The Birth of a New Society. It is not often that one gets to witness
the birth of a new society. Yet the birth of a new society is
exactly what is happening on the Internet today. The society is
growing quickly. Numbering 40 million people in 1996, it reached
375 million in 2000. It is conservatively projected to grow to
more than 700 million by 2005 (see Figure 1). In
2005, only China and India will be bigger than the society of
1: NUMBER OF INTERNET USERS, 1996-2005 (PROJECTED)
use is disproportionately concentrated in the most highly economically
developed countries (see Figure 2). English is far and away the
predominant language of the Internet (see Figure 3). However,
that is changing. Internet use is growing especially quickly in
Asian countries – notably China, Japan, and South Korea. In September
2000, for the first time, just under 50% of sites on the World
Wide Web used the English language.
FIGURE 2: INTERNET USERS WORLDWIDE, DECEMBER 2000
“The World’s …” (2000); “Worldwide Internet…” (2000)
3: INTERNET USAGE BY LANGUAGE GROUP, SEPTEMBER 2000
“Global Internet…” (2000)
But Is It a Society? A society is a large, enduring network
of social interaction that survives by accomplishing five main
tasks: (1) preserving order, (2) producing and distributing goods
and services, (3) teaching new members, (4) providing its members
with a sense of purpose, and (5) replacing old members (Aberle
et al., 1950). Bearing this definition in mind, does the Internet
form a society? We believe it does.
society accomplishes many of the same tasks as other societies.
For example, although control of members is much less centralized
and extensive than in other societies, Internet society has established
governing structures, such as those that regulate conventions
in the use of HTML code, the allocation of domain names, and user
behaviour on specific sites. Similarly, although e-commerce is
still only a fraction of economic activity in the world of bricks
and mortar, it is growing much more quickly than the economy as
a whole. Meanwhile, distance education is becoming increasingly
popular (some universities already offer entire degrees online)
and the Internet has become an important agent of informal socialization.
Thus, the first three tasks of an enduring society – preserving
order, producing and distributing goods and services, and teaching
new members – are all performed by Internet society.
is society’s fourth task: providing members with a sense of purpose.
More precisely, Internet society provides its members with many
senses of purpose by enabling social interaction in a wide variety
Internet users interact socially by exchanging text, images, and
sound via e-mail, Internet phone, video conferencing, computer-assisted
work groups, mailing lists, and chat groups. Some forms of computer-assisted
interaction operate in delayed time. “A” sends a message to “B.”
“B” receives the message when he or she logs on, responding when
convenient. For example, as of December 2000, people had created
about 30,000 “Usenet newsgroups” and 80,000 “mailing lists” that
allow delayed computer-assisted interaction on defined subjects
(“Liszt’s Usenet…,” 2000). Some of these discussion groups focus
on particle physics. Others are devoted to banjos, lawyer jokes,
Russian politics, Francophone culture, sadomasochism, and just
about every other human activity imaginable. Each discussion group
is composed of tens, hundreds or thousands of individuals.
forms of computer-assisted interaction operate in real time; people
communicate by means of “instant messaging.” As of December 2000,
there were about 25,000 “IRC chat channels” functioning on the
Internet (“Liszt’s Usenet…,” 2000). Most have small memberships.
Others are very large, commercial operations. The largest IRC
chat channel, ICQ, claims that 86 million people around the world
had logged on by the end of December 2000 (“ICQ.com,” 2000).
proliferation of computer-assisted communication in delayed and
real time has resulted in the creation of “virtual communities.”
Virtual Communities are associations
of people, scattered across the country or the planet, who communicate
via computer and modem about subjects of common interest. Membership
in virtual communities is fluid but the communities endure. They
are self-governing bodies with their own rules and norms of “netiquette”
(McLaughlin, Osborne, and Smith, 1995; Sudweeks, McLaughlin, and
For example, one of the earliest, and therefore well-studied,
forms of virtual community is the MUD or “multiple user dimension.”
A MUD is a computer programs that allow thousands of people to
role-play and engage in a sort of collective fantasy. These programs
define the aims and rules of the virtual community and the objects
and spaces it contains. Users log on to the MUD from their PCs
around the world and define their character – their identity –
any way they wish. They interact with other users in real time,
either by exchanging text messages or by having their “avatars”
(graphical representations) act and speak for them. The first
MUD was created in 1979 at the University of Essex in England.
In April 2000, there were more than 1,600 MUDs worldwide and perhaps
a million MUD users (“The MUD Connector,” 2000).
users form social relationships. They exchange confidences, give
advice, share resources, interact and get intellectually and emotionally
the culmination of the IT Revolution will be the birth of a New
Society -- an information society that will be significantly
different from the current industrial society and the economy
as a whole and will be radically effecting the nation state system
into the 21st century. It is likely that aspects of the system
of rules and regulations that govern the old economy and the current
nation state system will not apply to this information global
society that is emerging around the world.
the medium of the emerging Internet Society, it is essential that
the critical issues of our time be debated openly in a global
civil society in order to redefine the systems and processes of
an older society to the needs, concerns and pressures of our current
a simplistic sense the path of human evolution can be divided
into two: the time before humans desired material wealth, and
the time after.
juncture between these eras represents a social revolution more
powerful than any other. Every value was re-evaluated and turned
upside down - everything changed.
civilizations died out either because the need for a full values
based revolution escaped them, or because once it became obvious
that such an overhaul was necessary, it was already too late and
the civilization began to fall. In our present time we may be
the first civilization that has the ability through self reflection
to prevent this from happenning to us.
Tokyo the Japanese Vision Network suggests that Humans, using
both their material desires and logical propensities, recognize
space according to three dimensions comprising of length, breadth
It follows, therefore, that civilizations have been constructed
using the same recognizable and three-dimensional strategies and
shapes. To date Humans, using both their material desires and
logical propensities, recognize space according to these three
the future, we will shift gears into the fourth dimension, which
includes time. Society's ability to successfully navigate this
shift entirely rests on the combined will of all individuals.The
current focus on just the third dimension of views produces and
results in an over dependence on tangible physical resources.
If humans, instead, thought more inwardly and used intangible
resources connected to their consciousness, pure theory would
result, as would a better understanding of the universe and human
world with four dimensions can only start after groups of like-minded
people with new values and evolved ideals find each other.
If these people unite and foster communities with small workable
economies based on truth, the fourth dimension will grow.
fourth dimension of our world can only come from the human mind.
This means that a four dimensional world of values, models and
philosophy that address the needs of our current time will be
created out of our minds and feelings in just the same way that
the three dimensional world was created out of people and physical
new world will never arrive without a requisite shift in the way
people think and feel about being connected to each other, the
earth and the universe itself. If this process spreads throughout
the world, the future will overflow with transformation and possibilities.