former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India, Justice KG Balakrishnan, addressing an international conference of Jurists, on Terrorism, Rule of Law and Human Rights in New Delhi in December 2008, said: “In India, the proliferation of 24 hour TV news channels and the digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing images and statements reach a very wide audience. One of the ill-effects of unrestrained coverage is that of provoking anger among the masses. While it is fair for the media to prompt public criticism of inadequacies in the security and law-enforcement apparatus, there is also a possibility of such resentment turning into an irrational desire for retribution.” Afsana herself pointed out that the impact of TV image is colossal and that ” a powerful visual, no matter whether it is doctored or unfair, is almost impossible to refute..”