Reading Passage 2
Culture is defined as the ‘socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, and institutions that are the expression of a particular class, community or period’ (www.dictionary.com). To most people, this is seen in terms of books, paintings, rituals and ceremonies, but recently there has been a new entrant in the field of what is considered to be ‘culture’ – the Internet.
On the Internet, science and art, media and mind combine to create a modern culture which is far more widespread than any of its predecessors. Not referring to the casual user who has no particular interest in the Internet, active supporters of the Internet as a culture have given themselves nomenclature to reflect their cultural aspirations – they are the new cyberpoets. A cyberpoet can be defined as ‘one who makes frequent trips to the edge of technology, society and traditional culture and strives to be artful in their use of virtual space’.
Supporter or opponent of this new culture, there is little doubt that the Internet offers a lot to our traditional view of culture. In just a few minutes in front of a keyboard, we can read almost anything that has ever been written, yet no paper had to be made, no library had to stay open and thus the cost remains minimal. All of this encourages even the casual surfer to explore further than he or she otherwise would have. The same effect can be observed with works of art. Previously available to be viewed only in museums if they were not in the hands of private collectors, all but a few famous works are now replicated on the Internet.
Yet the Internet is not merely a mirror of traditional culture – it is also a new culture in its own right. The medium of the Net allows for wider distribution and new platforms for most forms of art. ‘Kinetic art’ and other such computerised art forms occur with increasing regularity, both motivated by and generating an upsurge in popular and computer-mediated art.
In addition, if culture is said to be ‘socially transmitted’, then the Internet is remarkable in its ability to share, on an almost global scale, all the factors that constitute culture. We have only to hear the influence of jargon as we visit dub-dub-dub dot sites and surf the web to see how international the Internet has become to the majority.
Very few people would disagree that the cyberpoets are increasingly asserting themselves into popular culture. What is not so certain is how far this will go, as the Internet continues to assimilate more and more forms of culture, rising to a point where it is not inconceivable that our entire perception of culture will soon become cyber-focused.
There is also a significant increase in transient imagery from photographs, videos and other media uploaded to many social networking sites. The rise of the term ‘selfie’, referring to a photograph taken by the person in the picture, is just one example – there are also applications for smartphones and tablet devices that allow instant video uploads, meaning that ‘looped’ videos lasting just a few seconds can be created to great effect. The problem, of course, is wading through the many millions of hours of footage that cannot be classified as having any cultural significance.
Reliance on the internet itself has inherent risks, as the authorship of online content is now far less moderated. It is possible to set up a website in as little as an hour, populated with content which may be presented as accurate, impartial information but is in reality an ill considered, poorly researched collection of opinions and incorrect facts. Even established websites which allow users to contribute content can quickly become unreliable sources. Not only is there wider room for error, there is now a heightened concern that web pages and social media can reduce popular culture into a series of illogical and often abusive arguments, which do not need to be supported with facts or even ascribed to a specific purpose. The anonymous nature of a large percentage of internet interactions means that even the most bigoted point of view can find a forum, even if reactions to it are negative.