Sociology and the Internet Term Paper

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[. . .] In short, the Internet is an interactive method, rather than a one-way communication method. This is another way that the Internet puts people more in control of their own lives, and specifically their own knowledge. For example, if a certain news story interests someone, the individual is not limited to only hearing one account of the story. They can visit various sites and read different news accounts, including accounts from other cultures. They can also read other people's opinions on issues and interact with other people through discussions. This gives all people greater opportunity to question what they hear and be in control of the knowledge they gain.

The second difference is that the Internet allows one individual to communicate with many in a way that is not easily controlled. In other communication mediums, the individual is not in control of what information is reported and made public. For example, an individual wanting to inform the public of something can do so, but must use the public information services available. An individual may call a paper or a current affairs program and ask them to publicize the issue, but whether this occurs is the decision of the paper or program. With the Internet, the individual is able to publicize their information, without needing to use a medium someone else controls. There are also no controls over what information can be communicated. It is generally not possible for a person to publish information in traditional mediums without it being verified in some way. However, with the Internet, a person can publish and communicate messages to people from all over the world with no requirement to have checks on the information. In this way, the Internet creates a system of free speech that is stronger than any other form. While free speech is said to exist in modern society, in many ways it is limited by a person's ability to express their opinion. The Internet, however, gives all individuals the opportunity to express their opinions to many. One of the other positive consequences is that differing opinions can be communicated via the Internet. Without the control of the media provider, individuals and groups can communicate ideas that go against the norm. In the traditional media, these ideas would not be communicated due to the fear of public outrage. This creates an environment where free speech is more existent than ever before, with the Internet allowing free speech on a mass communication level. For individuals, this allows their opinions and ideas to be communicated. For society, it creates a level of debate over issues that otherwise may not have been publicly known.

The final difference is that the information provided on the Internet can be accessed by anyone and created by anyone, regardless of location. In print, television and radio, the communication area is limited. Newspapers and radio stations are limited to a certain city, or a certain state. Television content is limited to a state or a nation. This does not apply to Internet communication. Information on the Internet is as easily accessed by an individual in India as it is by an individual in America, assuming that people have Internet access. Therefore, there is no limit to the communication area. In addition, an individual in India can create content specifically to communicate with an American audience. In short, physical location is no longer a barrier and the communication area is unlimited. This has an impact on society in two important ways. Firstly, it breaks down communication and cultural barriers. Meyrowitz describes how the Internet has meant that one's place and location no longer limits and anchors experience and identity.

One text on sociology argues that "communication practices are always informed by and produced within cultural contexts."

However with the Internet, the audience of the message is not limited to the same group the message was created within. This results in a widening of ideas which may eventually lead to an overall better understanding between different social groups, including cultural groups. The fact that physical location is not a barrier can also mean that people are bombarded with information that may have limited relevance to their everyday lives. It has been said that "newspapers, radio and television are major sources of information, ideas and images concerning events which take place beyond our immediate social milieu."

Graham and Davies also make this point where they note that the news content individuals receive on the Internet is not necessarily what they need to know.

While this can lead to greater understanding, it can also cause people to have an overload of knowledge.

A final issue that Internet communication raises is related to the screening or censoring of content. It must be noted that not all material on the Internet is suitable for everyone, including being suitable for children. Television manages this problem by only screening programs at certain times. Programs are also given ratings allowing people to determine what is suitable viewing for themselves and their children. Print content fits into the standard of a magazine based on the market of the magazine, including the types of products that are advertised. For example, cigarettes are not advertised in magazines that may be accessed by young people, but are advertised in magazines directed specifically at an adult audience. On the Internet, these separations are not as simple. Internet content is available at all hours of the day and night. Since the user is in control, individuals are able to access all content, whether it is suitable for them or not. Children could access violent material, sexual material, or any other type of material that would normally be limited. Information could also be made available on the Internet that would not be allowed in traditional mediums. One good example is the bomb-making information that some websites offer. Another example is the anti-American content provided on some extremist Muslim sites. Both these examples show how the Internet increases the information that is made available to the public and makes it difficult to control what information people have access to. Both these examples show how this is not always a positive thing.

It has now been seen that the Internet has had a significant impact on various aspects of society. It has provided people with new opportunities, changed the way that people interact with the world they live in and each other, and created some new social issues.

References

Graham, A., & Davies, G. Broadcasting, Society and Policy in the Multimedia Age. Luton: University of Luton Press, 1997.

Hammerich, I., & Harrison, C. Developing Online Content: The Principles of Writing and Editing for the Web. New York: Wiley, 2002.

McQuail, D. Audience Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997.

Meyrowitz, J. "The Separation of Social Space from Physical Place." The Media Studies Reader. Eds. Tim O'Sullivan & Yvonne Jewkes. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1997.

Neal, G., Quester, P., & Hawkins, D. Consumer Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Schirato, T., & Yell, S. Communication and Cultural Literacy. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1996.

Thompson, J. "Mass Communication and Mass Culture." The Media Studies Reader. Eds. Tim O'Sullivan & Yvonne Jewkes. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1997.

Hammerich, I., & Harrison, C. Developing Online Content: The Principles of Writing and Editing for the Web. New York: Wiley, 2002, p. 54.

Neal, G., Quester, P., & Hawkins, D. Consumer Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Neal, G., Quester, P., & Hawkins, D et al.

Hammerich, I., & Harrison et al.

McQuail, D. Audience Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997, p. 10.

Meyrowitz, J. "The Separation of Social Space from Physical Place." The Media Studies Reader. Eds. Tim O'Sullivan & Yvonne Jewkes. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1997.

Schirato, T., & Yell, S. Communication and Cultural Literacy. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1996, p. 21.

Thompson, J. "Mass Communication and Mass Culture." The Media Studies Reader. Eds. Tim O'Sullivan & Yvonne Jewkes. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1997, p.… [end of preview; READ MORE]

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