URBAN, MIDDLE-CLASS TEENAGERS, IN THE DECADE OF THE ‘DOT’.


INTRODUCTION-


Welcome to the decade of the dot. That tiny bit of Internet grammar whose ubiquity in e-mail addresses and web URLs so neatly captures the giddying impact of technology on our lives at the century’s launch.


Ten years ago, the Internet was little more than a cyberspace wilderness traversed by nerds, while the Web was an obscure tool unknown to all but a handful of researchers. Today, the Internet is a more potent medium than television, and the Web is reinventing one new industry after another.


SCOPE-


Communication media are pervasive features of modern everyday life. Now, the rise of new media, spearheaded by the Internet, is beginning to contribute significantly to the complexities of these channels of communication in an already uncertain world. During the course of this project, an extensive research shall be conducted to analyse the functionality of the Internet in the lives of middle-class teenagers in India today; and the effects that it has had in moulding the course their life has taken. Modernization today means that teenagers are faced with unprecedented levels of openness in their daily lives. In contexts in which information is coming form a diversity of sources, adolescents have to make sense of such information and use it to choose among alternative courses of action.


However, it must be borne in mind, that the Internet as a developing medium of communication, has a very broad significance, even if one were to delimit one’s area of research to the use of Internet among the teenagers of India today, it would take more than twenty-pages to give a complete picture. Therefore, this research will be confined primarily to dealing with the Internet as a forum for cultural transmission in relation to the teenagers nowadays. The other aspects will be glanced through, however.


Cultural transmission refers to the way in which the Internet is making possible new ways of using and articulating information in the sense that it is facilitating the reorganization of social relations. David Porter, an eminent social scientist observed that the culture that the Internet embodies is “a product of the peculiar conditions of virtual acquaintance that prevail online, a collective adaptation to the high frequency of anonymous, experimental and even fleeting encounters…..The majority of one’s correspondence in cyberspace, after all, have no body, no faces, no histories beyond what they may choose to reveal.” During the course of this project, the modes and areas of cultural transmission that teenagers find access to will be covered; the most important of them being Internet Relay Chat (IRC). With reference to this, one can throw light on the concept of virtualization of community, as is upcoming in cyberspace today. The concept of a community in the cyberworld refers to a team of individuals(in this case, teenagers) within a modern organization, who rarely meet face to face but who are successfully engaged in online collaborative work. Deconstruction of social boundaries on IRC occurs on two levels, which shall be discussed in the project. Broadly, they are that :-


i) interaction on IRC is carried out on the knowledge that users are on a rough equality, according to conventional economic measures; and that they are members of similarly privileged social groups.


ii) users can experiment with crossing the boundaries of gender-specific social roles. Teenagers sometimes provide overly attractive descriptions of themselves to others online. The attitudes teenagers take regarding these problems range from full-blown hostility to viewing it as part of the game. Also, IRC not only allows boundaries to be crossed, it ‘encourages disinhibition’, because it ‘obscures the boundaries that would generally separate acceptable and unacceptable forms of behaviour’.


Having been forced by IRC to deconstruct the more traditional methods for sustaining community, users of IRC must develop alternative or parallel methods. Personal integrity and sincerity are the key concepts on which the Internet community is formed.


RELEVANCE-


The Internet is a more compelling medium of communication today than most other media. Once connected to the Internet, the computer enables the teenager to take advantage of all the myriad communication outlets available. The Internet opens up a whole new world of experiences and explorations to the teenagers. It is an unparalleled forum of knowledge, entertainment, and, to put it more succinctly- info-tainment. This topic is relevant because