A digital revolution

By Colin Shively

The screeching, ear-splitting sound that resembled nails on a chalk board is well-known to those born in the 1980s—the sound of the early Internet and its dial-up connection that linked computers to online servers. The Internet is relatively young compared to other communication devices such as the phone, yet in the short amount of time its existed, the Internet has re-created the way our culture functions.

Commonly referred to as the “highway of information,” the Internet has been the backbone of a generation nicknamed the Dotcom Generation, referencing the popular and most widely used domain “.com,” which turned 25 on March 15. The Internet has also caused changes in long-established industries, such as media, music and


Sal J. Barry, adjunct faculty member in the Interactive Arts and Media Department at Columbia, has been in the multimedia industry for 10 years and knows firsthand how the Internet has influenced the way people interact.

“If you think about it, the Internet is almost the de facto means of communication,” Barry said. “How do you know how your friend is doing? Did you call him? Or do you track his status on Facebook? Would you rather e-mail or call someone?”

In the beginning, the Internet was a very basic site with only the fundamental information, said Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voice Online, a site that hosts a network of national and international bloggers. However, now the Internet has developed into an intricate part of people’s daily lives, he said.

“People use the Internet, and mainly a .com, to connect and find out information that they can’t find anywhere else,” Zuckerman said. “Critics say that the Internet has driven us apart, but really, it has given us a chance to connect to people we would never meet face-to-face and that alone is a source of knowledge that nothing else can give us.”

Even during the age of dial-up and then broadband, the Internet was realized to be a forum where anyone and everyone can have a voice with little or no censorship. While using blogging services such as Google, the most powerful and commonly used search engine, an individual can spread their thought or idea to countless

readers instantly.

“The .com and Internet [have] changed everything,” Zuckerman said. “I want to watch a movie? Just go online. I want to purchase a song or read some news? Just go online. The bad part is, the traditional forms of these industries are having a hard time keeping up, and it is hurting them badly. They need to realize that this is the way of the future.”

However, the Internet is young. Every year, new and improved technologies are giving users a better way of accessing and utilizing the Internet. With the introduction of smart phones, the Internet can be accessed in virtually any location.

“As for the evolution, we are still in the infancy of the Internet,” Barry said. “Bandwidth speeds can only get faster as the technology improves. And look at how things have gone the past decade or so; internet radio, music downloads, stuff like Hulu [.com] and YouTube. All of these different means of communication are merging

into one.”

The Internet gave the world sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter, which have become some of the most widely accessed Web sites on the Internet today. Each serves one purpose: to connect people to requested information immediately. Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized how people meet and spread news, while Google has put the vast information of the Internet at people’s fingertips.

“Instant gratification,” Barry said. “No one wants to work for anything anymore, and the Internet makes it easier to get what we need.”

Dan Leveille, who has worked for the popular art site, DeviantArt.com, said because people, especially young adults, are on the internet so often, they are viewed as being dumb, yet the avid Internet users are getting information quicker and more efficient because of the Internet and .com.

“I have been to numerous Web sites, and none have the type of artistic community that [DeviantArt] has,” Leveille said. “It has given artists a new way of talking and meeting each other, sharing ideas. We all have our inside jokes because that is how close we are.”

What will the Internet look like in the next 10 years? No one really knows, and some are even wondering if .com will still exist or if a new domain will take over. But there is no doubt the Web has had a dramatic effect on the lives of those who use it, and will continue to change and evolve to meet the demands of society.