What a shocker: the Internet is popular

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Centre for American Studies speakers session hosted its last speaker of the year, Jeffrey Cole, Wednesday night.

Cole, director of the World Internet Project and director of the Annenburg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, presented “The Internet: Just an Essential Part of Everyday Life.”

The World Internet Project began seven years ago and is transcontinental. The project conducts longitudinal research on people’s Internet habits and how technological advances are changing them.

Describing himself as a “television guy,” Cole said TV was the most powerful medium ever invented but the Internet’s impact will be far more significant than TV’s.

“Television is mostly about leisure, but the Internet transformed how people communicate, work, play and learn on a minute-by-minute basis,” Cole said.

“Print and broadcast [mass communication] always made their audience feel more informed, but never more powerful.”

According to Cole, blogging is the newest form of self expression. However, although there are 58 million bloggers, Cole said there are very few readers, adding bloggers’ main audience is mainstream journalists looking for a story.

Using WIP statistics, Cole illustrated that while in Britain, Canada, South Korea, Australia, Germany and the United States the Internet is accessible to almost everyone, this doesn’t mean everyone owns a personal computer.

Many people use the Internet either at the library or a cyber café, or they use someone else’s computer. However, Cole said the ratio of computer owners has risen since the cost of computers has dropped significantly.

Online communities like MySpace are constantly increasing, Cole added. It’s difficult for Internet communities to hold on to their teenage users because “when the uncool kids start showing up, you’re outta there because you want to discover what’s new.”

Cole added 43 per cent of members say their online communities are just as important as their offline communities.

“For people aged 12 to 24, there is no life without the Internet today,” he said, adding even e-mail and instant messaging are commonplace for these people’s parents and grandparents.

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