Internet and Society
The Internet and American Society
In the history of humankind there have been very few inventions which have completely transformed human society. Inventions like the wheel, agriculture, astronomy and geometry have all transformed humankind from uncivilized barbarians into a creatures of culture and society. The invention of science, discovery of electricity, the atom, and other inventions have then propelled the human race forward into a more technologically society, one which is primarily an information-based society. As a result of these technological advancements, scientists have been able to create something that has again transformed human society, one which has in a relatively short time, infiltrated every aspect of scholarship, research, business, and life in general. Beginning with the computer, and an idea that many computers could be joined together and their information shared; scientists and researchers have created an interconnected system of personal, business, academic, research, library, and a myriad of other computers into a single, giant, worldwide web of information called the internet. Since it’s invention, the internet has become an indispensable part of American society, and transformed the way people do business, research, communicate, and live their very lives.
The development of the internet actually begins in the early 1960’s when an MIT scientist, J.C.R.Licklider, first proposed a network of computers, located across the globe and all interconnected. Together with Leonard Kleinrock of UCLA, who developed the theory of packet switching, the basis of internet connections, this allowed Robert Lawrence of MIT, in 1965, to connect a computer in Massachusetts with a computer in California over an ordinary telephone line. (“Anecdotal History”) This led to the development of “ARPANET” in 1969, which was the very first web of interconnected computers. Computers at four universities (UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UCSB, and the University of Utah) were connected under the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which quickly expanded to other universities.
“The early internet was used by computer experts, engineers, scientists, and librarians. There was nothing friendly about it. And anyone who used ithad to learn to use a very complex system.” (“Anecdotal History”) by 1972, the basics of “E-mail” had been developed, as well as the “Telnet” protocol, which allowed for access through a remote computer. The next year saw the development of the “FTP” protocol, which enabled file transfers between internet sites. Libraries, which had begun computerizing their catalogues in the 1960’s, began to network their libraries under the exceptional work of Frederick Kilgour of the Ohio College Library Center. By the mid-1970’s, regional consortia of libraries emerged to create the first automated library catalogues which included the catalogues of several regional libraries. It was the development of the “UNIX” to “UNIX” copy protocol (USENET), invented at Bell Labs in 1978, which first allowed for newsgroups, or discussion groups focusing on a specific topic, as a means of exchanging information across the globe. Usenet has formed the basis of web pages and discussion groups which have become a significant part of the internet today.
The real impetus for the creation of the internet came in 1986 when the National Science Foundation funded a cross country 56 kbps system which would become the foundation of the internet as the modern world has come to know it. Under NSF patronage, “E-mail,” “FTP,” and “Telnet” were all standardized, which allowed for easier use of the internet by non-technical people. The NSF system also opened the internet up to more people who would not normally use it, but only in universities where it was set up. For the next five years the internet was still somewhat difficult to use until the development of the gopher system in 1991, which was the very first user friendly interface to the internet.
Because the government had financed the creation of the very first internet system, it regulated it and restricted commercial use of the internet. However, by the early 1990’s the first commercial online services were beginning to emerge. Delphi was the first national internet service which allowed full access to the internet by it’s subscribers. This was followed soon after by several others when, in 1995, the NSF ended it’s sponsorship of the internet backbone and all traffic was switched over to commercial networks like AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe. But it was Bill Gates’ development of “Windows 98” in 1998 which allowed for personal computers to interface with the internet and finally allowed the common person to access the internet easily and conveniently. By the end of the 20th century, the internet was fully developed and made easy to use for the common American. From this point on the internet would become an integral part of American society, business, education, research, and would spawn new areas of learning and academics.
The rise of the internet and it’s effect on everyday society became apparent as the world entered the 21st century and computers seemed to be everywhere. In 2001, Neil Maroki, theorized about the future impact of the internet on society, particularly it’s possible effects on the educational system. Maroki asserted that “The internet is bound to become an inseparable part of all the educational systems in the new millennium.” (Maroki, 2001) but given this assertion, the author then proposes that the internet will ultimately have a negative effect on education as a whole. Maroki claims that students use the internet primarily for entertainment purposes rather than educational ones. He also stated that the internet will replace the book, and theorizes about a future “back to books” movement. But Maroki’s greatest claim is that the internet will cause “the erosion of the mind.” (Maroki, 2001) He declares that the internet will cause humans to use their own minds less and less, as the internet does more and more thinking for humans.
The internet has been in existence for almost a decade since Maroki made his dire predictions about the influence of the internet on educational systems. However, a 2009 study conducted to discover the effects of internet usage on the reading habits of college students found that “time spent on the internet did not appear to affect time spent on other activities,” like reading, studying, or even watching television. (Makhtari, 2009) This study seems to indicate that the internet has simply been incorporated into the everyday lives of students without displacing other activities like reading. But Maroki may have been correct when he prophesized the end of the book, as e-books and internet libraries are making the published book less important. While the internet has become an integral part of the educational system, it has not had a negative effect.
The internet has also become part of everyday life for most Americans as well. One of the most prominent use of the internet has come in the way that ordinary people receive their news. While in the past television, radio, and newspapers were the primary sources of news for the American public, the internet has redefined the way ordinary people receive their information about the world. (Goldsborough, 2008) One of the major effects of the internet has been the reduction in people who watch television to get their news. One study indicated that more than 25% of people have replaced the television with the internet as their main source of information. (Kim, 2008) but it is not only television, but newspapers which have also seen a decline in readership. However, it is also asserted that people use the internet to gain information on subjects that they find personally interesting, not the top stories of the day as listed by the media. In other words, the internet seems to have replaced the traditional television, radio, and paper media as the source of news, but also as the means of choosing what news stories will be covered.
While this has had a negative impact on the media in general, and television in particular, some television stations are adapting to this change. Television stations have been demonstrated to use the internet when it adds to the overall revenue enjoyed by the station. In fact, studies have discovered that “Internet competency is most influential in the adoption of an online ad sales strategy.” (Chan, 2003) Television broadcasters have begun to incorporate the internet into their business strategies, but mostly as a way to improve revenues. Newspapers have also begun to make the transformation to the digital age. While many still regard the traditional newspaper as the primary source of news, many others have embraced the internet as their main source. Through use of the internet, some newspapers have been tried to adapt their traditional news platform into a digital world. Newspapers now use web sites to communicate news to the people.
Not only has the internet revolutionized the way people receive their news, it has transformed the way people live their lives. From the beginning of the 21st century, the internet has evolved into a source of almost unlimited information on any subject possible. Average people consult the internet on a number of subjects, including medicine. As…