29 Jan The changing Internet has the same purpose
The most recent work for my Intro Digital Communication class had us delve into the history of the Internet, from its beginnings as a military communications network in the 1960s started by the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to its current state that is increasingly interactive.
The Internet expanded gradually, especially in the research and academic worlds until, eventually — it was let loose for commercial applications after the Cold War ended.
We read a story by Clifford Stoll in 1995, who said he had been part of the Internet world for 20 years already and didn’t think that a chaotic, unfiltered array of voices made available to the world would be beneficial, and he downplayed the Internet’s business possibilities. Selling books online or reading them on a computer? Dear me.
There is something to be said for the joy of reading a real tangible book. You also avoid the possibility of clunking your head on a stiff Kindle when you fall asleep, as some of my classmates mentioned. And the general public needs to be more critical of the information they are consuming. Is it valid? Why? And are they only reading, watching and listening things that back up their existing beliefs? I think it’s our jobs to challenge preconceived notions.
Also as part of our live discussion, we broke out into several group to answer the questions:
- What is the Internet? Our definition was that the internet was built as a platform for people to connect and share information.
- What are the functions of the Internet as a communication tool? We said it is a way to pass information through electronic means, which has grown to fit any platform. The content and availability has changed, but at the core it is still the same: a distributed network.
Now, Stoll also got the Internet’s roll in influencing government leaders wrong. Think Arab Spring, with Twitter’s huge influence as a medium to move people into action. And it happens every day, from letters to the editor to Facebook aligned around particular messages or campaigns. They’re making a difference by connecting people, which was the idea in the first place.