January 1997

Root Page of Article: Notes on Defining of Computer-Mediated Communication, by John December

A View of the Internet-based CMC in Terms of Technology

Viewing the Internet as only a technical system, you would look with dissatisfaction upon its effectiveness. The Internet makes a poor database: It's not centrally managed, there's no consistent organization, and information quality varies widely.

Based on these shortcomings, you'd dismiss Internet-based CMC as a fad that would be certain to fade, joining the likes of CB radio and the picture phone. This view would hold that Internet-based CMC is a marginal form of communication that only geeks would (ever) like.

But even if the Internet, by some strange reason, caught on and flourished among tens of millions of people throughout the world, you'd still be very concerned. Fixed on the view that Internet-based CMC involves the exchange of information only, you'd scrutinize the content of that information exchange. You'd find serious problems. It's a mess, you'd probably conclude, leading to viewpoints summarized in this table: Fearing and Loathing the Internet

- Anyone can just "publish" anything they choose.
- No one is keeping track of what is being published.
- It is possible to access pornography, hate speech, and things that are not true.
- Children shouldn't use it.
- Serious scholars should avoid it.
- Journalists should reveal the its lurid debauchery.
- Politicians should regulate it.
- The government should make a better, faster "information superhighway" that will be official and centrally controlled.
- It's all going to collapse anyway with all that information being exchanged.


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