At this very moment, millions of pairs of eyes and ears, of hands and minds are simultaneously working, learning, and living online. Someone may be finishing the last pages of an e-book. Another may have just completed downloading a song, a video, or a movie. Still another may be updating his status in one of his three social networking sites while his friends in France are continuously commenting on his other posts. Family relatives may have just checked on each other thru chat. There may also be those in the middle of their DoTa tournament.
Perhaps, a recent graduate has just emailed his resume to one of the several organizations he wants to work in. On the other hand, an HR personnel may have been checking the job applications in the company’s Website. There are also managers of a multinational company having their meeting via a video conference. Meanwhile, a corporation has just launched its online campaign to promote its new product. And its competitor is already monitoring the response of the public online.
We may not know but someone may have been on the process of hacking one of the accounts of a company. Another may have just installed the new monitoring system and anti-virus software in an organization’s computer networks. There may be a few immersing themselves in pornographic or violent contents of a Website. And the members of a task force are tracking one of the murder suspects online.
And there is a bunch of students finishing (or cramming) the first comm blog requirement for a communication trends and style class.
All these things can possibly be happening at this exact moment. The Internet has incredibly more than enough applications, contents, and facilities to cater to the various needs of millions of its users—be it individuals, students, business corporations, government offices, or even criminals. With the Internet, almost everything is possible for every person in any place at any time. The word “impossible” is just so obsolete and unfit in the Internet Age.
Nuclear threats, Galactic networks, and the Internet Age
It was in 1962 when the threat of Soviet nuclear attacks alarmed members of the US Defense Department. To this problem, one researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) proposed a counter strategy in the form of communication networks. J. Licklider affirmed how salient a link of computer terminals would be in the US military. Grounded on his concept of Galactic Networks, Licklider recommended the development of a world-wide communication structure capable of sending and accessing private information using computers.
Having considered Licklider’s proposal of building Galactic Networks, the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) started developing a system of communication computer terminals. Engineer Paul Baran and colleagues designed a distributed communications model which allows the transfer of information from a source down to several recipient nodes. Given the multiple networks of computers programmed to receive data, information transfer would be more secured. In the case of a nuclear attack, destruction of one recipient node would not hinder the sending of information to other computer terminals. In 1964, this strategic communication network and effective nuclear attack counter was completed and named ARPANET.
The birth of the ARPANET signalled the world’s entry into the Internet Age. Who would have thought that a nuclear attack and a geeky concept of Galactic Networks would give way to the development of the Internet we love today? Admit it. We owe the Soviet nuclear threat and the US Military a lot. Just imagine—without the threat of nuclear war which compelled the APRA to work on the proposal of developing the fantabulous Galactic Networks, we would not be able to say hello to Facebook or Twitter. That simple.
The Global Cyber Revolution
The emergence of the Internet from the ARPANET is indeed one giant leap in human capability and the world’s history. It opened a new era in the fields of business, government, and technology. In fact, what Bill Gates had written ten years ago about the Internet being a global phenomenon is already unfolding before our very eyes today. For that matter, I would even say that the Internet has not only become a global phenomenon. It has unimaginably become the most potent global economic, technological, and cultural revolution overlapping in the last quarter of the 20th century and the first of the 21st.
Bill Gates attributed the world-wide acceptance and growth of the Internet to its ability to break barriers. He described how the World Wide Web has collapsed geographical, cultural, and logistical barriers and founded the pillars of a smaller, closer, and simpler world. I need not elaborate on how the Internet has done this. These are avowed by what we have, what we experience, and what we can do in the point in time we call “present”. What I would like to talk about are three of the entities born in the Age of the Internet.
1. True-blooded Communicators
A majority of the global population is online. According to the Pew Internet Survey, the present E- population is not only comprised of users of Web applications and subscribers of social networking sites. In fact, there is a significant number of content creators online. Results of the Survey reveal that 64% on online teenagers engage in creation of Web-based contents. About 39% of them share their artistic creations such as photo stories, videos and artwork online, 33% do blogging, and 27% actually maintain their own Webpages. But more than posting and creating outputs online, the Survey reveals that Internet teen users also participate actively in conversations generated by the posted works.
These findings just show how the Internet raises a breed of communicators who value not only content creation and message delivery but feedback as well. With its Web applications, the Internet serves as a venue for the practice of the speech communication transaction model. It is worth recognizing how internet users, especially the teens, become message senders through making Web contents, how they convey these messages and works via multiple channels and sites available online, and how they gather and participate in giving feedback to the created contents and messages. It is a full E-communication flow. Amazing. Professor Adeva would be delighted to see how the communication models she is discussing in Comm3 actually works online.
I am proud of those who value and practice delivering messages and giving feedbacks online. Now these people are a breed of true-blooded communicators emerging right here.
2. Dotcom Companies
The Internet Age may also be described as the time of the dotcom companies. I am referring to members of the business sector that maximize the potential of the Web to improve an organizational practice, reach and hit the market and generate profit. Many corporations nowadays are engaging in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media distribution services. We have encountered SEO in our Public Relations class last semester and Sir Ed cannot overemphasize how businesses today compete just to gain first spot in online search engines. In the Internet age, effective management and optimization of search engines can provide a company a big advantage over its competitor.
Also, with most of the market going online, business organizations have to place their effort in reaching the E-public. More than the traditional market strategies namely printed campaigns, publications, etc, companies have to explore the new social media as to competently and effectively advertise, market, and build reputation online.
The Obama-style of campaign is one proof of how the Internet is changing the face of politics and election campaigns. In the United States, some 23% of the population admit they actively use the Web for political purposes, whether to read political news, engage in political commentaries and even create online political campaigns during elections like written articles and videos.
According to John Horrigan, Associate Director for Research of Pew Internets, among Internet users in the US, 20% say they get political news and information from blogs especially during elections while 24% say they visited issue-oriented Websites. They state the availability of additional information and variety of view points presented in campaign Websites, political fora and commentaries as reasons why they engage in E-politics.
In fact, the number of Americans subscribing to the Internet to monitor and take part in political issues doubled in 2006 compared to the statistic in 2002. It would be no surprise if the numbers back in 2006 will have also doubled this year.
The Price we Pay by being Online
The possibilities offered by the Internet to individuals, businesses and governments come at a costly price. The bad news is that online problems often outweigh the benefits of the using the Web. In the Internet Age, security and privacy are usually sacrificed for interconnectivity and accessibility.
In terms of individual consumption of the Internet, one of the drawbacks of being online, of being able to share more of yourself in your blogs, in social networking sites, etc, is the lost of privacy. Just consider how much personal data Facebook collects from each of its user—information about your sex, birth date, address, political views, religion, interests, education and work history. These data obviously benefit anybody with access to them. Remember that disclosing personal information online equates to a certain level of transparency. And transparency equates to vulnerability. Given this, it would be wise to examine what we post online and what information we actually made available to the rest of the E-community.
Regarding businesses, two online threats identified by John Bell of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide are hypertransparency and the spread of viral crises. Bell stated how the presence of over a 150 million bloggers online translates to a huge number of social watchdogs monitoring and probably spying on your company. This is the precise reason why business organizations have to be careful and critical regarding the information they post in their websites or they release in the various channels of the new social media. Another problem encountered by most companies is the faster spread of viral crises. The speed of the Internet applies to the spread of crises which can potentially damage an organization. The management has to have prepared plans to counter the anomalous news or information and respond within hours.
The vastness, power, and prevalence of the Internet are equally amazing and frightening. The idea of a global digital network that allows interconnectivity and accessibility used to belong in the realm of the impossible several decades ago. But as we experience the Web today, as we live right in the middle of the Internet Age, we cannot help but be astonished by its million tools, contents, and applications.
Along with the awe for the power of the Internet is fear of what it currently does and what is capable of doing further. As we sink deeply into the comfort of the Web and technology, we consequently lose much of ourselves, our being human. Behind the avatars in our Facebook accounts, we have lost the ability to empathize and genuinely communicate with other people. We have reduced people to profiles and have redefined friends as merely members of a list. We have practiced instant and over-gratification. We have mislaid patience, contentment and real happiness. We have almost lost our identity and humanity in the unregulated and undisciplined use of technology specifically the Internet.
Neither can we change nor deny the fact that we are in the Internet Age. That we are part of the Cyber Generation. But there are also other realities to remember. No matter how powerful the Internet is, it is still a product of human mind and hands.
And the most important thing we can do today is to constantly remind ourselves of one truth and trust that it will keep us aware of where we stand in a world of humans and technology— Never will a creation surpass and be master over its creator.