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The Role of Internet as a Social Technology

Introduction

Although it is difficult to predict all social effects of the Internet, still this paper aims to discuss and measure the Internet as a social platform having a profound effect on our lives. This measurement is done in context with the community and the social construction of the Internet, which today has led to a merging of communication technologies, through which our lives have become domesticated.

It is no longer solely the horizon of white, male computer scientists and academics. The current discourse surrounding the social issues of the Internet declares it as a necessary social community and communication tool for the knowledge-based economy of this century. What is fascinating about this communication media is that it can introduce to us the new dimensions of social interaction and the issues that take place between the public and private social spheres of technology and users. An interesting aspect underlying this social interaction is that it is based on a community grounded on virtual reality, even in a virtual environment where everything is virtual except the social community.

Learning possesses the potential to incur social change and such change based on the virtual environment results in a real change (Griffith, 2009). The social community enables the user to experience people sharing culture, language, traditions, and much more, including interests such as making a community or neighborhood a better place to live and raise children. Hence, a social community may in part be virtual but it is limited to be in ‘real’ according to the requirements to make it a social community.

Hence, social communities are grounded in social networks and thus are based on social interactions between individuals sharing culture, living space, and possibly values and between the commercial versus the nonprofit sectors where it has been able to provide us with new multifaceted definitions of communities and the debate in the global arena (Gattiker, 2001, p. 15).

Social construction and Feminism

Many social communities declare the Internet communication portal as a social constructivist agenda that takes place while not considering gender as constitutive of the relevant social groups, thereby witnessing various case studies. An example of gender dominance in technological sciences is the notable exception by Ruth Schwartz Cowan, which she encouraged by taking into account the historical significance of home cooking in the U.S., where she outlined the introduced the ‘consumption junction’ (Shade, 2002, p. 6).

She analyzed it as the time at which the consumer is free to make choices between competing technologies and the place where technologies begin to reorganize social behavior. By focusing on the consumer, in a social context, the social implications of technologies for individuals and communities can be more easily understood.

In 1992, Claude Fischer made an initiative by recommending that analysis of emergent technologies requires social issues to be examined under the virtual environment of technology (ibid). This he did through examining the effect on their everyday lives, and the change in social structure as a result of the collective use and response towards a technology. He emphasized the uses of the telephone and declared that it is the agency of female consumers who adopt the technology of the telephone for myriad social uses, against the predisposed imperatives of the commercial vendors, and even that without cognitive dissonance.

Feminist analyses on social uses of technology have taken a professed political attitude while concerning the implications of technologies for women, their work, reproduction, and consumption, and in the wider spheres of the feminine domain, while considering various feminist fields like nutrition, gardening, contraception and childbirth useful sites in the domain of social construction. Some of the reckoning phenomenon that the feminist socio-technical domain considers include rectification of the historiographical omission of the contributions and participation of women in technological innovation, design, and use.

Furthermore many social sites are still on their way to provide women with the best of innovative techniques such as domestic technologies and examining the historical exclusion of women from the domain of technology, particularly in the labor process. This examines what technologies provide women’s values by encompassing feminist political-economic values since it is also a feasible arena to see issues in the depth of gender and the Internet. Feminist communication scholars have always traditionally aligned themselves within cultural studies, therefore social networks entail cultural values.

Social Communities, Culture, and Virtual Ethnicity

Apart from feminism, how new communication technologies have infiltrated a culture is a nexus between the traditional society of gatherers and advanced post-industrial society (Trevor, 2000). Such a traditional understanding of social communities reflects evolving and being in part based on people sharing culture, language, experiences, and folklore, and experiencing and interpreting events such as natural disasters similarly.

The virtual community is subjected to the notion that meeting a person face-to-face is not possible, although membership can change by having people sign on or off as they wish. As compared to a socially organized building, members may know each other by having worked for the association or by having met and talked during lunch or dinner. But even in housing cooperation, community spirit may be limited to owning part of the building and changes as well as the developments affecting one’s quality of living and equity value of one’s share in the building.

Cultural settings often criticize that such a social environment that remains virtual is ineffective for the reason that strength of social ties depend upon a close social community sharing the same cultural trends, nearby geographical proximity whereas weak ties or acquaintances are usually those that remain far away, and do not share same ties. Thus, Internet social settings have patched up this perception of ‘weaker’ cultural ties and have proven this notion wrong that only the same culture can share a strong social bond.

With digitized culture, and global ethnicity comes virtual ethnicity which in the era of enlightenment discourse, has retained its hegemony in primitive societies. Today, virtual culture has made spontaneous identification difficult with one’s local group, as a result, a natural parochialism has emerged in the minds of community users. A narrow attitude has precluded the saturation of daily life with globalized media, where a person is continually confronted with people who are different from his tribe, kin, ethnicity, and race (Poster, 2001, p. 148).

Therefore the Internet social culture has developed a postmodern ethnicity that is mediated by an increasingly technological social world. It seems all cultures have selected high technology society for development communication, particularly from Asian and African societies, where conventional challenges seek technological assistance for examining different options suited to different communication needs (Trevor, 2000).

Consumer Technology

Social communities as consumers in the light of interactive media can seek out the required information about several products and services from their homes in which they are interested. Additionally, in a competitive environment, such as when a customer uses an Internet search engine, the consumer has the additional option of looking at a competitor’s offering and information at a relatively low cost in terms of time and effort. It is through the efforts of social technology that the potential consumer can even initiate or join in dialogue with other interested parties and perceives this medium even more beneficial is that these services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Consumers are free to express their concerns regarding the products since the primary goal in such an approach has been media efficiency, which provides online support through various communication panels so that customers can express their concerns freely.

Social gathering is an effective mode of promotion of products and services which in addition to allowing customers full control over the information accessed, provides security in online purchasing, including the order and extent of the information, that allows interaction that is conceivable that the customer thinks he is having a conversation with the web page. Such a communicative panel that seems virtual is real and programmed to ask questions and to respond to consumers’ answers or other input such as requests or questions.

Online advertising is an effective mode of affording consumers’ taste in context with the opportunity to perform in-depth analyses of the product or service and/or company’s claims relative to their products or services. Such interactivity also refers to the ability of marketers to customize their communications to the personality style or needs of particular consumers.

From social communities to social movements

Social movement watchers are skeptical about what the new media offers to the international communities, so they are looking forward to long-lasting reliable movements that determine the fate of social communities in the long run (Aelst & Walgrave, 2004). Communities forming movements believe that interpersonal networks that have always witnessed and based their gatherings through ‘meeting in person cannot simply be replaced by new virtual contacts created by the Internet. Theorists like van de Donk and Foederer (2001) remained dubious for if virtual demonstrations can work without the ‘real time’ emotions and thrills of participating in real direct action (ibid).

Observations reported in Aelst & Walgrave (2004) indicate that digital communication practices have now taken the form of diversified political effects on the growth and forms of global activism. These effects are not limited to the new media organizational dynamics and patterns of change to global political relations that incur between activists, opponents, and spectator publics.

Furthermore, patterns of individual participation are a reflection of hyperlinked communication networks that enable online users and individuals to find multiple points of entry into varieties of political action. Moreover, it is through the political repetition of social networks and communication channels that frequent channel networks create organizational durability and as the focus of action shifts across different events, campaigns, and targets (Loader & Nixon, 2004, p. 124). It would not be wrong to say that it is the start of a meaningful relationship between communication practices and the evolution of democracy itself.

There is a significant role of politics and identity in cyberspace in which we consider Brewer’s (2001) reflections about the impact of new communication technologies on rural women’s lives, and particularly the extent to which these technologies have facilitated the political agendas of women in rural Australia. The discussion list which was published in 1998 in the name of Asia, was to support the political and social activities of network members in which AWiA women were engaged in the technology to constitute new identities for themselves, far removed from the traditional construction of women on farms (Loader & Nixon, 2004, p. 259). These served as political activist identities which traced this evolutionary process in which the women’s use of technology has reshaped and shifted notions of ‘public’ and ‘private’.

With the concept of framing, social movement (SM) theory emerged and problematized the values, issues, and interests that provide an entire SM common pattern of perception, interpretation, and a sense of direction in action. Social movement organizations (SMO) instead of influencing public interests that are given, forms no influence on the values and preferences of collective actors which are seen as resulting from a process that develops over time and which may seek to achieve goals such as challenging the dominant codes of society.

Cyberpunks

Bruce Sterling explains in his introduction to the 1986 cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades that cyberpunk authors are the first generation of science fiction writers to grow up in a science fictional world (Henderson, 1997, p. 42). The main concept behind the cyberpunk anthology resembles today’s cyber world where everything is possible virtually. The underlying concept of the future relies much more heavily on developing a projection from the present and the world full of imaginations, as a reflection of the present. At the time of this anthology, many theorists believe that the future never would remain imaginative, and time has proved it.

What is implied is the ultimate historical breakdown, where we can no longer perceive or expect the future to evolve as science fiction but, an outright representation of the present. Cyberpunk people are systematized and possess technologically enhanced systems of a modern generation, such systems possess full control over cyberpunks and influence them by either a dominating corporation or a fundamentalist theology. In either case, the participants in these systems have neither the freedom of expression nor action enjoyed by people today (ibid). The same is what is happening today, the use of invasive technologies, the systems have manipulated not only our behavior but also our thoughts where we create imaginary virtual worlds through the use of virtual technologies.

Drawbacks

With the advancement of social technology, threats have been broadened in the form of computer porn or pornography. Developments in interactive computerized pornography and virtual reality and infused aggravation and corruption on a larger scale, where innocence and decency of our youth have been under threat by such immorality spread by computer porn (Craig & Petley, pp. 189). Nonetheless, in a high-tech, media-saturated, postmodern culture, the image of pornography in the popular consciousness has changed almost completely where once it was considered as the set of values to be a threat for youth, today pornography engenders predictable responses, escorting to censorship.

Censorship has been an antidote for pornography, which is still as powerful, but instead of thinking only about censorship and sleaze, think about pornography and you think about the Internet. A current concern in digital media is the proliferation of child pornography that has appeared to the fore in the public consciousness at the same time when there is a growing trend of social networking sites and digital forums. It seems with the digitalization of new media, law, cyberspace, and pornography have also formed a novel and rather an unholy trinity against a background of a subculture where it is now socially acceptable and practically expected to use the technology of the Internet to seek out sexually explicit sites.

From a national security perspective, law enforcement agencies are confronting the difficult situation of keeping themselves updated while remaining aware of the technology used by criminals (Samoriski, 2002). This is so because cybercriminals not only plan criminal acts but are always up to planning about the disruption of the infrastructure of the Internet. Criminal activities take place in a variety of social settings where it is not necessary to commit with or against information systems. Telecommunication services are an example, where the phone freaks of three decades ago set a precedent for what has become a major criminal industry.

The market for stolen communications services is now immensely populated for there are those who simply seek to avoid or to obtain a discount on the cost of a telephone call, whilst there are others, such as illegal immigrants, who are unable to acquire legitimate information services without disclosing their identity and their status. There are others who on this interactive media seek appropriate information services to initiate illicit or legitimate business but under the name of lesser risk of detection. All these threats pose a significant challenge to not only the social and cultural technology but to carriers and service providers and to the general public, who often bear the financial burden of fraud.

References

Aelst Peter Van & Walgrave Stefaan, (2004) New media, new movements?: the role of the internet in shaping the ‘anti-globalization’ movement, pp. 97-122.

Craig Thomas & Petley Julian, Invasion of the Internet abusers: marketing fears about the information superhighway, pp. 186-201.

Douglas Kellner, (1995) Media culture: Cultural studies, identity and politics between the modern and the postmodern, London: Routledge. Ch. 9. Mapping the present from the future: from Baudrillard to cyberpunk, pp. 297-330.

Gattiker E. Urs, (2001) The Internet as a Diverse Community: Cultural, Organizational, and Political Issues: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ.

Griffith 2009. Web.

Henderson P. James, (1997) The State of the History of Economics: Proceedings of the History of Economics Society: Routledge : London.

Loader D. Brian & Nixon G. Paul, (2004) Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social Movements: Routledge: New York.

Poster Mark, (2001) What’s the Matter with the Internet?: University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Samoriski Jan, (2002) Issues in cyberspace: communication, technology, law and society on the internet frontier. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Ch 1. Communication, society, regulation and the internet frontier, pp. 8-9.

Shade Leslie Regan, (2002) Gender & Community in the Social Construction of the Internet: Peter Lang: New York.

Trevor Barr, (2000) Newmedia.com.au: the changing face of Australia’s media and communications. St. Leonards, N. S. W. Allen & Unwin. Ch. 2. Forces for change: Communications as a catalyst, pp. 20-39.