Thinking beyond the Dots: Communication and Technology

By Ward, John R. | Communication World, April 1994 | Go to article overview

Thinking beyond the Dots: Communication and Technology

Ward, John R., Communication World

If you have been working to establish yourself as an indispensable team player in senior management, to be more than a voice buried in the production of a corporate publication, there is hope. Thanks to technology, corporate communication is poised for redefinition.

Communication strategy within an organization is more than a ploy or a clever maneuver. It is a grand plan to engage sources within and without the company toward a strategic use of technology and information. It requires developing a peripheral vision to see and to think beyond the dots. (You do remember the nine-dot square requiring you to connect all nine dots without lifting the pencil off the paper or backtracking, and using no more than four lines?)

When you begin thinking beyond the dots as a matter of course, you may find a world of useful technology at your fingertips. In science and engineering this is standard procedure, however, communicators tend to view technological developments as separate from the communicator's role. Some will adopt new technology willingly, others will come screaming, but the array of communication technologies that is streaking across industries and disciplines will continue to transform the way we manage communication.

According to Stuart Brand in "The Media Lab," "Something big and convergent is happening to the whole gamut of communication media -- television, telephones, recording, film, newspaper, magazines, books, and infesting and transforming them -- computers." What communicator has not already felt the effect of computer technology? We're involved with the integration process whether we like it or not.

A major question for all of us is how to deal with the impact of communication technology and the "information-is-power" syndrome. Information is rapidly becoming the fuel of choice in the operation of the organizational engine. Businesses are organized around information. From a communicator's perspective, technology permits the transmission, storage and use of information well beyond the printed word we are accustomed to using in telling our story. For many of us, "print" has been and remains the communication vehicle of choice. At the same time, we eagerly embrace word processors, computers, cellular phones, facsimile machines, E-mail, video news releases, corporate business television and networking -- all tools to support better communication.

As technologies continue to expand usefulness across disciplines, the communicator must learn to drive the new technologies or lose power. Information technology is reaching into the core of the organization blurring the distinctive lines between human resources, management information systems, engineering, marketing and public relations. The landscape for communicators has become an ever changing kaleidoscope of new developments. Daily we are witnessing information for sale, NEXIS, CompuServe, and some 3,000 databases to fill a growing demand. Digitization is transforming electronic publishing, animation and graphics, videography, photography and voice communication. Developments in one industry breed change across a multitude of unrelated industries. Information will remain the currency of the communicator. What impact has technology had in your business? How are you using technology?

High-tech data management

GPS (Global Positioning System) and GIS (Geographical Information Systems), resulted primarily from military research and development programs. Their rapid adoption by commercial industries inclines me to believe a technological revolution is at hand. This may or may not be true. Because change is indiscriminate across industries, there is bound to be a major effect on the way we use informational technology to communicate. Awareness of technological developments outside of your own shop and industry is vital. Ask yourself what you're doing now that you weren't doing three years ago. The rules of the game will continue to change, ready or not. …

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