How Has The Advent Of Computer Based Techniques Changed The Character Of Social Research?


Research and general observation gives us the notion that, in current times, technology shapes society. This would be a strong point to make and therefore there needs to be some determination behind this point. To the point, technology does not just involve computers, but by a general outlook on society, technology is usually interpreted by computers. Has technology always shaped society? Is technology something we create and evolve to simply make life easier for ourselves? Is there or will there be any escape from this environment or is this now the way of living? This documentation is to address the point on whether social research, due to the spread of technology all around us, has been affected by current computer based techniques. It is to address the way that our lives are, in ways, dependent on computers so that we can reach a conclusion as to the kind of questions that are being asked now.


One thing that can be looked at is the perspective of how we are living now in comparison to those times we lived in without computers. Can we imagine a world without cars and planes - transport that gives us an insight to other people’s lives? Can we imagine a world without TV and radio – exposure to current goings on in your own home? These kind of things are no longer luxuries but to a large portion of the population a way of life.


With the introduction of computers into the home they were still acknowledged as being a device for work or the odd computer game. So what was it that played the affective role on people’s lives? From previous inventions such as the car, the TV or the telephone they opened up the world to people in a way that made things a lot easier. It was communication and information that opened up barriers from these commodities. It was not until computers were introduced that people were then allowed access to the internet. This global infrastructure has allowed person A from point A to send movies, text and sound files to person B in point B in a matter of seconds. Therefore we are expanding the kinds of things people can use to share and communicate with.


One of the major social changes that have occurred with this advent is the “ageist” form of technological separation that has been introduced. This may consist of the older generation, being more acquainted with older technologies, find it difficult to learn and apprehend the new technologies such as Email and the Internet. Whereas the younger generation, i.e. those brought into this generation, and teenagers & young people more acquainted with modern technology, find it easier to tend to a computer than those of the older generation that still think a digital watch is a pretty smart idea. As John Perry Barlow points out, “You are terrified of your own children since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants”.


Research on the up rise of computer technology with the younger generation shows clearly the effect in these statistics from John Suler, PhD. Current estimates indicate that 149 million people are online worldwide, and that number is increasing at the rate of 12% a month (Suler, 1996, 1999b). According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, 22.2% of the 76 million American computer users aged 3 and above use the Internet, and one fifth of children with home computers use them to access the Internet (U.S. Census Bureau, 1997). It was also reported that 55 million enrolled children used a computer at school, and school was the most common place for children to access the Internet. So to this we can conclude that children of today are perhaps more associated with computers, or that it is just a part of their lives?


The above chart shows that more children have been using more computers over a period of 14 years, as according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It also shows that significantly more children use computers than adults, which is strange considering adults use computers in their professions in daily lives. This then shows that research made tells us that more people have