There are things you tend to take for granted until you think about them. For years I took the internet for granted as it became increasingly more important for individuals, organisations, systems of administration and society at large. Do mind that I live in the Netherlands, part of the wealthy Western World and the EU. In the Netherlands life has become increasingly digital, sometimes it is frightening.
The title connects three words, namely the internet, its content and the internet generation. Therefore first things first, how to define the three words?
First of all the internet as everyone knows it, is a network. It is essentially a network that interconnects communication networks over which the exchange of messages and data takes place on a global scale. All the zeros and ones that accumulate to what is sent from computer A to computer B around the world, per data exchange and then summed up at the end of the day amount to a number that has more digits than most people can imagine.
To define the internet it is important to note that from ARPANET to USENET to MILNET to Sir Tim Berners-Lee declaring the World Wide Web in 1989 the development of the internet was and remains complex. When the internet became accessible for commercial use by consumers and companies it was not a finished product or service. The internet functions as a network as long as all essential protocols systematically work together. These protocols change with times and new requirements. In short the internet is basically a network supported by protocols that connects computers with a network connection.
Secondly as the internet became increasingly popular in the 90ties, internet use really took off in the 2000s. It was in 2001 and 2002 that I experienced the internet for the first time. The best part about the internet is access to content. Content is a very general word for everything on the World Wide Web. Depending on your knowledge of networks you can find all kinds of content. Web sites can offer text, pictures, images, animation, art, music, video, music video, cartoons, film, documentaries, games and puzzles. The previous sentence is just a general list without considering sub-categories and sub-classes.
The problem with content is simple. Who owns it? Content on the World Wide Web is not like a bread you buy at the bakery. Content is digital, consists of zeros and ones, has a file size and depending on the creator and supplier may have conditions for consumers. A physical product is bought, exchanges ownership for a price (the cost of ownership) and is consumed. On the internet the creator and supplier can hold on to certain rights in the interest of themselves or the consumer. A click may give access and usage but may not give ownership. Content thus can be in the grey area between available for consumption yet not yours. This grey area goes against what many people consider normal.
Thirdly there is the internet generation. It is difficult to define the internet generation. What is easy is to observe a few things. In the mid 90ties the internet became popular. In the early 2000s the internet was globally adopted on a massive scale and since then the more and more people have become dependent of the internet. To keep it simple, everyone who since the 2000s has become dependent of the internet in private and civil affairs can be counted to the internet generation. Most of these people are between 15 and 30 years old, born between the late 80ties and 2000.
There is also a younger internet generation born after the 2000s. This group of people is sometimes exposed to the internet from an early age and it does not matter whether it was via an iPad or a personal computer. For the internet generation, including the younger generation the nature of content and ownership of content has changed. The internet gives access to content that previously was inaccessible and sometimes costly. Now a specific search, some software and a low-cost hard drive can make content yours and yours alone. The internet generation finds itself in a tricky situation. Content creators, suppliers and law makers have to find answers for a new generation of consumers, the internet generation.
Now, when you look at the words internet, content and internet generation and notice the date is the 27th of July 2014 what is obvious? It is obvious that when you read this I can tell you a few things. While writing I had an internet connection, my browser was opened and after accessing Word Press I logged in to work on a new post. At the time Spotify was playing music and I had opened a second tab in my browser to find a source for quick research. Additionally I checked my other accounts on my iPhone.
I am not the only one to experience the internet this way. In some of the wealthy and stable parts of the world the internet connection has become such an important necessity that many people depend on it. The dependence on something as digital as the internet leads to a cultural shift that continues to change the lives of content creators, suppliers and consumers. Some developments can hit people directly and as complex as some developments may seem, it is important to keep an eye on the developments. You are what you consume, but who decides on that and why? Internet and access to content place the internet generation of today in a complex situation.
Cohen-Almagor, R. (2011) Internet History. International Journal of Technoethics, 2(2), 45-64, April-June 2011.
This abstract gives a clear yet detailed enough descriptions of the history of the internet. The PDF was accessible via a quick search at the time of writing. The abstract is well worth reading and very informative.
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