Students Debate "Internet & Community," Part A

This semester in the sophomore-level course I teach on "Communication and Society," we spent several weeks examining the many ways that individuals and groups are using the internet to alter the nature of community, civic engagement, and social relationships. (Go here for reading list.)

For many college students, having grown up "online," it's easy to take for granted the "virtual" society we live in, seldom pausing to consider how it might be different from more traditional forms of community life.

Therefore, one of the goals of the course was to encourage students to think systematically and rigorously about the many changes introduced by the internet over the past decade.

From political blogs to Facebook, students were introduced to the latest scholarship in the area, grouped into opposing teams, and then asked to research and write evidence-based position papers on the topic. This week, after turning in their papers, the teams squared off in a "face-to-face" class debate.

But now things get really interesting. Below the fold, I have posted the opposing teams' position papers. In this pane, Cyber-Optomists square off against Cyber-Skeptics. Until Tuesday, May 1, they will continue their classroom debate in the comment section of the blog. In the other blog pane, Team Social Change squares off against Team Reinforcers.

Each individual student will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their posts, drawing on research and evidence to back up their claims.

At issue is the following:


"Community" is enhanced by new communication technologies such as email, online discussion groups, Web sites, and blogs. These technologies either allow for new forms of cyber-community and/or contribute to old forms of community.



"Community" is hurt by new communication technologies such as email, online discussion groups, Web sites, and blogs. Community cannot exist in cyberspace, and/or these technologies detract from old forms of community.



From Face to Facebook: A Transformation of the 21st Century Community

Kristian H., Candace K., Alissa O., Jason P., & Maria .

At 7:15 am on April 16, 2007, a shooting was reported in a dormitory on the main campus of the Virginia Technological Institute. Within hours, thirty-two people had been massacred across campus, in what became the deadliest college shooting in U.S. history. While threatening the lives and shocking the nerves of people around the country, the horrors of the Virginia Tech massacre highlighted a global community we have recently grown to utilize and accept. The mass mobilization of people and news following the tragedy showcased the many mediums of communication available and the positive and productive means of connecting people for a common good.

This event serves as an example of just how imperative technology and computer-mediated communication has become in the past twenty years. Less than two hours after the first shooting--though criticized for its tardiness--an e-mail informing everyone of the first shooting was sent to the 36,000 members of the Virginia Tech community. Shortly after, press releases swarmed the internet informing all media outlets of the incident.

Online communities and social networking sites were immediately utilized in order to find out whether family and friends were safe. News, blogs and personal sites became outlets for intercommunication and a means to better understand the tragedy as the events of the day became clearer. Considering that at the time of writing this paper we were in the initial stages of crisis management, the use of such communication resources highlighted the importance of the internet to the community.

The internet has transformed our world into a global community where each individual plays the role of not only a local civilian--but on a grander scale--the role of a global citizen. The internet acts as a "cerebral cortex" that connects every individual user to every part of the world. With the help of internet technology and computer-mediated communication, we are able to interact with people from anywhere in the world. The internet builds social capital by bridging (across different groups) and bonding (strengthening personally intimate ties) (Putnam, 2000, pg. 23). The internet also facilitates the creation of loose ties, or in other words, it allows the user to have more "connections."

This paper will aim to further our understanding of how the internet has positively influenced the interrelations of community and communication through examples and comparisons of recent studies. Indeed, technology has redefined the connection between community and communication. We will specifically explore how the internet has changed civic participation, social networking, religious groups, crisis communication, and education.

"There have been fears in every generation that community has been "lost" and hopes that it has been "saved" (Wellman, 2001). Our argument lies within the theory that community has not been lost, but simply transformed. New communications and technologies are constantly reshaping the world, and the idea of community is no exception to change. Personal and face-to-face contact will never vanish, but social interactions are not the same as they were just ten years ago. Community and communication have had to change to fit a new era of technological advancement, and these modifications will continue to fit the new advancements of the future.

Community: Won't you be my neighbor?

Technological advancements have brought our world to a profound level of global interaction, thus forming new dimensions of community. The emergence of innovative types of communities parallels this growth of technology. Robert Putnam highlights the importance of a sense of belonging as the definitive aspect of community. Through a traditional community lens, the deepest sense of belonging we have is to our most intimate social networks, especially family and friends, followed by work, church, neighborhood, and civic life (Putnam, 2000). Barry Wellman brings a similar light to the term "community" and states that "it is a multi-meaning word that in Western societies, has traditionally been anchored in neighborhood interactions and enshrined as a code word for cohesion" (Wellman, 2001).

Internet technology has helped to create many new dimensions of community, breaking geographical barriers and allowing people to virtually connect while existing across the globe. "The traditional human orientation to neighborhood and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks" (Boase, Horrigan, Wellman & Rainie, 2006).

The most important factor, in regards to community and today's level of technological advancement is the indispensability factor. When looking at the Virginia Tech shootings, the internet instantly connected a campus community as large as 36,000 people with information that potentially saved their lives. Furthermore, online social networking sites enabled interaction between thousands of smaller communities and linked a greater networked community making it possible for family members and friends to assure the safety of their loved ones.

Making Sense of the Plethora of Information

Applebee's America (Fournier, Sosnik, Dowd, 2006) makes clear that the American public is faced with an overwhelming amount of information. While Americans had a choice between two or three TV networks in the 1950s, today consumers of information can pick among 200 channels and an endless profusion of internet sites. Nowadays, Americans are constantly connected, from instant messaging, text messages, e-mails, cell phones and other information news outlets. More and more, Americans are becoming reliant on people they trust to help them make very important decisions in their lives. The authors call these people navigators and they have been useful in guiding the recent political process. As they are described, "a navigator is anybody who influences an opinion in peer-to-peer conversation" (Fournier, Sosnik, Dowd, 2006).

In the 2004 political campaign, Bush used these navigators to win the election. After coming to an understanding of the strategy used by the Bush campaign, election marketing gurus Ed Keller and Jon Berry knew that the election was already decided by early spring 2004 when Berry told his partner, "It's over, Bush will win." The Bush campaign's plan was to use seven million volunteers to build a database of two million self-identified navigators. These people would play a critical role in writing letters to the editor, talking politics, forwarding emails or attending public meetings in order to get voters to the polls on Election Day. The internet made this all possible because of the two-way flow of information between the members of the grassroots and the campaign itself. The success of the Bush campaign demonstrated a bolstering of human interconnectivity. According to Applebee's America, the greatest accomplishment of the Bush team was in the use of human resources, which was made possible through the internet and virtual communities.

As Mark Halpern and John F. Harris wrote in their book The Way to Win, "presidential campaigns are about storytelling. A winning presidential campaign presents the candidate's life story to the voters." Halpern and Harris's analysis of success evaluates the 2004 election and looks forward to future campaigns. The lessons of 2004 showed that a better connection to the voters through blogs and virtual communities is exemplarily of the positive effects of the internet and the community it fosters. "Who would you rather have a beer with?" became the casual question that won Bush the election. Furthermore, it was through the bottom-up, grassroots method that these messages were achieved--an objective improvable without the use of the internet.

Beyond needing a personable candidate, Halpern and Harris emphasize personability and strong relationships. "Be nice to your donors, cater to your political supporters, stroke your volunteers, but above all else, return our phone calls." While the two authors do not discuss online communities, as the Applebee's America does, Harris and Halpern do emphasize a fundamental difference in the two campaigns. The losing campaign did not care about or value relationships, while the winning campaign did. The Bush team focused on these connections and built a strong unified, seven million person community as a front to win the election.

Social Capital and Civic Ties

Applebee's America outlines the role of an active citizen. "Across America, people are investing their time on their own terms to be a part of self-serving groups that make things happen" (Fournier, Sosnik, Dowd, 2006, p. 149). Americans are getting involved in the world around them through the increasing means to do so. When campaigns require civic engagement, seven million people volunteer themselves. When a tragedy strikes a college campus, human interconnectivity is heightened through Facebook messages where events and groups are created instantaneously. "They are creating what Putnam calls 'social capital,' the measure of civic activity and personal connections that improve the quality of life" (p. 149). It is this argument presented in Applebee's America that directly corresponds to the idea of increased civic engagement with increased ability to be engaged.

These are unsettling times. The war on terror, the war in Iraq, economic insecurity, a spate of natural disasters, the loneliness and isolation of a highly mobile, hard-wired populace in an era of sprawl--these things and more create an emptiness in America. This is a nation filled with people searching for assurance from one another or the sense of purpose they can get from causes greater than themselves. (p. 149)

As Applebee's America spells out the need for increasing number personal ties in these troubling ties, the plethora of online mediums answers this plea. From crisis management to a simple friend, the Internet has not only enabled a greater amount of civic engagement, moreover, the public has reached a greater ability to interact on new levels.

Facebook: Not Quite a new Form of Face-to-Face, but Close

The world was able to observe this new world community created by the internet and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook because of the tragedy that occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech last Monday. Following the shooting, the vast number of cell phones utilized on campus flooded the circuits, and prevented many students from calling home to let friends and family know they were unharmed. Thus, students turned to these networking sites as their form of communication, and responded immediately to words of inquiry for their safety posted by friends and family on many of their MySpace and Facebook posting walls. Likewise, students were able to edit their status bars on Facebook so they would read messages announcing their safety for everyone to see.

Within hours of the shooting, these sites became places of collective mourning and tribute as well. Among the American University network, a Facebook Event was created and sent as an invite to hundreds of students across campus to attend a late night vigil at the school's spiritual center, resulting in a standing room only event the very night of the shootings. Moreover though, Virginia Tech students began to create Facebook groups in memoriam of the 32 dead students, which even before the mainstream media, began to list the names of the fallen among the group descriptions. As such, the wall posting boards for these groups became places to express empathetic condolences, sympathy and anecdotes of those who had been killed in the tragedy--these including a posting of thanks by the older sister of one the victims, who while still at her own college the night of the shooting, found solace in the mourning and support of others through the Facebook group. The actual profiles of those fallen students also remain as lasting memorials to their lives as they stood the morning of April 16, 2007 (Pelofsky, 2007).

With this event, it is clear that although social networking sites were used as an active form of communication and promotion of community togetherness, they in did not necessarily deter the ultimate goal of making face-to-face or voice-to-voice connection with family or friends among users; the internet only assisted in this effort. A social networking site is defined by the Pew Internet and American Life Project as "an online place where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users" (Lenhart, 2007). With this, researchers at the University of Kansas and Kent State University conducted a study of college students as a snap shot of a demographic that often uses social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. The study aimed to find truth in the claim that there is a trade-off of social interaction between online interactions and other forms of social interaction, a trade off that could have arguably occurred during the Virginia Tech event.

However, the results of the study refuted the common notion among some social scientists that there is that trade-off. The study found that social internet use does not impact the quantity of communications among other media like face-to-face or telephone conversations. In fact, the researchers concluded that the more a person communicated with another via the internet, the more likely they were to communicate with that person face-to-face or by telephone. The argument that face-to-face conversations promote "richer" interactions was also refuted. "The quality of online interactions was lower than that of face-to-face conversations, but only by the slimmest of margin." Thus, "instead of a trade-off between high quality face-to-face conversations and lower quality internet interactions, students are supplementing high quality face-to-face conversations and telephone calls with really good internet interactions." In actuality, the researchers concluded that any argument claiming such a trade-off of interactions or impediment upon social interaction existed was in their words "shaky at best" (Baym et al., 2004).

Education Development and Internet Technology

Weaving both the political and social aspects together, the internet has changed the face of education in countless forms. Since its introduction, the realm of knowledge has taken on a completely new dimension. From scholarly search engines to instant messaging, the internet provides numerous resources that are globally accessible and aid to further educational possibilities. One study done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that students have had largely positive academic experiences with the internet. Seventy-nine percent of college students reported that Internet use has had a positive impact on their college academic experience. Nearly half reported that e-mail enables them to express ideas to a professor that they would not have expressed in class (Jones, 2002).

The internet is now a fundamental teaching tool from secondary, through professional education. Traditional educational communities that once revolved around libraries and academic gatherings are now able to reach new levels of connectedness with the help of virtual access to millions of scholarly databases, resources, people, and ideas. In the realm of higher education, the internet plays an indispensable role. Research is now primarily conducted on the internet, the majority of communication between professors and students is conducted via email or IM, and the campus community is solidified by the internet. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of college students say they use the internet more than the library, while only 9% said they use the library more than the internet for information searching (Jones, 2002).

The college demographic is exceptionally interesting in regard to online educational experiences because Generation Y has grown up in an online environment. The internet is a vital component of our social, personal and educational lives.

Crisis Communication: Use of the Internet when Times are Tough

When crises arise, the framework of any and every type of community is threatened, and each individual adds to the sum of community awareness, participation and support. Just as we have seen with the events at Virginia Tech, regardless of the scale of community, when any group of people are in a state of emergency there are fundamental relief and support aids that people seek.

Of the many mediums of communication, the internet allows for the most access to knowledge, communication, and social networking--factors which are essential to the alleviation of an emergency. Online crisis communication consists of numerous branches that intersect to neutralize the impact of any particular calamity. Warning systems, news updates, search engines, social networking sites, blogs, and social support groups all greatly facilitate access to vital information that can help to save lives.

The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 serve as an example of not only a national rise in online connectedness, but a global increase in awareness. One study which evaluated the connection between community participation and internet use after the attacks reported that individuals who participated in online communities, through posting and reading thoughts about the attacks, were also more likely to participate in real communities, demonstrating complementary patterns of online and local community participation (Dutta-Bergman, 2006)).

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought forth a national cry for help when more than 500,000 families were forced to evacuate the city of New Orleans. The internet served as a crucial tool in the unification of the country for immediate relief and support systems to help the victims. "Reports suggest that evacuees, and people who helped evacuees, used the internet to find family and friends, to search for updates on the state of their neighborhoods, to search for housing and jobs, and to exchange needed services, goods, and monetary aid" (Shklovski, 2005). The traditional neighborhood communities of New Orleans had been both physically and psychologically destroyed, and the internet came to serve as a life saving bridge that reunited families, friends, and communities. Without the virtual world there would have been little hope to restore the old ties that these families once had.

War is a time of crisis that precisely tests the strengths of community, communication and rationality of any nation. The Iraq War has been a focal point of all of the different mass mediums for the past six years, but the internet has added a new dimension of global connectedness that allows individuals all over the world to share their experiences, opinions, and insights. More than three-quarters of online Americans (77%) have used the internet in connection with the Iraq War. They are going online to get information about the war, to learn and share differing opinions about the conflict through the sending and receipt of e-mails and to offer their thoughts and prayers to those involved. In addition, a smaller portion of internet users are using email to mobilize others and gain support for their views about the conflict (Raine, Fox & Fallows, 2003).

The blogosphere also plays a key role in social networking and connectivity in order to gain support for individual views. People from all over the world are launching blogs and attracting online traffic, which create a virtual community, to represent their views. Technorati is now tracking over 70 million weblogs, and the world is seeing the creation of about 120,000 new weblogs each day. That's about 1.4 blogs created every second of every day (Technorati, 2007). Blogs allow people who would have never gotten the chance to meet otherwise, to converse.


Now that we find ourselves in the most technologically advanced era in history, it is impossible to avoid the impressive influence the internet has had in regard to all aspects of our lives. The definitions of community and communication have undergone infinite changes throughout the past twenty years. Internet technology has redefined every individual's place in the world and proven that we are no longer solely part of our local community, but rather members of a global society that connects every individual user to every part of the world. Geographical barriers have been broken down by computer-mediated communication, and the internet has facilitated the development of social capital through vast social networks, virtual communities, greater loose ties, and strengthened existing ties.

The examples used throughout this paper prove that internet technology is an incredibly powerful tool that enhances all branches of communication. "The careful examination of actual internet use in its numerous forms should be organized by the task of discerning, recognizing and articulating the empowering aspects of the technology as they arise out of the everyday lives of real people in particular situations" (Bakardjieva, 2003). The internet serves as a tool that adds a new dimension of communication to the global community. From civic participation and education, to social networking and crisis management, the internet has positively influenced our world.

Observing unfortunate events that occurred at Virginia Tech last week, it is clear that the internet is an indispensable form of communication in today's world. The efficiency, accessibility, rapidity, and connectivity to which the internet provides is unmatched in comparison with any other form of communication. Without the internet and its elevation of such communication, the Virginia Tech tragedy could have escalated to devastating heights. A new form of online community was spurred because of this tragedy, and continues to develop.

Our argument does not aim to negate the value of traditional community or traditional face-to-face contact, but rather, to show its transformation. Traditional communities are still alive today and face-to-face contact will never squander, for it is the essence of humanity. But it is clear that community and communication change, even on a daily basis, and there is no way to halt these changes.

Ultimately, we cannot reestablish the traditional communities of the 1950s. Instead, we must embrace the changes in our world because such changes are unyielding. As long as we are progressing socially and technologically, communities and communication methods will simultaneously transform to fit these changes. The internet is an integral part of the lives of 21st century citizens, and will only empower those who take advantage of it. The advancements that the internet has brought us thus far have miraculously transformed our society and simplified numerous aspects of our lives. We must look not behind us to try to grasp what is now gone, but ahead to broaden the possibilities of what lies ahead.


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How the Internet Hinders Communication

Brittany A., Christina F., Cory C., Ryan K., Remy P., Marlisa S.

The internet has expanded the way many people communicate with others in their community, bringing with it opportunity, but also many draw backs. When defining community, one may think back to the traditional view of community which first takes place within a certain location, such as a city or town, and how people who make up the community communicate with one another (M. Nisbet, personal communication, March, 26 2007). Classically, this would involve face to face communication and bonding, which ultimately can nourish a relationship and transform it into something deeper and more significant. While the internet does provide another means of communication, it is also the basis of heavy debate as to whether or not it helps promote communication within a community, or is only expanding a superficial network of contacts. From the point of view of a cyber skeptic, while the internet does provide some positive opportunities, bonding and furthering meaningful relationships is lost online. According to author Robert Putnam, there are five concepts that support the basis that the internet is hindering communication, which are cyber balkanization, loss of social cues, the digital divide, reinforcement, and time displacement.

While the internet seems to be a vast wonderland, bringing many different types of people together to expand their communities, in actuality cyber balkanization often occurs. Cyber balkanization is the effect of people looking for people who are similar to themselves to interact with online (M. Nisbet, personal communication, March, 26 2007). This may include people with similar interests or opinions. Real world interaction offers people with different social and political views and interests to communicate and engage in dialogue, with the possibility of creating new ties with different people and hearing a variety of opinions. However, the internet can promote homogenous interactions based on similar interests and personal outlooks (Putnam, 2000, p. 178) because people are looking for others who share their own predispositions.

The loss of social cues can develop from replacing face to face communication with communication online. The internet is a forum for communication which attracts many social people; however, according to Putnam (2000) "the net disproportionately attracts civic dynamos and sedates them," (p. 171). Essentially, limiting one's communication to mostly online communication can cause people to lose their ability to effectively communicate in person due to the lack of in-person social experience. Whitty and Gavin (2001) wrote that there are theorists who believe in "the social presence theory" and/or "the social context cues theory," both of which describe the loss of social cues from online communication due to such factors as fewer non verbal cues (facial expression, posture, etc) and the decline of personal communication from lack of social presence (p. 624).

The digital divide is the "social inequality of access to cyberspace," (Putnam, 2000, p. 174). Instead of bridging the gap between social and racial groups and creating social capital, the internet is furthering this division due to its select availability to privileged groups of people. According to Putnam (2000) this can result in a cyberapartheid, which makes "elite networks" less available to minorities and people of a lower socioeconomic class (p. 175).

The internet also provides a reinforcement element for its users, which is similar to the telephone (M. Nisbet, personal communication, March 26, 2007). Both of these means of communication "have had the effect of reinforcing, not transforming or replacing existing personal networks," (Putnam, 2000, p. 168). Therefore, while the internet does allow people to maintain contact with others, it does not allow them to transform their relationships into something more meaning and significant. Also, instead of opening up new possibilities, Americans use the phone and internet to further pursue a way of life they would have originally (Putnam, 2001, p. 169).

The internet can also cause time displacement, during which avid internet users are using their time online, rather than in face to face communication. Internet users spend "hours during which they are away from their family and friends, resulting in depression and loneliness for the individual user, and further weakening neighborhood and community ties," (Bargh & McKenna, 2004, p. 574). Instead of reinforcing existing relationships, the time displacement factor can cause distress in already formed relationships.

Although Putnam focuses his cyber skeptic argument on five basic points, we will focus our argument on the internet's role in online relationships and social networking, the digital divide, and hacking. The internet can help its users meet other people through social networking websites, such as Facebook; however these relationships are often shallow and impersonal in comparison to relationships that are established and maintained through face to face contact. We will also explore the digital divide and the unfair advantage that those of a certain demographic have over others in access to the internet and its opportunities, which instead of bringing a community together, is actually creating a further divide. Lastly, cyber hacking is a side effect of internet use that can result in fraud and identity theft. These three factors help internet users communicate with a large social network of shallow ties rather than create and maintain deep significant ties, which results from face to face communication.

Online Relationships and Social Networking

The internet develops a less socially conscious character, which largely develops on online networking and dating sites, specifically among young adults and teens (Whitty, 2001, p. 626). Slow social development and lack of social cues can inhibit a person's ability to move forward in society. They are unaware of what nonverbal cues they maybe sending others and what nonverbal cues others may be performing. Particularly, in romantic love, women and men find it difficult to develop healthy relationships when they are unaware of nonverbal communication (Whitty, 2001, p. 626).

Studies have shown that a relationship conceived on the internet does not have much hope of lasting because partners are unable to identify each other's emotions and men and women tend to look for different aspects in an online partner. Each sex also tends to lie differently; men lie about personal topics, while women tend to lie simply to protect themselves from any harm (Whitty, 2001, p 628). These dishonest strategies coincide well with the argument that men believe an online relationship is "shallow and meaningless," (Whitty, 2001, p 629).

The reason why online relationships, not only romantic ones, are so shallow and meaningless is because there is a loss of cues that signify all the typical factors people desire in a relationship. Factors like trust and honesty, but most of all the fact that two people can be completely different (Whitty, 2001, p. 630), but when they meet online all boundaries are down because they can not differentiate between the online world and reality (Whitty, 2001, p. 627).

Digital Divide

It is undeniable that the internet provides it's users with a wealth of information and paves the way for social change through communication. However, as with many other privileges, there is unequal access to the internet which comes in the form of the "digital divide". This term refers to "inequalities in access to the Internet, extent of use, knowledge of search strategies, quality of technical connections and social support, ability to evaluate the quality of information, and diversity of uses," (DiMaggio, Hargittai, Neuman, & Robinson, 2001, p. 310). The internet is a powerful tool, however there are documented differences of its usefulness and accessibility, both of which favor those who are college educated, white, of high socioeconomic status, and under 55 years old. The internet is also used more by males in urban settings (DiMaggio et al, 2001, p. 311). This secludes a large portion of the population from internet access and all the opportunities it has to offer, such as up to date news, social networks, jobs, access to political and social dialog, and much more (DiMaggio et al, 2001, p. 310).

There is a large divide between internet access in urban and rural areas as well. Due to the high population of poverty stricken people in urban areas, these libraries are more likely to have high speed internet access than libraries in rural areas who serve a lower number of poverty stricken people (DiMaggio et al 2001, p. 312). There is also a divide of internet access between whites and minority groups (DiMaggio et al, 2001, p. 311).

The result of the digital divide of who has access to the internet is like a cycle. The privileged are the ones with access to the internet, and in turn have greater access to a variety of opportunities, while the poor, uneducated, and minorities have less access to the internet and its possibilities that could ultimately help improve their situation.

In the end, while the internet is a communication tool that provides many opportunities for social and political development, it's "inequalities in access to information services tend to persist in contrast to the rapid diffusion of information goods," (DiMaggio et al, 2001, p. 310).


One of the major risks of entering the online world is the ability of others to manipulate the carefully thought out protection systems, and penetrate unauthorized information, also known as hacking. Hacking into someone else's information is not only illegal; it can become very costly for the victim, especially in cases such as identity theft (O'Brien, 2000, p. 1). One of the triggers for hacking can be cyber-stalking, or "the illegal monitoring of private information and communication of ex-lovers and spouses as a form of domestic violence (Jenkins, 2007, p.1).

According to Timothy O'Brien, "law enforcement officials and consumer advocates say the Internet is making identity theft one of the signature crimes of the digital era (O'Brien, 2000, p.1)." Personal information can be accessible to almost anyone with access to the internet. Information like date of birth, a home address and even a Social Security number, which is consider very private information since it gives access to things like credit cards and identification cards (O'Brien, 2000, p.1) can all be found through hacking.

Search engines can make hacking and cyber-stalking so much easier because of the easy access to Social Security numbers (O'Brien, 2000, p.2). Cyber-stalking is the illegal screening of a partner, or former partner's information available online, which may result in domestic violence (Jenkins, 2007, p.1). The internet discloses a new world for abuse to occur, and like many domestic violence cases, it is not easy to stop with legal action. Victims who are aware feel powerless and "it becomes clear these...tactics are designed to induce fear (Jenkins, 2007, p.2)." Cyber-stalking and hacking can endanger the lives of those who use the internet; the easy access works against the community oriented atmosphere of the internet. Any rules set by the community, with respect to privacy and personal information, are broken.


As stated in the introduction, community classically involved face to face interaction and improving and strengthening a relationship on social terms. However, the innovation of the internet, which was originally believed to strengthen social ties, puts the users at a disadvantage because he or she loses so much. These losses include social cues, the ability to form lasting relationship, and even the loss of personal information to hackers. The internet also creates a divide, where some are welcome and some are not.

People love technology, and tend to take full advantage of it whenever a new product or item comes out. However, society does not often warn about the effect of the product, even when it is misused. The internet is potentially detrimental to society because it creates a world in which there are no boundaries. Willing people add their information to the internet daily, giving people around the world access to personal information. Above all else, the internet creates a morphed sense of community where any individual can retrieve information about another with no regards to privacy. Community requires a balance between its members, but the internet interrupts that balance, severely tipping the scales.

Society should stop using the internet as a social hub and use it instead as a tool. Community is the development of relationships and the creation of social bonds. Without the structure community gives us, we are at a loss and cannot properly function. Community strengthens bonds and establishes a sense of the populace, face to face.


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DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Neuman, W.R., & Robinson, J.P. (2001). Social Implications of the Internet. Annual Reviews. 307-329. Retrieved April 1, 2007, from Annual Reviews database.

Gavin, J., & Whitty, M. (2001). Age/Sex/Location: Uncovering the Social Cues in the Development of Online Relationships. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 4(5), 623- 630.

Holbert, R.L., Kwak, N., & Shah, D.V. (2001). "Connecting" and "Disconnecting" With Civic Life: Patterns of Internet Use and the Production of Social Capital. Political Communications, 141-162. Retrieved April 1, 2007 from Political Communication.

Jenkins, C.L. (2007). Stalkers Go High Tech to Intimidate Victims [Electronic Version]. The Washington Post.

O'Brien, T.L. (2000). Aided by Internet, Identity Theft Soars [Electronic Version]. The New York Times.

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Against the Tide? Small Groups, Social Movements, and the Net. Bowling Alone: The Collapse d Revival of American Community (pp. 148-180). New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.


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This fall in the sophomore-level course I teach on "Communication and Society," we spent several weeks examining the many ways that individuals and groups are using the internet to alter the nature of community, civic engagement, and social relationships. For college students who grew up online,…
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This spring in the sophomore-level course I teach on "Communication and Society," we spent several weeks examining the many ways that individuals and groups are using the internet to alter the nature of community, civic engagement, and social relationships. (See reading list.) For many college…

There are two very large ideas that the cyber-optimists left out of their arguments yesterday. 1) Isn't it possible for the Internet to serve as a danger to a person or a community? And 2) On days like 9-11 or Virginia Tech's Massacre, how accessible is a computer or an internet connection?

The Internet is a very dangerous universe. While social networking sites do help to keep in contact with friends, don't they also create a new form of online stalking? People post a lot of personal information on their Facebook profile or their Myspace page, thus it is easy to access information about people that makes an isolated stalker feel like they "know" the individual.

Facebook and Myspace are a great way to make loose ties, but a community needs to have face-to-face interaction between its members. Too many social cues are lost otherwise. Online stalking eliminates the idea of community because a person no longer has or needs a community to feel attached to. Social networking sites do offer preventative security features, but still, private information can be leaked via the Internet.

Online stalking can lead to various ends. The mainstream media tends to portray online stalking in the form of child molestation. I am sure everyone has seen or heard of the NBC show, How to Catch a Predator, where the producers use Myspace and other social networking sites to invite an aged, fat and bald (excuse the stereotype) man to a house where they believe they will meet with and have sexual contact with an under-aged youth.

More than that extreme, online stalking can be a form of domestic violence, as we mentioned briefly during the debate yesterday. It is very accessible for a spouse or significant other to find out just about everything the other is doing. We read an article in which a woman broke up with her boyfriend and he then began logging into her email accounts and sending, replying to, and deleting emails, before she realized they existed. This is a not only a danger to a person, but also a community. Information that is leaked via the Internet could begin social panic.

The Virginia Tech shooting is a perfect example. The coverage was everywhere. One could not even log into AIM or Yahoo without seeing a headline. Parents, friends, and family all around the country began to panic, not only for those at VT, but also for students everywhere - Are colleges safe? Is now the question that haunts America.

The Cyber-Optimist position paper states that when cell phone connection was lost in Blacksburg, the Internet became the best way to communicate with the students at VT. But this makes me question the accessibility of a computer during a time of crisis. Isn't it possible that Internet connections can be lost as well? Yes. And looking back at 9-11, the stories we hear about survivors and those who died never came via email. The people that were in danger took the time to call friends and family, say goodbye, or tell them they were ok.

I'm not saying the Internet did not play a role in communication on 9-11 or at VT last week, but I do not think it was as effective as the telephone in keeping with the boundaries of community and close social ties.

While the Internet does offer an efficient ways to communicate, it also brings negative consequences in society and communities.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 24 Apr 2007 #permalink

Skeptics- you present the argument of the internet and social networking sites as being superficial networks of contacts, but in reality, those superficial networks are the loose ties that have become an essential part of our global society. The loose ties that we have on our social networking sites, like Facebook and Myspace, are what further many developments in our lives, especially in regard to career moves and job searching. The ability to contact people that we may not have a significant relationship with enhances job opportunities for both job seekers and industries that are looking for employees. A study by Allison M. Konrad outlines the importance of weak ties in a contemporary job search.
Results reveal the subsequent emergence of distinct networking strategies and outcomes dependent on industry growth. Job seekers displaced fromgrowing industries tend to focus their search on the inclusion of weak ties (Konrad, 2001).

Secondly, you frame online relationships as being shallow and meaningless. How can you argue that fact when the internet is the number one communication tool that connects friends and families that are at long distances from one another? Email and instant messaging are the most economical forms of global communication. These computer-mediated communications allow for the fortification of already personal relationships. Using myself as an example, I rely mainly on the internet to keep in contact with many family members and friends that live in foreign countries. I can send them photos and emails that allow our relationships to go to newer levels. Without the internet, how else could I keep in touch with all of these people without having to pay ridiculous phone bills? The internet is a very powerful tool that propels the development of personal relationships.

Konrad, Allison M. (2001). Granovetter Was Right:The Importance of Weak Ties to a Contemporary Job Search. Sage Publications. Group & Organization Management, Vol. 26, No. 4, 434-462.

If nothing else, this Blog debate and project exemplify exactly what it is as that the new cyber communities positively offer to the world. As stated in our definition of community, personal face to face ties will not by any means loose importance to the definition of a community, however, as we are witnessing right now, we are enabling ourselves, through the Internet to reach out to a greater community.

Yes, there is reason to believe that a growing digital divide may be resulting in this new definition of community however, overlooking what we are doing right now would be a great disservice and fallacy to any opposition of our argument.

Currently we are opening the door to the world through the use of the blogosphere, specifically the well read Blog of our professor. By enabling others to listen in to what we are discussing as a class, opens to the public all of the topics that we have been discussing throughout the semester.

There is a reason that we are continuing our debate even after the power point presentation from class. We are reaching out to the public and using the internet as a positive tool to reach the public. Yes, this Blog debate will not reach members of society less tuned to the cyber world but what it will offer is a perspective to a powerful and intellectual community that does engage with the public in face-to-face interactions. This ties directly into our main argument, traditional communities will not change, but rather it will be redefined.

Just as church groups are reaching a greater public through their E-Churches, and just as political campaigns are offering better grass roots methods, we are offering the public a perspective into these changes and we are doing it through means that were non existent ten even five years ago.

Optimists�though I do agree with your argument that the internet is a fundamental teaching tool for everyone, it is quite disturbing to find that the use of the internet is replacing that of the library. Only 9% of college students choose the library over the internet? There are so many resources available in a library that cannot necessarily be found on the internet. Not to mention the many illegitimate sources that exist on the web. As a worldwide tool, any type of information can be posted by anyone.

And what about librarians? Yes, I will not deny Google has saved my procrastinating behind many-a-time, but through the increased use of the internet, people are losing that face-to-face relationship with librarians. Just the other day I went to the library to search for a few sources and a friend mentions I no longer need to speak to a librarian. Rather, I can send one an IM with the information I need and they will find it for me.

Optimists�you also acknowledge that the �traditional communities� of the 1950s has changed and �communities and communication methods will simultaneously transform to fit these changes.� To an extent then you agree that because of technological advances, such as the internet, people have lost the many face-to-face interactions and relationships that existed fifty years ago. One can only wonder how far communities and communication methods will transform in the next fifty years. Will the majority of human interaction be through cyberspace? And will communities exist in virtual worlds like Second Life?

By Marlisa S. (not verified) on 25 Apr 2007 #permalink

During the debate in class, the cypber optimists proclaimed that the internet has become an essential tool in the school system. I agree with this, considering that the internet and it's technology have been a an integral part of my education thus far; it does provide a plethora of opprotunities to further one's education. However, as the cyber skeptics pointed out during the question and answer portion of the debate, there is a large digital divide, making the internet and it's opprotunities an unfair advantaged for an already priveledged and select group of individuals. While the cyber optimists have presented a stand for their case, the digital divide was neglected.

The digital divide does not further enhance community, but in actuality is deepening the already existing divide between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, and the whites and minorities. The same people who are priveledged in the traditional sense of community are furthering their opprotunities online, while the unpriveledged continue to be left out. The internet provides search engines such as which have listings for housing and jobs in a variety of markets. However, this type of information is not available to those that do not have internet access. How will the poor be able to break out of the poverty cycle if they don't have the means to do so? In essence, one could say that the internet is further opressing the poor because as technology becomes more and more a part of our everyday lives, they are and will become left behind.

The argument that the cyber optimists used during the debate was that the have-nots could always go to their local public library to use the free internet access. However, there is a significant difference between having internet access readiy available at home and in the work place in comparison to having to walk, drive, or take public transportation to the public library. Would you go to the public library each time you had a quiery? Also, there is a difference is the quality of internet access and speed in libraries vs at home. People who can afford to have internet access at home can probably also afford to have high speed internet access instead of dial up, making internet usage faster and easier. Public libraries also have different qualities of internet speed, varying upon location. As stated in our position paper, urban libraries are more likely to have high speed internet access than rural libraries due to the amount of people living in that particular area. What does this mean for those living in rural areas? Should they go without internet access? And if they do, they will plunge further into knowledge inadequacy.

Speaking from personal experience, I know first hand the difference the digital divide can make. In high school, my school district gave each student K-12 their own personal ibook laptops during the school year, with the option available to purchase them after the year was over. Students used the ibooks for noting taking, research, in class assignments, writing papers, etc and at the end of the day took them home. The school district was predominantly white and upper middle to upper class students. However, in another school district just 20 minutes away, which was filled with poor and predominantly black and latino students, their students went without this luxury and with technology that was several years behind our own. These student continuely suffered due to this inadequacy. Each year, many of them failed to pass the state standardized test, while the students in my disrict continued to thrive. Their graduation rate was low, while pretty much everyone from my district graduated and went onto pursue a higher education. Is this really equality? How could the student living in the inner city school district possibly keep up with the students who were given so much more, based on their priveledge?

While the internet does provide wonderful opprotunities, the cyber optimists neglected this critical part of their argument. The internet fosters the digital divide and a deepening of an already existing social divide.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 25 Apr 2007 #permalink

The following is a response to the issues regarding the library. In an article published by Terence K. Huwe, Karen Coyle, a much respected political commentator on the digital era emphasizes a change in the definition of community, specifically library communities. "Maybe our concept of 'library system' needs to expand so that it can include the library's Web site and a bunch of interesting Web services. On second thought, we probably first need to expand our concept of 'Library' to include a Web site and interesting Web services."

Libraries are not solely books today. We have thousands of academic search engines and online journal publications and this is due to the growth in cyber growth. While one cannot physically walk through doors and enter into a silent place of learning, students can log on, anytime and almost anywhere to write a paper with information that can be accessed by so many people. The point is we need to redefine our communities and understand that the cyber world has enhanced and improved communities.

Just one final note, If you use AIM you can communicate with AUs Librarians. Log onto your screen name and ask away. Askaulibrarian is the alias and is available for your questions during all library hours.

By Jason, P. (not verified) on 26 Apr 2007 #permalink

I second Jasons argument. The redefining of community, in relation to online libraries, is not only important in the amount of sources, but more importantly the quality. Online libraries increase the likelihood that students or other researchers will find quality primary sources. Students no longer have to rely on their libraries outdated book or magazine articles. Instead, they can advance their researched arguments by incorporating more recent sources straight from the government or country of research origin. This increase in quality can be exemplified by AUs own physical library. Currently, our library is on the quest to acquire 1 million books. While this may seem like a lot of books, divide it by all of the specific topics we have to write papers on and the number of students. It is no wonder students often struggle to find pertinent sources from physical library books only.

By Alissa O. (not verified) on 26 Apr 2007 #permalink

In response to the comments about the physical library vs. the online sources available, I agree with Marlisa's comment. The point team cyber skeptics are trying to push is not that the internet is something bad. The internet is a very beneificail tool, when used properly and in moderation, which is not currently being done. The point we are trying to make is that the internet is not being used correctly and because of this, the idea of community and the ties between people are broken. As Marlisa said, the point of the library comment is not just looking at what one is gaining, but to also look to what one is loosing. By using the internet to do all research and homework, the student looses face to face interactions with the librarians and other students. Projects are that done via the internet, using AIM, email, and blogs rather than mostly face to face interactions, aids in the loss of social cues. These may include being able to interact with different people and putting aside differences in views and opinions to work together efficiently to complete an assignment. Not everything in life is done via the internet, so why train outselves to mainly use this limited possibility?

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 27 Apr 2007 #permalink

I would like to first agree with Britteny and Marlisa and re-emphasize once more: The Internet is not inherently bad- it is today's common misuses of the Internet that destroy communities and social ties.

Adding to Brittany's last point of projects being completed via the Internet.

Have you ever noticed that it is very easy to tell which groups organize presentations online and which groups actually meet to have face to face practice time before presenting. I'm not necessarily using our class presentations as an example, but just in general.

Groups that work separately often have no idea what their other group members are saying or doing. While a group that meets face to face is overall more knowledgable about the presentation and all of the information given.

Being overall more knowledgable on the subject your group is presenting then allows you to answer questions, spark new debates, and puts you in position to be an opinion leader. Which then alows you to create new ties and broaden your community without misusing the internet.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 27 Apr 2007 #permalink

Brittany makes a good point by saying The internet is a very beneificail tool, when used properly and in moderation, which is not currently being done. A key example of this is the pornography industry. I understand that pornography is something people choose to look at and arn't forced to see when online, but for the young kids growing up in this technological world, it is inevitable that they will be viewing this at some point. The internet is putting disturbing images of sex in our homes and our schools. This is corrupting the minds of future generations.

The corruption doesn't end there, Youtube videos showing graphic violence, such as the execution of Saddam Hussein, or the disturbing video left by the killer of the Virginia Tech masacre promotes deviance. Videos such as these need to be restricted from the public, and while the media may intend to keep it private, one person can leak it online and expose it to the world

By Cory Cole (not verified) on 27 Apr 2007 #permalink

While I agree that corruption can occur at the hands of the internet, I think it can also occur in the traditional community. Children can witness things in their own homes, friends homes, or out and about in their surrounding environment. The role of the traditional family is to ensure that children dont have access to such YouTube Videos or pornography. Graphic videos, to some, arent a bad thing. It is a bad thing how they can be used. However, this is not the internets fault but the traditional communitys for allowing that access to children. The internet can easily be monitored by software that blocks certain sites and pages with explicit keywords.

By Alissa O. (not verified) on 27 Apr 2007 #permalink

I agree with all of these arguments that say that internet is a tool that can enhance communication. That is true. It is also true that people are abusing (or displacing too much of their time on) the internet. This abuse of the internet, by children, teenagers and even adults is only triggered by the fall in traditional community and the growing distance between family members. The capitalist ideology of America has made too many people workaholics. Workaholics neglect their children, and then their children seek some sort of refuge or something that distracts them from feeling neglected, and most likely turn to the internet for games and things.
It is the workaholic mentality of this country that is jeopardizing the sense of community that we used to feel, not the internet. If parents spent more time with their kids instead of at their offices, the internet would not be abused nearly as much and traditional community and family ties would surely be strengthened.

Alissa makes a good point by saying that children can witness certain social ills and violence in their homes or communities. However, I must agree with Corey and further his argument by saying that while children may witness these things, they do not need more exposure and reinforcement, which the internet can and often does provide. While the internet is a great tool, it is still highly unregulated. Anyone can make a website now and make the description of its content misleading. Plus with the addition of pop up ads and spam, internet users are loosing more and more control of the type of content being presented to them. Many of these bad influences that stem from internet usage can be avoided by spending more of one's time in the traditional community - whether that's socializing with friends and family or reading a book by yourself.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 28 Apr 2007 #permalink

Most of the above arguments have very solid ground: they all make sense and when put into context, they all have very valid points.

However, I agree with Maria in her views on the workaholic. Basically the traditions of a family in the US have been shattered by the need to work all the time. The high costs of living and the socioeconomic gap are leaving a vicious cycle for America's kids that cannot be easily broken. The fact is that ideally kids and adults can and should be taught lessons about technology; when to use it, how to use it and when it's too much. But it's simply not the technology's fault that we abuse it to these levels, it is, in part, the fault of the individual. In my research, I've encountered cases where the internet has helped discriminated groups earn a voice in society. Since the internet has a wealth of information and is so accessible, it provides these people with a means to look for information themselves. And sure, I agree, there are plenty of websites with false information and some families don't have computers. But certain programs and agencies are being formed as we speak to provide those who do not have the means to own and learn how to use a computer. In fact, these people restrict their kids even more because they are wary and know about the internet's risks.

The fact is, with any new emergence of technology there are always costs and benefits. But then we live and learn and move on to the next biggest thing. Television was thought of as the "modern" evil and cell phones began to be viewed in the negative light. But we've gotten through those periods fine and now the internet is the blame. To be a cyber optimist is to realize the optimistic side of moving on and living with these new techologies as they come along. Sure, there may be many problems but the point of being optimistic about them helps us realize and overcome. Since the internet is simply not going to disappear, all we need to do is start changing habits and promoting the benefits of internet.

After all, maybe in 5-10 years, there will be another breakthrough technology that causes everyone to be skeptics again.

Its been some time since our debate in class and I am still looking forward to seeing the evidence relating child obesity to online use. I though this was a very interesting piece of evidence in support of the cyber skeptic view point but have read nothing in any of the posts. If someone could post a possible link so we can look into that before our Blog debate comes to a close.

Here is the address to the abstract of a book we used that supports childhood obesity is directly linked to the amount of Internet usage.…

If you would like, the library can put the book on reserve for you to pick up and look at.

The study shown provides information about children's usage of the Internet and the percentage that they may become obese. Another article I read directly said, "The Internet is a huge reason American children are so obese. They sit, they point, they click."

By Christina F. (not verified) on 29 Apr 2007 #permalink

To respond to Ann who said that people are comfortable with the Internet and therefore only use it for its benefits, I think there is a component we are missing.

It is because people are too comfortable with the Internet that their misuses of it become more and more common. Pornography is the biggest Internet industry. It ruins relationships, marriages, and families. Pedophilia is becoming a major concern amoung communities, and before the Internet, the word was basically unknown. The Internet allows people easy access to these networks of sick individuals.

One subject that was never mentioned in either debate was specific types of websites. We have never stopped to consider the Internet might not all be for creating ties and keeping in contact with far away friends. Websites such as Pro-Anorexia and Bomb Making sites allow for people to indulge in activities usually shunned by communities. Yes, there is a wealth of information available online, but is it always information that furthers community? No.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 29 Apr 2007 #permalink

While I agree with Ann that with any new technology there are always costs and benefits, I argue that society does not live and learn from these new emergences. How many of us watch television while doing homework? How many of us use our cell phone during class? And how many of us are chatting or shopping online while "taking notes" in class? My point is that society has not adjusted to these "evils," rather they have adapted it into their lives. It has caused time displacement. People have allowed it to replace the more import things such as school work or face-to-face relations. Ann says, "Since the internet is simply not going to disappear, all we need to do is start changing habits and promoting the benefits of internet." Though that is a positive way of thinking, the truth is people will not change their habits; rather they will adjust it to fit in their daily life. One can modify the type of programs one watches on television or websites one accesses, but people will always be tempted by new technology and it will always serve as a distraction to more important and productive things.

By Marlisa, S (not verified) on 29 Apr 2007 #permalink

Ann makes a valid argument by pointing out that there is always some new and emerging technology that preoccupies us and in a sense changes the definition of community. Such inventions as the telephone and tv were seen as "evil" and harmful to society when they first emerged, but now they have been incorporated into our everyday lives. However, this argument is missing a valid point. Yes, the internet is still a relatively new form of technology, and because of its relative newness people still don't know how to deal with it and use it in moderation. The point that we as cyber skeptics are trying to make is not that the internet is bad and will always be bad, but that for right now the misuses are bad. We will be cyber skeptics until people begin to incorporate the internet into their lives in a more productive manner, which would be to use it to reinforce existing relationships, but not replacing other forms of communication (such as face to face) with soley communication via the internet. Once people learn to properly use the internet, then there will be fewer problems, and fewer reasons to critique it.

As for the point made about the today's changing society, partly due to long work schedules, as being a reason by the internet is used so often, I think we must stop and ask oursleves - how much time do you spend using AIM or e-mailing? And in this time frame, could you not use it for face to face communication or the phone? I understand that many of us have friends and family who we cannot have face to face communication with due to the fact that we are living away from home. But when using IM or e-mailing, think of all the other distractions you face. When a person is IMing it's highly unlikely that their attention is truly devoted to that particular converstaion. Many people multi-task while using computers and the internet promotes that. How much of a good quality and in depth conversation can one have through instant messaging several people while they are also listening to music and doing homework as well? My point is that using the internet for communication can be a good thing in moderation. However, the quality and depth of the communication is not as strong as with over the phone or face to face communication because these types of communication require much more of one's undivided attention. Perhaps instead of using the internet to communicate and procrastinate, this time would be better used to meet with a friend. Or if it's an issue of time, picking up the phone takes just as little time.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 29 Apr 2007 #permalink

An important issue that has not been addressed nearly enough to this point in our debate has been the reality of time displacement. I, for one, am not going to flat out deny the many positive attributes of the internet. As has been pointed out numerous times so far, it has the capability of enhancing long distance relationships and spreading information to larger amounts of people than was ever possible. This incredible upside brings with it, however, the definite possibility of people wasting their lives away using the internet's many distracting aspects such as facebook, second life, and college humor. Oftentimes rather than engaging in outdoor or face-to-face activities people will simply indulge themselves in the 'wonders of the internet.' Although these issues can be attributed to notions of self-control and easily blamed on the individual, the reality is that the internet facilitates greater opportunity for time displacement and in its current form is having a negative impact on community in many areas.

I wanted to comment on and provide the link to the article which I referenced during the in-class debate concerning internet time displacement and its impact on children. To reiterate what was said during the in-class debate, the article finds that among children who spend under 8 hours on the internet a week there is no negative impact on the amount of time spent outside participating in outdoor
activities. Such a fact seems to support the idea of internet as a supplement to society rather than one which undermines notions of community. That fact must be viewed together with the reality, however, that among children who spend more than 8 hours online in a week, a substantial dropoff occurs in the quantity of outdoor activities participated in. This drop demonstrates the potential danger posed by the internet when used in improper ways.

Here is a link to the article so that proper debate can ensue:
Computers and Young Children: Social Benefit or Social Problem…

I don�t think anyone of the cyber optimist team is arguing that the internet should be used in excess. We merely argue that internet has advantages in communication, education and other veins of life. Anything time displacement activity that is done for 8 eights a day will have negative impacts. For example, traditional community members might encourage watching television, playing in the park, or other activities that involve face to face interaction. However, all of these activities also have negative consequences. Time displacement activities need to be done in moderation. The traditional community needs to take responsibility for themselves and their children to ensure activities are done in moderation, instead of blaming the internet.

Although all the cyber skeptics keep reiterating the same point that we are constantly turning our faces away from the negatives of internet and boasting about the positives, this, I would like to point out, is simply not true.

Through debates like this, of course, we are all trying to back up a side and hammer home our point as deeply and as much as we can. But the truth is, everything in life has the positives and negatives. Technologies, such as the internet, are just going to have to be dealt with. And I do agree that people do waste a lot of time on the internet and time is displaced, all of these negative things are happening. But as humans, I don't think it's necessarily possible to concentrate on work all the time or to end all types of time displacement. Because can't you argue that while you're "outdoors" and playing sports, you are not doing homework or doing "more important things"?

The fact is is that we constantly come up with pastimes and techologies that waste time. But if we continually think of it in that way, then what kind of accomplishments would we have gained? After all, without the telephone, we won't have ways to contact police or ambulance when needed, without TV, we won't hear about the day's news until the newspaper comes out. And without the internet, there are probably many things we are missing out on (and I won't go on naming them because there's numerous things).

So on a bigger picture kind of scale, which is something I like to address in debates, it is not always necessary to pick out the details, but rather see how the internet is affecting us as a whole. And on that perspective, we are continually seeing problems being solved and benefits to society.

I would like to agree with Ryan's point on time displacement. The internet in moderation is a great tool; however, the main problem is that people do not have the self-control to abstain from overusing the internet. I am guilty of this as well. There are countless time that my friends and I have used the internet and it's features such as IM and facebook to purposely put off doing homework or something else more productive. But aside also from purposefully using the internet to procrastinate, there are many times when people just get lost in cyber land, wasting their time on nothing that will enhance their lives. The key issue of this arguement is that the internet is not used properly and therefore people will waste their time by displacing it on the internet. Instead of displacing their time on the nothingness they are inevitably wasting it on, they should instead divert their energy and attention to other forms of communication.

The issue of time displacement leads to another key argument that our team made in our paper which is the issue of loss of social cues. When one places so much of their time and a good amount of their social interaction is online, they "forget" how to interact with others in an actual social and face to face interaction. Online communication does not require changing one's voice tone or recognizing others' body language, which is a key component to successfully interacting with other people. As with anything else, social interaction and interpreting social cues takes practice, by use. Without use, due to excessive time displacement, the loss of social cues is almost inevitable.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 29 Apr 2007 #permalink

As a direct response to Ann and her assertion that "can't you argue that while you're "outdoors" and playing sports, you are not doing homework or doing "more important things"?", I would like to point out the fact that participating in such outdoor activities can in fact be very positive. While academics are indeed important, there is a direct correlation between such outdoor activities and measures of physical health. Within the study that I posted above, one can clearly see that among children who engage in over 8 hours a week of internet use the level of body mass is substantially higher. Such a higher body mass is unhealthy and has a negative impact on many facets of a child's health and development.

In order stop such problems from persisting and taking effect, children must learn to use moderation in regard to their use of the internet. While the same can be said of television and many other forms of media, the fact remains that the internet possesses far more possibilities for distraction and time displacement. Until proper moderation becomes commonplace, the negative effects of the internet will persist in having a negative effect on notions of community.

As for the transformation of technology and the developments of different meanings of community, it is interesting to think about what the future has in store for us. Twenty years ago, I'm sure nobody imagined that the internet would be such an integral part of our lives. Face-to-face contact has survived the internet phenomenon, and will not disappear, but it is really interesting to think of how far Facebook, for example, will go.
The internet has beneficially helped to transform the global community, and make room for so many interactions, both virtual and face-to-face, so to think of what the future will bring is a curious thing. I think that it will ultimately help to build stronger networks, even geographically close communities will be enhanced. If people know what is going on in their community when they look at their email, I believe that they will be more likely to participate, or at least will have more of an inclination.
What do you guys see happening ten years from now?

Also, during the debate there were some points made by the skeptics on how the internet ultimately makes people and communities more homogenous. Do you really believe that's true when there are people from all over the world accessing the same pages as the next person? Blogs on both mainstream and alternative news sources provide a forum for people all over the world to converse. The probability that you will find people with different interests and different backgrounds is much higher on the internet than in real life. Real life is much more homogenous than you made it seem in the debate. All of us gravitate towards people that are like us, share our opinion, our ideas, our complaints and even backgrounds, but the internet increases the odds of conversing with or gaining loose ties with people that are less like us and can bring us different perspectives.
Now we are able to get insight into the lives of people all over the globe. We can see what life is like for people living in Iraq and Sudan, once again broadening our perspectives. The internet provides access to all of these sites and blogs that make it heterogeneous, now what each individual chooses to do on the internet is at their own discretion, but they do have a more diverse lens to look at the world through when on the internet.

In addition, regardless of the internet, certain people will always create homogenous environments for themselves. These people will live in homes with people of the same economic status, religion, ethnicity, values, etc. However, the internet gives the opportunity for a person in a homogeneous environment to experience new perspectives. Furthermore, if a person is shy or uncomfortable with unfamiliar things they can learn about different people from the privacy of their own home. Even more importantly, people that do surround themselves with heterogeneous environments can be more equipped to do so. As previously stated, the internet provides access diversity that some communities cannot provide.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 29 Apr 2007 #permalink

The above argument is very hopeful and while it would be wonderful if people used the internet as a way to enhance the diversity of their social network, that is just not the case. People have certain predispositions that they stick to and look for others who with the same view and opinions. When many people use the internet to look for groups of people to interact with, the chances are very likely that they will gravitate towards what is familiar. Afterall, a republican will look for republican websites or groups to interact with, not democratic ones. Putnam discusses this effect and has termed it cyber balkanization. People will look for others who share the same interests as they do to interact with. While people may choose to live with others of the same socioeconomic status, race, or religion, there is still a great diversity available in the real world. There are a variety of different people you can interact with on a daily basis in places such as the grocery store, taking the metro to work or school, or perhaps while shopping. These types of interactions are lost on the internet because people will segregate themselves based on certain factors.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 29 Apr 2007 #permalink

In the anonymous posting above the person argues that "the internet provides access diversity that some communities cannot provide." It seems as if, and correct me if I am wrong, the person is asserting that the internet opens up doorways for people that would otherwise be refrained by the limits placed on them by their own community. While this is certainly a valid argument and there are always cases of individuals putting in extra effort in order to inform themselves about the world around them, the truth is that most people are not information leaders but should instead be considered what we have referred to in class as cognitive misers. That is to say, these individuals will not actively seek out the wealth of new and different information available through the internet, but will rather follow information shortcuts in order to gain information. This tendency to seek out heuristics should not come as a shock to anyone within this class as we can see it in our daily interactions all around us. It is in this way that one can see how the internet simply reinforces divisions within communities creating a sort of cyber-balkanization, through the ease in which citizens can block out opposing views and only hear opinions with which they agree. Therefore while the internet possesses the potential to create heterogeneous society through the many opportunities it presents, the reality has been the creation of ideological enclaves in which people seek out those who are similar and are able to easily avoid dissenting viewpoints.

I neglected to mention in my previous post another central problem to the anonymous posts assertion that "the internet provides access diversity that some communities cannot provide." An inherent problem with such a statement can clearly be seen when one examines the unfortunate reality of the digital divide. Although those who possess access to the internet have the potential to break free of their comfort zone and educate themselves about the world around them, the reality is that there are significant portions of the American public who plain and simple do not possess such luxuries. As I read in a USA Today article, which was based on a National Center for Education Statistics report, the common assertion that the internet is a way of life for most children and that it helps to break down barriers between different socioeconomic classes is simply a fallacy.

According to the study "Two of every three white students � 67% � use the Internet, but less than half of blacks and Hispanics do, according to federal data released Tuesday. For Hispanics the figure is 44%; for blacks, it's 47%." This disparity is significant because, as the cyber optimists have pointed out numerous times, the internet can be a tremendous educational resource. When one group of children possess such a resource and others do not, the ability for such groups to interact is diminished and signicant barriers arise between the haves and the have nots.

Here is the link to the article which also features a link to a pdf of the study:

As someone who uses the internet regularly, I do believe there are positive sides, however, these positive aspects have become an excuse for Americans to over use the internet. As Americans, we become too consumed in what new technology provides for us, but more importantly, we become consumed by the technology itself. Generally, people in our society love new technology and zero in on it. Whenever a new iPod comes out, people rush to buy one, or a video game, or cell phone- the list goes on. The internet takes it a step further and allows people to create a world that is no longer real. The internet has become a way of life, rather than a tool people use to enhance their lives. For example, Secondlife allows for people to create an entirely different world, outside of actual reality and never have to leave their home. Even though they are creating these loose ties, they are hindering the ties they have with others in the real world. Many of us believe we are creating stronger bond by talking on AIM or messaging via Facebook or MySpace, but at the same time we are eroding other relationships with those who choose not to communicate over the internet. The internet allows people to move further away from reality and community, not closer.

In addition to my previous comment on the anonymous post, the diversity of the internet is not as vast as the diversity in the real world due to the digital divide. The privlidged are the ones who have internet access and the ones using it on a regular basis. As we pointed out in our position paper, these people generally tend to be white, of a high socioeconomic status, educated, and young. There is a divide because people of other demographics do not have the same access. So is this diversity online? No, it is people of the same demographic inteacting with each other on issues that similarly interest them.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

I would like to point out that all of us are using the internet right now to debate about how the internet is good or not, I think that's kind of ironic for the cyber skeptics. But also, as a person who doesn't articulate words and speech as well as I would want to, I believe this blog debate really helped me to read everyone's argument carefully and to articulate my own argument well. My personal strengths are writing and in an in-class debate, it's easier for people who don't necessarily have a great way of putting things to get lost in the verbal volleys. The people who like to speak up and argue a lot get a say while the people who don't just get silenced. Personally, I hate being impolite and cutting people off and jumping right in. After all, in a face-to-face debate, it only takes a matter of miuntes before a yelling match occurs or the same points get hammered back and forth without much thought.

Also, as laptops and newer technologies come out, the prices of desktop computers and older models become cheaper which is a way for the minorities to buy these technologies and catch up. Sure, there are many minority families that don't have access to the internet, but at the same time, there are many more that are getting the access. All that I hope we accomplish as a country is that eventually everyone gains an opportunity to everything else. After all, there are many things that causes this divide already, such as fancy cars, big houses and butlers. It's a traditional problem that's occurring in the country, and the internet is not furthering it along.

Also, I'd like to point out that everyone's paper would not have been as good and as fully researched without the internet. Think of all those times you e-mailed people to meet or researched on Aladin for your sources. So even with that act alone, the internet helped and benefited us as students and as a class.

Also addressing what I said in an earleir post, I didn't mean that sports and outdoor activities were bad. But as an example I meant that society's viewpoints change as new activities get introduced and become norms.

I'm just saying that society's opinions change as society changes.

In response to Ann's assertion that it is ironic for the cyber skeptics to be participating in an online blog debate, I would like to point out the fact that we are participating in this debate on the merits of the internet with regards to community and not purely on the internet itself. We are not taking a position in which we simply dismiss the internet as a complete waste of time with no real benefits. No person that has been through a course such as this would do that. It seems as if people are forgetting that this debate is NOT on whether or not the internet is a good thing. Few would argue against there being positive aspects for the internet. What we ARE debating is whether or not the internet is having a positive or negative impact on COMMUNITY. As far as the argument that society is already divided by fancy cars and houses and that the internet is merely another example of that, I would like to respond that not having a fancy car does not have the same impact on a child's intellectual development and educational opportunities as a computer. To make such a comparison is unfounded and reflects ignorance over the extent to which internet directly affects opportunities for individuals to prosper within different communities.

I am responding to a post from a while back. The post discusses the Internets availability of pornography and the disturbing communities that have evolved from such availability. Last year there was a special on Dateline NBC which found and caught child molesters on camera. Child molestation is wrong and perhaps even easier by using online sources, but because of the triailability of the Internet, children will be able to be protected, and internet users as a whole will be protected through new means that will eventually be created. Just as virus scans prevent viruses, similar systems will be created to prevent other issues created by the Internet.

Anything can be used in a wrong way, but this goes beyond the cyber and normal communities, this is human nature. However, if traditional communities kept more careful watch over its citizens these issues would not be as rampant.

In response to Ryan, I'd like to ask: Isn't what we're doing right now enforcing a type of community? Isn't the blog comments and debates we're having right now building a class community?

As a class, we all came in without knowing each other very well, and there were definitely divides in who talked to who. But after this project and debate, haven't we all kind of known each other and through these debates talked to each other in ways we would've never had before?

I think this blog debate is building a class community right there. And maybe down the road when one of us has a class with another student, we can refer to this project or this class as a starting point for a friendship. And through the internet with this heated debate we all got to know each other a little bit better that we would've never had through face-to-face interactions.

If we are to evaluate the Internet as a whole, I would have to argue that online communications and the cyber world does more good than bad. The main arguments the cyber skeptics are asserting all originating from the issue that humans abuse the Internet. If one is to misuse something, that may have an affect on society but overall the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Students can do library research anytime anywhere. During Hurricane Katrina, airplane vouchers were donated and families were reunited. Intent Messaging has allowed for communication to occur between two individuals across the globe. People are becoming politically active by helping with campaigns as seen in the 2004 election and as we will see in the 2008 election. Yes there are issues of displacement, and yes there are issues with abuse, but nothing is productive in large doses. Maybe the issue is not the Internet but rather self control of mankind.

Jason is absolutely correct in his argument. Any technology or traditional community activity has the potential to be manipulated to cause harm. However, it also has a great potential to do good. Ensuring the only good comes from the cyber world rests on the individual. Families can cheaply and easily buy software banning certain sites, parents can sit down and surf the net with their children fielding any questions, and telling them what information is okay to tell an online companion and what is not. Overall, the bad does outweigh the good. Imagine your own life without the American University Library online, without facebook (or other social sites), without AOL and e-mail. A lot of people would cease to communicate.

In response to Ann's comments, the reason we are participating in this blog debate is because that was the assignment. Considering that this is a debate involving traditional community vs. the internet it was very necessary to incorporate both through in class debate and online debate. In reference to her point made concerning the digital divide I'm afraid that although well argued, it is wrong. Yes, computer prices are dropping now as new technology emerges, but these lower priced models do not have the extensive features that a more expensive model has. So even if people of a lower socioeconomic status were to purchase these computers they would ultimately still be left behind due to the out dated technology of a cheaper computer. Further more, a poor family would not spend their money on a "lower" priced computer and pay for internet access on top of that because they would have other financial obligations to worry about. Also, Ann argues that "there are many minority families that don't have access to the internet, but at the same time, there are many more that are getting the access," but where is this information coming from and is it based on factual evidence? Ryan pointed out that over half of black and hispanic students still do not have internet access. This is a tremendous amount considering how reliant our society is on the internet today.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

In response to Ann's last post, I think I am skeptical to agree that this online debate has created a class community. While we all share the experience of sitting in a classroom and sharing our opinions with one another, would anyone disagree that if we were to pass one another on the street very few of us would stop to say "hi" or ask "how are you?" I know in my own experience that I have passed many people from this class and not said anything. In return, they said nothing to me. This is not community.

If any loose ties were made this semester in class, very few will continue over into the upcoming summer and fall semester. It is simply cut, done, and over.

This online blog removes us from the classroom in a sort of attempt to creat an online community, but again, its ties are not permenant. I doubt many of us will continue to blog via Prof. Nisbet after tomorrow afternoon. To be a true cyber-skeptic, this debate shouldn't have even taken place online, it should have taken place face-to-face. While working on the project, we joked that we should boycott the online debate because we are against it. Joking aside, how much conversation and community has this blog created? I am willing to bet not much.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

Alissa's comment was posted as I was writing my previous post and I just want to make one response. Without the internet people would be forced to pick up the phone and communicate. Phone calls are not only more personal, but also solidify ties. Extended networks can be created through conference phone calls and other modes of interaction without being constantly online.

I realize you are not saying that people should be online constantly, but more often than not, time displacement proves that people will sit down to check the weather or their email and will end up spending three or four hours online. I think someone mentioned during the class debates, a perfect example, how many times have you been late for class, missed class, or a meeting because you were sitting on Facebook? I'll admit - it's happened to me.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

I could not possibly have worded the comments made by Christina better than she did in response to Ann. The so called community that is being created by this blog debate is completely superficial and will not last past tomorrow afternoon. To the notion that because of this debate I will be sitting in class in a year with someone from the opposition and refer to this debate as having created and fostered a level of community, I cannot help but disagree. Although that sounds like a very nice possible outcome from this debate, I have to state that it is not a possibility owing to the fact that I would not know if I was sitting next to you if we indeed have a class. The only person in your group whom I would recognize in that situation is Alyssa, and the reason for that is because we met through traditional college notions of community prior to this class. While many of the comments and outcomes posed by the optimists sound nice on paper, the reality is that they are purely speculation.

I want to go back to the argument the cyber-optimists keep making that the whole project and debate is happening over the internet and no of this could happen if we didnt have this blog. The debate started in class, face-to-face where we actually had to look at each other and discuss the issues. We were then able to carry it over to the internet, where I personally dont find it as easy to absorb every point.
I also have to agree with Christina that the internet does create time displacement. We all have procrastinated homework, papers and studying due to Facebook, AIM, etc. Whats worse is that the internet creates an unsafe space on these different networks because for everyone who has opened an account has probably been contacted by a person they dont know. Identity theft a huge draw-back to the internet and is becoming the method of theft in this technology era.

While I agree that time displacement has become an apparent issue in terms of any distractions the internet has on us, it is important to note that the internet helps us do a million things at once, saving us precious time. Facebook and AIM are huge contributors to throwing us off when it comes to doing our school work, not to mention other websites of interest. But there are distractions every where we go, and the issue is not being glued to the computer, but putting these tools into helpful use, saving us time. One can log on to AIM and talk to seven friends, rather than just one on the phone. It is quick and direct and one can end the conversation at any time, instead of trying to get off of the phone with someone who won't shut up.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

In response to a recent comment Christina made, I do agree that this debate should have taken place in person, in order to achieve a more direct placed community discussion. However, her thoughts on classmates not acknowledging eachother has nothing to do with the internet, but rather the way a lot of the kids act here. A lot of them are not friendly enough to say "hi" but it has nothing to do with internet appeal. Many of us are shy when it comes to meeting new people, and the internet is a perfect example in making the first step less akward, so the next time you see someone in class, the ice is already broken.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

As I have said a number of times in this Blog debate, and what I will stress again, anything in excess is bad. As of now this will be my sixth Blog post and I feel I have exhausted the point about the Internet being good or the Internet being bad. I am suggesting to the debate that as apposed to writing posts about an issue that we have already discussed at length, instead we write posts discussing the personal relevance to how the Internet enhances our harms our lifestyle with regards to community and communication.

I will begin with how the Internet has been somewhat of a stress on my life with regards to this debate. I am a bit frustrated with the posting requirements and feel that we are not getting very much debating done. Often times we are saying very similar points with slightly different twists. If this were a face-to-face debate we would not be saying the same things over and over again.

This again is an issue of abuse or misuse. I no way do I have enough to say to fill the required post amount and the idea of posting to fill a requirement is a bit difficult. It is similar to Professor Nisbet asking his people that flame on his Blog to call him. We are simply losing connection with each other.

We are at the culmination of the class, preparing to take the final on Monday and finishing our Blog debate tomorrow, but in doing this debate online our opinions are actually put to the test. I think that the Internet is a positive addition to society. It helps more than it hurts but currently I don�t feel like we are moving in a positive direction with this debate. Comment Please!

Social cues and loss of them are a big point of the skeptics. But I have to say that the internet can be a great venue for enhancing social cues and conversation development. When people are able to be online and look at people's interests (not in a stalker way), and chat online about common interests or whatnot, they have more to work with when it comes to face-to-face interaction. Nonverbal communication is essential, I'm not arguing with that, but when thinking of what to talk about or initiating a conversation, the internet gives us tools to further enhance face-to-face communication. How we act online and how we act in person are two different things, but inherently they overlap. We bring things from each type of interaction to the other type, and both are enhanced by each other.

Also, the internet allows us to approach people with a confidence they might not show in person. Whether it is asking someone out or telling someone off, it allows people from feeling rejection and laughing it off in a positive way. If someone writes a casual message on facebook, and the other person does not respond, than it is a good indication that they are not interested. Or even saying something risky on AIM can be followed immediately by a witty "ha ha ha" to let that person know that it is not meant to be taken all that seriously. If this was to happen in person, they might be understood as fake and phoney. Therefore proving the point of why the internet is a great introduction in getting to know someone right away.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

Sorry Jason, but to return to the topic of time displacement for a moment, some have overlooked a study that us cyber- optimists presented in our paper. In a study, several researchers focused on college students and their use of the internet along with their regular face-to-face and telephone conversations. The results of the study actually refuted the fact that there was a trade-off in the quantity or quality of conversations on the internet, when compared to those of traditional mediums. As they concluded:

"instead of a trade-off between high quality face-to-face conversations and lower quality internet interactions, students are supplementing high quality face-to-face conversations and telephone calls with really good internet interactions."

And think about it. In terms of the people you most frequently talk to online here at AU, dont you generally supplement your online conversations with face-to-face or telephone interactions? Often, arent your online conversations precursors to such traditional mediums? Aren't those the people with whom you are talking, the same people you will interact with on a face-to-face basis or via telephone most frequently? And especially for those friends who may live on north side with friends on south side, AIM allows for enhanced communication, which whether we like to admit it or not, is hampered by our own community\ divide in terms of dorms here on campus.

But again, for the most part, we as college students tend to supplement our internet conversations with the traditional means. With that, time displacement plays a very limited role, and acts as a week argument in this regard.

By Kristian L. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

I have to agree with Jason that this blog is a perfect example of how the internet has a negative effect on community. As we all have seen from this blog, it doesn't give people more time to think out their arguement. Instead, people got ahead of themselves and now the discussion is going around in circles. We were doing better in the classroom, face-to-face than we have been on the blog.
As I said at the end of the presentation and as we stated in the conclusion of our paper, the internet should be balanced. Community can be maintained through both the internet and personal conversations. However, our experience with this blog leans towards the former.

To Remy's comment, I completely disagree. I'm not sure how one could argue that blogging at your own pace gives a person less time to formulate their thoughts, as compared to speaking and debating on the spot. If anything, blogging allows for normal, everyday citizens to utilize such resources as online library databases (as we can do as AU students), or for anyone to simply search the internet and find concrete evidence to support a position they're trying to defend or promote.

Unfortunately, in this type of forum, we have many people trying to draw upon the same ideas and theories we've all learned or used throughout our papers, thus resulting in this "cycle" of conversation.

However, blogs best function when particular topics can be posted as individual threads upon which to comment, compared to this successive style of blogging we're using here.

So sure, this style of blogging could be seen as a hindrance to constructive conversation, promoting a lack of social cues in understanding when a topic of conversation has shifted. But as already stated, there are ways to better organize and communicate via blogs, and this style should not be upheld as the only standard.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

I completely agree with Kristians sentiments. Not everyone has the gift of being a great oral communicator. People can be very intelligent, however have a hard time talking to a group of people or organizing their thoughts mentally. Blogs allow for people to communicate easier because they have no time constraint, and can easily edit their thoughts to form a more cohesive idea. The idea of communicating important concepts through written work is seen in almost every industry. Corporations often use memorandums that are e-mailed. At AU, students often receive e-mailed memorandums from Deans and President Kerwin. This only supports that idea that written thoughts are needed in our daily lives.

Thanks Jason. You kind of hammered home a point there. I was getting a little discouraged as well by the same points that everyone is providing. And I don't think it's necessarily the internet that's making the points over and over again. After all, it's inanimate, we, as individuals, need new and fresher perspectives to attack the issue as good debaters.

And being one of those people who can't communicate as well orally and having to think about what I say before I say it, I would like to say that I do appreciate this way of responding instead of in a face-to-face class interaction.

Ok, internet provides a waste of time: this indeed is true. Yet I still think that no matter what the situation or circumstance or time period, there was always a "time waster" in society's eyes. Sure, it may be internet now and people may cynically view it as the biggest time waster of all time. But then again, wasn't the same things thought of for video games, TV, etc.? As times changed, time displacement shifted to new technologies because the older ones got tiring after a while. People spend many many hours playing PS2 or Xbox. Isn't that considered time displacement as well? Some people are still video game junkies or TV show addicts. These should be considered as well. Just because a bunch of people spend time on the internet doesn't mean that it's the primary time displacement negative technology of all time.

And I agree with Remy. Internet should be balanced. And as we grow and realize the benefits and costs of the internet, I think everything will become clearer and we'll all use the internet in a positive light. The point is that we're headed in that direction and I believe we can all benefit from the lessons the internet can teach us as a new technology.

The blog phenomenon has brought a whole new dimension to media and to communication in general. Both optimists and skeptics have outlined the good and bad aspects of a blog debate. In regard to media and society, blogs have now become a new media thread, acting as an alternative news source. People often access news blogs, dissident blogs, and alternative news blogs for information. One of the benefits of this new form of journalism is that it enables all of us to publish our thoughts and news that we might come in contact with. This new journalistic community is extremely useful and is now even helping mainstream media outlets publicize important news stories that take place where they might not have a correspondent. Here we are just publishing our perspectives and opinions on the use of the internet, but many other blogs are important sources of news and information that lead to global knowledge of important news stories and issues.

Most importantly, the blog phenomenon has brought us news and information that is disregarded by the mainstream media. Many news stories go unnoticed because they are not picked up by large networks like CNN or FOX, but these underground news networks are opening up our global communities to become more and more aware of what is going on around the world, though it may not be directly affecting us. These blogs are giving a voice to people and issues that are not heard on nightly news, and therefore enlarging our knowledge base and creating an awareness that builds the foundations for change. This is exactly what we need in order to lessen the effects of the digital divide. Awareness and publicity of important issues is the first step to lessening the divide that has been created between the haves and the have nots.

I would have to agree with Ann's comment on how blogging is a helpful tool in forming an agrument, rather than a face to face debate. It lets one think out their ideas before hand and get a better sense of what everyone else is thinking. Though this debate could be formed in a more organized mannor (like Kristian said, with individual threads), it has given everyone a chance to get what they want to say out in the open. Again, giving everyone the chance to discuss topics at their own pace and form new ideas along the way.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

In terms of meeting and greeting people, while I agree that meeting people online is not nearly as personal as getting to know them in person, the internet seizes to help us getting in contact with those unlikely to meet in the future. Therefore spreading a cross-cultural understanding.
A good example of this would be found in the website:
which is an internet site where people in cities around the world join and offer to let others stay at their place for free when they are in town.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

There is no way the Internet spreads cross-cultural understanding. While it may offer information about other cultures, it does not give any experience that is needed to understand the other cultures.

I took Anthropology this semester and while I learned a decent amount about other cultures, I do not think I have an understanding about those cultures. Yes, I know information and basic facts about these cultures, but experiencing them firsthand is something the Internet cannot provide.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

While blogging can be a helpful tool in communicating and forming an arugment as Ann and Candace have metioned in previous posts, we must stop and look at what blogging and internet communication can take away from. In the real world, all communication will not be done via the internet. Conference calls, meetings, and presentations for work are done in person, without the luxury of extra thinking and processing time the internet allows us to have. This is one of the main arguments of team cyber skeptics. If people continue to use the internet, this may take away their ability to communicate in face to face interactions and think quickly, which is the loss of social cues. The fact that not all people may excel at this type of communication has and always will be a fact of life. And while the internet does help these people, the fact of the matter is, in the past introverts have learned to interact more through social and face to face interactions. Without these types of interactions they will never learn.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

I would like to comment on Christina's post, as she posted it while I was writing my last post. I completely agree with her point that the internet does not promote cross cultural communication. I have taken several anthropology and sociology classes, as well as traveled abroad to experience different cultures first hand. The fact is, reading about cultures, whether it is online or in a textbook, is completely different and less permeating than experiencing them in real life. Face to face interations with people of different cultres is what ultimately helps us become more educated and tolerant of differences.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

I agree with Brittanys post that blogging takes away from other interactions and ways of communicating. I stick by what I said before and I have to disagree with Alissas point that blogging organizes conversation. As someone who does not enjoy reading almost 20 pages of a blog, I cant agree that the internet makes it easier for me to get my point across. Why do you think Professor Nisbet suggested talking face-to-face? The internet has hindered the ability of those who are attacking him to make a persuasive argument in person.
Further more, the argument that the internet establishes ties across countries and around the world, doesnt apply to the many countries that dont have the means to supply the internet to their citizens. As I have stated before, Americans love technology and sometimes, become too raped up in it to the extent that we forget about the outside world that does not have the same fortunes that we do. We have to look beyond what we have and see what others dont have. I agree with Christina that learning about another culture in a classroom is different then experiencing it first hand. Im studying abroad in Paris next semester because I want to experience another culture before I graduate college. I could not have this same opportunity taking the same French courses online or at American University. Im taking these classes in Paris so I can better understand the culture and the language.

Just because you don't get the full "cultural experience" through blogging doesn't discount the fact that blogs and social networking sites can assist in a person's understanding, or at least, exposure to a culture different from their own, especially if they can never afford, or never have the opportunity, to travel abroad. If anything, and as argued already, blogs can be used as a supplement to information gained via traditional mediums. For example, I will be traveling to London next semester, and I have been following several blogs of displaced Americans in London. Some actually live in and around the same "tube" or subway stop I will be living near.

This was an interesting post from "An American in London"

"Apparently here a "billion" is a million million, while in the States a "billion" is a thousand million. How could a definition like this not be standardized? Spelling is one thing, but huge numerical discrepancies is surely another!

So it's the difference between:

1,000,000,000 and

Even if its little quirks like this, or random recommendations of things to do and places to see, I feel better prepared in understanding certain aspects of British culture since I started reading such blogs several months ago. Not to mention, after becoming aware of such preexisting quirks, I feel better prepared in knowing when to recognize and accept such unexpected cultural differences.

Sure, once I get to London, I'll find myself immersed in the entirety of the British culture, but without the blogs, I wouldn't have even known that the "tube" was a mode of transportation upon which I will be heavily dependent.

Also, in response to a previous statement, just because some locales in our world don't have internet access, it does not take away from the fact that the internet in and of itself, has allowed for the creation of a global community of information and cultural sharing like no other. And the fact is, any cross cultural exchange via the internet only adds to the overall fact that the internet has expanded the confines of community, and has in part, transformed the importance of, or at least the reliance on traditional mediums of communication.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2007 #permalink

Cyber skeptics argue that the internet only encourages the digital divide. In effect, that the internet increasingly distinguishes the haves and have nots. While I disagree with this point somewhat, I would like to point out a statement made my cyber skeptic Remy P. She wrote, Americans love technology and sometimes, become too raped up in it to the extent that we forget about the outside world that does not have the same fortunes that we do. We have to look beyond what we have and see what others dont have. She later explained that going abroad to learn about a culture is much different than taking a class state-side. I completely agree. However, what about the students that cant afford college, much less pay for studying abroad? The internet gives them opportunity to at least begin to understand another culture by taking online museum tours, chatting online with foreign citizens, tracking down authentic recipes, and listening to authentic accents. In many cases the internet can gap the digital divide, not increase it.

Another topic that we have failed to mention are the opportunities that online shopping provides people. Some citizens do not have access to stores because their mall or shopping center doesnt have the particular store, or they dont feel comfortable shopping in person. Online shopping has not only united the globe by allowing people from anywhere in the world with internet access to order clothes from the GAP, but in addition, it has made shopping for clothes all the more convenient. This enhances the traditional community by freeing up time that it would take to travel to a mall to play games outside with someones family or other non-technological time displacement activities. In addition, it has given men and women of all ages privacy and the comfort of trying new clothes and not worrying about a lurking salesperson. This too can enhance the traditional community by giving community members new found confidence from a never before accessible wardrobe.

To add to Alissa's comment regarding online shopping, one can go ahead and look at the economic advantages as well. Shopping online gives a person more freedom and power to compare prices, products and venues in which to shop. Using a site like allows a consumer to look at and compare airline flight prices among literally all the existing airlines that offer tickets online. The same site offers the same type of comparison on rental cars, hotels, cruises and even sorts the best "deals" for consumers. Similar sites like and provide this same type of service, and such a quantity of resources only ensures that at the click of your mouse, you as a responsible consumer, if willing to put in the effort, can find the cheapest ticket or best deal out there. If you recall, we had a conversation similiar to this in class...could you imagine buying airline tickets without the internet today?

Along with price comparisons though, the internet also provides sites specific to product or venue reviews, whether it be about books at, professors at or even campus food on the DailyJolt. Obviously, when a person buys a product, whether online or in the traditional sense, they have to use personal discretion either way, in regards to safety of the transaction and quality of product in accordance with reliance on reviews. However, cyber-optimists argue the plain and simple fact that the internet provides for the technological community that serves as an integral backbone to any 21st century consumer who wants to ensure they're getting the best bang for their buck in a safe, effective and productive manner.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

While online shopping is indeed a very positive opportunity provided by the internet, I could not help but laugh at the assertion that online shopping has a positive impact on community. Although online shopping provides people the ability to purchase goods at a good price and presents greater variety, such benefits have absolutely NOTHING to do with community. While Alyssa stated that "this too can enhance the traditional community by giving community members new found confidence from a never before accessible wardrobe," I cannot take such a comment seriously. I am, in all honesty, thankful to the cyber optimists for bringing such a topic up because it provides an excellent example of the negative impact that the internet continues to have on community. Alyssa may be afraid of "lurking" salespeople, but by shopping online she is cutting herself off from her community and negates any possible social interactions that could have possibly occurred. Although she may have a newfound confidence with her newfound wardrobe, she is removing herself from the community in order to acquire it.

Once more I would like to stress that we are debating the impact of internet on community, not the economic advantages of which there are indeed many. For that reason I would like to ask the cyber optimists to please debate on the topic at hand and not simply try and turn this into a debate on whether or not the internet has advantages.

Ryan, Do you really think that economy has nothing to do with community? It is the largest and probably the most influential community in the world. Everything revolves around economic and capitalist principles. Financial interactions have been greatly facilitated by the internet, from online banking to checking stocks- and even to online shopping. With the internet businesses are able to move ahead much quicker, attract more clients, and further transactions between other businesses.
The internet is one of the most important tools for any business in todays world.

Reading through the cyber-skeptics' paper once more, in search of a fresh topic, I came across a point in the paper that I didn't quite understand in our face-to-face debate, and still don't understand after reading over their paper:

"Real world interaction offers people with different social and political views and interests to communicate and engage in dialogue, with the possibility of creating new ties with different people and hearing a variety of opinions. However, the internet can promote homogenous interactions based on similar interests and personal outlooks (Putnam, 2000, p. 178) because people are looking for others who share their own predispositions."

Maybe its just from personal experience that I completely disagree with this statement. When I first arrived at American, I don't know about anyone else, but I consciously sought out people to which I could relate...whether they were liberal, democrats, from Massachusetts or the North, interested in similar sports, shared similar experiences as I had etc.

And so to this day, I share the most of those mentioned criteria with my closest friends. And for those friends I have made who do not share such interests, I don't seek them out to hear their difference in opinion or experience upon such topics, I seek them out to have fun, and have enjoyable discussions about common interests and experiences, not issues upon which we can argue and disagree.

Isn't it said that the two things you don't talk about with other people are religion and politics? Such as it is, in meeting people face-to-face and interacting with new social groups, I almost always attempt to avoid confrontation and a difference of opinion. If anything, I would say that type of approach is an inate human tendency--well unless you just aren't a friendly person I guess.

What I'm trying to say, is that Putnamn's theory of cyber balkanization just does not seem to hold up in my mind when I consider the people in my face-to-face community I interact with, and the people who I interact with via the online community through political blogs or common interest blogs or groups on the internet.

Even among one of the political blogs I frequent that is primarily for liberal democrats from Massachusetts, there always exists differing opinions on topics that one would assume upon which all democrats would agree. In terms of opening my mind to new views and mindsets, I would say that I personally gain further knowledge of opinions in politics differing from mine via the internet, as compared with the friends and people I interact with on a daily basis--even through new people I meet on a daily basis.

I just don't see how naturally seeking out like-minded people in the traditional community, is anymore detrimental than seeking out like-minded people via the internet. Ok yeah, social cues and whatnot may be lost, but in terms of Putnam's balkanization theory, I don't see the internet creating any worse impact than instinctive human nature. As I see it, the online community only enhances my susceptibility to differing views and opinions as compared to the traditional community in which I surround myself.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

Kristan, you do make a very important point. People will inherently seek out those who they agree with and avoid those that will make them feel uncomfortable. It is human nature. Through casual everyday interactions people get will experience new and fresh perspectives whether it is intended or not. The internet, however, creates an atmosphere in which people can more easily avoid experiencing new ideas through selecting to go to certain websites and avoiding others. While this may seem innocent enough it further polarizes society and leads to a, as Putnam puts it, balkanized society in which people can easily live within a specific sphere and avoid those who would otherwise provide a fresh perspective.

While I understand what Maria is attempting to argue with the internet's effect on the economy and that it is indeed valid, I firmly believe that online shopping as it had been described previously in the optimists posts is detrimental to community. It removes the individual from the community and allows them to forego the typical interactions that in the past have helped to create notions of community.

I agree 100% with Ryan's last statement. The Internet easily allows people to pick and choose who they would want to be friends with. I know when I meet people I am interested in finding friends who enjoy similar activities as me, but I also look for someone who has a totally different outlook on life. Whether it be where they were raised or how they were raised, finding friends who believe in things I do not necessarily agree with allow me to be overall more knowledgable on both sides of the argument.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

In regards to another one of Putnam's theories that the cyber-skeptics relied upon as a tenet of their argument, they stated:

"while the internet does allow people to maintain contact with others, it does not allow them to transform their relationships into something more meaning and significant. Also, instead of opening up new possibilities, Americans use the phone and internet to further pursue a way of life they would have."

Unfortunately, there are more recent studies which completely contradict this statement and the research by Putnam--specifically in terms of online dating.

From the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2006):

"Some 11% of all internet users and 37% of those who are single and looking say they have gone to dating websites. A majority of them say they have had positive experiences and believe their use of such sites helps them to find a better match. A notable number of these online daters have found firsthand that lasting romance can be forged online; 17% of them say they have entered long-term relationships or married someone they met through the services."

That last sentence is most stinging to yours and Mr. Putnam's argument.

As evidenced by this Pew Study, the online community can in fact foster the "transformation" that the cyber-skeptics so adamantly deny. To say that the internet is solely a reinforcer to which no further relationships or prospects in a persons life can develop, is a feeble generalization in light of such relationships fostered through online dating services like and E-harmony.

Looks like Mr. Putnam should reexamine his now aged research dating back now to the turn of the century. The online community has grown and transformed the lives of many who have taken advantage of this community throughout the last seven years, and utilized it within the traditional community that supposedly, according to Putnam, was falling apart in 2000.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

In quick response to Christina's statement that was posted while I was writing the last comment, obviously, I can't judge who of your friends has a "different outlook on life" than you do. But if you are in fact friends with them, I can almost guarantee that you DO NOT spend the majority of your time together discussing who's outlook on life is better, or who's life choices are better to follow. I'm almost sure your conversations and interactions focus on the commonalities of your personalities and experiences, not necessarily the aspects that divide you. If that were so, would there be any point in being "friends"?

Via the online community, a person can in fact seek out those differing opinions easier than in a traditional community setting. Instead of engaging in face-to-face disagreements that I think we can all agree are a top priority in avoidance, people can search throughout blogs and interest groups of differing interest and garner this knowledge without necessarily risking your overall social capital by engaging in a conflicting conversation or situation.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

I am very glad that both, Kristian and Alissa have mentioned the importance of online shopping. While Ryan has made the point that it does not have the same impact as entering a real mall, this can be beneficial to many who do not want to meet with pesky employee's forcing one to try on a bazillion pieces of clothing. Not to mention, it is a quick and easy way in buying what you want, right to your door step.
I know from my own personal experience, I am a true believer in online shopping. Websites like keep people aware of any new trends and looks are out there for upcoming seasons and introduce new designers along the way.
I have been raised on fashion my whole life, and unfortunately cannot attend the fashion shows that happen throughout the year, due to school. But I can watch what I have missed on the internet and get a glimpse of the new clothing with a simple click.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

It looks like some of us here are agreeing with my post despite group assignments while others are not agreeing to the point I was trying to make. It seems interesting to me that despite being identified with our groups only on the basis of how we were assigned, not many are choosing to come out of these pre-determined and rather arbitrary assignments. I implore you in the final hours of this debate to state your true opinions.

In my last post I discussed as a class addressing issues that we find to be true to our own personal understanding of the Internet and communities. I would like to point out a simple piece of evidence that has not yet been stated within the Blog debate. If you observe the time stamps of when people are posting we have some very interesting data. At four AM people are logging onto the Blog and commenting. The debate literally went through the night. This is impressive and a piece of evidence in favor of the cyber optimists. However, I will ask the question, is this quantity of work quality? Would it be more productive to schedule a face-to-face debate rather than an ongoing one?

Jason, I do not think the reason the blog debate went through the night was because people are genuinely interested in what we are discussing, but rather we are a group of college students that need to make a minimum of 10 posts before 4pm today. For those who didn't start posting right away, 10 posts means they must continually be writing anf responding to others ideas.

I do think that some people who are truly interested in blogging may take more interest in our debate, but I think we are ONLY having this discussion and it is only popular because it is an assignment.

I do agree when you ask if this is a quality debate. I am sure that this debate would not only have been more engaging but also more entertaining had we continued it face to face. There are simply too many social cues lost online.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

To comment on the online shopping discussion I will have to agree that online shopping is an incredible advantageous phenomenon. Online shopping is a Billion dollar industry and it has economic impact as well as social impact. I am personally a buyer not a shopper, meaning I do not go into a store to try things on rather to buy what I need. As a result online shopping cuts out the middle man, offers suppliers more direct contact with their consumers and allows for better accounting for goods. However, online shopping does illuminate the go to the store and spend a few hours with a friend. Though this does not effect consumers of my character, studies have not shown whether online shopping has displaced this face-to-face contact.

I think Jason presents a great point that this debate has taken place at all hours of the night which shows the ammount of interest people are taking in it. In a face to face debate, we would not be able to discuss our feelings as freely as we could on the computer, for we can have acess to this blog at any time and comment whenever is convenient to us.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

In terms of personal experience, AIM has helped me stay in touch with my best friend who goes to school in New York, making it easy to connect with her right away. Though we talk on the phone a sufficient ammount, a lot of times it is easier just telling her things via internet. This way I can check my email, ask her to proof read an assignment, and hear about her day all at once, rather than doing it step by step on the phone.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

In looking back on the entirety of this assignment I am going to have to say that before the Blog debate took off I was very much a cyber optimist. Swept into my research it was difficult to see how the Internet does more harm than good. I do believe that, if used correctly, the internet without hesitation enhances community however by being forced to do a minimum of 10 Blog I had a first hand encounter with misuse and abuse of the cyber world.

Being involved in an online debate does break down social cues, it does displace my time, and it does inhibit my interaction with the community around me. Perhaps as a community we should look for a variation or a combination of the two communities. Instant messaging is a valuable tool but instead of facebook messaging someone on their birthday, give them a call. Use the positive tools of the Internet to enhance traditional communities where traditional communities fall short.

I appreciate this project and have learned a lot. Though saying this over a Blog is not as powerful as seeing you on the quad and saying it to your face, best of luck with the rest of your exams and have a restful summer.

Along with Christina, I would agree that the requirement of the blog assignment itself is what has provoked early morning posts and continual discussion, not solely genuine interest, though I think some can be found among people posting on this blog, including myself.

With that though, I think this blog highlights the fact that the internet community literally has no boundaries, in regards to both space and time.

In terms of quality and engagement though, I think it depends on the people who are actually blogging. For instance, within comments I've made, I have cited the skeptics' paper specifically, where in our face-to-face debate without the paper in front of me, and without the resource of the internet to back up my claims or criticisms, the actual quality content of the discussion would not have amounted to much, other overused rhetoric that we've picked up among our own social circles or throughout the class this semester

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

First another point about online shopping is that you can compare prices and find cheaper things through looking for it online rather than walking around a mall and not necessarily finding the best deals.

But then again, there are some aspects of traditional shopping which I truly value and which makes malls a great place to go. We can actually try on things and see if it looks good, or "try before we buy" kind of thing. And not pay for shipping. But I must admit, sometimes I go to the store and try it out and see if I like it, then stalk it down on the internet either through google or through Ebay and find so much of a better price for it, which I think is one of internet's economic pluses (for those who can't afford designer brands at full prices).

Also Jason, I do agree with your comments about the blog. I find it discouraging to have to comment up to 10 times as a minimum, and it seems that we're just saying the same things over and over again to reiterate what we've already said. This, in a way, inhibits the community but I feel I've learned a lot from you guys and from this class through this project.

But my standpoint is still looking in an optimistic direction because that is just my personality and how I look at life. So while cyber optimists are continually saying internet is good and cyber skeptics continually say that it's costing us the traditional community, I personally think it's best if we admit the problems that we do have and then move on to a better outlook and a better way of life that addresses these problems.

So, as Jason said: call someone on their birthday, write someone a letter (because I barely get ANY real letters anymore and that's kind of discouraging) and it's even rare nowadays to get a genuine e-mail from a friend, most of what people get are junk mail and spam.

Yet I still love the fact that I can balance and stay somehow connected to all of the friends I have. And to be honest, human beings can only handle up to so many close friends at a time, and somehow the internet lets me IM someone randomly and say what's up, or e-mail someone I haven't talked to in a long time. Sure it may not be the same thing, but for someone who you thought forgot about you to IM or e-mail you is kind of a big deal (at least to me). It brightens up my day when one of my high school friends just says "what's up, haven't seen you in a while" or I get a wall message or e-mail. And I don't expect that person to come up and talk to me or call me because people simply don't have the time to travel to meet with me. So, in that way, I value internet and its ability to keep tabs on everyone that I've been or are friends with. And I think most of you could relate.

Ann does a good job in summing up the cyber optimists point. Obviously, like any technology, the internet does have flaws. However, our argument is that the positives vastly out weigh the negatives. Imagine your life without Blackboard, Facebook, Gmail, etc. Things would be vastly different, and in a bad way. Many friends would lose contact, education would require much more effort, and important documents could not be easily transferred. Being skeptic of something does make you aware, but it also allows you to miss out. Being optimistic about something, especially the internet, helps you realizes both the good and the bad, but overlook the bad to still be able to enhance your life.

In the same regard as my previous post, I would like to state more emphatically that it is specifically the type of people who blog that allows for the effectiveness of an online community. Obviously, us busy college students are in the midst of final projects, final papers and studying for final exams. Were this not an assignment, I would bet that many of us would be focusing on other aspects of our lives right now, thus--yes I know--proving in this instance, the existence of time displacement because of the internet.

However, under different circumstances, in a time when life isn't so stressful and free time can be had, blogging for many is a constructive and effective use of online community sharing and communicating.

But again, it depends on who is blogging. The substance of a blog depends on the amount of time and effort you put into it. As with many of the previous blog posts, clearly some had more effort put into them than others. Some were evidence based, whereas some were merely opinion based. And it should be noted that the professor added a requirement of researched based comments because that's the way the blogosphere in actuality, operates. Generally, posts start out as fact based, and people respond with their own fact based arguments to either promote or disavow the original point. On the internet, as we have all argued, concrete evidence and solid facts are the things that make this medium legitimate.

With that, in a normal blogging environment, we observe instances of people who would otherwise waste their spare time in other time displacing activities, actually posting meaningful, substantive posts on issues that effect us all.
As is the case with the use of internet overall, self-discretion is a must, and as some of us have found, time commitment is a must to create a worthwhile blog.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

Although I agree with Jasons early point about no one wanting to move away from our arbitrary arguments, I think this blog has been effective in seeing each other point of view. At the same time, I think that the cyber-skeptics have taken the research to heart and we as a group believe that the internet is harmful to community. Its not just about the debate; in doing this research (yes, on the internet), we have found that the internet not only depletes social ties, it segregates our society. In all the arguments about how it enhances our society, I dont think one optimist has addressed how it creates a divide.

I completely agree with Ann�s statement about balance. It is true that there needs to be a balance between the internet and "real life" experiences. Whether its shopping, researching, or just emailing a friend, we as a society can try to balance those things between the internet and actually leaving the house. I think shopping has become more of a good time with friends that it has become a necessity, but research has become solely based on online catalogs. While emailing is faster, calling or sending an actually letter does feel more personal. Our society could definitely take some steps to become less reliant on the internet and increase our social ties. I know this is the same argument that everyone has been making, but I firmly believe our society could change for the better by limiting the amount of time we spend online everyday.

I agree with both of Remy's previous points. As cyber-skeptics, we truly have changed a lot of the ways we use the Internet. While it offers many things that advance community and society it also presents dangers to to communities and societies.

Peronally, I know I appreciate when a friend takes the time to type me an email or when we have an AIM conversation that is actually more then 3 or 4 minutes, however, I appreciate a phone call even more. Even if that phone call is the result of something on the Internet. For example, if I have a sad away message up, or if someone can sense via AIM that my day is not great, many of my friends will CALL me to ask what is wrong or to check in.

While AIM and Facebook/the Internet help tie communities together, I think true interaction and social bonding takes place in other forms. Hearing a voice, seeing a face, feeling a hug. Those things all just mean more.

By Christina F, (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

Just thought I'd start posting some research about the socioeconomic divide:

Here's the abstract for this research: The Internet has tremendous potential to achieve greater social equity and empowerment and improve everyday life for those on the margins of society. This article presents the findings from three digital divide studies, each of which represents a different group of marginalized society members. Low-income families, sexual minorities, and African American women are represented in the three studies that employ different research approaches toward a common aim of contextualizing Internet use in the everyday social practice of society's "have-nots." The aim is to step outside simple digital divide categories to understand how marginalized members of society incorporate computers and the Internet into their daily lives in ways that are meaningful to them. An important goal is also to learn about how Internet researchers can contribute to closing the digital divide in ways that converge with the goals, meanings, and practices of people living on society's margins.

As pointed out by the abstract, the internet has the potential to empower these minority groups and as stated in the article, has proven that on a case study basis, many individuals found the internet empowering and sought out knowledge through this technology.

The LGBT community benefited as well because they had a means of organizing something. And closets could have support and confidence in coming about their true selves.

Therefore, there has been research on the effects on the "have-nots" and excluded people in the community. And there's continual research on how the internet impacts their every-day lives positively.

Upon reading Jason's comments as well as the discussion following about the incredible interest in the debate as was exhibited by posts throughout the night, I cannot help but laugh. The idea that the reason people posted at 3 and 4 am because they are truly interested in the blog debate is very idealistic. I agree that the real reason people posted is because people are simply trying to force in as many posts as they posibly can to fulfill the requirements. While that is a due to the nature of the assignment, the result has been a blog debate in which people are simply rehashing the same tired arguments over and over. Although the purpose of a blog debate was set up to create an environment in which people could construct well researched and though out arguments, the reality has been a debate that, for myself at least, has not been as constructive as our inclass debate. This result, although a useful supplement to in the in class debate is indicative of the true use of the internet as a supplement to traditional community and not a replacement. Unfortunately, however, many people simply allow the internet, through sites such as 2nd life, to replace their normal interactions.

Concerning the digital divide, probably the main reason no one has responded specifically to the topic is because it is an valid point of the cyber-skeptics. (To that point too, it seems a trend developed on this blog that when a valid, researched point was made, it was rare someone would respond with a researched argument, but either answered with simply their opinion, or changed the subject--which in turn led to a lack of consistent and substantive conversation via blogging). But yeah, the digital divide is a real-life, current day problem that our country and government face as we move along in the advancement of internet technology. As the study you cited in your paper stated:

"inequalities in access to information services tend to persist in contrast to the rapid diffusion of information goods," (DiMaggio et al, 2001, p. 310).

It is a problem, that even a cyber-optimist like myself can not deny. But rather than focus solely on the skepticism, I think its also constructive to look at the optimist side of things. Over the last decade, the digital gap is continuing to close with the help of federally funded programs.

With this to, according to PEW, which you can access on their website, the amount of Americans using the internet also continues to rise (near 80%) and as of 2006, in terms of demographics, minorities and the poor have now reached at or above 50% internet use in the United States.

Obviously, there is a ways to go, and until this gap is closed, this issue will remain a tough point to argue in terms of the positive effect of the internet on community.
Though as a cyber-optimist, one could also argue that the internet itself allows people with different ideas and proposals to come together within an information sharing community to work on solving such pressing societal issues, but that's just optimist in me I guess.

By Kristian H. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

Also in the political domain, there are many organizations, political and non-profits, who are benefitting from online hype and publicity.

For example, Barack Obama already has so much publicity and support from the internet alone, places like and what not. And other candidates are probably going to have to do the same. John McCain is launching videos on YouTube and probably all of the candidates have a MySpace page. Equally so, there are flame groups that are stating their strong opinions about not wanting a certain candidate or what not. In a way, these points can be researched and searched carefully to decide on a good candidate. Without the internet, how can you look up information about the candidates without a hassle? This way, candidates can actually save money, letting the "poorer" candidates have some publicity, because it's free to get a MySpace or Facebook group. And also people have more access to their information and standpoints.

And advocates of world crisis, such as Darfur, get publicity and can get people to sign online petitions for a good cause.

The internet is a good, efficient, quick and low cost way of gathering, informing and motivating people about today's leaders and issues.

Ok since everyone seems to be at their 10 comment limit and not want to discuss this any further, I'm going to make one last comment. I think this blog has proved that the internet is not the best means of communication. I think in a face-to-face debate everyone would have had a lot more to say (I know I personally would have). If we had maybe done less blog debating and more debating in class, more points could have been made.

Obviously there is a big difference in a face-to-face debate and a blog debate as Remy suggests. However, I disagree with Remy's assertion that a face-to-face debate would have been more effective. A blog debate gives everyone a chance to review the data at their own pace and allows the less eloquent among us a chance to articulate their arguments. Moreover, it levels the playing field for people who might normally be too shy to really participate in a face-to-face debate. I think a blog debate has been an interesting and effective medium and not necessarily restrictive as Remy argues.

By Candace K (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

As we finish this semester and this blog debate, I consider both sides of the argument. I think everyone can agree we have found common ground.

The cyber-skeptics will defend community and face to face interaction until we are blue in the face and cyber-optimists will continue to point out all the websites that offer advantages for communities.

The common ground I think I have stumbled upon is that I will continue to use the Internet, cautiously, but its technologies and benefits are too popular and life without the Internet is almost impossible -- especially in the college setting.

The Internet has harms and dangers that I hope the cyber-optimists have become more aware of over the past week and will remember for the future. I know the information of the advantages will continue to affect the way I use the Internet.

In closing, I am very glad to have been on the Cyber-skeptic side. I now know more about time displacement and the loss of social cues online (that I already agreed with prior to this class), but I also have a greater understanding of just dangerous a community with borders or boundaries can be.

By Christina F. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

I agree with Christina that this debate has helped me to see both sides of the issues and that we can debate our teams until we are blue in the face. However, after researching for the cyber-optimists I am more optimistic about the benefits the cyber world has for the traditional community. I think we all agree that internet has positives. Yet, after doing this projects I believe that there are definitely more positives than negatives, but more importantly, the negatives are easily surmountable. The examples the skeptics use of stalking is valid, however rare in percentage of the populous if effects. Furthermore, the examples of decreased childrens health can be curbed by a parent instilling in child moderation. I cannot imagine my life without the internet, and all of its positives that alter our education, communication, safety, shopping, interaction and time displacement activities for the better.

I want to address the problems of the digital divide specifically within the US. The digital divide is real and can't be ignored, but neither can the larger problem of differential access to education. The Internet is becoming increasingly accessible through public funding, as Kristian said, and public libraries offer internet access free of charge. The Internet houses databases and search engines that allow kids stuck in bad school systems to access information that they can't get in their own schools. To argue that their inferior training in such databases is a downside of the Internet is to ignore the bigger flaws of the school system that fails to provide them with that training. It is easy to argue that greater access to and better training in the use of the Internet privileges wealthier children, but these children are already privileged by their superior libraries and teachers. The Internet at least begins the process of fixing problems of differential access to information across socioeconomic divisions. With government funding programs like Kristian mentioned, lower socioeconomic classes are becoming better equipped to compete with their wealthier peers. Improving their ability to use this equipment is a problem for the school systems, not the design of the Internet.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

As this blog debate comes to an end, I must agree with Remy's last point. While this blog debate has proved that the internet does have it's positive and negative points, I agree that this blog has shown both. Yes, it was beneficial to be able to have an extensive time to think and phrase arguments properly; however, there were certain aspects of a face to face debate that were lost during the online blog debate. Factors such as the amount of time between responses and not being able to hear people's voice tones or ask for immediate clarification on a topic can and does have it's effects. In conclusions, while I still stand by the cyber skeptic point of view, I do feel that we've all learned something from this blog debate.

By Brittany A. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

Furthermore, the internet has provided us with a slew of oppurtunities when it comes to meeting people in groups with similar interests that might never come up in a face to face conversation. Because the internet provides a shield of anonymity, it lets people admit things online, more likely to confess intimate details that would never take place in person. Though I agree with the cyber skeptics that there needs to be a balance formed between the internet and personal conversations, it is apparent to me that a lot of what appears on the internet helps more than it hurts. Obviously, in a community where topics such as pedophillia and suicide come up, but just because something is dangerous does not mean it should be shut down and most importantly ignored. The 1st amendment is dangerous because it protects all speech including hate speech but that doesn't mean we should repeal it.

By Candace K. (not verified) on 01 May 2007 #permalink

I guess now that everyone is providing their last thoughts and closing statements, it's interesting to see that cyber optimists are still optimists and cyber skeptics are still skeptics.

And I guess I am still a cyber optimist after all this. It's interesting to provide both sides of the issue and argue about it, but overall, I still think cyber optimists have so much more benefits to point to while skeptics don't have as many costs to do the same.

My personal opinion is that we should look at both sides of an argument and should definitely look into things before we agree on an argument. But now that I've seen the research and arguments that support the optimist side, I still generally agree with that side.

The digital divide is very true and the socioeconomic divide is an issue as well. But, as stated before, I hope we all can still try to provide ways to solve these problems. As the privilged, we are very used to staying in our comfort zones, but what about those people in SE DC that don't even have a place to sleep at night? Homelessness and difference in socioeconomic status is already a problem, I think it has been ever since the dawn of human beings. So of course, they will not have access to some technologies like other groups. It's kind of sad, but cannot be easily solved.

I truly learned a lot from this debate and would definitely look into spending a good amount, but not too much, on the internet.

This has been a very interesting and enlightening project. I have learned about so many new dimensions of the internet and their direct and indirect effects on our society and community. The way communication has developed, and the speed at which has developed is incredible. Though sometimes faulty and explicit, the internet in my opinion is a tool that has enhanced the world more than detracted from it. I remain an optimist, but now have a better sense of of the reasons for skepticism.