#InClassThisWeek: The Internet is a Very Big Deal
This week we are studying the Internet’s Impact on Sociology, Motivation, Group Behaviors and the Associated Economic Impact
When teaching Digital Natives, it’s important to remember they don’t know what life is like without ubiquitous connectivity – everybody connected, all the time, to everything. They can’t remember when households had phone numbers as opposed to individual people with their own mobile phone numbers. They don’t know life before email and they barely remember dial-up connections. Here’s a reality check: Today’s college seniors were born in 1994.
In large part, the way people come together and communicate today has transformed during their lifetime. In order to appreciate the magnitude of the shift, they must understand the recency and the historical significance behind the transformation.
In 1994, Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble were hosting The Today Show – and in class we’ll watch a video where they try to figure out “what is the internet?” They also openly debate what the @ sign actually stands for. In 1994, the vernacular .com (dot com) was not in our vocabulary. Note: these aren’t ill-informed individuals. National News Anchors are arguably some of the most well-read people on the planet and yet @ and .com weren’t a part of their every day lives.
The truth is, since the times of the Ancient Egyptians, there have been only a few true game changers in how the world works. The invention of the Printing Press made it possible to print a book faster than you could read one making literacy a necessity. The invention of the telephone and the eventual laying of underground cable across the Atlantic Ocean opened up the possibility of global two-way communication. And today, the Internet has made it possible for everyone to access the world’s entire body of information 24×7.
In the same way the printing press amplified the individual mind and the telephone amplified two-way communications, a host of new tools, from email and mobile phones to blogs and social networks, amplify group communications.
Sociologically speaking, people like to work in groups. Think about it. The meanest thing we do to someone, short of killing them, is put them in solitary confinement. People like to be together. However, gathering a group of people and getting them to act used to require significant resources, giving the world’s institutions a monopoly on group effort. Now, any person can corral a group around a cause or passion.
In 1994, we didn’t know what the Internet was. In 2013, we collectively formed a group and put all our information together to catch the bad guys in the Boston Marathon Bombings. We call that a #MicDropMoment
Forming and participating in groups isn’t new. The human desire to be involved several groups at a time isn’t new. The only thing that has changed is the way form groups. Today, it’s easier and less expensive. The bottom line is that connective technologies have profound changes on the way groups assemble and cooperate.
Here’s the punch line:
The Internet enables new groups to form faster and easier than ever before, however the tools are simply a way of channeling existing human motivation. The centrality of group effort to human life means that anything that changes the way groups function will have profound ramifications for everything from commerce and government to media and religion.
Put another way: The Internet is a very big deal.