Today we live in the electronic age when information and services are at our fingertips. Everywhere consumers turn, we see the advancement of technology and its effects on the changing landscape of the city and the way we live. We are experiencing a digital revolution. People cannot keep up with the rapid advancement of technology.

Many Torontonians bear the mark of technology. People today lead fast-paced lives, they rely on cellular phones, pagers, and Internet to stay connected. Cities across the world have been transformed into a Global Village, in which the world is seen as one interdependent community linked by telecommunications, according to geographer Marshall McLuhan.

For the field project, we would like to explore the changing industry of telecommunications in Toronto. The development of new communication technologies has vastly changed the landscape of the city. Most people carry cellular phones or beepers as pay phones are becoming a relic of the past. People are turning away from traditional services such as bank tellers, ticket booths, and shopping in stores and are leaning towards newer, more convenient mediums such as ATMs, computer operated ticket kiosks and shopping on the internet. The signs of the technological revolution are evident around the city. (See "Toronto In Pictures")

In the past ten years, technology has transformed the lives of millions of people world-wide, and Toronto is no exception. We can buy our groceries online. GroceryGateway.com makes it possible for the family to come home and have fresh groceries waiting for them. Long line-ups and unnecessary user fees are a thing of the past. We can pay our bills from the comfort of our own homes, 24 hours a day. The online auction site e-Bay.com has taken garage sales to the global marketplace. People can sell and buy anything on the Web, from houses to porcelain dolls.

Among the negative economic effects of technology has been the demise of the music industry, such as evidenced by the closing of Tower Records in Toronto last year. With the advent of music sharing and CD burners, users can sample new music free of cost. They can also download infinite amounts of music on their PC's and customize them onto a writeable disk for a fraction of the price of a manufactured CD. They are no longer victims of over pricing and over hyped products. With the emergence of online banking, more people are paying their bills electronically. They no longer have to endure long line-ups at the bank and high user fees. More banks are moving towards the wireless trend. ATMs are now cluttering the urban landscape. The retail sector is also booming as a result of the emergence of e-commerce. Interac has become a mainstay in the retail industry. Instead of paying cash, people swipe their bank cards into the machine, and their money is electronically deducted from their account. Banks are now moving towards advertising outside products in their ATMs. Consumers are now finding it easier to do their daily transactions without stepping foot in a bank. (See "Economic" for clippings chronicling the effect that technology has had on Toronto's economics)

Technology has also changed the landscape of the city. For example, technology has made it possible for people to communicate instantaneously in real time through the Internet. The popularity of ICQ, chat rooms, AOL and MSN instant messengers has connected millions of people from around the world, creating a Global Village. Postal officials report that "snail mail" appears to be heading for a steady decline, as it is not as popular as newer and faster technologies like e-mail. Canada Post spokesman John Caines said mail volume dropped slightly over past the five years, falling by about one or two per cent each year ("Canada Post hikes prices", Cambridge Reporter newspaper). (See "Environmental" for clippings concerning the effect that technology has had on the environment of Toronto)

The social effects of technology include the fragmegration, or the fundamental link between global interdependence and fragmentation. The fusion of global and local interests is shown through the stronger presence of cyber-activists, non-profit organizations and other advocacy groups and sites online. For example, Oxfam Canada (www.oxfam.ca) conducts a considerable amount of its advocacy work through online correspondence with volunteers and organizations across the country. The Internet has also seen the emergence of cultural communities, which is an example of the its fragmentation. For example, AsianAvenue.com allows Asians from all over the world to communicate with each other through members' Web pages and chat rooms. The digital divide is also being bridged by technology. For example, the government of Canada's Community Access Program (CAP) gives Canadians free public access to the Internet and the support and training they need to use it effectively. Computer and Internet access are available in various public facilities, such as libraries, homeless shelters and community centers. Access to technology encourages the have-nots to obtain important computer skills, which are essential in the world of work. (See "Social" for more information about how technology is changing the social aspects of Toronto)

In the 21st century, technology is playing a more integral role than ever before. It's changing not only the way humans function, but also the form of the city. As technology advances, the city and its people will change with it.

 

~~~ Glenn Calderon, Christl Dabu, & John Qubti ~~~

 


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