Monday, September 17, 2012

The Internet as the Modern Newspaper: More Than a "Tool," More Like a "Crutch"?

Berelson’s piece examining why people “[missed] the newspaper” during those two weeks in 1945 caught me hook, line, and sinker. It proved fascinating; my mind constantly compared newspapers to an equivalent medium most of us use: you guessed it! The Internet! The points he presented resonated with my daily experience, and I think those of you reading this as well.

First, the article mentioned study results of people highly praising newspapers for their value as a “channel of ‘serious’ information” (241). What was so ironic was that the majority of them were discovered not keeping up with the news they appreciated, simultaneously enjoying the social prestige that came from reading and appreciating newspapers (115).  It’s intriguing that the Internet faces many more detractors than newspaper appears to have had, and yet its presence seems so much more potent. However, people have less or no shame for not indulging in the same “news” or activity section of the Internet. The modern medium is so full of options that to expect everyone to use the same applications and visit the same websites is laughable. It is curious as to whether people back then would have admitted different reasons for valuing the newspaper if the newspaper’s options were many times expanded.

Also, participants reported using newspaper as a “tool for daily living”: financial information, shopping advertisements, obituary notices, even the weather (118). And yet as I read this, I could not help feeling like the Internet embodies this “tool” idea Berelson introduces so well that one could go further and call it a “crutch” for daily living. Furthermore, his mentioning that newspapers allayed feelings of insecurity and isolation is clearly seen in the Internet as well. Facebook, e-mail, and sites like YouTube connect us to enormous communities! This in itself is truly fascinating because the Internet can also be conducive to enhancing isolation, but is hailed as such a marvelous technological advancement.

Finally, the piece bid me adieu me with a far-fetched wish. I want to (please humor me) conduct an experiment where the Internet would go down for a period of two weeks. Perhaps just one week. Maybe a few days. What is the optimal “‘shock’ period” for most people, especially concerning this source of constant and seemingly infinite distractions information (112)? Because of the globalization of business, of technology, and of cultures, observing the mass effects (or lack thereof) of the event could provide so much meaningful study. What would change? Would businesses shut down? How would people communicate – texting, snail mail, calling, maybe even seeing each other face to face? What would constitute “missing the Internet”? Have we grown so much in love with this technology that our very lives would be bent out of shape without its presence?

1 comment:

  1. You propose a fascinating thought experiment, Jessica--life without the Internet (or "What the Internet really means"). This may not be entirely outside of the realm of possibility, especially in areas of the world where infrastructure is not as developed or reliable. And even in the United States, given the predicted rise in extreme weather, it's possible that our energy and electricity needs will surpass our ability to provide for them. Think J.J. Abrams's new show, Revolution, or the massive northeast blackouts of 2003.

    You make some other excellent points about the Internet's capacity to both isolate and bring together, and its relation to the older medium of print newspapers: let's talk about "whether people back then would have admitted different reasons for valuing the newspaper if the newspaper’s options were many times expanded."