Introduction to: Society and the Internet
Dutton, W. H. and Graham, M. 2014. Introduction. In Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing our Lives, eds M. Graham and W. H. Dutton. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1-20.
28 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2014
Date Written: July 2, 2014
As you introduce yourself to this book, you might find it useful to consider many of the significant ways in which (not) having access to the Internet can alter how you interact with the world around you, such as:
• How you create, get, and distribute information: The Internet might enable you to create content and get access to information more easily and quickly, compared to working in the library, but also make a difference to the extent of your knowledge. Internet-mediated access to information, media, and other content might also shape your movement. Being able to access information electronically means that you can get where you want to be, or meet with people with whom it is important to interact face to face.
• How you communicate with people you know, and how you might meet and interact with people you don’t yet know in your social and worklife: The Internet, social media, and video communication introduce you to new people, as well as helping you keep in touch with old friends and associates. It will shape whom you know as well as how you communicate.
• How you obtain services, from banking and shopping to entertainment, games, and public services: If you decide to shop on the Internet, for example, you might shop from different companies, or purchase services you might not otherwise have known about.
• What technologies link you to the Internet, from wired and wireless infrastructures to devices you carry with you or wear: This will not only shape what technologies you require, but also what know-how you require to live and work in a world of digital media, information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Just as importantly, think of how people use the Internet to get information about you, to communicate with you, to provide you with services, and perhaps even to observe your Internet-mediated behaviour. The Internet is shaping access to you, just as you employ the Internet to shape access to the world (Dutton 1999).
It is also important to put some of the significant ways that the Internet mediates everyday life into historical perspective. It was only slightly more than two decades ago that the Web was invented; it was impossible to use Google or Wikipedia in order to look up information fifteen years ago; we couldn’t use Facebook to connect with friends a decade ago; and even five years ago it was only a small minority of people who had access to the Internet on mobile devices. If the next two decades of Internet time are as transformative as the previous two, it is likely that many of us will be living in a very different technologically, informationally, and algorithmically mediated world. As such, there will be an increased need for sustained inquiry into crucial, critical, and timely questions about the interaction of the Internet and society.
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