I’m not sure where this should go, but I’m sure the moderators will move it if they see fit.
My question is: What are the implications of the internet? Will it dumb down an already idiot-prone American society, one that doesn’t think critically about the things that they see and hear in the media, and if so, how fast will that dumbing-down occur? And what are the moral implications of the internet, a medium that does not make people accountable for their actions?
I think that the internet can be a good resource if you don’t take it too seriously and you think critically about the information so readily available at your fingertips. However, I’m concerned because I think that many people, Americans in particular, don’t think critically about the internet. I say this in part because of the students I teach. They want to get their sources for their papers from the internet, but they can’t conceive of the fact that the websites they consult could well be fabricated by people who are not authorities on anything.
Not sure what your getting at by “implications of the Internet.” Might I infer that you mean as more and more people use the Internet for their information and entertainment needs, that the use of the Internet by the average American will foster the continued decline of their already weak critical thinking facilities?
Personally, I don’t think it will do any more damage to the average American’s critical thinking skills than what’s currently out there (specifically, television). And in fact, it could be argued that it may turn out to actually have a postive benefit, in that one can encounter a wider variety of opinion, beliefs, etc. forcing a person to develop their critical thinking skills.
Of course, the argument is bolstered if an underlying assumption is that people become more discriminating consumers of information by virtue of their increased use of the Internet. It could very well be the case that a sort of “Gresham’s Law” of the Internet is beginning to prevail, (bad information driving out good information), but again, I don’t see this as any different than the (perceived?) problems fostered by television.
Again, not sure of what you mean by the Internet is “a medium that does not make people accountable for their actions.” How is the Internet any different from other types of media in this context?
I think this criticism can be leveled at many people in all cultures/societies as well and for other types of media. How many people think critically about what’s reported in newspapers or on television? Or, how many people think critically at all?
Well, as a college instructor I share your concerns. I think it stems from a (general) lack of emphasis in the American educational system (both secondary and college) to foster genuine critical thinking skills. I think you (as well as myself) can do a great service by helping students develop genuine critical thinking skills by teaching them. And I think the Internet can be a useful tool in that regard.
I’ve been drinking a little bit, so I apologize in advance for any confusion I have caused with the question or with anything else I may say. What an inauspicious way to post to GD!
“Might I infer that you mean as more and more people use the Internet for their information and entertainment needs, that the use of the Internet by the average American will foster the continued decline of their already weak critical thinking facilities?”
Yes, that’s what I meant.
“Personally, I don’t think it will do any more damage to the average American’s critical thinking skills than what’s currently out there (specifically, television). And in fact, it could be argued that it may turn out to actually have a postive benefit, in that one can encounter a wider variety of opinion, beliefs, etc. forcing a person to develop their critical thinking skills.”
Interesting. I hadn’t thought of it like this. Perhaps as people see varying viewpoints, they will realize that they will have to look deeper into an issue before they decide what sources to trust. I’d like to see this happen, but I have my doubts. It’s so easy to get lazy and click on the first website you see.
“Again, not sure of what you mean by the Internet is “a medium that does not make people accountable for their actions.” How is the Internet any different from other types of media in this context?”
I mean that since you can’t see people face to face over the internet [videoconferencing technology is still very twitchy], then you can’t judge the validity of a response by other criteria like body language or voice intonation. All you can judge the source by are the words and pictures on the website. With peer-reviewed material, you at least have the filter of editors and other experts. With newspapers and other periodicals, you have editors, and you can have letters to the editor agreeing or disagreeing with the material printed. Most websites don’t have peer-review or editors who try to be objective. Anyone could construct a website saying that s/he is the CEO of a major company and that x is the latest news that is going on in this company. I believe that a lot of people, in fact I’ve seen students in particular, won’t doublecheck to see if that kind of information is accurate.
Another moral implication is that since it’s easy to be anonymous on the internet, as we get more used to using it, how will people learn to interact with other human beings? For example, now at work I find myself sending emails to someone who’s in the office next door to me when I could just as easily get up and go next door and deliver the message in person. This trend I find disturbing. I don’t have to face another human being. I can just send an email. I can understand if the person is in the another state or another country, but right next door?
Another implication is that with all of this information at our fingertips, we can access information that we are not ready to handle (e.g. how to make bombs). I believe some secondary students–was it at Columbine High?–did this. Teenagers and just the public in general do not need to know this information. If you know how to build a bomb, then what’s to stop you from using it?
I also think it’s rather scary that the computer industry and the internet are already creating a divide between people who can afford the computers to use the internet and who know how to use the internet as opposed to poor people who can’t afford the latest computer technology or who don’t know how to use computer programs. Where does this leave them?
I think you make an excellent point that the internet isn’t any different from other media like tv, but if that’s the case, then maybe the question should be extended to include all media. And yes, as teachers we have a responsibility to teach students to be critical of any source they consult, internet or not, but what about the people who are not students? What about the teachers out there whose students know more about the internet than they do?
I realize that I’ve been speaking generally here and I have no cites other than my own experience, but I’m wondering what are the possibilities of extended use of the internet. I think that in our present state of ignorance, the potential for harm outweighs the potential for good. I think that the internet has been unleashed without people really thinking about what the dangers of this tool are.
Without a doubt, the single greatest application of the Internet is the instantaneous, world-wide communication of ANY idea, thought, essay, rant, or pornographic webcam that can be conceived by any human being who has access to a computer and a modem (and with WebTV & other gizmos, not even a computer is required anymore.)
For better or worse, the Internet has utterly changed the concept of long-distance communication. Time will bear out the Internet’s status as THE most revolutionary medium since Guttenberg put that movable-type thingy together.
“The Internet is more than just the world’s largest pornography network!” – Lisa Simpson
Everything said in this thread is very interesting. It is definetly true that the internet gives people a chance to spread false information, but it also gives people a chance to spread true information. In many cases, television does not, because TV is controlled by a few giant corporations. For example, consider the recent ‘rash’ of school shooting. Every TV network has agreed to become obsessed with this issue, and to pretend that youth violence is on the rise. On internet discussion boards, we are at least allowed to point out that violence in schools is actually going down.
So what would you suggest? Keeping the Internet under wraps until mankind is no longer “ignorant”. We learn how to adjust to new technologies through a painful process of trial and error. You can’t un-invent technology so talking about the dangers of ‘unleashing’ the Internet is a moot point.
Any new technology has the potential to change the status quo. This can be very threatening to people.
Personally, I think the biggest danger of the Internet is that it will take the place of normal human interaction. Instead of going to the store and chatting with some person in line and then interacting with the clerk, you just order groceries through Homerun.com. Instead of going out and meeting a girl at a bar, now you can meet someone in a chatroom.
Convienience aside, actually going out of the house and interacting with people is a good thing. It teaches you interpersonal skills (like conflict resolution) that can’t be learned from behind the protection of a firewall.
At least, unlike TV, you have the opportunity to interact with other people on some level (messageboards, email, chat rooms). TV is just watching pretty people doing stuff. As a matter of fact. I just got an idea for a new thread!
Oh, and thanks to the Internet, people can now post any silly thought that jumps into their head and get feedback without boring or creeping out their friends .
venturing into GD for my first time, humility firmly in tact.
It seems to me that the major implication of the internet is that it deals a major blow to a lot of our capitalist ideals. Mainly in terms of the growing crisis of “intellectual property”. While it has always been a somewhat nebulous concept, the internet has succeded in making it seem downright absurd and for better or worse, almost impossible to enforce. Capitalism is based at least in part on a scarcity model, where a finite supply must somehow meet a demand. People make money meeting this demand. Over the past few centuries, information has become one such commodity, in the form of books blueprints, and later recordings, films, software, etc. THe problem is that now, thanks to the internet, no such scarcity exists and the captialist system has been struggling to enforce an artificial scarcity model, and has been struggling more and more desperately to keep up with technology.
Seems to me that this has been and will continue to be the major impact of the internet. It is also an opportunity, if we choose to look at it as such, to reverse this silliness and realize that the pandora’s box of free access to ideas and other peoples intellectual “property” can not be closed, and that the only hope we have of continuing to have a meaningful capitalist system in the post internet age is if we programmers, artists, writers, etc. aknowledge that intellectual property is antiquated and instead, return to being service industries. instead of propogating the lie that we are creating a product, in the form of a CD ROM, or an MP3, we return to being compensated for our abilities and expertise instead of selling a nonexistent property.
I have my doubts as well, but hope springs eternal. I don’t want to become entirely cynical.
That’s quite true and one of the current drawbacks of the Internet. I teach several Internet-based courses, am I well aware of the difficulties trying to teach students with whom I have very little contact. Not only are they often “in the dark” so to speak, but so am I. Non-verbal responses (body languages and voice intonation) are (to me) a surprisingly critical component in the learning process. Once the technology improves (greater bandwidth allowing for clearer real-time audio and video, for example), these difficulties will lessen, but not entirely.
I agree, but as educators I think we owe it to our students (and ourselves) to help them determine what are/are not reliable sources of information on the Internet. Say, for example, you give an assignment allowing only certain sites from the Internet that are deemd as acceptable sources. Or maybe have a portion of a class or a handout that explains why certain sites are acceptable and not others. Or maybe have a class dedicated to going to the library and teaching students where to find reputable and good sources of information. A referrence librarian is an extremely valuable asset in facilitating this kind of activity. Or, you could just ban Internet sources altogether, like some of my collegues do
Good point and one that is currently being researched by many people (psychologists, sociologists, etc.). I think the trend is somewhat analagous to the rise and use of telephones, radio, and television. It changed (and is still changing) the way in which people interact/commicate with one another. I agree that it is somewhat disturbing that I would send an email to a co-worker that happens to be right next door to me (I do it myself, sometimes). To me, its just a continuation of a trend that started when advances in technology changed the way in which humans communicate and interact with one another. One can debate when this trend first started (read McLuhan, for example) and also whether this trend has overall been benefical or not.
Well, I agree that this is somewhat troubling, but now were getting into ethical/legal matters which even people well versed in these realms are still grappling with.
I agree and, again, research and debate has focus on this very issue. But I think an argument can be made that the technology is progressing to the point where it will become less of an issue in the future. What I mean is that as the price of a personal computer comes down and the technology progresses to the point where it’s realatively easy to use one, people will be forced by economic/culture/social pressures to have on and be able to use it. Much like having a vehicle to get to work.
That being said, however, there’s a (likely) possibility of a “computer illiterate unclass” emerging and it is a cause for concern. In fact, we’re already experiencing it from a global perspective - with the developed nations having a far greater share of people who own a computer and have access to the Internet than people in the less or underdeveloped nations. Which raises a whole other debate on the merits of “globalization” and the emerging global economy, for example.
Again, the same sould be said for other types of media such as television. One of the hazards, I guess, in promoting the virtues of a free and open society.
Learn from them!! Who said a teacher couldn’t learn from their students? In the process, you could be helping them hone their critical thinking skills. Those students who are Internet-savvy are probably already proficient in their critical thinking skills. It’s the casual or non-user of the Internet where the difficulties will arise in teaching critical thinking skills. Besides, teachers shouldn’t be using the Internet as a teaching resource if they themselves can’t distinguish between reliable and suspect information.
I wouldn’t myself go so far as say the potential for harm outweighs the good. For example, it’s quite possible our ancestors debated the merits of fire, for example. Sure, the potential is there for harm, but so are the potential benefits. I think educators can play an important role in helping shape those benefits, whatever form they may eventually take. Who says teachers aren’t important?
i think message boards can be quite useful for the exchange of information. i learned about 2 books i subsequently purchased and read via messageboards. i’ve also made suggestions and occasionally gotten positive feedback.
i have also alienated people on a message board and some christians stopped posting there since july. the internet may balkanize with like minded people only communicating with each other. we could have grammar and high school students jumping around lurking in on different adult rooms encountering ideas different from parents and teachers.
the internet won’t save idiots but will probably stimulate the inquisitive. we need browsers that block the e-BSness tho.
Jeremy’s Evil Twin said:
“For better or worse, the Internet has utterly changed the concept of long-distance communication.”
I agree. Email has saved me hundreds of dollars in international phone calls. But of course, I’m not completely satisfied. At this point, we can only really communicate in English. I just wish I knew enough about software to get a good program that will let me write in Japanese characters. Trying to translate Japanese from English letters is a bitch.
"i have also alienated people on a message board and some christians stopped posting there since july. the internet may balkanize with like minded people only communicating with each other. we could have grammar and high school students jumping around lurking in on different adult rooms encountering ideas different from parents and teachers.
the internet won’t save idiots but will probably stimulate the inquisitive. we need browsers that block the e-BSness tho."
Well, no matter if it’s on the internet or in the flesh, we’re going to alienate someone for some reason or another. We can’t expect to get along with everyone. If people are mature, secure in themselves, not interested in coverting others into their religion, and interested in expanding their horizons then perhaps this balkanization can be overcome. I think it’s in our best interests both on the internet and in the flesh to meet and discourse with others who have different perspectives from us. There are real opportunities for personal growth in such interaction provided there is mutual respect. In terms of students being exposed to adult material, there’s no way to stop it on the internet or elsewhere. My mother’s appalled at what kids have access to today. She thinks kids are crazy now because they are exposed to adult content that they do not have the maturity to handle. I agree in part with her, but what can we do to help kids? It’s ultimately the parents’ responsibility to monitor their children and to provide a solid foundation for their children. And yes the internet at it’s best–it’s debatable–will stimulate people. I guess it does have it’s good and bad points.
Bad Hat said:
“It is also an opportunity, if we choose to look at it as such, to reverse this silliness and realize that the pandora’s box of free access to ideas and other peoples intellectual “property” can not be closed, and that the only hope we have of continuing to have a meaningful capitalist system in the post internet age is if we programmers, artists, writers, etc. aknowledge that intellectual property is antiquated and instead, return to being service industries. instead of propogating the lie that we are creating a product, in the form of a CD ROM, or an MP3, we return to being compensated for our abilities and expertise instead of selling a nonexistent property.”
Very interesting. Hadn’t thought about the internet in this way. I think it’s going to take us a while to get to the stage of selling abilities and expertise over a tangible piece of property. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen in the coming years with the internet. But I wonder if the internet isn’t just another fad that will fade as some other new technological wonder–I’m too tired and intoxicated right now to think outside the box enough to see what this wonder could be–surfaces, and then how will that affect how we do business or interact with others.
“You can’t un-invent technology so talking about the dangers of ‘unleashing’ the Internet is a moot point.”
I agree that we can’t stop technology from being unleashed until every bug has been worked out. However, I don’t think that talking about the dangers now is a moot point; that’s why I started this debate. I think that we should talk about the dangers of this technology PRECISELY because it has been unleashed so that we can be aware of what is going on and guard our own behavior accordingly. It’s so easy to get caught up in something just because everyone else is doing it that often we don’t step back and ask ourselves how are the actions we are engaging in beneficial and/or detrimental to us. And I think, like you, that one detriment of using the internet is that it will encourage people not to interact in the flesh. I don’t want to live in a society where chatrooms are more real than flesh and blood interaction.
eponymous responded to me:
“Well, I agree that this [kids accessing information (e.g. how to build bombs) that they are not ready to handle] is somewhat troubling, but now were getting into ethical/legal matters which even people well versed in these realms are still grappling with.”
I think this is one of my primary concerns because I’m impatient, and I want an answer NOW. If the ethical/legal experts don’t know what to do, then what have they thought of so far? Does anyone at the SDMB have any ready solutions?
I did not mean to imply people shouldn’t talk about the potential dangers of the Internet. They definitely should. The “moot” part is discusing whether we should have unleased it. Its here to stay, for better or worse.
One nice thing about chatrooms/message boards is the ability to debate a particular subject at any time with a complete stranger. I don’t think walking up to a complete stranger on the street works the same.
Communicating online is definititely a better alternative to sitting and watching TV all day.
“One nice thing about chatrooms/message boards is the ability to debate a particular subject at any time with a complete stranger. I don’t think walking up to a complete stranger on the street works the same.”
Yes, it’s nice to be able to talk to anyone at any time about anything, and I’ve certainly enjoyed and hope to continue discoursing with you and with others at the SDMB; however, you make it sound like there are no other non-internet alternatives for debating topics with people. What did people do before there were internet chatrooms? I’m sure they did not resort to propositioning people on the street. They probably advertised the debate group and its topics by word of mouth, in the newspapers, or on the radio and went from there. I’m not saying the “old” way of establishing dialogue is better or that we should not engage in debate on the web. What I am saying is that we now have a generation of kids growing up who probably don’t know anything other than chatrooms/message boards. How will they learn to interact with other human beings and carry on a civilized conversation with them in the flesh? I will say in the SDMB’s favor, that the people on this board sometimes make an effort to meet each other in the flesh with these dopefests. That gives me hope for this message board at least.
“Communicating online is definititely a better alternative to sitting and watching TV all day.”
Yes, it’s more interactive, but I’m biased in favor of reading poetry and prose. I think that young adults in particular and adults should spend more time reading so that when they do access these chatrooms, they will have a substantive base from which to start a dialogue. Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned, but so be it.