I suppose for my first column (anywhere) some sort of inaugural words are called for. Let’s start.
With the arrival of the Internet as a major form of interactive communication, we have seen an avalanche of new types of communication. From websites, blogs (an online journal- web+ log=blog), video sharing (YouTube), social networks (Facebook.com), to the newest virtual worlds (Second Life), the breadth and depth of these forms of communication is, for me, exciting, over whelming, disturbing, and, ultimately, unavoidable. As much as you can not imagine going without a telephone, or the postal service, or written language, these newer forms of digital communication are here to say and will have all kinds of impacts on how we collect, share, and distribute information. Information is the backbone of all relationships, and, so, also of communities, societies, and culture.
One of the benefits of all these digital goodies is that you, the consumer, have a wide degree of what you choose to see, to watch, to ingest. Sweeping generalizations aside, lets zoom in on the details. Let me be a tour guide for you through this teeming landscape of media and information. That is a mouthful. Is there a better term? President Bush offers up “the Internets.” Or his sidekick, Senator Stevens (AK) famously lectured his colleagues about how the Internet is a “series of tubes.”[JC2] The internet doesn’t really do the job o describing what is out there. Its like describing the auto industry as roads or the economy as money. The internet, roads, and money are all simply ways to get from A to B. The exciting stuff, the pulse of culture, politics, discovery, and life are all the As and Bs. So, the world of information is the digital jungle, the metaverse, the infoscape, or where-we-are-headed (albeit at different speeds). Cyberspace has emerged as an alternate term ad I’ll stick with it for now because it implies a destination, not a mode of transport.
We have a good sense of how people move around in cyberpsace. For the record, that is about 73% of us. The US still has the greatest degree of Internet use, even if the foreigners are kicking our butts in everything from manufacturing to mathematics. No one out gadgets the average American. Yet.
Anyway, the Pew Internet and American Life Project (http://www.pewinternet.org) has been doing some insightful research into what we are up to with all of our on-line hours (32/month, according to Nielsen Online; that’s nothing compared to world-leading Israel, at 58 hours per month according to comScore.) The good Pew folks look at how assets (your computer, your connection), attitudes (do you want to take a sledge hammer to your machine?), and actions (what do you do?) jointly can define the various types, species, of denizens of the infoscape. They have this nifty quiz (online, of course) you can take to identify yourself (http://www.pewinternet.org/quiz/quiz.asp). It takes about 10 minutes. Continue reading