As defined by the Internet Society (2013), the Internet is a “worldwide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers”.
The first part of this definition, the Internet as a broadcasting capability and mechanism for information dissemination, strongly reflects the beginning stages of the Internet, where a basic data transfer protocol called TCP/IP was created in order for connected computers to data share (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). TCP/IP does not decipher data; it only ensures it is transferred to the intended computer in an unaltered format. In addition to TCP/IP are ‘application protocols’ – designed to make sense of the data. The web itself is one of these application protocols, the hypertext transfer protocol called HTTP. HTTP is used by all web browsers to share information across the Internet and is designed to assemble text, images, video and interactive components collectively in a coherent interface (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). As hypertext utilises hyperlinks, it can be said that HTTP relates strongly to the other part of the Internet definition, a worldwide medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers – suggesting that an online environment is much more than basic data transfer.
Hinton & Hjorth (2013) outline the Internet as facilitating three types of communities. The first being a virtual community, that which identifies and invigorates public discussion and uses the Internet as an empowering medium. The second being a networked community, where the emphasis is on the continuity of offline relationships in an online environment, and the third being networked publics, the collection and intersection of people, practice and technology. It can be said that these online communities can only exist in a collaborative and interactive sphere.
SK-Gaming.com is a community of online gamers, facilitating a network of news, videos, albums, files, blogs, groups and forums relating to online games.
Hyperlinks, multimedia and sharing are essential in a collaborative and interactive online environment. Hyperlinks are references that automatically take the user to a particular point in a cited work. In reference to the web, they enable ‘browsing’ or ‘surfing’, where the user is transported through pages of the web by hyperlinks, with focus on a navigational aspect (Halavais 2008). Multimedia relates to many different media formats that can be seen and heard, such as pictures, sound, videos, films, animation and so on.
The sharing of both hyperlinks and multimedia relates to a networked media culture as they are the basic building blocks through which multidimensional, complex and easily editable communication systems are created (Halavais 2008). A networked media culture can provide advertising, a source of further discussion, a path for connecting, a way of demonstrating ownership, a link to other sites by the same author and a link to a group. All of these affordances represent the structures of deep knowledge and social interaction and enhance the online user experience.
Qualified Australian makeup artist and beauty vlogger, Chloe Morello, is able to share (from her bedroom) her knowledge and passion for makeup and beauty with the world through the video-sharing website giant, YouTube. In not a one-way communication environment, but an online environment where interaction is facilitated and discussion is encouraged. Users can subscribe to her channel to keep updated and are also linked to suggested videos.
Whilst browsing for a particular book on the world’s largest online retailer’s website, Amazon.com, multiple hyperlinks of ‘suggested buys’ are displayed. This serves as a form of advertising, a hyperlink to other books by the same author, as well as an opportunity to link individuals with similar interests.
A networked media culture also enhances online communication by affording new kinds of communities to be created. As per boyd and Ellison’s (2007) definition of network (the maintenance of relationships) and networking (the initiation of new relationships), a networked media culture enables individuals to communicate with people they already know (offline) and strangers, where individuals may be geographically segregated.
Overall, without a networked media culture, online communication would defer back to all the primitiveness of TCP/IP and a basic data transfer, where vast knowledge and deep social interaction with others is extremely limited, communities are not formed and individuals are not empowered.
- boyd, d & Ellison, N 2007, ‘Social network sites: Definition, history and scholarship’, Journal of Mediated Communication, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 210-230.
- Halavais, A 2008, The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age, University of Michigan Press, Michigan.
- Hinton, S & Hjorth, L 2013, Understanding Social Media, SAGE Publications Ltd, London.