Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Communications and Cyberspace: Chapters 8 & 9

     It is apparent in Chapter 8 that the web, like most technology, has come a long way since its beginnings. What was once a military communication tool is now an epicenter of information and entertainment accessible to the global public. The first web network was created by the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in order to ensure national security by maintaining the "military's ability to communicate in the face of destruction". Despite the militaristic nature of the ARPAnet, it was not immune to what is known as "hacker ethic", the free flow of information. Soon the computer scientists associated with creating the ARPAnet began making similar networks that could be accessed by others not within the community of defense agencies and defense contractors. What also contributed to the demilitarization of the Internet was the mushrooming of discussion groups which transformed the Internet into more of a communication medium rather than a tool. Two main facets that led to the expansion of the Internet was the "cultural tenets held by the people who built the network...and the nature of the economic forces that provided the initial funding for APRAnet". Given the collegial culture the network was raised in and the communication aspect, the APRAnet eventually matured into a application used for electronic mail and remote login services. The amplification of its popularity inevitably began to attract private enterprise. Those in the telecommunications industry saw that the Internet had potential for a huge new market.
     In Chapter 9, Jacobson outlines the expectations and concerns about the Internet through the lens of corporations, the government, and the public. The chapter is commenced with a description of the National Information Infrastructure to be, "made up of seamless communications networks, databases, and consumer electronics". The NII is described as being "seamless" or having no boundaries. Because of the somewhat ambiguous and multifaceted nature of the Internet, the author answers the question "In which directions will the much-heralded Information Superhighway go?" in the perspectives of three different interest groups. Corporations advertised this new web technology as our gateway to knowledge with solely positive outcomes. Digital commerce will soon begin to grow when the federal government places policy parameters which industries can work within. The focal point of the Internet is to transform information and knowledge rather than mediate its growth. During its early stages, the Internet was often referred to as the Information Superhighway. However, unlike a highway, the Internet will not be constructed by the government, it will be built by people who stand to profit from them. There is also concern that once corporations monopolize on the Internet, the public will be denied participation.
     In terms of government visions, former Vice President Al Gore envisioned the Internet as a vehicle to bring the economic, health, and educational benefits of this information revolution to more Americans. The Clinton Administration aimed for the NII to be available to all at affordable costs. It was ensured that the NII plan was "flexible, adaptable, and fair in dealing with changing and emerging technologies and their applications" which I think was definitely smart strategy. New Media is never idle or stagnant for it is in a constant state of change. The public is mainly concerned with the digital divide. The division between those who have access to the internet and those who do not which is often based on levels of education and income. This is being resolved by companies who are creating more affordable devices and networks.

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