Jaron Lanier, an early internet pioneer and author of You are Not a Gadget, is an outspoken critic of digital utopianism – the unexamined belief that technological change always represents progress. Lanier is a computer scientist and, now, an employee of Microsoft – yet he argues that new technologies (MIDI, for musicians, Facebook and Twitter, for everybody) can have dehumanizing effects – limiting our range of expression and diminishing our sense of ourselves.
Communication is essential to every area of human endeavor, and in our social-media-driven world, we are presumably communicating more than ever. But the rapid proliferation of tools and channels means we need to become experts at evaluating the benefits and limitations of each. The medium may not be the whole message, but in a world where arbitrary limitations like 140 characters are becoming increasingly commonplace, it’s a very important part.