Impact of Social Networking on Our Life Essay

Pages: 7 (1953 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

¶ … Societal Impact of Internet-Based Digital Media

Background and History of Digital Technology

The Origins of Digital Technology

Although the history of mechanical computational tools dates back thousands of years and multiple ancient cultures, the first digital systems were those developed during the World War II era, initially, in connection with the cryptography, ballistic computations of multiple variables during high-altitude bombing, and the complex mathematical processes required by scientists working on the top-secret Manhattan Project principally being conducted in New Mexico and Tennessee (Evans, 2004; Kaku, 1997).

Initially, digital computers relied on tremendously large arrays of vacuum tubes as primitive information processors and programming was conducted manually through hundreds of individual punch cards fed into the system by hand. These first digital devices took up large rooms and possessed processing power and capabilities hundreds of times less than the simplest of modern microprocessors, such as those typically found in calculators, wrist watches, and even $1.25 electronic birthday cards that play songs when opened by the recipient (Personick & Patterson, 2003).

The transition from vacuum tube-based technology of the 1940s and 1950s to "solid state" transistors in the 1960s greatly enhanced processing power and the general capabilities of digital processing machines while simultaneously reducing their size substantially. Still, large-scale availability of digital media would still await a combination of other successive advances (Personick & Patterson, 2003).

First, the introduction of the microchip in the 1980s allowed the most significant increase in capability and reduction in both the size and cost of digital equipment. Second, the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1996 gave rise to the modern Internet (Evans, 2004; Kaku, 1997; Horgan, 1997). Finally, continual development of microchip-based technology since the mid-1990s resulted in new digital applications and the widespread incorporation of digital technology in inventions that fundamentally changed contemporary society as much as the 18th-century invention of the printing press and the subsequent explosion information capable of being mass produced and copied for affordable mass consumption. Today, virtually every facet of American life is heavily dependent on computer technology and digital information (Personick & Patterson, 2003).

Introduction of Computers into Modern Society

By the 1960s, computer technology had already been integrated into military applications and large-scale technical projects such as the so-called "space race" that culminated with the Apollo Project and first successful lunar landing in 1969 (Evans, 2004; Kaku, 1997). Within the following decade, computer would become available to large business organizations in connection with data processing and record keeping functions. The first personal computers became available to the ordinary consumer in the early 1980s, but they were very expensive, extremely limited in their processing powers and capabilities, and therefore, were largely restricted to hobbyists and technical digital research applications (Evans, 2004; Locker, 2003).

Expansion of Computer Technology to Consumers

At the beginning of the last decade of the century, computers began to become more affordable to consumers and the development of microchip technology increased their usefulness and affordability enough that they began to replace mechanical equipment such as electronic typewriters in the business environment, and no longer only in large business organizations (Evans, 2004). Likewise, the home computer market expanded, although it was still largely associated with hobbyists interested in computer technology and with computer gaming functions. More comprehensive incorporation of digital technology would await the subsequent introduction of a functional means of interconnecting multiple isolated computer systems and the eventual development of efficient forms of computer-to-computer communication capabilities (Evans, 2004; Personick & Patterson, 2003).

The Internet and Email Come of Age

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the United States military experimented with, and implemented computer-based communication systems such as the advance research projects agency network (ARPANET), primarily intended for secret communications during the Cold War era (Dam & Lin, 1996; Horgan, 1997; Personick & Patterson, 2003). The ARPANET was originally conceived and developed as a means of establishing a secure alternative to ordinary telephone and microwave information transmission and was specifically created as a survivable communications system and infrastructure for important military command functions and governmental continuity after a potential Soviet nuclear attack on the nation (Dam & Lin, 1996; Personick & Patterson, 2003).

Beginning with the decision of the Clinton administration in 1996, to make that technology and infrastructure available for public use, the potential usefulness of computers increased exponentially by virtue of the new capability of interconnected networks linking thousands of individual and remotely located computer terminals, even though initial data transmission and usefulness was primitive by modern standards (Personick & Patterson, 2003). Introduced as the "World Wide Web," the system soon became known as the Internet that quickly revolutionized business processes, relationships between consumers and businesses, news media, and eventually, social networking completely outside the realm of commercial business applications (Dam & Lin, 1996; Evans, 2004; Personick & Patterson, 2003).

Contemporary Social Trends and Digital Applications

The Origin of Digital-Based Social Networking Trends

By the mid-1990s, most governmental agencies and large private-sector commercial enterprises had fully incorporated digital technology for data processing, information storage, and for the newest form of terminal-to-terminal communications, e-mail (Evans, 2004). E-mail applications were also becoming available to the consumer, but too few ordinary people owned computers with network connection capability for extensive reliance on e-mail as a means of interpersonal communications. Data transmission rates were typically very slow and relied upon ordinary telephone lines and (at first) separate modems connecting computers to them (Evans, 2004).

Social Networking in the Digital Age

The decade in between 1996 and 2006 saw unparalleled increase in the improvement of publicly available computer technology and exhibited growth rates that paralleled the predictions made much earlier by technology professor Gordon E. Moore. Moore had predicted that the rate of increase in computer processing power would continue to double approximately every year and a half until the absolute limits of the processing capabilities of the microchip were reached (Dam & Lin, 1996; Kaku, 1997; Personick & Patterson, 2003). By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, computers had become so ubiquitous in American society that most middle class high school students owned their own desktop and portable laptop computers.

The first major provider of broad spectrum Internet applications and the pioneer of real-time digital communications on the computer medium was America Online (AOL) that introduced the "instant messaging" concept in 1997 (Evans, 2004). Instant messaging differed from e-mail in that it allowed instantaneous messaging between two people and simultaneous instantaneous messaging among larger groups of people through visual representations of their communications in real time on the computer screen. Within only a few years of its introduction, AOL instant messaging or "IMing" became one of the primary means of personal communications, particularly among young, first-generation modern computer and Internet users (Evans, 2004).

In many respects, teenagers in particular adopted IMing specifically as a means of circumventing typical parental supervision such as had always been associated with their use of the telephone in many American homes. In that regard, computers offered a communications medium that was completely foreign to most adults and afforded a level of communications privacy beyond what had been possible without computer-based social exchanges. Whereas previous generations of American teenagers were notorious for the many hours they spent on the telephone, modern computer technology allowed them increased privacy from parental supervision.

Dating in the Digital Age

Almost as soon as Internet communications became widely available and affordable in the late 1990s, they became used increasingly for dating and for more explicit sexual purposes. In the case of the former, digital communications allowed individuals to exchange personal information on a continual basis in a medium that became something of an alternate social dimension for many people. Not infrequently, this function was exploited by married people as a form of "innocent flirtation" based mainly on the proposition that computer-based relationships could be maintained anonymously, over great distances, and without ever actually meeting (Locker, 2003).

This use of digital communications greatly accelerated toward the end of the 20th century, primarily by virtue of the increase in digital imaging capabilities that allowed for the transmission of still photographs, followed soon thereafter by moving video images. In addition to facilitating the use of digital media for dating purposes, this also gave rise to the most profitable use of the Internet for the entire first decade of its existence: online pornography. Unlike traditional media such as magazines and VHS tapes, computer-based digital media allowed much greater anonymity and secrecy which accounted for an astronomic rise in the growth of sexually-oriented computer applications (Schneider, 1999).

Cyber-security Issues and Digital Crime

The continued evolution of digital communication systems shortly after the turn of the century also greatly increased the incorporation of computers into other consumer functions such as online banking and remote shopping. Predictably, this also generated a corresponding increase in the exploitation of digital communications technology for criminal purposes, such as online identity theft, "phishing" as a means of tricking consumers into providing confidential financial and other information that could be used to perpetrate fraud,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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