Student Team Reflections On Digital Engagement And the Internet

Digital Society admin
4 min readFeb 23, 2023

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This podcast is part of the UCIL Digital Society course from the University of Manchester running in 2022/23 semester 2. The stories it relates to are hosted on Medium and concern the Digital Engagement and the Internet.

In this podcast the Library Student Team reflect on your comments so far.

TRANSCRIPT

Week 2+3: Digital engagement and the Internet

DigiSoc Podcast Script

ST1: Hi everyone, welcome to the DigiSoc podcast, I’m Jakub from the Library Student Team.

ST2: and my name is Szaffi, a member of the Library Student Team as well. It was really fascinating to read all of your contributions, today we’re going to discuss the topics considered in the past 2 weeks, this includes the development of the internet, alongside how we engage digitally.

ST1: It’s definitely fair to say the internet has progressed from when it was first founded right?

ST2: Yes definitely! The progression of the internet did not happen overnight, we looked at a timeline of the internet’s development which highlighted the influence of new ideas and technologies to create the internet we all use today. Key events that stood out to us occurred in 1971 and 1972, including the creation of the first virus, initially created as an experiment to show the effect of self-duplicating programmes, and the invention of email which was praised for its efficiency and low-cost.

ST1: The first question we proposed to you was what technological changes you have experienced to the way you use the internet. Responses highlighted how technological advances ‘have allowed for better internet speeds, improved data security, and more user-friendly interfaces.’ One response stood out in particular, highlighting how the internet was initially like a platform to play ‘small online games’, but the development of touch screen phones has now shaped how we use the internet. We were once limited to calls and texts but now have unlimited freedom, especially with social media, this response also mentioned how the ‘birth of mainstream social media was causing a massive change’ online and offline.

ST2: Many responses also highlighted how easy communication has become through using the internet. Staying in touch with friends and family is extremely simple, especially due to Wi-Fi being accessible in most places. These insightful responses highlighted the influence of smart phones on the overall ease of internet access via our phones. This poses the question now of how much more can the internet develop? I wonder what responses future generations will have to their experiences of the internet’s development.

ST1: The internet’s beginning can be traced all the way back to 1945 and it was first viewed as a world of opportunity with little to no consideration of the negative aspects. If we are discussing the internet, then we also need to consider the dangers of engaging with it, and the not so good consequences of all this freedom. It was reported that over half of 12–15-year-olds said they have had a negative experience online, where the most common included strangers trying to make friends with them. This is alarming, whilst there are multitudes of possibilities provided by the internet that are positive, there is also a negative side to consider, including giving a platform to people who will abuse it.

ST2: We asked you to share your ideas surrounding the dangers of the internet, you highlighted some great points that we had not even considered. Such as how easy it is to fall prey to organisations using ‘click-bait’ and flashy titles to shape your understanding of topics to fit their agendas. It was also highlighted how people are much less critical with sources on the internet, and often even fail to check sources. It can be scary to consider how much trust we blindly put into the information that the internet presents. Making sure we are critical of online sources is really important, and we will focus on this in Week Four of the module — Critical Analysis in a Digital World.

ST1: Our engagement with the internet is often mediated by big companies, so we raised the question to you all, asking if you engage more with people, companies or both similarly. Like we had expected, most of you, 51.2%, engage with companies and 26.8% engage similarly with both.

ST2: There are a variety of distinct aspects of engagement, where this data is captured and stored digitally. We initially discussed the difference between digital and analogue engagement, and how definitions of these can really vary depending on your perspective. Some of your responses defined digital engagement as a means of wider communication, ‘chatting with people who are all around the world easily,’ ‘eliciting a less confrontational feel, requiring low effort, and can easily be carried out with anonymity.’

ST1: This contrasted with how you defined analogue engagement. This was seen as a ‘real world interaction’ including the use of ‘body language and senses in an interaction to share feelings’, creating a feeling of ‘authenticity as a genuine way of engagement in which people’s tones, emotions, and manners can be delivered and felt by one another’.

ST2: Really interesting responses there. Whilst we are all aware that digital engagement can easily be recorded and stored, I wonder if analogue interactions are also recorded?

ST1: Well, according to your responses, 78.9% said yes, so a large number of you have also experienced this. This merge between the online and offline world seems to be bridging together.

ST2: I agree. To consider the advancement of smart home technology, this can now record our interactions without our full permission. The impact of the digital world is undeniably large, to the extent that our ‘offline’ world is also affected.

ST1: Thank you to Szaffi for discussing this fascinating topic of the digital world with me, including the history of the internet and connectedness alongside our engagement with this. Most importantly, thank you all for your thought-provoking comments. We hope you enjoyed this summary; we look forward to reading your comments for the upcoming topics.

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