Why study the internet?

Disclaimer: This is simply brainstorming for an application and so you can expect that the ideas presented will not necessarily be fully formed or logical (read: be patient if I don’t make sense).

Why study the internet?

Why not? Done. … Nope, I don’t think that one will fly.

(Image from here)

Have a look at what I did today:

  • Checked e-mail on my iPhone;
  • Dragged out the laptop to look up new recipes;
  • Verified the hours at the gym (not today, but I sometimes look up classes);
  • While exercising, was bombarded with TV commercials directing me to websites or Facebook for more information, along with Goodlife’s posters doing the same (of course I want to read more about their Drink Milk campaign – ugh, more on that another day);
  • After grocery shopping, was reminded to look up online the rewards I can get with my PC Points;
  • Returned home and reviewed the specifications for this application, which I will submit entirely online;
  • Lost interest; looked for Christmas-related events on Apartment613; 
  • Browsed Facebook for the latest updates since yesterday at 8:00pm: noted that it has snowed a lot in my hometown, as shown in pictures posted by a friend of my partner’s parents; ‘liked’ a picture of my niece and nephew in front of their Christmas tree; and creeped on pictures of an old friend now living an infinitely more trendy life in San Francisco;
  • Now I’m updating my blog.
Are those not enough reasons to study the internet? I feel that the key is not the focused study of the internet itself (though, that of course is a fascinating field from many sides: web development, programming, etc.), but to study our lives with the internet. It is a key tool in almost every aspect of what many people do daily. However, examining those who do not use it in the same way is just as fascinating (think digital divide, digital illiteracy, the impact of socioeconomic status and location, lapsed users and anti-internet fads). So, those topics of differences in use, the invasiveness and omnipresence of the internet, its use in communication (and appropriateness for communication in certain instances or situations  over other means such as phone and in-person contact – after all, the ‘medium is the message’ still applies), as well as information-gathering and dissemination practices along with all the filtering and media interpretation skills that individuals must develop.

All those areas of interest arise before we even approach the actual content of the internet. Pretty much every subject, community, or event that exists offline also has an equivalent reference online. The way these are expressed, presented, accessed and applied in cyberspace and how they interact with or enhance their offline manifestations is absolutely fascinating. This gives way to current hot topics in internet research, such as the use of social media for activism as well as political and corporate campaigns. Then there are also the communities, events and cultural trappings that only exist online – internet memes being the ones I currently find most amusing.

Yes, these are such broad areas, but this is necessary because upon starting my applications, I zeroed in on a very specific thesis topic without really digesting the larger landscape of this area of study. I think I’ll find the gem of an introductory paragraph for my application somewhere in here…


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