Identity in Cyber Culture
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Very few technologies if any, in documented human history can rival the Internet when it comes to speed of adoption; range of impact and potential diversity of its users (Dery, 1996). Perhaps, only the printing press could come close in comparison with the Internet, with the Internet still winning hands down when it comes to the speed of adoption and rate of reproduction (Dery, 1996). The internet has permeated every aspect of human life today, from business to religion, from politics to entertainment, from professional practice to recreation (Dery, 1996). That rate of adoption has produced an equally gigantic social-cultural impact on the global society, with the World Wide Web helping transforming how people shop, live, interact, learn, trade, spend their time, solve problems. These are the particulars, which define cyberculture (Levy, 2001).
A very important element of cyberculture and which is a central foundation of thus paper is how people interact while in online platforms. Cyberculture has induced a dramatic shift in inter-personal interaction, in work culture (colleague relations), inter-group and intra-group relations etc. A close inspection of these interactions, show an ever-reducing importance of personal identity, where the individual exists just as another entity without a personal quality (Dodge & Kitchin, 2000). In social media platforms like Face book for instance, a person is only conceived as a friend, a comment, a post etc, without respect to native languages, ages, genders, nationalities etc (Dodge & Kitchin, 2000).
A good elaboration of individual identity is lost in cyberculture and which will be reviewed in detail hereunder is blogging. An individual can decide to comment on any issue, political, medical, social, legal etc regardless of being an expert in that field or not. That comment will be evaluated by other bloggers and readers on its own merit; in complete disregard of the one who commented. Unlike any form of interactions in the physical world, a comment is regarded as an entry, wholesome as it is, and judged on its own merits without the bias of its source. Once other bloggers read the entry, they also comment and one key characteristic of such comments is that they comment on the initial entry and never on the person who made it.
The consequence of such loss of personal identity is grievous at the very least. People gain the permissive attitude that lets them say or do whatever they want. People lose any inhibition, any answerability; any sense of accountability. Misinformation, amoral conduct, antisocial behaviors and even irresponsible social interactions thus become a norm since the participants know that there is no chance for the same vice being attributed to them in their real personal identity. Whenever people are not held accountable and responsible of their actions and conduct, they become more amoral than moral.
Again, unlike in any other arena of the social dynamics of the physical world, cyberculture enables people to do whatever they please since nothing is attributable to anybody. It is like a maze in which people can lose themselves into like shadows and be as wanton as they wish before taking up their real identities afterwards. Pornography, fraud projects, unsavory talk, hate-campaigns are just examples of the problems created by the cyberculture’s misplacement of personal identity.
Yet cyberculture must not be wholly conceived as an area of interaction of persons in terms of social exchanges alone (Levy, 2001). Cyberculture encompasses much more than blogging and social media networking. Since its inception, the internet has become a dynamic and progress avenue to exchange intellectual thought (Levy, 2001). In around 1970’s, the internet (a project of the US Army itself) was used mainly for information exchange and transmission where scientist, researchers, academics, mathematicians, medical practitioners, legal operatives etc. exchanged their information, retrieved information and uploaded their new findings as contribution to the available body of knowledge (Levy, 2001).
That was even the advent of multimedia technology as a component of the cyberculture. Cyberculture was then conceived in a purely functional basis and personal identity was prime, since individuals wanted to strongly identify with their contributions. That is why most o the academic papers online, then and still now, have a preferential place for author’s realistic identity, qualifications and position in the society.
In essence therefore, as expounded by Baase (1997), whenever cyberculture imposes the need for personal identity, it becomes positively organized, beneficial and highly productive. When personal identity is left out of the cyberculture, the products are largely and objectively unpalatable, destructive, obscene and amoral.
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