Internet Culture - Sample Essay

BA Humanities Media and Society It is hard to understand the term culture. What is culture? Is it a way of life, is it a group of shared interests that brings a community of individuals together or is it a utopian dream, an invention created by the powers that be who govern society to help to collaborate interests in a structured easy to monitor way? Culture is defined in many different ways.

It is said that cultures are maps of meaning through which the world is made intelligible1, but whatever the true meaning of the word Culture, Raymond Williams was right in suggesting that Culture is one of the most complicated words in the human language2: Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language. This is so partly because of its intricate historical development {… } but mainly because it has now come to be used for important concepts in several distinct intellectual disciplines and in several distinct and incompatible systems of thought3. Culture has become the antithesis of modern times.

Its meaning is so vast and indescribable that it would be very difficult to placate an entire essay on its meaning and come to any fore longed conclusion. Culture has a different meaning to different people and it is this paradigmatic complexity that allows the word to put fear into anyone attempting to analyse its essence. However, if you put a leading word, a word that defines disciplines within a specific culture, the term suddenly becomes identifiable. Oral Culture, Print Culture, Popular Culture and what we are attempting to understand within this research, Internet Culture begins to have a more clear and concise meaning.

The very nature of the words associated and linked to the term culture allow for a more natural semblance of association. Once a word has been linked with the massive expanse of the term culture, the essence and meaning of a task such as describing what you understand by the term Internet Culture becomes significantly easier to digest and comprehend. Within the following research I will attempt to describe what I understand of the term ‘Internet Culture’ and to address some of the key critical questions being asked about the movement towards the Internet Revolution4.

For the basis of consistency, I will divide the text into what I feel are the key critical issues that are being questioned regarding Internet Culture, beginning with the definition that I believe personifies the term ‘Internet Culture’. As there are a phenomenal amount of issues that are being questioned I have chosen two key concepts that I feel are of importance regarding the construction and maintenance of a culture that is virtual in essence.

The main critical issues that I will review are:  Can you have a virtual community?  How will Internet Culture affect the information ‘Have’ and ‘Have Nots’? However, before we go any further it is imperative that we decipher what I believe and understand by the term Internet Culture. A contemporary hobby or obsession has been the compartmentalisation of eras in time and space or epochs that relate specifically to how society and the inhabitants of society communicate.

Theorists have been able to highlight a number of shifts in the way a society communicates that has led to different aspects of cultural identity being adopted. It is safe to suggest that the fundamental link between varying societies and cultures are the way that they communicate and interact, as the understanding of a common language strengthens a community, just as a lack of understanding can also divide and ostracise. One of the first epochs to be defined was the Primary Oral Culture, a culture that communicated only by speech with no written text or literature present.

Oral Culture was temporally biased5, it relied heavily on mythology and legend as well as ceremony and memorisation in order to transcend meaning and keep a sense of cultural identity alive6. It can be said that Oral Culture laid the foundations for the evolution of culture and society through differing communication media. The Primary Oral Culture led to Print Culture and then Visual Culture and to the epoch, which contemporary western societies are meant to inhabit, that of Internet Culture. Since Oral Culture all other cultures have included a fundamental aspect of the oral society7.

We live in a predominantly word based environment, one of speech and hearing a world of sound8, however, the interactive medium that Internet Culture utilises is perhaps the only medium that converges all traditional modes of communication9. Internet Culture is the epoch that contemporary society has begun to inhabit, however, it can also be a fluid and complex medium that has many cultural meanings with little social understanding. Internet Culture cannot be as easily associated and linked to past specifications of culture that society has grown accustomed to.

David Porter gives an interpretation of what Internet Culture is and the diverged sense of cultural significance that the Internet procures: If the Internet can be understood as the site of any culture at all, it is not, presumable, culture in the sense either of an elitist enclave or of a homogeneous social sphere. The culture that the Net embodies, rather, is a produce of the peculiar conditions of virtual acquaintance that prevail online, a collective adaptation of the high frequency of anonymous, experimental, and even fleeting encounters familiar to anyone who has ventured into a newsgroup debate.

10 It is therefore difficult to ascertain what Internet Culture is and it is equally difficult to give an explanation of a new medium with such a heavy cultural significance. The Internet is changing the way society communicates, but this is not a new or contemporary notion. Erla Zwingle establishes the movement of society and tradition when he affirms that ‘Goods move, people move, ideas move and cultures change’11. It is this that has the cultural significance in a continuously fluid environment like the Internet.

However, to what extent the cultural significance has affected society and cultural infiltration is at this stage purely speculative with no foreseeable way of monitoring the effects that the Internet has. As we enter the 21st century electronic media have become an imperative aspect of western societies daily lives. We use computers because they are easy, they buy us time and they give us entertainment. Internet Culture is an extension of the visual image that saturates our everyday lives.