Impact of advent of the internet

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Use Internet/ Web2.0 as an analysis example.


This essay aims to discuss the impact of the advent of the Internet on cultural industries. Digitalization had begun to have effects on the ways business were run from the 1960s onwards. However, until the emergence of the Internet or the World Wide Web, it is generally understood to the point at which cultural productions and consumptions have been transformed by digitalization. As Manovich (2001,) states: “Today we are in the middle of a new media revolution-the shift of all culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution, and communication.” This culture has been labeled many things-cyberculture by L´evy (2001), information culture by Manovich (2001), interface culture by Johnson (1997), Internet culture by Castells (2001), or virtual culture in cybersociety by Jones(1998), to name but a few.

The main problem with most of this work has been the often implicit conflation of ‘culture'-as in the shared norms, values, practices, and expectations of a group of people-with communication technologies.

This innovation associated with the development of digital electronic storage and transmission is that major component of cultural expression-words, images, music and so on-are converted into binary code. Nevertheless, the digitalization of cultural production not simply refers to the sequences of zeros and ones that could be read by computers. It even leads to the profound and complicated revolution of the ways of communication which become the liberating force in society. This means the Internet is profoundly reshaping cultural industries.

The first question is to discuss what kind of value was expressed and embraced in this digital culture. Secondly, what opportunities and threats toward the cultural industries this value brings with will be illustrated.

Shift of interactivity from Web1.0 to Web2.0

According to Manuel Castells(2001),the Internet is the fabric of our lives, if information technology is the present-day equivalent of electricity in the industrial area, in our age the Internet could be likened to both the electrical grid and the electric engine because of its ability to distribute the power of information throughout the entire realm of human reality.

Optimists hold the opinion that the Internet has been framed as democratising and decentralising forces in societies--including their effects on the cultural industries (Hesmondhalgh,2007)

Due to the fact that the increasing number of the Internet users worldwide (Fig.1), it has been accelerating the speed of the ubiquitous network both online and offline. Secondly, the increasingly interactive communications which is the fundamentally tool for human activities also change the process of cultural production and consumptions.

The Internet is no longer a vehicle to simply retrieve information and purchase goods, it is now a fully interactive and participatory platform Coined in 2004 as Web 2.0, the Internet is increasingly being driven by user-generated content.

The bursting of the dot-com bubble in the fall of 2001 marked a turning point for the Internet, and the web was predicted to be overhyped. Nevertheless, Tim O'Reilly (2004) initially revealed the renew phrase of ‘Web 2.0' in a conference brainstorming session. He notes that far from having ‘crashed', the web is more important than ever, with exciting new applications and sites popping up with surprising regularity.

Apart from the previous media, the most vital feature of Web2.0-unprecedented interactions between users and producers allow users to play a significant role in the process of cultural productions.

Though the word “Web 2.0” seems to imply a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to any specific technical updates, but rather to a continuous trend regarding how software creators and web users utilize the Internet. According to Tim O”Reilly:

Web 2.0 is the revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.

Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that triggers more people to get involved in it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users. Users provide their own data and services in a form that allows data remixed by others, creating network effects through virtual participation. Compared to the concept with Web1.0, Web2.0 has ability to deliver rich user experiences through contribution.

The network as platform means for more than just offering old application via the network; it refers to building applications that literally attract more people to use them, harnessing network effects not only to acquire users, but also to learn from them and build on their contributions.

Low entry cost stimulate collective intelligence

Historically, the most influential new communications technologies have reduced the price of entry into a cultural filed, creating openings for actors who were previously unable to get their work into the public.(Klinenberg and Benzecry2005).

According to Cuurah, the Internet provides a fertile seedbed for the emergence of what might be termed ‘electronically mediated' gift economies. That is to say, communities of individual computer users that regularly create appropriate and shared an array of information resources, including copyrighted works, in a collaborative and largely non-commercial fashion using the Internet.

These gifts economies operated within the ‘virtual spaces' of social interaction that have been opened up by the Internet-based communications protocol, such as e-mail, instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing programs and websites. Consequently, the Internet actually comprises a ‘networks' of myriads gifts economies, which continue to undergo expansion and diversification.

From Google, Amazon to eBay, the value of the Internet was facilitated by the software, but was co-created by and for the community of connected users. Since then, powerful new platforms much as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter have demonstrated that same insight in new way-Web2.0 is all about harness collective intelligence (O”Reilly,2005).

Generally speaking, Web 2.0 looks to harness ‘collective intelligence' through the development of a ‘participatory culture' (Jenkins et al., 2006). The point is that users become ‘co-developers' by generating as well as browsing content. Web 2.0 is about open participation and collaboration, where anyone can add or edit content as users take shared responsibility. Lenhart and Madden(2005) suggest that ‘more than half of all teens who go online create content for the internet'. They claim that:

These Content Creators report having done one or more of the following activities: create a blog; create or work on a personal webpage; create or work on a webpage for school, a friend, or an organization; share original content such as artwork, photos, stories or videos online; or remix content found online into a new creation.

Collective intelligence applications depend on managing, understanding, and responding to massive amounts of user-generated data in real time. The ‘subsystems' of the emerging internet operating system are increasingly data subsystems: location, identity (of people, products, and places), and the skeins of meaning that tie them together.

The opposite side:

On the other hand, while the utopians embrace the age of Web2.0, the opinion counter to it with the issue of narrow content as the Internet empower users to decide what to create and experience. It can turn to a mere simulation of involvement and participation, masking new forms of control and manipulation, creating the contemporary version of what Guy Debord (1967) called “the heart of the unrealism of the real society.”

Thus, the meaning of the technologies will be shaped and reshaped by how they are embedded into social life, advanced, and transformed by the myriad of institutions, practices, and projects that constitute it.

Secondly, The Internet is seen as increasing alienation by absorbing its users. It immerses them in diversions from the real world with its real relationships. In a social relations version, it is seen as narrowing the set of shared cultural experiences to such an extent that people, for lack of a common sitcom or news show to talk about, become increasingly alienated from each other.

WEB 2.0 advocates also ignore the complexity of the people and organizations. They are complex systems, not flat ones, as Snowden (2007) says ‘Complexity is also the science of uncertainty and with it goes what I call the paradox of control. If you aim to influence, but not design evolution you have more control than if you attempt to design an ideal system.'

My viewpoint: In order to evaluate the pros and cons from the Internet

Music Industry in Taiwan

Symbolic Creator: Taiwan”s Vitas

Guang Zhong Lu, with his Buddy Holly glasses, slim body and guitar in hand, looks like a starving young artist. However, As a Spanish major student in university, now, Lu is one of the most popular singers and song writers in Taiwan”s music industry. Lu is from an independent company.The owner of the company Zhong says, the financial situation is in short in the beginning of promoting Lu. However, this condition also allows Zhong to manage Lu individually and innovatively through the Internet, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Plurk and so on.

Lu and his record company apply the core spirit of Web2.0: intense interaction between users and low entry cost to make Lu”s mark in Taiwanese music market. Apart from the major company, the record company chooses another way to promote Lu. He was revealed publicly in the video clip on the Internet which shows his unique vocal range that can compete with the Russian singer Vitas. This clip spreads rapidly from Youtube(Pic.1),to China”s video streaming websites, such as, Tudou and Youku. Later, Lu launches his singer life from the walking and singing tour of more than one year since the end of 2006 to obtain the echoing and support form students.

Recently, the company again utilizes the YouTube as a contest space to hold a guitar playing campaign called Participation in the Guitar Competition to Win the Chance as a Guitar Player for Lu

For instance, he creates several songs which are inspired and entitled with the Internet applications or previous songs done by others, such as the web game ‘Happy Restaurant' in Facebook.

Moreover, on his Facebook webpage, all of his music videos and online music streaming are free and accessible to the Internet users by tagging, forwarding, and hyperlinks so that this allows the audience to share his music throughout the entire cyberspace.

In the case of Lu, it is obvious to note the Internet provides the chance for the independent singers as a source to create and promote their music with low budget. The key point for his success is that those creators facilitate the power of the online communities with ‘Mashups', a term appropriated from popular music, ‘mash together' two available and usually free-to-access data and application sources(figure).

Here, in brief, ‘mashup' is by selectively samplings and remixing them in dynamic fashion, to subvert applications to perform something they could not do otherwise by themselves. Such mashups are developed with an interest to extend the functionality of software for specific purposes

Multiple Choices to the Audience?

Facebook, the social networking sites (SNS) are widely used sites through which users generate profiles about themselves, with photos, descriptions, personal histories, thought pieces, preferences, lists of friend. As well as generating content through the updating of these online profile pages, users of SNS create user groups, meet people and make friends, and even use the profiles to communicate with people they know in the ‘real world' to discuss the events of the day, to keep in touch, and to organize events.

Popular music performers with profiles become part of the communicative flows of the SNS, checking and updating their profiles, making friends, posting music, and so on.

Whether visitors to places such as Facebook are in fact communicating and making friends with the actual performer or with a record company employee does not seem all that important, for the outcome is the same. The visitor, as we can see from the posts directed at Jarvis, has the perception that Jarvis is intermittently present and that he is communicating with them.

Indeed, we can presume that in many cases record companies are involved in some capacity, as this may be a part of how they are reorganizing themselves (Leyshon et al., 2005) and re-theorizing their commodities (Beer, 2008) to maintain profitability in the digital age.

What is the most significant in the case described here is that Facbook reveals that performers, some more than others, are getting closer to their audiences through Web 2.0. By affording ordinary wikizens the feeling that they are hanging with the stars, SNS give a sense that the long established, while historically variable, distance between popstar and interested enthusiast is eroded (although we can of course argue that this is illusory).

I would like to mention here that this is a reconstruction of the relations between performers and their audiences, such as how the ‘rocker' or ‘popstar' becomes an ordinary member of the network as that distance of relations between ‘stars' and the audiences is shorten and then they become a virtually ‘familiar friend'.

To the audience, the SNS provide the chances to enhance the interaction between performers and the audiences. However, the interaction is like to a mere spectacle surrounded by superficial communication because of the control of the administrator over the social network site. As a result, information shown tends to be positive to the performers rather than negative.

The process in producing the meaning for singers and users online

The Challenge to the Music Industry in Great China

The digital network environment has actuated a battle between the corporations of music market and the proponents of ‘digital freedom', free culture and ‘cyber liberty.' Generally speaking, the record companies have to face the free culture out of the Internet eroding the legitimate music distributions while the latter group has celebrated the new freedoms unleashed by digital technologies for both consumers and creators.

The file sharing and free online music streaming result in the decline of albumen sold.

According to IFPI Taiwan, over 80% of Chinese pop music is produced in Taiwan.

Due to the fact that the dramatic decline of legitimate music market, Music industry face problems

  • the online piracy endanger the Taiwan”s leading role in Chinese pop music industry
  • the producers tend to produce less music
  • the risk of investment is rising
  • the ‘Magnetic Effect' from China on Taiwan's music producers.

As mentioned above. It is undeniable to say that the Internet provides a chance for independent singers and companies to become successful in the market. Nevertheless,

The independents used to make profit in the way which the audience has different consuming habits and music taste from those purchasing albums out of major companies. Nevertheless, the illegal distribution online traps major companies which generate profit majorly by selling physical records to see a nosedive in the music market.

Even though i-Tune has established a model to reap money from consumers, it is noticeable to see that i-Tune cannot live without the device of the i-Pod player. So far, it is hard to see a convincing model to induce consumers to spend money on music in the Internet.

The threat is also an opportunity for the music industry to reflect itself. Although some pessimists claim that on the account of the Internet, the death of music industry is coming. On the contrary, the music industry is still running the business. This is to say that more decision making power out of consumers reflects the phenomenon that record companies have to acknowledge that it is time to chance, to produce diversity music for catering to the tastes of the audience. Thus, it is glad to see that the over-packaged singers are disappearing in the music market in Great China. Only good-looking and superficial singers are not the majority of the Great Chinese music market anymore, and they are substitute for those singers who are able to compose and produce their works.

This means the music industry has to make more efforts on better quality of music itself ultimately, not just repeatedly promoting the same style of singers or songs in order to guarantee the profit.