Monday 6 September 2010

NET102 - Introduction

Study Guide for Module 1. These study notes establishes some of the basic ideas and approaches we'll be using in this unit: What are the reasons for studying the Internet in terms of the everyday and what our chief areas of focus?

'Everyday Life' and 'Conclusion' sections (pp. 163 to 165) of Berger, A. A. (1995). Sociological Theory and Cultural Criticism. In Cultural Criticism: A Primer of Key Concepts. Sage Publications. In e-Reserve.

This week we were introduced to the unit and given a reading which explained "Everyday Life" as the "focus by social scientists on the experiences of ordinary people and on their routines, attitudes, beliefs, and ways of functioning", which are influenced by popular culture, the media and particularly advertising.  The reasons for studying everyday life are 1. To understand ourselves and our society better, 2. To identify and understand effective progressive/conservational tactics and 3. To recognise and understand change.  I must confess that I found the 3 pages fairly dull so I hope the rest of the unit isn't all going to be like this!

We were also asked to discuss our experience of the Internet and how it compares with others and I submitted this to Blackboard:

I was really interested to read all of your Internet experiences and actually I was a bit rapt that there are so many long-time Internet users here because in my world I've always been considered the nerdy one, so this is like joining a very cool club! :>  I started out with a Commodore 64 in the late 1980's and in 1993 started working in IT and discovered bulletin boards, and from there got onto the Internet via dialup, armed with an Ozemail 3.5" disk of apps that allowed you to use Usenet, Archie, Gopher, IRC (which I subsequently spent hours of my life on) and the World Wide Web (using Quarterdeck Mosaic).  In 1995 I taught myself HTML and wrote my first web page in Windows Notepad and in 1996 I went backpacking and kept in touch with the very few people I knew who had email (mostly IRCers), and put some photos up on my website as I went.  This involved getting film developed, finding a friend with a scanner, a PC and an internet connection, another friend who provided me with a free Unix shell account, and knowing how to FTP and write HTML via a command line - fun!

Nowadays it seems like just about everyone I know has email and a home PC and a mobile phone they can surf the net with, and you get to see people's photos at the time they're actually doing things instead of weeks later. I can't imagine life without the Internet now - I do everything online - banking, read news, social networking including Facebook and Twitter, organise holidays, research things like restaurants, movie times, builders, tradesmen and schools, study, and work - still doing websites.  My daughter is in grade 1 and she uses the Internet at school.  I joke with friends and family that if they're not on Facebook then I don't remember to keep up with them but it's almost not a joke any more.  My husband made me leave my laptop at home for a week in July when we went on a family holiday and I felt like I'd had an arm cut off!  So the Internet is very much a part of MY everyday life.  I found this article which I thought was interesting - it's about whether broadband should be considered a necessity and a basic utility like gas, electricity and water.  I personally haven't spent more than a week or 2 away from the Internet since 1994 so it sounds perfectly reasonable to me but I don't really think my usage is the norm!  My parents and many of their generation of friends/family have broadband but just as many don't and I have many friends who have access but don't use it anywhere near the way I do, and they're all quite happy, so maybe we're not at "necessity" yet. :>

As far as controversies - one of the things I've always been very focussed on is online privacy and until recently I made a concerted effort to stay very anonymous online.  Joining Facebook was a huge step outside the "anonymous" comfort zone and I have to say that, despite the fact that it's convenient and fun, the way Facebook handles (and changes) privacy settings drives me mad and I've had days where I've thought about just ditching the whole thing.  But I also find it a bit addictive so maybe that's why I'm still there. :>  Another issue I've been fairly involved in over the last couple of years was the Australian government's proposed internet filter, which hopefully is now dead in the water.  If you'd like to get me started on the issue of governments and censorship then just say the word, but I'll restrain myself for now!  But to me, although both of these issues are Internet-related, they're also relevant offline issues - privacy and civil rights.  It's just about how the world should handle them in a global, online situation.



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