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The Societal Impact of World Wide Web - Key Challenges for the 21st Century

The Societal Impact of World Wide Web - Key Challenges for the 21st Century
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Author(s): Janice M. Burn (Edith Cowan University, Australia) and Karen D. Loch (Georgia State University, USA)
Copyright: 2002
Pages: 19
Source title: Ethical Issues of Information Systems
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Ali Salehnia (South Dakota State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-931777-15-5.ch007

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Abstract

Many lessons from history offer strong evidence that technology can have a definite effect on the social and political aspects of human life. At times it is difficult to grasp how supposedly neutral technology might lead to social upheavals, mass migrations of people, and shifts in wealth and power. Yet a quick retrospective look at the last few centuries finds that various technologies have done just that, challenging the notion of the neutrality of technology. Some examples include the printing press, railways, and the telephone. The effects of these technologies usually begin in our minds by changing the way we view time and space. Railways made the world seem smaller by enabling us to send goods, people, and information to many parts of the world in a fraction of the time it took before. Telephones changed the way we think about both time and distance, enabling us to stay connected without needing to be physically displaced. While new technologies create new opportunities for certain individuals or groups to gain wealth, there are other economic implications with a wider ranging impact, political and social. Eventually, as the technology matures, social upheavals, mass migrations and shifts in economic and political power can be observed. We find concrete examples of this dynamic phenomenon during the Reformation, the industrial revolution, and more recently, as we witness the ongoing information technology revolution.

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