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Free «IT and Society» Essay Sample

Introduction

Information technologies have become a pervasive phenomenon impacting all spheres of people’s daily lives. Since their earliest days, communications and interactions have been information technologies’ primary targets. In other words, information technologies have been used primarily to enhance interpersonal communication and mobility. Today, the extensive presence of various IT systems and solutions in home and business environments confirm the indispensability of these solutions and systems in everyday interactions. Despite the growing volume of IT and social research, there is still no consensus on how exactly information technologies shape people’s communication patterns and lives. “The impact of interactions of human beings with computers and the Internet in homes, workplaces, and play spaces is virtually unstudied and unknown” (Miller, Lerner, Schiamberg & Anderson 2003, p.402). However, that information technologies have played not the last role in the creation of today’s society cannot be denied. It would be fair to say that various IT have turned present-day society into an extremely mobile networked organism. Information technologies have become indispensable in people’s daily lives, leading to economic cost-savings, enhanced communication and networking, greater physical mobility and improved workplace performance, while also displacing traditional behaviors, transforming interpersonal relations, and opening new venues for deception and crime.

IT and society: Defining the boundaries

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The social impacts of IT and the role they have played in the creation of modern society are among the most popular topics of scholarly analysis. The notion of information technologies covers a broad range of applications, systems, and solutions. Information technologies are usually defined as computers, computer applications and telecommunications (Miller et al. 2003). However, for the purpose of this assignment, the notion of IT will be limited to computers and the Internet. The main reason justifying this position is that the Internet exemplifies one of the most pervasive IT phenomena in people’s daily lives. The indispensable nature of the Internet can hardly be ignored. Computers and the Internet have been integrated to shape new technological realities. Compared to 77% of households with an Internet connection at home in 2000, in 2004, 94% of home computer users in the U.S. reported to be connected to the Internet (Hoffman, Novak & Venkatesh 2004). The Internet is both an intangible and tangible source of social impacts. The use and popularity of the Internet as a personal and business communication medium continues to increase. Most likely, information technologies and the Internet, in particular, will soon become the chief force guiding the evolution of the human society.

Information Technologies: Statistics and trends

The developed world is undergoing an information technologies revolution. The number of computer and Internet users in the United States steadily increases. Between 2000 and 2003, the number of adult Americans using the Internet increased 50% (Hoffman et al. 2004). By 2003, the U.S. had 126 million Internet users (Hoffman et al. 2004). College students became the heaviest Internet users (Hoffman et al. 2004). The entire system of education in the U.S. has gradually come to rely on the Internet as a vital source of information, knowledge, and learning. At home, the Internet has become a useful information search instrument used for vacation planning, news, hobbies and games, health information analysis and online shopping (Hoffman et al. 2004). At the same time, the number of those who are satisfied with their online experiences is rising quickly (Hoffman et al. 2004).

The statistical impacts of IT are not limited to the U.S. In all parts of the world, the Internet and other information technologies are becoming a natural ingredient of people’s everyday lives. Children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the effects of the Internet, using it as one of the major communication tools with their peers. The growing availability of wireless technologies will make the Internet even more pervasive and omnipresent. As of today, information technologies are claimed to be successfully integrated into the natural rhythms of people’s daily lives (Wellman, Boase & Chen 2002).

The main reasons why information technologies are becoming so popular is because they shape today’s communication patterns and enable users to maintain productive interpersonal relationships (Bargh & McKenna 2004). The Internet has turned into a major information storage system and a key communication device (Selwyn, Gorard & Furlong 2005). The growing availability, popularity, and cost-effectiveness of various online services, including banking products and online product delivery, have transformed the initial idea of the Internet as a means of communication into a means of consumption (Selwyn et al. 2005). Eventually, the Internet has turned into one of the primary means of production, especially in the creation of web-based materials, software, music, and digital arts (Selwyn et al. 2005). However, the role which the Internet plays in people’s lives is hardly news, as information and telecommunication technologies have played a huge role in shaping today’s society.

A brief insight into history

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The impacts of the Internet on people’s daily interactions are not new, as telecommunications and information technologies have played a big part in creating today’s society. Objectively, the Internet is merely the last of the many technological advances made by humanity over the past 200 years. Since the 18th century, the rapid evolution of technologies, including the telephone and telegraph, radio, cinema, and television, has greatly impacted the strength and cohesiveness of interpersonal ties (Bargh & McKenna 2004). The telegraph was, probably, the first technology to erase the boundaries of physical distance between individuals and societies. Through the telegraph and, later, the telephone, the world quickly ceased being local, turning into a global community of ever-present individuals. Radio further increased communication opportunities, making it possible wherever telephone wires could not be used (Bargh & McKenna 2004). With the emergence of television, individuals and families no longer needed to go to theatres and stadiums and could easily meet their communication needs without leaving their homes. Therefore, and in many senses, the invention of the Internet and similar information technologies has become a logical continuation of the society’s movement towards convenience and unlimited communication opportunities. Today’s information technologies have many positive impacts on people’s daily lives, but their negative impacts should not be disregarded. Information technologies, especially computers and the Internet, expand communication and interpersonal relationship frontiers, while also opening new venues for deception and crime.

The impacts of IT on people’s daily lives

There is an emerging consensus that information technologies benefit people’s lives, making them more convenient and cost-effective. Simultaneously, they disrupt the established patterns of communication and relationship building, making people more vulnerable to the risks of Internet crime. On the positive side, information technologies certainly make people’s lives more cost-effective. The Internet has become one of the key drivers of the recent productivity growth (Litan & Rivlin 2001). IT significantly reduce the costs of even the most complicated transactions, thus making goods and services cheaper. They enable better communication with customers and, through more intensive competition, make prices more transparent and the range of goods and services – more diverse (Litan & Rivlin 2001).

Information technologies have increased individual and collective mobility. The Internet and computers have made travel planning easier to individuals. While individuals use the Internet to plan their traveling and vacation activities, they can also move with their mobile applications and computer systems (netbooks, laptops, etc.) without any difficulty (Golob & Reagan 2001). Wi-Fi is currently available on many transnational flights, which means that millions of people all over the world are getting used to staying “online” most of the time.

Undoubtedly, among the major impacts of IT on people’s daily lives are the impacts on interpersonal communication at home, in the workplace, and in public. Information technologies increase the availability of and facilitate interpersonal communication, regardless of users’ physical location. Virtual teams and international negotiations managed with the help of voice and video conferencing have become part of many organizations’ daily routines. The Internet speeds up many organizational and decision making processes. Information technologies make complex calculations and engineering solutions easier and cheaper. They also enable more effective relationship formation (Bargh & McKenna 2004).

Contrary to a common belief that information technologies limit offline communications and interactions, many individuals find sufficient time and resources to balance their online and offline activities. “Computer users and heavier computer users are at least as active, if not more active, than nonusers in most media activity” (Robinson, Kestnbaum, Neustadtl & Alvarez 2000, p.499). Individuals who spend much time online or report extensive use of other information technologies also display consistent patterns of social life beyond computers (Kestnbaum, Robinson, Neustadtl & Alvarez 2002). As a result, the Internet and communication technologies do not create an online-offline divide but, on the contrary, result in a unique merger of the real-life and computer-based realities. In this world of computer technologies, new communication and social practices are being formed. People are starting to consider their online experiences as part of their offline lives. Information technologies are transforming personal identities, by giving the sense of greater communication control. Unfortunately, information technologies also have serious negative implications for individual users.

 
 
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Information technologies are often criticized for making individual and collective communications less effective and meaningful. Bargh and McKenna (2004) mention the so-called “limited bandwidth” concept, which means that, compared to face-to-face communication, IT-guided communications are impoverished and limited. In the workplace, increased use of computers and telecommunications increase hostility and distance among workers (Bargh & McKenna 2004).

No less serious are the IT manias, which develop under the growing influence of information technologies and available communication opportunities. The Internet has caused an explosion in the world of information and, today, people consume several times more information daily than they used to consume in the 1960s (Richtel 2010). As a result, it is virtually impossible to monitor all information processes and inflows at the same time. People have become multitasked, switching from one e-mail window to another within seconds (Richtel 2010). Many people have already got used to go to sleep and wake up with their cell phones and laptops. Multitasking exposes human brains to unnecessary mental and emotional overloads (Richtel 2010). Yet, the Internet is hardly a universal tool of daily decision making. Many people put too much faith in IT (Anonymous 2012). Therefore, it is at least incorrect to consider the Internet as the only illuminating light in the world of darkness. Failure to adjust IT use to the realities of daily living may have terrible consequences for individual well-being.

The most challenging have been the impacts of information technologies on crime and deviance. Due to increased anonymity, the Internet has opened new crime frontiers. Crime and deviance online often grow from innocent deception: Hancock, Thom-Santelli and Ritchie (2004) confirm that deception is a common mode of behavior online. The fact is that the use of the Internet is like a leap of faith: IT users disclose their personal information to third parties with the hope to generate additional profits or, at least, to save some costs. They share secret messages and information, hoping that it will not leak into the offline world (Bargh & McKenna 2004). However, this openness and willingness to save costs motivates other users to lie even more.

Information technologies have become a convenient and relatively cheap instrument of crime. Through modernization of communication technologies, criminal groups find easier to establish and maintain contacts (Cherkasov 2009). Banking institutions use IT to support unlawful financial transactions (Cherkasov 2009). Gaps in information security have turned online banking and finances into an extremely risky endeavor. In 2002 alone, 9 out of 10 American companies suffered at least one computer attack (Cherkasov 2009). With the help of information technologies, any strategic object can easily fall victim to an external attack.

Nevertheless, even crime and deviance do not generate as many concerns as the way information technologies change individual privacy perceptions and transform the nature of public spaces. The growing pervasiveness of online technologies erases the boundary between the public and private. Actually, with so many information systems available to users, none of them can feel secured from privacy intrusions. People have become more visible. Social networks as one of the major symptoms of technological advancement have led to a merger of the public and private spaces. Information technologies shape the context, in which people are more willing to make themselves accessible and public (Patton 2000). As a result, the Internet and computers turn the society into a collective entity of visible individuals, who use technologies to pursue their communication goals. This IT obsession makes it difficult to distinguish offline realities from the online world, but it seems that these consequences of increased IT usage in society are inevitable. Most probably, individuals and society, in general, will have to reconcile with the tragic impacts of IT and its negative consequences. Most probably, IT will continue merging with the lives and daily activities of technology users. It is very likely that information technologies will give rise to the so-called virtual realities, which combine the features of online and offline worlds. However, as long as the positive impacts of IT on people’s daily lives overweight their negative impacts, these people will strive to gain free access to the newest communication technologies.

Conclusion

Information technologies have become an indispensable element of people’s daily lives. The positive and negative impacts of IT on people’s everyday routines have been widely documented. Information technologies have become indispensable in people’s daily lives, leading to economic cost-savings, enhanced communication and networking, greater physical mobility and improved workplace performance, while also displacing traditional behaviors, transforming interpersonal relations, and opening new venues for deception and crime. Computers and the Internet have numerous economic and social impacts on people, from bringing cheaper products and making their prices more transparent, to eliminating the boundaries of interpersonal communication and making people more mobile. One of the most pressing questions is what awaits IT in the future. Most probably, information technologies will become even more integrated into people’s daily activities. IT will dominate all aspects of society’s growth, being present at any time and at every place (Masutti 2001). Certainly, the negative effects of IT on privacy, public spaces, and crime and deviance should not ignored. However, as long as the positive impacts of IT on the daily lives of people overweigh their negative impacts, people will further strive to gain free access to the latest communication solutions. 

   

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