From TA to PA – purposes of the internet over the years

Let’s be honest for a moment: it is universally acknowledged that we all prefer to use the perks of the internet for certain things over others. When meant to revise online or do research for an essay, all of us can probably admit to ending up on Topshop’s new arrivals page, Netflix, JustEat, or even Tinder to successfully procrastinate.

 

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What probably doesn’t come as a surprise is that the National Science Foundation (US) feared that the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) – started 1969 as a network between science departments of universities in the western US – would lose its educational purpose and values in time, with access to the net becoming more universal.

The term ‘world wide web’, conceptualising our modern understanding of the internet and alluding to representing exactly that (only slower), might have been coined in 1990, yet it actually wasn’t until 1992 that commercial activity online became legal.

In fact, it took the US Congress passing the Scientific and Advanced-Technology Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1862, for the research networks to connect and merge with networks private clients paid providers for, kickstarting the era of vital technological services we are familiar with nowadays.

Imagine the things that wouldn’t be: it is claimed that nowadays 1 in 6 marriages occur after making contact online. Hours of time and travel are saved online shopping and making bargains; friendships can be maintained on the daily across continents; and detailed information about virtually anything can be obtained. Who’s to say that this is necessarily un-educational?

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I find it surprising just how fast the internet has evolved in such a relatively short period of time – from the ominous asset exclusively for the research sector, to an institution incorporated in modern society, enabling empowerment and education. It took 23 years for this important step be taken, just about as much time as the internet has been ours to use, exponentially increasing in diversity and functions.

What do you think – was it wise of researchers to demand for unlimited data researchers to be available to them only as commercial internet usage jeopardises their cause, and how different would things be nowadays if they’d gotten their way and the Act had never been passed?

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2 Comments

  1. The answer is, to any possible extent, painfully obvious: ultimate, severely unfair and totally unacceptable segregation. If academics were to keep this revolutionary pathway for displaying and distributing ideas all for themselves, they would have caused damage none of their richly funded and top secret researches would have ever been able to “heal.” Eventually, it might have turned out as a massively influential step ahead for science but also, undoubtedly, a profoundly devastating step behind for everyone and everything else.

    However, I dare claim that that is an impossible scenario. And the reason for this has been discussed in this post.

    My colleague has interestingly labelled the Internet in contemporary society as an “institution.” Furthermore, an “incorporated institution.” Now, when considering a hypothetical situation, where the luxury of nowadays’ completely mainstream online environment would have never reached us, it is fair to argue that the reason it did not happen lies within the definition of the word “institution.”

    “A custom or system that has existed for a long time among a particular group of people” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 2010, p779). Providing that the “long time” has been ever since an opportunity to share academic knowledge occurred and that “the group of people” is the mainstream consumers\users, it becomes quite evident that time itself would not allow it.

    Such technology, even if originally intended only for the few and chosen, is bound to become available for the wider majority. Why? Simply because maybe not immediately but after a couple of years society would have realized the potential that lies within the laboratory rooms of universities and would have demanded what is rightfully deserves: the Internet.

    And, as we are all aware of, few are the cases when something succeeds in beating the social force. For it is, in many historically approved ways, unstoppable.

    Like

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