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Will the internet destroy traditional forms of information gathering?

Some of the biggest names in the world today emerged as a direct result of the Internet. For example, one of the most popular videos on YouTube “Gangnam Style” has been seen 2,092,676,383; the creator, Psy, has travelled the world and been received with lavish praise. The young popstar Justin Bieber emerged as a direct result of the same site. There’s little doubt it’s aided careers of performers all over the world to break into industries and accelerate their popularity.

The internet has of course changed various dynamics in how we get careers. Aside from world famous celebrities, many people are taking courses in subjects they either couldn’t or would never have thought of; the barriers to knowledge are mostly dropped as vast swathes of information are freely available for consumption. Everything from WikiPedia to the Guardian is available to read online.

Online learning has also taken off. Of course, many are not legitimate enterprises so it’s necessary to take stock of which ones are real and accredited, and which are not.

Many things can be done online, including various kinds of trading as seen with sites like Mirrovest. We can shop for our groceries and have them delivered to our door from accredited stores. We communicate and debate and laugh, we watch films and play games and investigate foreign countries – all from the comfort of monitors.

Many people might think this is detrimental to experiencing life itself. After all, looking at the sea from a monitor versus being at the beach are two different experiences. Falling to earth from outer space versus watching a Go-Pro of someone doing it are two different things.

The question is whether this is a difference in degree or kind.

Degree and not kind

Before the internet, did there exist a format where we experienced adventures, foreign lands, strange people, without ever leaving? Was there a way for us to communicate our opinions and ideas without engaging with them directly? Of course: that’s what books and letters were for.

Newspapers have been around for hundreds of years, conveying information from foreign places and about distant events. Again: people have not been directly involved in events they knew about and had an opinion about for ages.

The Internet does only one thing differently: it conveys things in real time (and notifies you). But being instant is the only way it is different in kind, rather than degree. Otherwise, the Internet is not particularly unique in how we as a species have engaged in information.

This means any concerns about how we learn and think and market, about how we advertise and distribute knowledge isn’t unique to the Internet. People have always had to think about the medium of communication. The Internet is simply the latest medium in a long, ever-growing list of forms we’ve communicated.

(Image credit: Rock1997 / Wikipedia)