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The internet brings us together.  From social media messaging to anonymous forums, the communication afforded by our online presence holds a huge place in our lives.   This availability of instantaneous communication means communities form more easily, as even those from isolated areas can message each other and post online.  The geographical boundaries of sports supporters and niche hobbies disintegrate as it is no longer necessary to be close by to stay up to date on all the latest goings-on.  Unique local traditions become global news via social media shares.

Audiences for even the rarest and most niche hobbies can grow exponentially alongside the ease of finding others online with the same interests as yourself.  With a subreddit for every possible topic out there, it is impossible to find oneself without a sounding board for ideas and theories. Ideas can develop communally, with jokes and projects being nearly impossible to source due to a lack of a single creator.  Without this ownership, who can say anything in argument when a company takes this online humor and uses for their advertising? Is it breaking copyright, and more importantly is there a creator who can hold the copyright?

The internet is the greatest resource for everything you want to know, and everything you ever wanted to learn.  The massive amount of information available online makes it so that we can learn more easily, with fewer cost constraints.  Finding the information that one needs is no longer the hurdle to effective research, instead it is the act of sorting through the vast amount of information that is accessible to all.  In a world with over 5.5 million English-language Wikipedia articles, how do we choose the ones that matter to our lives and problems? Especially important to note is, who has the right to know what we’ve searched for online?   Knowing our search habits can offer companies a more thorough understanding of the consumer, but do they have the right to find this information?

The widespread use of the internet has affected perhaps all avenues of our daily lives.  Take commerce for instance.  Due to our ability to communicate and collaborate online in our communities and thus learn from each other, commerce can occur at incredible speeds. As perfectly exemplified, once meager products such as trainers and screen-printed t-shirts are no longer only measured by price, but also by their rarity. This rarity, can only be possible through extremely high transaction speeds and the rapid sharing of information, both factors being byproducts of the internet. Simultaneously, we capture a glimpse of how these online evolutions can provide new insights on how certain markets, or even whole economies, can perform.

In a similar vein, we can witness how traditional aspects of life such as sports are heavily influenced by the internet. Gone are the days where a sport required groups to meet at a specific place to carry out the activity. Instead, games played in the comfort of our own bedrooms with matches involving people halfway across the globe can now be considered as competitive play, and is challenging all current definitions of what could be considered as a sport. As new avenues of life are being revolutionized by the internet, it isn’t difficult to deduce how new economies can spring up to facilitate these developments.

So, large, is the power of technology and the internet on our society that can shift the landscapes of centuries-old cities. To say that the internet is able to provide livelihoods and become the platform to accommodate innovations is something unheard of even 20 years ago; yet today, it is considered almost as a norm and it is all too visible here in Edinburgh. With the rise of numerous start-ups and certain areas of the city being dedicated purely for technology, it is hard to have foreseen such a change within the city’s makeup even at the turn of the last decade. With increasingly large sums of money being invested into the progression of the city’s technology, only time would tell how the city would continue to transform in the near future.

However, with the increasing use of technology in our social world, at what point must we consider the “human touch”.   Internet enabled communications are changing the way we work.  On one hand, there has been a rise of telecommuting in the past few years, as face to face time in the workplace can be substituted with video chatting, and messaging systems.  But, we could easily reach a point where this communication can allow for increased mechanization of the workplace, as it becomes increasingly unnecessary for real people to do work.  One person, with the aid of intelligent programming and internet-based communication could control an entire production plant, causing the repetitive and menial jobs there to be replaced.  But, would this future be dangerous to us?

Inherently, the internet reflects the whims of our society. Treating it as a separate entity means separating our wants and desires from what it entails.  To know what the internet means to us, we need to understand how exactly our lives have been affected by it.   We especially need to understand how our lives may change in the future because of our collective online presence.  Ahead, you can find a collection of articles discussing what the internet means to us as a society, and how it may affect our social future.

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