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Vantage Point

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences will celebrate the opening of a new building in January. In honor of the occasion, IUP Magazine asked faculty members from the college to answer the following question from the perspective of their disciplines.

How has electronic communication affected society, and how will it continue to do so?

Hans Pedersen, Philosophy

Like most disciplines, philosophy has benefited from the increased ability to communicate with thinkers around the world and to find any scholarly work instantaneously online. However, good philosophical thinking tends to come from deep and sustained engagement with a particular issue. I worry that the ability for and interest in this level of engagement is being eroded by the prevalence of electronic communication. This is not just because of the increasing pressure to condense thoughts to the length of Facebook or Twitter posts but also because of the sheer quantity of different, readily available intellectual work. There is a tendency to gravitate toward the new and exciting, some of which has intellectual merit but still distracts us from the sustained reflection on a single issue required for good philosophy. We tend to be more knowledgeable about everything but lack a deep understanding of anything.

Michele Papakie, Journalism

The American media used to set the public agenda for us. Today, the media looks to its publics’ conversations across the Internet’s thousands of platforms to determine newsworthy topics. Maybe democracy—of the people, by the people, for the people—will return to its purest intentions! Reporters, PR practitioners, and all professional communicators need to remain relentlessly responsible and accountable when determining credible sources and ensuring accuracy and truth in a 24-hour news cycle, as they tackle our country’s important issues that can’t be spewed irresponsibly in 140 characters or less. We must continue to intelligently leverage each of these new technologies to creatively tell the stories that not only educate our citizenry but shape the future of our country.

Gwendolyn Torges, Political Science

The relationship between people and their governments has been transformed by electronic communication. Easier, quicker access to more and better information has allowed more people to become better informed about issues and policy making. This has led to greater engagement—with other citizens, with news stories, with causes, and with policy makers. Greater engagement and improved information foster increased participation in public debate, which ensures that policy makers are exposed to a wider range of views and insights. Citizens have been able to demand—and get—more transparency and accountability than ever before. All of this translates into increased perceived legitimacy and trust in government, which is essential to a well-functioning democracy.

Gian Pagnucci, English

Every second, people send text messages, post on Facebook, and write blog entries. They express themselves, communicate, and tell their stories. Communication is the heart of the discipline of English, and that’s why employers in the digital age seek English majors. English majors learn to craft powerful messages that connect with people. Today’s electronic communication technologies are, really, just fancy digital methods for reading and writing. Texting seems so simple, but write the wrong text or send that text to the wrong audience, and a few words can have devastating consequences. English has always been about the power of words, and so students who study English learn to control words not only to avoid making communication mistakes but also to reach audiences with words that will move them to make the world a better place.

Scott Moore, History

The increasing speed of communication has facilitated the rapid advancement, growth, and exchange of knowledge. As an ever-increasing number of people acquire access to this freely shared information, it has resulted in significant changes. For example, our understanding and interpretation of both the present and historical past is no longer historians’ exclusive domain but is inclusive, since the dialogue is open to everyone and conducted in the Internet’s open forum. These advancements have broken down the barriers of location and time, allowing people to interact with others living around the world and even across time.

More from the Fall-Winter 2015 Issue of IUP Magazine

A Hell of a Ride

‘A Hell of a Ride’

For more than 30 years, IUP safety alumni have boosted the U.S. space program by filling a number of roles at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

Early Bird Research

Early Bird Research

A Natural Sciences and Mathematics program is equipping undergraduates with research experience as well as general career-building skills.

Message from the President

Back in the early ’80s, the stereotype of engineers as lone geniuses was prevalent.... Only later did leaders in engineering practice demand that teamwork, communication, and leadership skills be part of the core education.

Namedroppers | Achievements | Mentors

Photo Gallery | Milestone Generosity | Letters to the Editor

Web Exclusives

Photo Galleries: The Oak Grove and Thomas Sutton Hall

From Wartime to ‘Wild Hour’

The IUP campus is far different from the one Marian Templeton Brown ’45 knew at the height of World War II.

The Haunted Halls of IUP

With Keith and Leonard halls slated for demolition, IUP’s Paranormal Society looks to the future of ghost hunting, minus two campus hot spots.

Dining Innovations

After more than a year of renovations, Folger Hall reopened in October, completing Phase II of IUP’s $37-million dining master plan.

Miracle on the Streets

A peace movement started by an IUP alumnus cut the homicide rate in Boston by nearly 80 percent and has since been emulated around the world.