I think the Internet is a combination of both a hot medium and cool medium, depending on what you are doing. There are times in which you are reading information, similar to what you would be doing with a book. Other times, listening to music. Then, there is also watching movies. What makes the Internet so different from what we have seen in the past is the ability to interact. I think this takes the Internet into an entirely new and different direction.
To me, the Internet seems to have added a fifth epoch to McLuhan’s work. It is a combination of all the prior epochs, enabling oral, written, visual and, then, instant interaction with all of them. If Marshal McLuhan had lived to see this day, I’m sure he would have much to say on the subject of the Internet.
Gutenberg’s invention of the movable type print spurred the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution, through the spreading of knowledge. The Internet has begun a revolution of its own by making our world more global, rather than regional, minded.
The Ultimatum Game, that is described in Shirkys’ Cognitive Surplus, displays that, in general, people feel responsible for others and want to appear fair and just. The Internet has made issues on the other side of the world, which were once viewed as “their” problem, a global problem. Seeing and hearing the things others are experiencing, as they are experiencing it, makes “their” problems difficult for everyone else to ignore.
This is evident when you start thinking about global disasters that have happened since the dawn of the digital revolution. The tsunami in Indonesia in 2004, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, and the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 received instant coverage due to the Internet. Because of this, a massive number of people donated both their time and money to help the areas. I think the ability to communicate and interact with each other, as a global society, has moved us towards a more unified planet.
I definitely see the downside to being constantly connected though. I’ve noticed, with my own children, the effects the Frontline video described. There are times that my husband, children and I are in the same room, but so very far away from one another. We maybe connecting to more people because of the Internet but, that doesn’t mean we are connecting as deeply.
And, it often seems that people have lost the concept of courtesy when they are with people. One of the students being interview for Frontline mentioned that he was not upset over his friend cutting into their conversation to answer an email or text on his phone because he said he knew he would be doing the same thing soon.
A friend and I were recently discussing this very thing. She had recently seen a video, showing how cell phones had affected one particular restaurant. This restaurant had always received wonderful feedback, but had been declining in the past several years. Customers were complaining that their service had become very slow. They decided to investigate and their findings were evidence that our constant “connection” to one another online affects other people around us.
I know many people feel that the Internet has improved their socialization. Applications, such as Second Life, have enabled people to regularly conduct virtual meetings with co-workers thousands of miles away. Then, games have built communities of friends that meet up several times per week. One man said he didn’t have any real world friends that he spent that much time with.
Overall, I think there are both positive and negative effects from the internet. It has the ability to connect us and disconnect us from one another simultaneously. Because of this week’s material, my family and I have started a new tradition of taking a family walk every night. Without our gadgets 🙂