The internet revolution of the Noughties


THE PAST seems like a foreign country, even more so when it comes to technology.
A decade ago, many online terms and brands that we now take for granted in our daily lives didn’t even exist: blogging, eBay, Google, Gmail, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia are the neologisms of the “Noughties”.
These so-called Web 2.0 applications and websites, which are characterised by interactive information sharing, interoperability and user-centred design, have given rise to totally new social practices: people now “friend” and “unfriend” others on Facebook, millions “tweet” their thoughts on Twitter, while thumb-texting teenagers have devised a whole new vowel-less language to keep their friends permanently informed of every last detail of their lives.
These advancements in the virtual sphere have been accomplished on the back of technological progress. The painfully slow dial-up has been replaced by lightning speed broadband, slashing the time required to download material from the web. Laptops were weighty and expensive devices ten years ago. Netbooks now proliferate, while the most up-to-date devices such as the iPhone have greater capabilities than the average PC of a decade ago.
Social impact
The impact of internet social networking on social relations has been considerable, according to Yannis Larios of the Observatory for the Greek Information Society. For one, it has helped break down the traditional suspicion that Greeks have for strangers. “What the social media applications and platforms have succeeded in doing is to soften this cautious stance somewhat,” he says, adding that Greeks seem to find it easier to talk to strangers when they are online and share details from their personal life more readily than with their office colleagues, for example.
This is particularly the case among one demographic group in Greek society, which over the past decade has caught up with its European Union counterpart as regards internet use, according to Larios. “The younger generations in Greece, those in the 16- to 35-year-old age bracket, are now equal to their counterparts in the rest of Europe in that there is no longer a digital gap between them,” he explains. “The younger generations in Greece just don’t use the internet - they live through the internet. We’re talking about a 90 percent usage rate.”
What they do online is in part revealed by the list of the twenty most popular websites visited by Greeks, provided by Alexa, an internet analysis firm.
The global social networking sites dominate the list, which contains a smattering of Greek sports websites. Ominously, the internet top twenty only include one “serious” news website (in.gr), and that in the tenth position. “Greek society as a whole is not using the internet as a means to discuss political issues in a more creative manner,” according to Larios. “There are some heavy internet users who discuss and analyse things, but they are so few that we almost know them by name.”
Elaborating, he adds: “Communication at a deeper level is still rare. While we do have thousands of active bloggers, only about ten percent are what we can call ‘creative users’, ie those who create real content”.
Generation gap
However, this digital dexterity among the young is not present in other age groups, he points out: “The internet hasn’t really impacted the lives of the 50-plus age group, while the 35-50 age group, the most dynamic segment of society, at the peak of their lives and creativity, are lagging behind European averages when it comes to the internet.”
Larios expects that the new decade will bring considerable changes as the younger generation enters the workplace. “There will be a very discernible digital gap within the workforce, and this will create a two-tier workforce - in any single enterprise, half the staff will be young, with a dynamic approach to the internet, while the other half will be used to doing things the traditional way. That will give rise to tension”, he concludes.
Blogging: circumventing traditional media
TEN YEARS ago, blogging didn’t exist. Now, blogs proliferate on the internet. Greeks have embraced the new medium: taken together, the blogs hosted on the domain www.blogger.com make it one of the most popular blog hosts and the overall fifth most popular site visited by Greeks.
Indeed, one Greek blog it hosts in particular, troktiko.blogspot.com, is the ninth most popular of all sites, blogging or not. During the past summer, Troktiko managed to reveal some details pertaining to the Siemens scandal, which boosted its popularity and led to its temporary suspension.
Athens University food scientist Yannis Zabetakis (photo) has been blogging at environmentfood.blogspot.com since September 2007. His blog focuses on environmental issues and food safety:
“Blogging appeals to me because it allows me to bypass the filters that the conventional media impose. I write slightly different articles for newspapers and my blog. Some things need to be softened or rounded somewhat for the traditional media, whereas on the blog you can be more direct and invasive as long as you don’t go to the other extreme, where you abuse language and others anonymously in order to support your own ideas.
With blogs I can get my point across more effectively. A blog is also a database. When I write something new as a scientist, I can use my blog to archive it. It’s my library of published material.
It’s facilitated my contact with others. My blogging is quite thematic, focusing on climate change, environment protection and food safety, and nowadays it’s very easy for me to find similar-minded bloggers and to link to their blogs.
Whether it makes an impact is an interesting question. Does what I write has impact on ways of thinking? As with newspapers, which can check on their circulation, I can monitor the visits to my blog.
What matters is not the quantity, but the quality of reader. To give an extreme example - you could have only one minister reading your blog, but this could influence policy in a particular area. I know, for instance, that my blog is read daily by a few environmental and food journalists in the Greek media. This way I can communicate my thinking to them directly. I’ve also noticed how one politician, in a speech on food safety, used material that he copy-pasted from my blog.
Influencing public opinion can take time through blogging, but if you write material with substance and references, then people will like it and read it. Very often, and this is what I like, they will leave comments that help your thinking evolve. That’s not the case with conventional newspapers, but we are increasingly seeing newspapers entering the blogosphere. In turn, journalists can also be influenced by the comments readers make on their blogs. Readers welcome being part of public discussion.
It’s difficult to say whether blogging has empowered people. There are very serious bloggers but the majority of Greek blogs peddle gossip, and little else.”

5 comments:

kyhananto said...

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amcied said...

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sukses trus yoo....

koki said...

yoi...betul bro,,

widodo dc said...

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Rinda said...

duh buanyak banget ya situs jejaring n social networking lainnya ^_^

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