Is the Internet a prosocial or antisocial phenomenon – isolating people or bringing them together? The Internet’s transformation of society is obvious, but how (and how much) it has altered our world is clouded by unfounded opinion. MIT Technology Review hosts a review by Manuel Castells, Chair Professor of Communication Technology and Society at the University of Southern California, of his in-depth analysis, The Impact of the Internet on Society: A Global Perspective.
Castells asserts, “It is only scholarly research that will enable us to cut through the myths surrounding this digital communication technology that is already a second skin for young people, yet continues to feed the fears and the fantasies of those who are still in charge of a society that they barely understand.”
He begins the review of his longer report with the following introduction:
“The Internet is the decisive technology of the Information Age, and with the explosion of wireless communication in the early twenty-first century, we can say that humankind is now almost entirely connected, albeit with great levels of inequality in bandwidth, efficiency, and price.
People, companies, and institutions feel the depth of this technological change, but the speed and scope of the transformation has triggered all manner of utopian and dystopian perceptions that, when examined closely through methodologically rigorous empirical research, turn out not to be accurate. For instance, media often report that intense use of the Internet increases the risk of isolation, alienation, and withdrawal from society, but available evidence shows that the Internet neither isolates people nor reduces their sociability; it actually increases sociability, civic engagement, and the intensity of family and friendship relationships, in all cultures.“