Internet Communication

by James W. Chesebro (Author) David T. McMahan (Author) Preston C. Russett (Author)
©2015 Textbook XIV, 400 Pages
Series: Digital Formations, Volume 91


This textbook examines the Internet as a communication system – the single most pervasive, involving, and global communication system ever created by human beings, with a host of political, economic, cognitive, and sociocultural implications. The Internet crosses all cultural boundaries and is the fastest growing global communication system ever witnessed. The text explores the ways in which the technology of the Internet, beyond its specific content, possesses its own message-generating capabilities that dramatically and decisively affect its users. Focusing on the power of media theories, the text explains, describes, interprets, and evaluates the Internet in insightful, useful, and thoughtful ways. The concepts, processes, functions, and outcomes of the Internet as a global communication technology are used as a way of testing the validity and reliability of media theories, and media theories are used as a way of identifying the powers and limitations of the Internet as a communication system. An overview of the Internet’s past and anticipated future is provided

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Focal Points of This Book
  • Objectives of This Book
  • Pedagogical Features of This Book
  • 1 Power and Meanings of the Internet as a Communication System
  • Preview
  • Uses of the Internet
  • Sociocultural Context and Future Internet Driver
  • The Sociocultural Context
  • The Future Internet Driver
  • Central Digital and Internet Definitions
  • Structural Features of Interactive Technology
  • The Internet and Other Traditional Media
  • Virtual Reality
  • Presence
  • Telepresence
  • Virtual reality.
  • Interactivity
  • Conclusion and Predictions
  • Key Terms
  • Endnote
  • 2 Traditional Media and the Rise of Digital Communication Technologies
  • Preview: The Information Technology Revolution
  • Books and the Book Industry
  • A Steady Decrease in Print Book Consumption
  • Transitions: Imploding Bookstores and Exploding e-Book Sales
  • Touch tablets and e-books.
  • A Case Study in Conversion: New and Old Battle for an Emerging Marketplace
  • Barnes & Noble: The Nook.
  • Apple: The iPad and iBooks.
  • Self-publication.
  • Newspapers, Magazines, and the Post Office
  • Internet Prompts Sharp(er) Declines
  • Siphoning Newspaper Revenue: The Rise of Online Advertising
  • Seeking Unique Visitors: Newspapers Shift to the Internet
  • Magazine Plight Echoes the Newspaper Narrative
  • The U.S. Post Office: An Endangered Icon
  • Music, Radio, and the Music Industry
  • Repackaging Music for Convenience and Mobility
  • The Crippler: File Sharing Online
  • Seeking Profits Online: Peddling MP3s, Online Radio, Podcasts, and Streaming Services
  • Film and the Film Industry
  • The Gravitation Toward On-Demand Entertainment
  • Home Viewing, Hollywood, and the Cable Company
  • Responding to Piracy: The MPAA, the Pirate Bay, and the Kim Dotcom Takedown
  • Beheading Megaupload and the Online Backlash.
  • New Economy Versus Old Economy: The Rise and Fall of SOPA.
  • Television and the Television Industry
  • Enter the Internet: Television’s Supremacy Wobbles as TV Viewers Go Online
  • Television Industry Mirroring Newspaper Industry
  • Television Programming Goes Online
  • Digital Communication Technologies as the New Media Environment
  • Individual Centered
  • Untethered
  • Interactive
  • Concurrent Media Exposure
  • Multifaceted Simultaneous Consumption
  • Convergence
  • Conclusion and Future Possibilities
  • Mass Digitization
  • Television Online
  • Infinite Global Libraries
  • Social Entertainment
  • Key Terms
  • Endnote
  • 3 The Past—The Development and Evolution of Digital Technologies
  • Founders of the Digital Revolution: Seven Who Made a Difference
  • Alan Mathison Turing (June 23, 1912 to June 7, 1954)
  • Norbert Wiener (November 26, 1894 to March 18, 1964)
  • Harold Adams Innis (November 5, 1894 to November 8, 1952)
  • Jack S. Kilby (November 8, 1923 to June 21, 2005) and Robert Norton Noyce (December 12, 1927 to June 3, 1990)
  • Herbert Marshall McLuhan (July 21, 1911 to December 31, 1980)
  • Steven Jobs (February 24, 1955 to October 5, 2011)
  • Tim Berners-Lee (June 8, 1955)
  • Seven Technologies Contributing to the Creation of the Information Age
  • Printing Press
  • Calculating Machines
  • Analytical Machine
  • Technologies Generated by Electricity
  • Electromechanical Calculating Machines
  • ENIAC or the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator
  • Single Silicon Integrated Circuit
  • Conclusion and Future Possibilities
  • Key Terms
  • Endnotes
  • 4 The Future—Predicting the Future of the Digital Revolution
  • Survey of 21st-Century Predictions About Innovations in Technology
  • Steven Johnson’s 2005 Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
  • Pat LaPointe’s (January 4, 2011) “Predictions for Social Media Metrics: 2011”
  • Trend Extrapolation and the Delphi Procedure as Methods for Future Predicting
  • Trend Extrapolation
  • Delphi Procedure
  • Definition
  • History
  • Advantages of the Delphi Procedure
  • Using Trend Extrapolation and the Delphi Procedure as a Critical Framework for Assessing and Creating Predictions
  • Conclusion and Future Possibilities
  • Key Terms
  • Endnotes
  • 5 Can or Should a Purpose Be Attributed to Digital Technologies Such as the Internet?
  • Early Attempts to Attribute a Purpose to the Internet
  • Original Purpose
  • A Purpose is Partially Realized
  • The Harsh Realities of the Politics of the Internet Emerge
  • The Success of Recent Control Mechanisms
  • The United States’ Net Neutrality Policy
  • Recent Contemporary Internet Conflicts
  • Conclusion and Future Possibilities
  • Endnote
  • 6 Business of the Internet: Marketing
  • Internet Marketing
  • Banner Marketing
  • Content Marketing and Native Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Spam
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Paid Inclusion
  • Contextual Marketing
  • Behavioral Target Marketing
  • Ubiquity of Tracking
  • Support and Opposition for Behavioral Targeting
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Social Marketing
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Promoting Relational Connections
  • Conclusion and Predictions
  • Key Terms
  • 7 Internet as a Knowledge and Information Generating System
  • Technologies and the Historical Development of Knowledge
  • Knowledge in Oral and Literate Cultures
  • The Rise and Fall of Institutions
  • The Internet and Knowledge
  • Massive Information
  • One Big Encyclopedia
  • Thirty Trillion Pages
  • Big Data
  • Good and Bad Information
  • Constant Information
  • Connected Information
  • Multiple Sources of Information
  • Personalized Information
  • Public Information
  • Access to Information Among Social Groups
  • Access to Specialized Information
  • Access to Secret Information
  • Transforming Expertise
  • Availability of Specialized Information
  • Access to Experts
  • Sources of Expertise
  • Evaluating and Assessing Expertise
  • Transforming Aptitude and Thinking
  • Searching for Information
  • Search Engines
  • Evaluating of Internet Sources and Messages
  • Managing of Information
  • Conclusion and Predictions
  • Key Terms
  • 8 Social Networking Sites
  • Maintaining Relationships
  • Relational Maintenance
  • Social Capital
  • The Nature of Online Communication
  • Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication
  • Richness
  • The Relational Nature of Social Networking Sites
  • Lists of Connections
  • Ease of Interacting
  • Relating is the Point
  • Sharing Everyday Life
  • Positive Experience
  • Social and Civic Engagement
  • Relational Learning
  • Social Presence
  • Social Networking Sites and Identity Construction
  • Identities
  • Characteristics of Social Networking Site Identity Construction
  • Photographs
  • Friends
  • Media Preferences and Texts
  • Static and Dynamic
  • Strategic
  • Implicit and Explicit
  • Constrained
  • Massive Public Disclosure
  • Conclusion and Predictions
  • Key Terms
  • 9 Connecting on the Internet: Pornography and Dating
  • Internet Pornography
  • Size and Scope of Internet Pornography
  • Determining the Numbers and Popularity
  • Searching for Content
  • Characteristics of Internet Pornography
  • Unlimited, Concrete, and Interactive
  • Affordable, Accessible, and Anonymous
  • Peripheral Pornography
  • Participatory
  • Social
  • Internet Dating Sites
  • Scope and Influence of Internet Dating Sites
  • The Internet and Relationship Initiation
  • Characteristics and Capabilities of Internet Dating Sites
  • Time and Space
  • Greater Selection
  • Greater Description
  • Strategic Creation and Strategic Assessment
  • Greater Comfort
  • Constructing Profiles
  • Profile Characteristics
  • Photographs and Physical Appearance
  • Screen Names
  • Overcoming Potential Limitations
  • Deception
  • Presenting an Ideal Self
  • Conclusion and Predictions
  • Key Terms
  • 10 Transcending Space, Time, and Class: Video Sharing, Video Gaming, and Praying Online
  • Preview
  • The Video-Sharing Explosion: YouTube.com and Beyond
  • The Video Game Industry: An Expanding and Immersive Enterprise
  • The Dynamic Breadth of Video-Game Content
  • Social Games: Competitive, Cathartic, and Lucrative
  • The Study of Video Games
  • Video Games and Emotion
  • Video Games and the Pleasures of Control
  • Religion and the Internet
  • Cyberchurch: The Virtual Congregation
  • The Confession Drop Box Phenomena
  • Social Uses and Functions: Expansion, Inclusion, and Personalization
  • Conclusion and Future Possibilities
  • The Massive Anarchic Proliferation of Online Video
  • The Lucrative Progression of Immersion Technologies
  • Key Terms
  • Endnotes
  • 11 The Pragmatics of Communication—The Internet as a Coherent and Complete Societal System
  • Internet and Health Care
  • Internet and Health Care Information
  • Treatment and Research
  • Support
  • Internet and Banking
  • Internet Banking Adoption
  • Mobile Banking
  • Online-Only Banks
  • Internet and Employment
  • Advantages of Telecommuting
  • Disadvantages of Telecommuting
  • Internet Education
  • The State of Online Education
  • Types of Internet Courses
  • Internet-Only Courses
  • Blended Course (Hybrid Course).
  • Internet-Enhanced Course
  • Virtual Course
  • Virtual-Reality Course
  • Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Education
  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages and Concerns
  • Conclusion and Predictions
  • Key Terms
  • 12 The Internet and United States Politics
  • The Rise and Development of Internet Politics in the United States
  • 1992 Presidential Campaigns
  • 1996 Presidential Campaigns
  • 2000 Presidential Campaigns
  • 2004 Presidential Campaigns
  • 2008 Presidential Campaigns
  • Voter Internet Use
  • Engaging Young Voters
  • Connecting, Fund-Raising, and Advertising
  • Functions of Internet Campaigning
  • Informing
  • Cost Effective
  • Highly Targeted
  • Unlimited and Constantly Available
  • Updated
  • Sharable
  • Engaging
  • Notification
  • Convenient
  • Variety
  • Get-out-the-vote
  • Connecting
  • Connecting a Candidate and a Campaign
  • Connecting Voters
  • Fund-raising
  • Unprecedented Donations
  • One-Click Donations
  • Social Donations
  • Tracking
  • Tracking Through Software
  • Tracking Through Websites
  • Conclusion and Predictions
  • Key Terms
  • 13 Privacy, Transparency, and the Internet in America
  • Preview: A Drama of Opposing Interests
  • Framing Privacy
  • Traditional: A Right to Control
  • Federal: A Right to Watch, Record, and Defend
  • Commercial: A Right to Harvest and Profit
  • Radical: A Right to Know and Understand
  • A Shift in Expectations: Entrepreneurs Embrace Unregulated Framework
  • Digital Portfolios and Data Mining: Big Data, Big Bucks
  • Tools Constructing Commercial Transparency
  • Email
  • Cookies
  • Mobile Devices
  • Cell Phones and Smartphones
  • E-Readers and Digital Books
  • Tools Designing and Marketing Individual Control
  • Promoting Transparency, Defending the Digital Panopticon
  • Promoting Privacy, Celebrating Identity Management
  • When Ideologies, Interests, and Attitudes Collide
  • Case Study 1: Hulu Employs “Supercookies” (Traditional vs. Commercial)
  • Case Study 2: Opportunists Capitalize on Software Settings (Traditional vs. Commercial)
  • Case Study 3: WikiLeaks Imposes Military Transparency (Radical vs. Federal)
  • Case Study 4: The Shelved “Right to Know” Bill (Federal and Radical vs. Commercial)
  • Conclusion and Future Possibilities
  • Private and Public Sectors Solidify Online
  • Key Terms
  • 14 International, Corporate, and Radical Politics
  • Preview: A Regional Experience With Global Implications
  • Government Control of the Internet
  • The Function and Implementation of Media Manipulation Online: The Case of China
  • Harmonization: The Purging of Suggestive and Critical Content
  • Virtual Loopholes
  • Maintaining Control
  • Radical Politics and the Internet
  • The 2011 Egypt Uprising: A Case Study
  • Dethroning Mubarak
  • The North American Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS): A Case Study
  • Circumventing Traditional Media
  • Live Streaming and Telepresence
  • Video Uploads
  • Corporations and the Internet, Part 1: Connected and Exposed
  • Digital Warfare: Hacking Networks, Plundering Secrets
  • Spearphishing and PLA Unit 61398
  • Twitter Account Hijacking
  • Corporations and the Internet, Part 2: Free and Restricted
  • Twitter and the Struggle for Unrestricted Content Abroad
  • Google and Antitrust Allegations: USA Versus Europe
  • Conclusion and Future Predictions
  • A Diminishing Digital Divide: An Emerging Skill Divide
  • Key Terms
  • Endnotes
  • 15 The Future of the Internet and Web Reconsidered: Back to the Future With Tim Berners-Lee
  • A 30th Prediction
  • The 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, and 35th Predictions
  • 31. Internet Retreats
  • 32. Efficient and Cognitive Machines
  • 33. Organic-Digital Hybrids
  • 34. Radical Media Separatism
  • 35. Nonlinear Normalization
  • The 36th Prediction: Berners-Lee’s Future Orientations
  • The Semantic Web
  • Conclusion
  • Endnotes
  • References
  • Index



This volume examines the Internet as a communication system. In this view, the Internet is the single most pervasive, involving, and global communication system ever created by human beings, with a host of political, economic, cognitive, and sociocultural implications. The Internet crosses all cultural boundaries and is the fastest growing global communication system ever witnessed. For example, Facebook is now approaching one billion members, and globally a growing percentage of the world’s population in the developed countries surfs the Internet on a daily basis. In this context, on a global level, The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported at the end of 2010 that “although still a relatively young technology, social networking is already a global phenomenon.” Based on this survey of 22 nations, Pew (2010; see also Global Digital Communication, 2011) reported that social networking is:

especially popular in the United States, where 46% say they use sites like Facebook and MySpace, but other nations are not far behind. At least four-in-ten adults in Poland (43%), Britain (43%) and South Korea (40%) use such sites (respondents were given examples of sites that are popular in their country). And at least a third engage in social networking in France (36%), Spain (34%), Russia (33%), and Brazil (33%). While involvement in social networking is relatively low in many less economically developed ← vii | viii → nations, this is largely due to the fact that many in those countries do not go online, rather than disinterest in social networking. When people use the internet in middle and low income countries, they tend to participate in social networking.

By the end of the next year, in its December 2011 survey of 21 nations, Pew (December 20, 2011) reported an increase in these percentages from +4% to +10%.

While social networking is a vivid example of Internet use, it is by no means the most popular use of the Internet. Toward the end of 2011, for example, Purcell reported that sending or reading email was employed by 92% of Internet users. And, all indications are that these emails are displacing face-to-face oral communication as well as other forms of personal and written communication. In terms of search engine activity, she reported that the percentage of Internet users rose from 85% in 2002 to 92% in 2011. Increasingly, the information contained on the Internet defines “what we know” and “what we know to be true.” Additionally, some 76% used the Internet to get news online in 2011 (an increase from 68% in 2002), 71% used the Internet to buy products (up from 61% in 2002), and some 65% used the Internet for social networking (up from 11% in 2005) (Purcell, 2011). Further, this mounting popularity and the seemingly endless appeal of the Internet has led some countries, such as China and Korea, to begin treating problematic Web use as a national health crisis (Dokoupil, 2012).

Among those most likely to enter undergraduate communication classes, media use is even greater and has been increasing for the last 10 years. Specifically, Lenhart (April 2011) reported in 2011 that both 93% of teens aged 12 to 17 and 93% of “young adults” (those 18-to-29-years-of-age) are regular Internet users (compared to 81% of 30-to-49-year-olds, 70% of 50-to-64-year-olds, and 38% of those 65 and older). Many of these users, over one-third of smartphone owners, get online before getting out of bed in the morning (Dokoupil, 2012). More generally, the Kaiser Family Foundation (2010) reported that total daily media use for those 8 to 18 years of age has increased from 6 hours and 19 minutes in 1999 to 6 hours and 22 minutes in 2004 and 7 hours and 38 minutes in 2009. Moreover, when the amount of time using more than one medium at a time is considered, Kaiser reported that, “today’s youth pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those daily 7 ½ hours—an increase of 3 hours and 15 minutes media exposure per day over the past five years” (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, January 2010). ← viii | ix →

Focal Points of This Book

In its broadest conception, this volume specifically explores the ways in which the technology of the Internet itself, beyond its specific content, possesses its own message-generating capabilities that dramatically and decisively affect its users. At the same time, this book focuses on the power of media theories to explain, describe, interpret, and evaluate the Internet in insightful, useful, and thoughtful ways. Ultimately, the practical applications are used to test theories, and theories are used to explain practice. Specifically, the actual concepts, processes, functions, and outcomes of the Internet as a global communication technology are used as a way of testing the validity and reliability of media theories, and media theories are also used as a way of identifying the powers and limitations of the Internet as a communication system.

More specifically, four focal points define the approach to communication employed in this textbook:

  1. Research Driven. The Internet is now one of the most frequent objects of study for researchers. For example, the Pew Research Center, especially through its Pew Internet & American Life Project, has been publishing research findings—predominantly surveys—regarding the social uses of virtually all dimensions of the Internet since the year 2000. The Pew Research Center has been specifically committed to tracking recent developments in the use and meanings attributed to new computer technologies. Additionally, new research findings regarding the “new media” now regularly appear in academic journals. It is, therefore, now more than reasonable to let research findings establish a foundation for the analysis of Internet functions and uses.
  2. Symbolic Perspective. A symbolic perspective is also employed to define and explain the Internet. The Internet can be viewed from any number of perspectives. It is a political system; it is a cultural system; it is a social system. In this book, we will examine the ways in which the Internet uniquely formats content and selectively highlights certain content rather than other, and how, in these ways, the Internet ultimately functions as a message-generating system.
  3. User Perspective. As a communication system, the Internet can additionally be viewed as a series of technological systems that require mastery. While recognizing the importance of mastering these technological skills, this volume remains user-centered. We focus on the ways in which ← ix | x → the Internet affects human choices, human processes and interactions, and human outcomes.
  4. Critical Perspective. The word criticism can refer to judgments that are predominantly negative, but the word can also identify evaluations designed to promote understanding of the objects under review. In terms of the Internet, we need to ask, not only what the Internet is doing to the human symbolic processes, but also if those effects are beneficial and/or harmful, and in what ways the processes and effects set off by the Internet are beneficial and/or harmful. In this sense, as critics, we will seek to describe how the Internet functions as a communication system, identify or interpret the different ways in which the Internet can be understood, and to render judgments about or evaluate both the benefits and disadvantages of the Internet as a communication system. In every case, however, we need to go beyond saying what we like and dislike, for such claims are only statements of our personal preferences; they are not criticism.

Criticism is deliberative; it is political; it seeks to go beyond personal preferences; or, in short, it seeks to enhance the quality of life for the people within a society (Levy, 2001, pp. 211–217). Criticism is also a reason-giving activity; a critic provides reasons why the critic’s descriptions, interpretations, and evaluations are appropriate. These reasons are accordingly verifiable; the reasons can and should be sustained and confirmed with reasonable research; the reasons offered by the critic can be demonstrated to be more true than false given the conditions being explored.

Objectives of This Book

  1. Understand and appreciate the role that technology can play as part of a larger communication process. In different ways, one purpose of this book is to identify the cognitive function of technology. Every technology isolates certain stimuli, features those stimuli, and constructs a view of reality based upon this selective presentation of some—rather than all—of the available stimuli. We are particularly concerned about how technology affects our cognitive and emotional reactions to ourselves, other people, and to the world in which we exist. ← x | xi →
  2. Acquire the ability to function more effectively as a consumer of the information and understandings generated by the Internet. This volume provides multiple ways or sets of constructs for describing and interpreting Internet content.
  3. Provide a foundation for assessing the benefits and limitations of Internet concepts and processes. Specifically, this book will provide a range of strategies and intervention techniques for dealing more effectively with, and judging the usefulness and value of, Internet content.
  4. Provide exposure to new understandings and research regarding the nature and characteristics of the Internet as a communication system and how this new mode of communication may be altering and affecting other modes of communication. The Internet is explicitly interacting with all of the other modes of communication. This book carefully examines these interactions.
  5. Develop a critical perspective of the Internet and how it is affecting human communication. This volume enables readers to think critically and be able to verbally articulate the sociocultural issues involved in the transformation toward digital technologies such as the Internet.

Pedagogical Features of This Book

Numerous pedagogical features have been crafted for this volume, many of which can be easily integrated into the classroom in addition to their use as independent learning tools for students. These pedagogical tools encompass three fundamental characteristics of the Internet and its study. First, profound transformation continuously takes place in the Internet’s development, understanding, influence, and use. Accordingly, as with the volume itself, the pedagogical tools approach the Internet and its study as continually evolving and ever changing. Second, social and academic approaches to the Internet are quite controversial. There exist many alternative approaches and disagreements concerning the study of the Internet and its influence on society. Therefore, the pedagogical tools engage the controversial nature of the Internet by offering and encouraging the exploration of dissimilar and contentious approaches to the material. Finally, the Internet impacts everyday life. Indeed, the Internet’s impact now touches every aspect of a person’s life and daily experiences. Consequently, many of the pedagogical tools either directly ← xi | xii → focus attention on the everyday impact of the Internet or indirectly lead students to reflect on their personal use and understanding of the Internet.

Chapters are structured to fully guide student exploration of the material. Every chapter begins with an introduction that establishes and outlines the material to be examined and is then followed by a list of focus questions. These focus questions are purposefully embedded within the chapter rather than offered before the chapter begins to increase the chances that they will actually be used by students and to provide students with some awareness of the material prior to giving them a list of questions to consider. Key terms are bolded throughout chapters to emphasize important material for students and are listed at the very end of the chapters to reinforce their recognition by students. Multiple diagrams and charts are included to visually synthesize the material for students as well as to guide their reading of chapters. The conclusion and future possibilities section of each chapter also serves as a pedagogical tool for students. In recognition of the transformative nature of the Internet, rather than simply rehashing what was just provided, these conclusions review the material with an eye to the future. Future trends and changes are offered, while prompting students to speculate about what transformations they believe will take place.

Five types of pedagogical features appear in every chapter—as needed and in terms of the appropriateness of the content of each chapter—to assist understanding and prompt students to further contemplate the material being examined.

Alternative View boxes can appear numerous times throughout each chapter to provide students with counter arguments to those offered by the authors and to examine multiple perspectives of an issue. We find these “alternative view” boxes particularly important from an educational perspective because they foster critical thinking. The “alternative view” boxes specifically ask students not to accept all that they read, but to anticipate that even claims made with tremendous confidence may be concealing issues. We hope these “alternative view” boxes serve this critical thinking function.

Current Issues boxes encourage students to go beyond the material provided by searching for recent innovations and events connected to particular topics. For example, in the American Politics chapter, students are urged to search for news and reports regarding the use of Twitter by political candidates.

Debate It boxes prompt students to consider two contradictory statements by providing support for and support against both statements. These boxes compel students to fully consider multiple sides of an issue and can be used to stimulate classroom discussion. Within the Pragmatics of Human Communication chapter, ← xii | xiii → for instance, students are asked to debate the merits of searching for healthcare information online.

Ethical Issues boxes engage students in ethical questions surrounding the materials examined. Students are asked in the Social Networking chapter, for example, if it is ethical for companies to use social networking sites to understand information about applicants or existing employees.

Everyday Impact boxes urge students to ponder the use and influence of the Internet in their everyday lives. In the Business of the Internet chapter, for instance, students are asked to consider how their purchasing decisions are influenced by their online activities.

Finally, Future Focus boxes offer students predictions about the future of the Internet. For example, in the Pragmatics of Human Communication chapter, we predict that activities such as shopping, travel, and health care will become increasing based in virtual realities. Students are then asked whether they agree with this prediction and are encouraged to offer their own predictions regarding the development of these activities.

We cannot claim that there is evidence drawn from classroom studies that demonstrate that each of these types of pedagogical features can actually do what they are designed to do. For example, “Ethical Issues” may not engage all students in the ethical questions surrounding the material examined in various chapters. But, it is our hope that these boxes may catch the attention of some students and encourage them to at least consider what they have read from the perspective encouraged by each pedagogical box. And, we do think that the content of these boxes could also be a stimulus for some classroom discussions.

In all, we hope you enjoy and benefit from this book in any number of social and personal ways. We have enjoyed producing this book.

Your textbook authors,
James W. Chesebro, David T. McMahan, and Preston Russett
August 2013
← xiii | xiv →

← xiv | 1 →


Power and Meanings of the Internet as a Communication System

The Internet is now the largest and most pervasive global communication system ever created in the history of human beings, affecting more people in more ways than any other human invention. In greater detail, Cantoni and Tardini (2006) aptly noted:

As a matter of fact, the internet is one of the newest and most powerful communication technologies, and is rapidly spreading worldwide. It is no doubt changing in depth the way we interact and communicate; both in everyday life and in our professional activities; it is changing our social life; the way we conceive of ourselves and our relationships with others; the way we learn; the way we buy; the way we take care of our health; the way we interact with civil services, and so on. (p. 2)

In this volume, we literally explore each of these uses, and how the Internet is now affecting virtually all of these dimensions of our lives.

Indeed, we now have an amazing diversity of devices to connect us to the Internet, such as laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets, touch pads, e-readers, netbooks, and web-enabled televisions. For example, 66% of 18-to-29-year-olds in the United States own and have a smartphone with them 24 hours a day and seven days a week (Rainie, September 11, 2012). And, with all of these devices, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life ← 1 | 2 → Project has tracked 55 activities that people carry out on the Internet, from searching to find information (91% of all adult U.S. Internet users), all the way down to the 55th use, with 4% of adult users visiting virtual worlds such as Second Life (“Trend Data (Adults),” August 2012).

Moreover, Internet use is global. While not yet universal, Internet usage is rapidly spreading. The International Telecommunications Union (2013) reported that 77% of those in the “developed world” are Internet users; 31% of those in the “developing world” are Internet users; and, more generally, 39% of those in the “world globally” are Internet users. But, we do expect a fully global participation in the Internet, especially if mobile phone subscriptions are any indication. In the first quarter of 2013, mobile phone subscriptions have increased globally from 2,205 million to 6,835 million, or 96.2% of the international population (Internet World Statistics, 2013). And, as we argue shortly, as an increasing percentage of the world’s population are Millennials, the use of the Internet will become commonplace. Indeed, in rather dramatic and precise terms, Google’s Eric Schmidt (Internet Stats Today, April 15, 2013) has “predicted that everyone in the world will be online by [the year] 2020.”

Additionally, in terms of age, Internet use is dramatically increasing (Lenhart, 2011, p. 6). Some 93% of those aged 12 to 17 and 18 to 29 access the Internet regularly. Eighty-one percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 49 access the Internet regularly, with 70% of adults between the ages of 50 and 65 accessing the Internet regularly. While only 38% of adults over the age of 65 access the Internet regularly, every year an increasing percentage of this group accesses the Internet. Certainly, the age group that will dominate the American culture in the years to come are intensive Internet users. Perhaps Lenhart (2011, p. 5) captured the point simply and directly when she proclaimed that, “Everyone uses the Internet.”


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ISBN (Softcover)
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technology power past future Growing system User Media theory Global technology
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 400 pp.

Biographical notes

James W. Chesebro (Author) David T. McMahan (Author) Preston C. Russett (Author)

James W. Chesebro (PhD, University of Minnesota) is retired Distinguished Professor of Telecommunications and Director of the Graduate Program in the Department of Telecommunications at Ball State University. He has published 9 books and over 100 journal articles and served as president of national and regional communication associations. David T. McMahan’s (PhD, University of Iowa) research and teachings encompass relationships, technology, and media. He is the coauthor of The Basics of Communication: A Relational Perspective and Communication in Everyday Life. He is the incoming president of Central States Communication Association. Preston C. Russett (MA, Ball State University) is a freelance culture jammer and cyborg anthropologist. He has a growing catalog of publications and short films exploring the effects of media and digital technologies on such notions as privacy.


Title: Internet Communication
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417 pages