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Internet Communication


James W. Chesebro, David T. McMahan and Preston C. Russett

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
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13 Privacy, Transparency, and the Internet in America



Privacy, Transparency, and the Internet in America

Telegraphy, telephony, and radio launched a rippling trend in communications: the sharing and representing of our symbols by, in, and through electricity and machines. Following telephony and the radio, the computing machine crept into existence, aided by hush-hush research on anti-aircraft machinery and other war efforts. From Colossus to Mark I to ENIAC, these machines extended the trend, further mechanizing and digitizing human behaviors and experiences. Initially, these computation devices were bulky and novel, limited in accessibility and scope. In less than a century, however, these devices evolved, commercialized, connected, turned palm-sized and ubiquitous. Computing machines inevitably transformed more and more genres and types of human communication into digitally digestible, electronically transferable, and storable symbols, or binary bytes.

Today, information of all breadths, ranges, and varying intimacies, from all types and classes of persons, is digitally mediated. Evermore, messages are sent and received through smartphones, tablets, and laptops connected to the Internet. As host and railway, the Internet witnesses much. IBM (2013) estimated “the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data daily” (Risen & Lichtblau). Further, this ongoing flood of data is only primed to increase in quantity and intensity. The International Data Corporation observed (2013), “from now until 2020, the digital universe is expected to double every two years” (Risen & Lichtblau). ← 295 | 296 →

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