Be on the Internet: Our Socio-technical System

From this week’s reading, I found that internet is everywhere and in our everyday life, it’s almost unavoidable to interwind with internet, since our work and study are inseparable from communication, transportation, animation and a most basic one-food and all these now could be semi-achieved or achieved by Internet, by means of different kinds of applications, websites, and some hardware. Behind the applications, websites and the hardware, there are multiple social components- different entities, such as institutions, organizations and the rules and protocols set by them. Any action we take, even though we don’t interact with any digital interface, the interaction between the whole socio-technical system and us will happen, no matter in a direct way or an indirect way.

Examples for internet in our life are everywhere. For example, when you walk down M street, you see colorful advertising boards, many different restaurants and clothes stores. You may feel you escape from internet at that moment. However, the monitors in the street will screen you and the time you walk and what you do will be recorded in monitor network. When you make a payment by a credit card, your payment information will be uploaded to that store’s computing systems and the bank system depending on what kind of credit cards you use. In this process, you “interact” with monitor system, store computing system and the bank system indirectly. From this scene, we can imagine that a huge quantity of social systems with which we interact every day. Technology’s development connects us to different social components closely by LAN, MAN and WAN. A unimaginable huge quantity of packets of information is transmitted within these different kinds of network and these networks compose the environment we live in today.

The interaction between us and these social institutions and organizations is only a fraction of the whole socio-technical system. There are complicated relations between these components, systems and their subcomponents, subsystems: some of them interact with each other and some of them overlap with each other, etc. For instance, the mobile phone industry, mobile applications companies and the communication technology are close related mutually. 4G’s appearance sets higher requirement for mobile phone’s functions and features. Due to 4G’s high speed and efficiency, people can watch videos everywhere instead of having to find to WIFI hotpot to download them. In this way, many video applications appear and become popular, like YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat.  Larger capacity battery, better baseband technology and bigger screens come to adapt to these applications. In addition, we know that TikTok is an application from China. Why it could be imported to USA? It’s because the cooperation between international internet service companies and the cooperation standard set by governments.

All these mutual interaction between systems, components and our interaction with computers and phones start with human’s desire to communication. Information theory offers a theoretical base of information transmission. The telephone circuit system at first is for live chatting but later it is used for internet. With the ever-developing communication technology, we now don’t use circuit system for surfing online, but rather optical fiber transmission system and WIFI system.

Based on what I have talked above, we can’t never set internet independent from other systems, components, institutions. It’s better for us to treat them as a whole and try to figure our position in this complicated system. In my opinion, the way to achieve it  is by deblackboxing the technology you use, knowing some basic principles about product design and system design and asking more questions about the internet and than trying to answer them, like why the YouTube can always give me the advertising of products in which I am interested?



Martin Irvine, The Internet: Design Principles and Extensible Futures.

Ron White, “How the Internet Works.” Excerpt from How Computers Work. 10th ed.

Denning and Martell, Great Principles of Computing, Chap. 11, “Networking.”