„Social networks replaced individual creativity, there were more places to express ourselves than ever before… yet no one really had anything to say” – Does this have to be our future? Is this our future? I would like to comment on that. As every complex issue as well this one does not have one clear answer. I personally disagree with that statement but not fully as there is some truth in this as well.
Firstly, I disagree with the opinion that social networks replaced individual creativity. I actually think that the social networks and social media gave an individual more space to express themselves. It is true that in our mass- and popcultural world there is an extinction of individualism. People are following the trends, globalisation of media, culture etc. is making us more similar than ever. Thanks to (among others) Internet, fashions, models of behaviour or beliefs have a global reach.
On the other hand, social networks in particular make it possible for individuals to express themselves – starting with blogs, vlogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts or even Instagram – individuals not represented by the media – never had a possibility like this before to reach a broader audience. Those who have someting to say/show/contribute get noticed and can present „the world” their perspective. To me social networks do not kill individualism they actually empower it.
Then again, the author of the thought Jaron Lanier, mentioned the amount of places to express ourselves with the problem with having no one to say anything. This is partly true as the accessibility of social networks makes it possible for everyone to participate in it and unfortunately a lot of the content that is being posted in the social networks is very repetetive, shallow and is not even worth paying attention to it. I guess it is the price of the fact that Internet is such an accessible, global tool. That’s why we should try to improve the search engines to seperate the „good” content from the „bad” one. It’s a matter of how we look for information. The presence of social networks does not decrease the amount of intelligent people who DO have something to say, it just allows those one who don’t to be seen.
When I am reading what some of the internet researchers we have been talking about, particularly Lanier, have to say about the place of the web in society and civilization, it seems to me that in places they are stepping with one foot into the domain of science fiction (or that I am just misunderstanding them completely). The discussion of problems with relation between data and reality, or the notions of singularity and noosphere are just such places. The idea, that seems to emerge the works in this presentation is that internet is something other than just a tool functioning in the world, but rather some kind of a wholly separate space disconnected from reality. A space that is, at times, even concurring with reality. That is a notion with which I fundamentally disagree (although I admit that my reluctance towards Lanier may also be caused by the argumentation of how computer not existing unless perceived is not solipsism, which the philosopher in me considers faulty). In my eyes internet is just another step in the development of communication and I am truly unconvinced that it is changing the world, or the society, more than the previous huge invention in this domain – the cellular phone – I actually think that it is less revolutionary. Be that as it may I think that this general discussion, while in my opinion not all that relevant now, may at some point become more important with the development of the internet, or its successors. In which case I would probably have that to say: since civilization killed evolution (by establishing laws that actively counter propagation of advantageous genes) technological progress has replaced it as the means of improvement of human species, and since that is what I sincerely believe, I am not fazed by technology (in this case the internet) restructuring or, social life; which is what, as I understand, frightens cyber-sceptics. If it would threaten to replace it, maybe I would not be so sure, but that seems to still be science fiction (becoming a vehicle for it is not replacing it).
Last lecture gives the opportunity to summarise. Firstly I would say that Internet gave us a lot of possibilities. It changed our lives and gave new methods of communicating in the digital world allow smaller groups of people to congregate online and share, sell and swap goods and information. Due to the Internet more people have voice concerning foreign affairs and can be audible what was impossible earlier without the new technology. Networking technologies provide new capabilities to an old form of social organization. We can react faster, communicate with each other without organising a meeting and have influence on the world (or maybe we only think we have?). Here is the place to regroup our knowledge and think of which form of communication is better – face to face or virtual? Although communication using Internet is fast, comfortable and very useful I would say that nothing can change communication with outer environment. Nowadays there is a discourse about the role of the social capital in the countries all over the world. There are four elements that compose it. It consists of bonds, trust, convention, standards and cooperation. However people can act in communities and make their own standards on the net, I don’t see the possibility of bonding, which in my opinion is possible only in real-functioning groups. Also as we were talking on the previous lectures – on the Internet we can be anonymus. So how can we trust each other? I presume that this is the matter which doesn’t have one answer. Internet has advantages and disadvantages – it is up to us how will we use it in the future. It is also our responsibility to make it as safe as possible and not to forget that besides online world there is also reality.
As a sociologist, I am very interested in the topic of social networking & society of web. In previous comments I referred to the Manuel Castells – a leading expert worldwide in the social sciences, associated with research on the information society, communication and globalization.
So again – according to Manuel Castells, the virtual community we generally understood as an electronic interactive communication network, organized around shared interests or goals; although sometimes this communication becomes an end in itself. Community can be both formal and spontaneous, without rigidly defined structure. As I previously mentioned, life online can provide an easy escape from real life. It is always a controversial issue. And in this case, probably we can say that people have become gadgets. The virtual space, in contrast to the real space, is created by artificial interconnected computer networks and other digital media. Nevertheless, cyberspace is also created by internet users – people – and so it should be treated as a social space.
The Internet provides unlimited chances ‚meeting’ more and more people from many parts of the world, with different interests, different levels of education and different social positions. In the real world, it is difficult to achieve, at least on such a large scale. This is why we can certainly talk about the predominance of the virtual over real world. The only caveat may be high „mortality rate” of online friendships.This means that as soon as we make friends, as quickly we end this acquaintance. It should be noted, however, that online networking sometimes move into the off-line realm. For example, on dating sites, people are looking for new friends through websites to continue them in the real world.
Answering the question: ‚Are you a computer?’ – I must say NO. And in my opinion, we will never be (hope so). Castells argues that virtual communities are communities not in the physical sense, but we shouldn’t define them as unreal, because they that operate on a different level of reality.
Hm. As I concern, the main point outlined above is a question about a direction of human’s evolution. On one hand there is a question in what measure the technology and internet would be a part of it, on the other – concerning the further step – how should we shape human evolution with technology as an inseparable companion.
The case of education (sth different is a public opinion – as in Morozov-slide) concerning deep preparation to living with technology hasn’t yet appeared as I have heard. Such an education, as I suppose, will concern teaching skills of selection and research, culture in the internet, skills of new-tech adaptation, shaping attitude to speeding-up world in order not to get lost and more.
Both mentioned questions are essential for nowadays, what is not obvious for most of countries. On the other hand it starts to be obvious to their biggest product-producers – the cities.
We can observe such an attitude in so called „smart cities” all around the Europe and high-developed countries, where place of technology begins to be significant in every sphere of economy, governing, society’s developement. According to the data which shows the way the world being urbinized, it is more than likely that the first initiatives of such education, coherent-shaping of society will appear in the „smart cities”. Going further, these cities will be probably more and more influencial in such a developement at the state and, above all, the local level.
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