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Posted on April 27th, 2014, by

What are the main characteristics of computer based data networks discussed by Castells (2005)? How do they shape communication and culture of the Internet?

  1. What are the three major features of computer based data networks identified by Castells (2005)?

Castells (2009, p.1494) defines computer based data networks as “complex structures of communication constructed around a set of goals that simultaneously ensure unity of purpose and flexibility if execution by their adaptability to the operating environment”. They are able to be programmed and self-configured at the same time. The author identifies three major features of computer based data networks as ”˜flexibility, scalability and survivability’. The author explains flexibility as networks ”˜ability to reconfigure according to changing environments and retain their goals while changing their components, sometimes bypassing blocking points of communication channels to find new connections” (Castells 2009, p.1497). Scalability refers to their ”˜ability to expand or shrink in size” without being disrupted (p. 1497). Survivability of networks may be explained as the initial ability as they do not have a certain centre and are able to operate in different configurations. They can resist attacks to their nodes and codes because their codes are included into multiple nodes that can reproduce the instructions and obtain new ways to perform. Network can only be eliminated by the material ability to destroy the connecting points.  “According to Castells, it is the growth of micro-electronics based communications technologies and transforms the potential for networks offering new advantages of flexibility, scalability, survivability and increasingly portability” (Urry 2007, pp.160-161).

  1. How are these three major features evident in the design and architecture of the Internet?

The design and architecture of the Internet is flexible as it allows incorporating new ideas into the Web’s infrastructure. These ideas may be aimed at improving existing network, reliability, performance, manageability and security (Popa et al. 2009). New services and business models can be introduced and incorporated into the network without making any changes in the network. The content and the design of the Internet may be changed, improved or updated according to the needs of its users. However, the essence and the principles of work do not change. Internet is designed in such a way that a number of web pages and sites grow intensively while the structure and the performance of the Web are not disrupted. New sites and web pages, or any updates of the sites do not influence the productivity and performance of existing Internet content. Thus, the Internet may be presented as a developing and growing system which as able to retain its initial performing characteristics.  It may be seen as scalability of the Internet. Survivability of the Internet is achieved through its architecture which allows maintaining service continuity to the users in cases of failure of switching devices, transmission media, protocols, mechanisms of protection or mechanisms of restoration within a certain period of time. The system is able to restore itself and possesses a number of protecting mechanisms allowing maintaining its performance (Mouftah and Ho 2003).

  1. Discuss two examples of Internet-based communication or services (e.g. websites, social media services) which illustrate how the three major features shape communication and culture on the Internet?

One of the examples that can demonstrate how flexibility, scalability and survivability of the network shape communication and culture on the Internet may be an example of one of social media services. These websites are extremely popular with people of different ages and locations. Flexibility which lies in the innovations in this social media service shape the way people communicate and share information. For example, if a new service is introduced people start using it and it influences the way of their internet-based communication. Let us take as example with video sharing or picture sharing. It generated global exchange of pictures and video files among the users of the web sites. They started discussing some interesting videos they had found on the Web. Then the systems of ”˜likes’ was introduced and users began to click ”˜like’ in case they liked some video or picture and they became more and more popular and a larger number of users could see them. Another example may be users’ communication through their statuses on the web sites. Many social media sites offer this option. You can visit a web page of an unknown person and see her/his message to other users through his/her status. This option became very popular and people started creating extraordinary, wise, humorous or aphoristic statuses to demonstrate their creativity and individuality. It should be noted that communication through statuses has become a part of culture of the internet society.

  1. Taking into account your answers to questions A-C, how would you summarize the communication and culture of the internet?

Communication and culture of the Internet are flexible, first of all. They develop and change based on the needs of users. Any innovation on the Web seeks to improve users’ interaction with the network while users adopt and chance Internet based communication and culture of the Internet according to their needs. As well as the Internet, communication and culture of the Internet are scalable. They develop and change constantly without bringing any changes to the initial concept of the Internet based communication and culture. Internet culture remains multinational and diverse while computer mediated communication tend to exploit short forms because of the limit of user’s time and develops in the direction of emotions. And, of course, the Internet culture and Internet based communication are survivable. We may observe changes in the forms and methods of communication but it retains its importance and actuality for users. Culture of the internet changes as well, however it remains a significant part of the cyber society.

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