This week’s reading reminds me a study done by Carnegie Mellon University about a decade ago, led by Robert Kraut of the Human Computer Interaction Institute. He published one of the first major studies on the impact of Internet use by raising a provocative question: “Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Weil-Being?” This question mirrored Florid’s Information Theory: “Since the 1950s, computer science and ICTs have exercised both an extrovert and an introvert influence, changing not only our interactions with the world but also our self-understanding.” With more and more people adopting a new technology, people tend to be critical and sometimes cynical about its extrovert and introvert influence.
Carnegie’s research reveals that use of the Internet was associated with a general decline in communication with family members who lived in the household. Internet users tended to report greater levels of depression and feelings of loneliness and they did before the study began (Sparks, 2012). The possible reasons for the introvert influence of Internet on its users are activity displacement effect, which means people tend to have very limited amount of time to engage in other relationship building activities. Also, it was possibly because Internet relationship replaces traditional strong social ties. Just as Florid further explained: “In many respects, we are not standalone entities, but rather interconnected informational organisms or inforgs, sharing with biological agents and engineered artifacts a global environment ultimately made of information, the infosphere.” It seems the new informational environment comes with the fourth revolution is influencing our interpersonal relationships and the well-being of the society as whole.
The explanation of Carnegie’s research underscored the assertion that, “Internet users form more superficial relationships instead of connecting deeply to others.” His theory relies on the assumption that people won’t shift their face-to-face relationship to online relationship or vise versa. As Media Multiplicity Theory and Ledbetter’s research findings shows, Facebook users actually have more close relationships than non-users (Sparks, 2012). They use the tool to contact with old friends, and to deepen their real-life social support. I believe this founding is based on the fact that people often tend to communicate intensively with people they knew in real-life. For people who met online, most people are willing to meet each other face to face. Carnegie’s study was severely criticized due to new technology was seen as a medium that would substitute a conventional communication channel.
Debray acknowledged the nature of new technology in mediology by saying that, “A new medium or technology does not replace or substitute a prior technology, but creates a new configuration of the entire media system with the inclusion of the new.” Consequently, a new medium of communication won’t necessary jeopardize the preexisted and dominating ones. The content of a previously existing medium will be shown in a new medium. However, some information will be lost and some qualities of the medium will be mixed into the mediology process. Therefore, how to preserve a culture (language, art, music etc.) is still an interdiscipliary enigma.
Sparks, G. G. (2012). Media Effects Research: A Basic Overview (4 edition.). Australia; Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.