Saturday, February 22, 2014

Understanding the Culture of the Internet

On the subways almost everybody is busy with their smartphones, the ever present sign of the digital world we are now living in. A marriage of digital technology and the new media. The results of this marriage make possible a wide range of personal relationships and creativity never before even imagined. Thanks to digital technology we are being tied together, willingly or not, by accessing, via computer, the world wide web. The smartphone has become for many another appendage to the body.

A priest who has studied  mass media and religion reflects, in his column in the Catholic Times, on the social  results of this digital world. Anything that comes to us as new has as its foundation, he points out, something from the past which has made it possible. What is totally new, he says, can't produce anything meaningfully new; mixing two things completely new and presenting them to the public will, he believes, only be greeted with perplexity.  Consequently, the inventor has to prepare the public to receive the new product. Apple, the computer manufacturer, prepared their advertising to make their ground-breaking products readily acceptable to the public.

In a word, the new media is not something completely new. Within it, we have the technology from the past: the button and the switch, which enables us to move to a new step in the evolution of the media. Although it may present some initial problems, we are soon able to follow the changes that are taking place.

We may use the new technological improvements but their  implications and actual reality is something else. If someone spends the whole day in front of the monitor shopping, he is not necessarily knowledgeable about the internet. The office worker seated before a monitor all day long also may know little about how the internet works. Being able to use the internet, as consumers, does not necessarily mean understanding the internet. Those who are managing the internet are supplying us with what we want, and they want us to use what is offered, the priest says, and not to bother to look any deeper.

We can try to get to know what is going on but it is very difficult for most of us. What we can't overlook is what has led up to the new media. Besides being an industry, technology, content, an aspect of the culture it is a text we have to decode. In conclusion it is the enviroment in which we live.
Those working in the  media, however, are busily and continually reading us, intent on learning our preferences. "Would you possibly be interested in this article?" and similar queries often appear unbidden on our computer screens. Media's ability to determine our preferences can give us goosebumps.

It is now time for us to read what they are about--from being read to reading them.

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