Perceived Benefits of the Internet to Culture and Society The benefits of the Internet that are mentioned most frequently are its perceived benefits as a means to information, communication, commerce, entertainment, and social interaction. These are all functional aspects of the internet: most of its applications and services have been designed explicitly to serve such functions, and many people that the Internet successfully performs these functions. In addition, the Internet has been claimed to have benefits that are less intentional: benefits to individual development and cultural understanding, particularly. The following list of major perceived benefits is suggestive but not exhaustive: 1. Access to information. The Internet makes a vast amount of information available, from a plurality of information sources, and makes it continuously available, more or less independent of time and place. Adequate information is of major importance to the successful functioning of (modern) individuals, and therefore any enhancement of the ability to acquire or access information can be seen as a great benefit to society. 2. Information spreading. The Internet makes it possible for anyone to quickly, easily and inexpensively post and disseminate information and make this information available to a large audience. In this way, the Internet promotes freedom of speech by enhancing the ability of individuals to voice opinions and inform and influence others, which can be considered a great benefit. 3. Communication. The Internet facilitates one-to-one, one-to-many and manytomany communication and enables users to communicate easily and inexpensively with a wide variety of individuals across the globe. Communication goes beyond the dissemination of information: it is a two-way process that allows for the expression of viewpoints, the creation of intimacy, and the coordination of actions. Because communication is so important to individuals, the Internet's enhancement of the power to communicate can be considered a great benefit. 4. Developing and maintaining social relations. The internet facilitates the development and maintenance of social relations with people outside one's immediate vicinity, and provides added means to maintain relations with people in one's vicinity. Social relations are very important to the functioning of individuals and of society as a whole, and the Internet provides powerful means for developing and maintaining such relations, which is a great benefit. 5. Community formation and social organization. The internet facilitates the development and maintenance of communities of individuals with shared interests and concerns and the formation and maintenance of structured organizations with specific agendas. The Internet also provides new ways for 1
individuals to engage in collective behavior and form social movements. Community formation and social organization are important in any society, and any technology that provides new means to support these processes can be seen to provide important benefits. 6. Production and Commerce. The Internet enables new models for production by enabling coordination and partial automation of productive processes that span time and space. The Internet also enables new models for commerce, trade and business. These economic benefits translate into social and cultural benefits because they provide people with new products and services and faster and easier delivery of existing products and services at less cost. 7. Leisure and entertainment. The Internet enables new forms of leisure and entertainment, both for individual use and in interaction with others, such as playing games and providing forums for collectively practicing hobbies and for sharing and trading cultural objects like pictures, stories, drawings, software, music, and video. 8. Identity formation and psychological development. The Internet has been claimed to have positive effects on identity formation and...
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