event: March 30
Sherrie Rollins Westin, ABC Network Communications
Jill T. Rinehart Distinguished Lecture
12:30 p.m., Carr's Hill
Rollins Westin, ABC Network Communications Leadership Luncheon/
Jill T. Rinehart Distinguished Lecture 12:30 p.m., Carr's
Hill Sherrie Rollins Westin, a 1980 College of Arts & Sciences
alumna, is currently executive vice president for Network
Communications at ABC, and was the highest-ranking woman advisor
in the White House in 1992. Westin will discuss risk-taking
and leadership in the media, as well as the ways in which
new technologies are transforming network television. This
event is open to the public free of charge, but interested
participants are asked to R.S.V.P. by calling 982-2259 by
considers fate of the individual in the face of technological
the media has become increasingly pervasive with its use of technology
and how that affects our individuality were some of the issues
discussed at a Feb. 20 panel on "The Interaction of Technology,
Media and Culture in the 21st Century."
event was part of the "Changing Face of Technology"
series, co-sponsored by the U.Va. Women's
Center, the Virginia
Foundation for the Humanities, Hereford College and the Media
Studies Program. Johanna Drucker, the Robertson Professor
in Media Studies, moderated the talk, which was held at Hereford.
Neeley, associate professor of technology, culture and communication
in the Engineering School, called for reframing the question at
hand. Rather than asking how modern gadgets and the omnipresent
media are shaping our lives, she said, "the right question would
be, What kind of culture do we want? What can the media [and
technology] do to help us achieve that culture?'"
Unsworth, director of the Institute
for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, offered an opposite
view that "most, if not all, of technology's effects are
other than what was intended when the technology was employed."
From the U.S.' post-WWII research into artificial intelligence
came the advent of the Internet and LSD, both of which played
highly unanticipated roles in American life that "put huge
rifts in the social fabric," he noted.
Neeley also acknowledged technology's tendency to drift away from
and sometimes frustrate expectations. As domestic tasks have become
increasingly mechanized, "there have been many points where
technology was said to be about to liberate women [from the home]
but it hasn't happened," she said.
media has used technology to create a world where nearly every
area of life is considered public domain, the panelists said.
The Internet, 24-hour news channels and "reality television"
bombard the public with information and voyeur delights. Advertisements
seep into every empty space.
situation "pushes us towards a feeling of confrontation,
of How do we grapple with this?'" said Drucker, who directs
the media studies program.
imagination will never be a complete prisoner to what
a person sees or hears.
Johanna Drucker Director of the Media Studies Program
earned laughs from the crowd by referring to humans as mere "sentient
pond scum" suffering from sensory overload, and jokingly
theorized that the career of the future will be that of a personal
The role of one familiar "information filter" that has existed
for centuries was also discussed.
library "is an institution that has been charged with the
preservation of our cultural memory," said Judy Thomas, director
of the Robertson Media Center digital media lab. She predicted
that collecting "images and sound not texts
will be primary" in the future.
have been the traditional charge of women, because we're the caretakers,"
Thomas noted. However, men may begin entering the field in increasing
numbers, she observed, as libraries move from simply storing information
to determining how it will be recorded and used.
During the question-and-answer session, one audience member voiced
his fear that the media could have a stifling effect on individual
imagination, effectively killing mental images that are "fluid
and creative and all mine."
the media, television and film do tend to create "cultural lines
of conformity" in our minds, Drucker said, "we still mediate that
stimulus." Pointing out that everyone looks at a film differently,
she expressed confidence that the imagination will never be a
complete prisoner to what one sees or hears.
Neeley observed that the successes of the feminist movement came
in spite of what studies show to have been negative media coverage.
"People chose a point of view other than the media's," she said.
who is also an associate professor of English, mentioned a recent
book by Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines, which predicts
an age of computerized personalities where human melds with machine.
"[The book's] presentation leads you to think this is the only
way things can go," he said.
more immediate concern the panelists discussed is the so-called
"digital divide," the gap between those who have access to increasingly
essential technology and those who do not.
"It's a reflection of who society considers to be a viable consumer,"
Drucker added that the increasing gap between the rich and the
poor, and the shrinking middle class can't be blamed on technology,
but [technology] does increase our awareness of it.
"In a perverse way, it's in the interest of technology markets
to close the digital divide," she said.