Television vs the Internet

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‘The internet is more fatal to the cohesion of the community than television was in its time.’ The widespread availability of the internet has produced a serge in communication in today’s society. The introduction of television to Australia in the 1950’s could be said to have had a proportionately similar effect. In today’s world the internet enables people to research, communicate and entertain across the globe at the touch of a computer key. However, the internet is sometimes seen, as a technology that contributes to the breakdown of the structure of community. In this essay I will discuss whether, the internet, in introducing a technology that enables the transfer of a seemingly unlimited quantity of uncensored information world-wide instantaneously, has had a catastrophic, and in many ways a fatal influence, in the breakdown of the conventional image of a ‘community’ within society while at the same time contributing an exponentially growing knowledge base to many. The internet has caused societies to redefine the word ‘community’. While the following definition of a community may have been reasonably accurate in the fifties it would not be accurate for today’s much broader concept of community. When television was introduced a community could have been described as “a specific group of people, often living in a defined geographical area, who share a common culture, values and norms and who are arranged in a social structure according to relationships which the community has developed over a period of time.” (Miller, 2002) Additionally, in pre-television times the means of communication were radio, newspapers, books, and letters and in a capacity limited by cost, the telephone. (Flew, Gilmour, 2006) This resulted in communication often being restricted to the immediate neighbourhood, township, and provincial city, State or Nation. Individuals within communities were not reliant on a box in the corner for information and entertainment. They had grown up in communities that valued coming together as a community for many facets of daily living including conversation, socialising, worship, entertainment and marketing of produce. The amount of information exchanged may have been limited but it was much more frequently face-to-face and facilitated the establishment of a common culture and values. The pace of life was also much slower and communities more stable and this made possible the development of a social structure within the various levels of community. Furthermore, The rate of change of the developing technology of television was comparatively much slower than the technological development of the internet. Community, as it was then understood, continued to be highly valued and lived. Much of the content of television informed local interests and initially reflected community values. However, over time, traditional means of communicating were displaced and devalued by the box in the corner and community related skills were not passed on to younger generations. (Shaughnessy, Stadler, 2006) For example, it became common for families to eat their evening meal in front of the television and table conversation around the happenings of the day became a thing of the past. A further example was that when visitors called, the television was left on and this seriously reduced the quality of conversation and even the value of respect previously offered. There is not doubt that the introduction of television gradually introduced a growing understanding and appreciation of what we now refer to as the global community but this has been at the cost of losing much that was of benefit in what I have defined as the traditional community. But the question remains, “Was the introduction of television as fatal as the introduction of the internet to the cohesion of the community?” (Shaughnessy, Stadler, 2006 pg. xiii.) It could be argued that most young people today were born into homes where the television was a frequent if not...
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