Is the Internet a Good or Bad Thing?

Is the Internet a Good or Bad Thing?

Is the internet good or bad? It is basically a good thing, it has many wonders, and is full of information foranyone who knows how to use a computer, but there is also a dark side to the internet - one filled with financial pitfalls, unnecessary censorship, and government intrusion I am going to try to explain some of these dangers so that you may have a better understanding of what risks may await you around the corner when you are surfing the net. The topics that I will be discussing are as follows shopping on the internet, censoring the press and bloggers, and finally how you get the information you use from the internet.

One of the most frequent uses of the internet is shopping. I will introduce you to a couple named Jodie and Burt first names only. Jodie is an apartment manager and her husband Burt is a firefighter. Jodie started out like normal shoppers going to department stores and town malls to find the goods she was looking for, but her husband Burt didn’t like shopping and he didn’t like her shopping a lot either so she turned to internet shopping. Soon Jodie started using the internet to buy her goods; she quickly became addicted in such a way that she could easily be called a “shopaholic.” Burt’s and Jodie’s home became full of boxes of things she had bought online. Jodie even had two eight by ten storage units, which Burt was not aware of, to keep her bigger purchases such as furniture and rugs. This along with the cost of the many items she had purchased, some of which would probably never be used, were the cause of several bad arguments. “I married a pack rat, what can I say” (Burt 138). The story shows how quickly things can get out of control and become a real addiction similar to the feeling an alcoholic gets whe looking for the next drink. Jodie felt the need to continue buying because of the way the item was presented as well as the desire to own it. Shopping made her feel good, and she could do it twenty four hours a day if she wanted to.

Another matter of concern for those who utilize the internet is censorship. The internet is still probably the least censored form of news reporting from official news agencies such as CBS News and agencies like them, but censorship still occurs even with individual people who have blogs that they may post daily events because if the flow of information is controlled then the writer can’t tell the whole story and this would be a form of censorship. Aa man named Maher Hawash, a naturalized American citizen, happened to work for the Intel Corporation in Portland, Oregon. He arrived at work one day in October of 2003 to find several armed police officers awaiting there to arrest him. That very same day over a dozen more officers of the law raided his residence disrupting his wife Lisa and their three children. As a result of this incursion he has not been told why he is imprisoned and put in solitary confinement. After trying to talk to authorities the only thing they would tell him was that he was being held as a “material witness” and that it was part of some sort of investigation by the Terrorism Task Force.

The federal government has a material witness statute that was set into place to assure that any witness deemed by the government would show up in court and not flee. The attorney general at the time, John Ashcroft, interpreted the statute in a different way. He used it to question detainees and anyone the government suspected of terrorism andhold them indefinitely.. When some lawyers that Mr. Hawash had hired to represent him went to a federal judge he told them he would not hear their case and that they would be placed under a federal gag order which meant they could not talk about the case to anyone. This is all blamed on the fact that the Justice Department does its best to keep all of its socalled terrorists from having any kind of contact from the outside world. Unfortunately, many federal judges go along with this practice. This news story was published by The New York Times and The Boston Globe, but all they could they write was that Mr. Hawash was being detained for no apparent reason. This is an indication that the government censors all forms of the news be it on paper or on the internet. Because without the whole story how can you form an opinion about what you have read and more importantly these are the kind of stories that I would want to know everything for fear it could happen to me or you someday.

Finally to give some insight as to how information is gathered for when you do a search on the internet using one of the many available search engines. By far Google is the most popular search engine today. This may surprise you but the thinking of how Google is run today can be taken from a page in history dating back to the Industrial Revolution where Frederick Winslow Taylor who worked in a Midvale steel plant in the state of Philadelphia was trying to improve efficiency on the production floor by carrying out several experiments that later would be adopted by manufactures all over the world. What he did was take a group of workers and broke down their individual jobs into a series of tasks and began to record what they did and how long it took them to do it. He then looked at ways to do the very same tasks better, which in turn would save the company time and money. He called his set of guidelines The Principles of Scientific Management. His ideas of improving efficiency and productivity are still with us in today’s times. Just like with Mr. Taylor who created a list of instructions on how to be more efficient Google also has refined the way in how you search which is probably why it’s the most popular search engine out there. As in Taylor’s time the use of a certain criteria is used to obtain a certain result this could be referred as an “algorithm.”

The companies CEO Eric Schmidt practices Taylorism, which is founded around the science of measurement. instead of controlling the physical movement and actions of a person he strives to control people’s minds and how they think. His company is trying to comprise a system for everything that the company does. As one executive in the company Marissa Mayer puts it “we live in a world of numbers” (Mayer 150). The company that Schmidt started is continually gathering behavioral information through the searches that the users of the site initiate as well as information from other web sites are carrying out untold amount of experiments every day just as Taylor did back in his time and it uses the results of this information to tweak the algorithms that with continuing acceleration directs how you and I find our information and how we learn from it. The whole premise of the company is based on testing. Their web site might seem easy to navigate on the surface, but in reality is really quite complex. The testing that’s done to their web pages is extensive in the world of certain kinds of research such as statistical and behavioral or otherwise known as psychological. The type of testing they use is called “Spilt A/B Testing.” In this kind of testing the users systematically make tiny changes in how individuals look at the web site as well as how they navigate the web site. They also focus on groups of users like people of a certain age or sex or even nationality. They make little changes to those users then they compare how those variations compare to other groups of users in a behavioral form such as the following how much time is spent on each page of a web site, what individuals are attracted to on the web page, what the individuals would click or not click on, and what might be their next destination.

Another form of testing that Google uses is what’s called an onsite “usability lab.” In this lab researcher’s conduct experiments like eye tracking and other psychological studies. The reason for this is that people surfing the net react so quickly that when they click from place to place that they don’t even have time to think what they are doing. They just look and click in an instant; the decision is made in their subconscious mind. It is said that this would be the next best thing to being able to read the minds of people. Irene Au, the director of user experience, claims that the company depends on “cognitive psychology research” to achieve the goal of “Making people uses their computers more efficiently (Au 151).”

What the testing results demonstrate is that they try to lead you where they think you are going and kind of push in a certain direction and that means big advertising dollars for them. So even when you are surfing you are being manipulated without even knowing it. The next time you use Google or any other search engine think about what I have told you in this segment I know I will.

In this paper there have been examples of how of you can lose money on the internet, as well as censorship and how it may affect you, and how we are driven like blind sheep to seek the information we are looking for. Now I am saying that for the most part the internet is a good thing, but be aware that there are bad aspects of the internet to and you should exercise caution when you venture down that road. Don’t make the internet the only place you shop and always try to get all the information you can so that you can make positive judgments. Finally watch where you search for that information make sure it’s in a place where you want to look not where someone else wants you to.

Works Cited
Carr, Nicholas. What The Internet is Doing To Our Brains. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010. Print.

Dean, Stephen. Your Neighbor’s Secret Life Online. New Jersey: New Horizon Press, 2008. Print.

Gale, Thomson. Censorship. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Print.