Article

Internet

Coye Cheshire and Ashwin Mathew

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online April 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0028
Internet

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The Internet is a worldwide system of computer networks (a network of networks). It is a technical network (involving computer hardware, systems for connecting computers to one another, and communication protocols) and a social network (involving human users sharing, storing, and retrieving information with one another). The global Internet is an instance of an “internet,” a much larger network of various interconnected networks. Each of these networks optimizes data flows within itself across various technical parameters (e.g., latency across different links in the network and overall bandwidth utilization). The Internet was designed to allow individual network administrations to operate as they pleased internally, but still interconnect to allow data to flow from one network to another, creating a seamless whole. Because the Internet is a type of network, it facilitates the connection of people using computers through interconnecting technologies. Thus, the Internet is not only a social and technical marvel in terms of size and scale of use, but it is also a critically important research site for sociologists. As stated in DiMaggio, et al. 2001 (cited under Social Uses of Information Technology) in a review of early sociological research on the Internet, the Internet is important for sociology because it allows researchers to test theories of diffusion and media effects. In addition, DiMaggio, et al. 2001 notes that the Internet as a medium is distinctive because it allows the integration of different modes of digital communication (e.g., voice, data, video, and text chat) and forms of content.

Article.  7136 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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