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In the past two decades, the concept of globalization has gained a lot of attention from different corners. A lot of times people are exposed to stories that are related to globalization in both the print and electronic media. They normally hear or read reports about oversees outsourcing, the global financial crisis, how the economic conditions in one country affects the other, how devastation of natural disasters will continue to increase as the climate changes, and how political instability threatens to disrupt oil markets. All these examples are things we actually relate to and are elaborate evidence of globalization. They actually show that as individuals, we can no longer claim to be independent, isolated and unaffected by the actions of others who we may relate to directly or indirectly.
Our societies are increasingly becoming interconnected and interdependent whether willingly or unwillingly. Ones actions now impact on another's on the global scale whereby, ones use of technology, relation to the natural environment, consumption patterns, and decisions to either go to war or not have far reaching consequences (Boudreaux, 2008). Determining these effects are quite unlikely though can be studied. Thus, the study of globalization becomes very important. One of the phenomena which exhibit the elements of globalization is the global infrastructure. In this paper, I am going to highlight some of the salient features of this phenomenon.
When we objectively study the global infrastructure phenomenon of globalization, and analyze how globalization is challenging the sovereignty of the traditional citizen state and state-centric world order, we will be able to clearly see the challenges imposed on the state centric world order by globalization. It is very important to frame the consequences of globalization in relation to the context of this phenomenon in order to be able to able to carry out an objective and informative analysis.
According to Berman & Fox (2003), countries in different corners of the world today are facing external challenges from the adjustments being made in the global infrastructure e.g. the internet. This global infrastructure is one phenomenon that nation states have no absolute control over since they invade the countries' infrastructural systems and slowly weaken the sovereign control of information flow and collective actions among citizens (Boudreaux, 2008). The current policy challenges that countries are experiencing in the quest to control and exercise censorship of the internet shows the difficulties countries are experiencing in dealing with the challenges of the global infrastructural adjustments (Wellman, 2002). The global infrastructural adjustments have a direct impact on the social, cultural and political systems of nation states and the various societies that exist within it (Berman & Fox, 2003).
It is important to note that there are four major features of the global infrastructure that affect the dimension within which a country's national security should be protected. These features are capacity, vulnerabilities, the global network structure, and last but not least the source of important future innovations expected (Berman & Fox, 2003).
The capacity of the global information infrastructure currently is very large due to its vast growth together with the traffic it carries. It is reported that the capacity is so large that the close to 90% of it is unused and in fact it still continues to grow (Berman & Fox, 2003). The growth can be seen to be continuing as measured in each dimension of importance. These dimensions are transmission, storage and processing capacities as well as the number of network nodes. Instead of placing software on individual machines, people are developing and using bandwidth-rich applications and centralizing software for use over the internet due to overcapacity. Even though the political impact of this wealth of capacity is unknown, one thing for sure is that it has the potential of negatively impacting on state nations (Wellman, 2002).
The global network's architecture and capacity are and always will be critical issues that arise in international relations in both moments of peace and war (National Research Council U.S. 2001). It is important to mention that the technologies that will have the most political importance in the next twenty years to come exits today. Most scientists agree that it typically takes an innovation about two decades to make social impacts (National Research Council U.S. 2001). Even though most of these technologies that will be politically important in the next two decades exist only in the laboratory, some of them are already in common use today.
It must also be noted that, most of the important information technologies that are currently in use were United State's products. They came into widespread use throughout the entire country more quickly in the country as compared to other countries due to the fact that the culture is more open to new technologies unlike others. Circumstances have changed in most other countries which find themselves adopting most of these technologies in equal rate either willing or even unwillingly since they have lost control over the global infrastructure. This is evident in the fact that the internet is an invention of the US while the packet switching architecture that enhances decentralization was first developed in the UK and the graphically based web browser that has brought about the mass usage of the internet being developed in Switzerland. In fact, technological specialists in America believe that America's leadership in technological innovations is weakening even as it grows prominently in many other regions (National Research Council U.S. 2001).
It is not easy to determine when and how the internet began. Some people ought to say that it began with the first connection of two computers. If so no one really knows when and how this happened. What can be confirmed is that in the mid 20th century, the American Air Force developed SAGE radar system (Banks, 2008). This system relied on computers placed in different locations communicating with one another by the assistance of some of the earliest modems. Even though these computers communicated with each other, they were not networked hence there was no resource sharing. This was to first happen after the first true computer network was formed commonly known as, "the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network" (ARPANET). It was developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency after an individual at the Pentagon had decided that it would be a very excellent idea to build a computer network that had the capacity to survive a nuclear attack (Banks, 2008).
In the beginning, the network's access was limited to academics and research. Apart from accessing data, the favored few also had the pleasure of sending emails, playing games and accessing bulletin boards. It was only a matter of time before the public also pressured the government who eventually decided to share the resource.
Currently, internet use is a positive social experience. It is being used for a variety of activities that are either instrumental or recreational. A combination of the internet use, the telephone contact, and face to face communication brings a greater sense of online community. Even though people from different corners of the world display different characteristics and beliefs, there are several similarities in the way they make use of the internet (Wellman, 2002).
The internet is usually more developed in the more economically endowed countries. In turn, their users are usually more experienced in the use of the internet. North America, which is considered to be the home of the internet remains ahead of the other areas. It is important to mention that the internet is not only a resource meant for consumption, but also a gateway to access and use opportunities. It can act as a catalyst necessary to trigger economic, social, cultural, and political advancements. The online community facilitates the creation of new friends, communication, meeting people who share same interests and beliefs (Wellman, 2002).
Online intercultural communication is one of the things driving political, social and cultural change (Wellman, 2002). The cyber-culture and online communication or rather social networking that is largely growing all around the globe today are real threats to human culture. There are a number of instances of culture change that has been brought about by internet technologies for example, ICTs acting as a catalyst in advancing political, social, and cultural change in Israel among the Jewish population. It has also enhanced the creation of a regional public sphere for the Palestinians living in the Middle East. It is feared that once technologies like the internet are availed to the population of the global nations, they will inevitably shape people's cultures and diversities in line with the aspects of democratic governance and freedom of speech. This is because of the fact that technology is growing at a faster rate than the regulations that are meant to control (Wellman, 2002).
It is of great concern to the socialists today, the costly social challenges that the internet is a likely to impact on our societies. This is made even worse when looking at the anticipated social disintegration that may occur as a result. The positive effects of the internet though must also be acknowledged e.g. it has enabled us to be able to accomplish a lot of things from the comfort of our own homes; paying bills, grocery shopping, research, and communication with people in different geographical locations. It has made communication fast and even reduced the workload involved, which before consisted of putting pen to paper. Even as we market the internet mentioning its pros it is very important to mention regularly its cons that could bring about far reaching social challenges (Wellman, 2002).
One of the social challenges that are common with technologies such as the internet is alienation. People are likely to find themselves alienated from their institutions of learning, family and workplace as a result of certain factors that are brought about by the internet. One of these factors is the lack of face-to-face socialization especially for those people who spend a lot o time locked up inside the anonymity of their computers. Research shows that people are likely to experience stress, loneliness and depression with each hour spent chatting through the internet.
The longer an individual spends charting on the internet the less sociable they become. Even though internet chartrooms provide an almost similar interactive approach towards socialization, it greatly lacks the inter-person connection necessary for persons to acquire the necessary social skills. This can negatively effect on the way the young people socialize with family, relatives, friends, and even strangers in the society. Most societies especially in Africa and Asia advocate for strong interpersonal relations with both family and friends. For this reason, lack of face to face interaction is likely to result in a fair amount of stress on the societies in these parts of the world whose environments are already fragile. A large part of such fragile societies are based on emotional relationship with each other (Wellman, 2002).
The second challenge that is common with these technologies is the loss of own culture. Social integration is always high on the agenda of post war nations. During these post war moments, most these countries usually find themselves not only competing with the existing forces of disintegration but also with the new unanticipated ones. The internet today has brought about the invasion of western culture into the homes of unsuspecting personalities. This is likely to lead to loss of one's culture and the adoption of a foreign one, something that can cause the general public to resist this change. The results of this will in turn lead the youth to develop a feeling of rejection and hence further complicate the already existing social issue of alienation in the society (Wellman, 2002).
Last but not least, the other challenge that is common with technologies such as the internet is the loss of identity. It is important to mention that factors that may lead to alienation and loss of culture are also likely to lead to a loss of identity. National identity plays a very important role in the social integration of a country especially for those that are in post-war period. In such places, the forces such as the internet are likely to erode what has already been achieved unless elaborate measures are put in place to monitor such forces (Wellman, 2002).
The internet has a complex impact on the global politics and at large, democracy and power. Global networks clearly have the ability to alter political scenes together with its actors, processes and tools of governance involved (National Research Council U.S. 2001). More so, they even have the potential to change the character of political conflicts and the actions together with the beliefs that drive these conflicts. The political institutions, actors, and the processes are affected in different measures, thus making the study of these impacts even more interesting.
The global infrastructure create and at the same time also constrain opportunities for policy makers (Berman & Fox, 2003). In response, they usually try to shape the changes to their advantage. The historical and technological starting points in different countries are dissimilar, and for this reason, global infrastructure specifically the internet can without much challenge trigger very different structural change in different countries. Political arena is basically a term used to describe the set of formal and informal institutions that form the framework necessary for policymaking. It creates an environment accessible to both the public and the private actors. It is important to mention that the traditional political arena is the nation state that is vulnerable to the effects of the internet.
The internet is cheap and is global in reach, thus easily brings citizens of many countries into contact with one another. Its management is decentralized and achieving a centralized operational control is essentially impossible. The technical advancements involved make the communication to be carried out in a manner that is more secure, anonymous, and secret than other communication mechanisms that are in existence. From individual and joint point of view, these characteristics of the internet challenge a number of the traditional roles and powers of the nation state. For this reason, it is not wrong to say that the global infrastructure is a medium for and a factor in globalization (Berman & Fox, 2003). It ignites change in the political arena with no doubt.
The internet can also be commended for the role it has played in increasing the level of people's involvement in politics thus showing its potential in making a difference in the political arena (Berman & Fox, 2003). It has largely made it much easier for both the people to become involved in political activity and the government to strengthen the bonds between themselves and those and those they seek to serve. Citizens can get involved without leaving their homes e.g. by simply signing up to an e-petition and accessing their MP's or government websites. People can easily find other people with similar political beliefs and values through the internet, without being constrained by geographical locations. In situations of limited resources necessary for political agendas, the concerned politicians and activists can usually mobilize their members for resources in a manner that would have otherwise been impossible to them.
Through the use of the internet, governments can easily make themselves appear more transparent, and accessible. These qualities are essential in building trust and confidence. The government can do this by placing information about its activities on the internet and making government services and personnel more electronically accessible (Berman & Fox, 2003).
There are those places where a majority of citizens show very little interest politics even with the internet at their disposal. With little interest in matters pertaining to government policy, ministerial or party statements, these people are likely to ignore these matters giving little or even no attention completely. In this way, the internet can give those who are already politically active an avenue to pursue their interests with greater ease and vigor. The internet in this instance will simply empower the minority to become more active and aggressive in politics while instead of making a more active citizenry (Berman & Fox, 2003).
In the 21st century, the internet continues to be very common among households all across the globe. In many parts of America, community information systems have been introduced that, are based in cities and neighborhoods (Wellman, 2002). These systems are text oriented and easily accessible from home. The first of this kind was first introduced in Cleveland twenty five years ago. The free-net offered the community with a platform to discuss and acquaint themselves with information relating to different issues that affect the citizenry on daily basis e.g. health matters, security and religion (Wellman, 2002).
In America, and many other regions that adopted this system, free-nets were very useful in community organizing. They gave the community free and easy access to information and news. They also provided bulletin boards for community for community events by churches and many other interest groups. The cheap and easy entry into the internet enables different communities to use the internet for a number of purposes that can positively impact on the people. It has made it quite easy to create political groupings and arenas that have managed to successfully champion different several movements. To succeed in pushing for any agenda, these interest groups are created along substantive instead of geographical lines (Wellman, 2002).
As a result of globalization, we can no longer claim to be independent, isolated and unaffected by the actions of others who we may relate to directly or indirectly. Our societies are increasingly becoming interconnected and interdependent and we have no control over this. Ones actions now impact on another's on the global scale with far reaching consequences. The global infrastructure e.g. the internet is one of the phenomena which exhibit the elements of globalization. This global infrastructure is one phenomenon that nation states have no absolute control over since they invade the countries' infrastructure systems and slowly weaken the sovereign control of information flow and collective actions among citizens.
The global infrastructural adjustments have a direct impact on the social, cultural and political systems of nation states and the various societies that exist within it. The social challenges common with technologies such as the internet are alienation, the loss of culture and loss of identity. The internet can be commended for the role it has played in increasing the level of people's involvement in politics thus showing its potential in making a difference in the political arena. It has enabled us to be able to accomplish a lot of things from the comfort of our own homes; paying bills, grocery shopping, research, and communication with people in different geographical locations. It has made communication fast. It continues to be part of our lives that a majority of people cannot do without.