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Online and Offline Spaces Are Mutually Constitutive Essay

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Updated: Feb 14th, 2022

Throughout the development path, humanity has sought to contribute to the improvement of its life. In the 21st century, information technology continues to actively develop. The information space includes computer networks, the Internet, in which a large amount of information is constantly circulating. The role of the Internet in the life of modern society is enormous. The Internet has not only a positive but also a negative impact on the formation of personality and relationships between people. This problem is highly relevant and the subject of numerous discussions. Recent decades in the global economy have been characterized by a change in industrial society to a postindustrial one, which marks a transition to a new type of economic system. One of the most important features of the latter is the informatization of society and the increasing role of innovation, and therefore, one cannot avoid the discussions on the importance of the Internet in the modern world.

Previously, the goal of the Internet was to work with data, now anyone can find various types of information on it in a short time, without wasting their resources. On the Internet, one can find out the latest news faster than using television. Most people do their work, which is directly connected to the Internet. Today, managing an enterprise without the World Wide Web is unimaginable. The global network has firmly entered the spheres of economics and national economy: industry, management, banking, trade, business. The widespread global network has played a huge role in the development of the labor market. A huge number of different services make life easier. Social network sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, allow a person to freely interact with people, share information, spend leisure time, and realize their potential. In addition, on the Internet, it is possible to make various purchases, paying with electronic money. Therefore, both online and offline spaces are mutually constitutive, where one is built on another.

Technology

Hardware

The overall emergence of the concept of online space is heavily reliant on the implementation of hardware and the active use of technology, such as smartphones and personal computers. The increase in popularity of such devices in the offline space facilitates the growth of the online space, where there is an observable shift from the former to the latter. The availability of technological devices, such as PCs and mobile phones, drastically increased since the last years of the 20th century. Before this period, the main source of entertainment and information was television, which was constrained to predetermined content, and users had no significant influence on the creators of the shows and channels. However, the internet brought a better alternative to TV by allowing the users to generate content themselves and interacts with each other. It is stated that the Internet has become an active component of a person’s lifestyle, where he or she uses it to go online, search for information, or purchase a product (Kraut et al., 2006). The overall societal impact of PCs and phones is manifested in the popularization of internet usage because mobile phones can be carried around and accessed when needed. Personal computers widely expand the functional aspect of internet use, where a person can create content by downloading the necessary tools. Therefore, phones and PCs serve as a doorway from the offline space to online space, which can be mutually constitutive due to such devices.

Software

Although hardware plays an essential role in acting as a basis for the mutual coexistence of online and offline spaces, the primary action catalyzer is software. The diversity and prevalence of various apps and programs allow people to significantly expand the applicability of devices. The immense use of software can be seen practically in every sphere of human life, such as education, relationships, business, and politics. One of the most critical elements of the software are apps, which are integrated into all aspects of people’s lives. Online space consisting of applications directly affects the offline space, because these tools can assist users with their daily tasks. For example, apps in health and fitness, such as LoseIt!, allow people to track their calorie consumption in order to lose excessive weight (Morris & Murray, 2018). This is an outstanding demonstration of how the online space and offline space can be mutually constitutive. A person solely constrained to the offline space might require the help of a personal dietitian in order to learn the specifics of each food type and the number of calories contained within each meal. However, with the help of such applications, one can be a part of a community and improve his or her state of health and well-being. Therefore, the software is a major enabler of the multi-functionality of the devices, where it directly impacts the offline space.

Sociality

Social Media

One of the major influences on the offline space is made by social media. The latter tunes in highly intricate and important aspects of human life, which is relationships. It is evident that the most popular applications and the largest internet-related companies, such as Facebook, are social media platforms. Social networks today are one of the most popular ways of entertainment and communication, and they are fast, convenient, and easy to use. A person can correspond, talk, and even see his or her interlocutor. Social networks are available to everyone at any time of the day, and for this, only a computer and an Internet connection are needed. For the first time, a social network appeared in the form of e-mail, communicating between people, and this is the first method of communication through computer networks (Kraut et al., 2006). This inevitably manifests in the online space being a reflection of the offline aspect of social interactions.

Social media extends the need to communicate by providing a number of specific characteristics that are in tune with people’s offline space. It is important for a social media platform to have a uniquely identifiable profile, which represents individuality in real life (Quinn & Papacharissi, 2014). In addition, the platform allows people to publically show the level of connectedness to others, which can also be observed in the offline space. A user can also both consume and create the content by expressing his or her ideas, which is one of the key aspects of offline interaction. Therefore, this form of online space greatly extends one’s ability to communicate with other parties and express his or her public life.

Self-Presentation

The online space’s growth is tied to the offline space due to the concept of self-presentation. An internet user demonstrates himself or herself to a varying degree by simply being present in a platform. However, it is important to understand that this presence of personal and public aspects of online space is mutually constitutive with offline space’s structure (Chambers, 2013). In non-virtual life, an individual always possesses these two elements of his or her existence, such as the personal and public aspects (Baym & Boyd, 2012). The former aspect can be seen in families and friendships, and the latter aspect in interactions occurring outside the close circle of friends and family members. In addition, online actions of the users can directly affect their behavior in offline space, which means that they are interconnected (Althoff et al., 2017). In other words, a person can lose his or her motivation to perform a certain task due to the perceived signal from the internet.

The eagerness to divide the communication pattern into two critical elements is manifested in the notion of self-presentation. However, social media extends to the overall concept, where people can be present themselves either according to the situation or as an exhibition (Hogan, 2010). This can also be observed in the offline space, where an individual might act in order to operate within the given situation or demonstrates something. The exhibition of one’s internal framework is deeply ingrained in the idea of an imagined audience, which is the term used for people’s perception of the public during the interaction. Individuals do not communicate with their audience by objectively understanding their needs and interests, but rather possess a perception of the other party. This heavily influences the communicator’s behavior, which is displayed to the actual audience (Litt, 2012). This intricacy of communication can be observed in the online space, which manifests itself to a greater extend. Social media allows people to interact with a significantly larger audience. In addition, the receiving party can lack strong ties to the communicator, where they are simply in a profile-follower relationship. Therefore, the level of distorted perception of the imagined audience is greater in the online space than in offline space. However, the given concept is present in both of these spaces, which makes them mutually constitutive.

Publicness

Social media in both online and offline spaces is critical in understanding the overall concept of publicness on the internet. Public interaction style is undergoing significant changes, where people are transitioning from offline communication to the online one. The case of Japan is an outstanding demonstration, where the nation’s cultural context and vertical power hierarchy in the offline space highly facilitate the shift towards online space (Ito, 2005). The main reason is the fact that social network sites are not as solid as the real-life interactions. In addition, the unique feature of the internet is its universal presence, which does not isolate an individual or group due to geographical position and national barriers. Therefore, the cultural context plays a lesser role in the online space, which is the reason for people actively preferring it to the offline space. This lack of established culture-based communication norms and openness of interaction acts as an enabler of the free exchange of ideas. However, it is important to note that groups can still segregate themselves based on age, nationality, or sexual orientation within social network sites (Boyd & Ellison, 2008). In other words, social media offers a wider range of options for its users, which means that the online space and offline space are mutually constitutive because the former is an extension of the latter.

Time and Space

The online and offline space are mutually constitutive due to the manifestations of real-life space and time on the internet. The merging of public life and the Internet takes place at all levels of society, such as cultural, social, economic, and philosophical. On the one hand, the Internet is becoming a form of mirror of reflection of human thought at a certain stage of its development. On the other hand, the Internet not only passively takes over everything that is created by a person, in reality, it actively shapes human consciousness, erasing previously existing boundaries, melting existing principles and norms. The Internet is the key component of the modern lifestyle, and it represent the final form of postmodernism. Therefore, any phenomena occurring on the Internet, one can consider as a result of the impact of the post-modern lifestyle and thoughts. The influence of postmodernism is most clearly seen in the chronotope of virtual space.

The space-time continuum, or chronotope, of virtual communication, exists within the framework of the hypertext organization of the Internet environment. Multiple correlating relationships do not exist in a linearly ordered form but a chaotically confused manner. Each user generates their own content based on existing hyperlinks with the ability to add content. Thus, each user turns uncontrolled chaos into an ordered whole, depending on their own interests and inclinations. This whole exists only for a specific user as a way of perceiving information relevant here and now, but in the future, it does not matter for other users in general and this user in particular. In this way, the individual need is satisfied with obtaining information that is not imposed by prevailing opinions, traditions, and attitudes.

Time and space in the linear perception people are accustomed to do not have the necessary potential for the implementation of a rhythm, which requires a chaotic-differentiated approach to the information provided. The absence of a specific reference point, designated in reality as the present, violates the entire sequence of temporal relations. Information ceases to be fresh and outdated, and it becomes relevant and irrelevant. Relevant information does not correlate with time frames because it exists here and now, being an organic part of the text that the user builds (Tsatsou, 2009). A similar situation occurs with spatial relationships since any information cannot be accessible or inaccessible due to the remoteness in space since any knowledge on the Internet is distant from the user by the distance of the hyperlink. Regardless of the geographical location of the Earth, this information was provided on the Internet, and any user can get it here and now.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the offline and online spaces are mutually constitutive because of the latter of the manifestation or extension of the former. Technology both acts as a doorway and increase the range of activities, which can be performed in the online space. The social aspect is one of the most important ones because it is directly translated from the offline space. Social media platforms allow people to communicate with others without engaging in real-life interaction. This translated to the notion of self-presentation and imagined audience, which is also present in the offline space. Public interactions are shifting from the offline space to online space due to the lack of established norms, which are still present in the latter to a lesser extent. Lastly, this mutually constitutive relationship influences the perception of time and space on the internet, where past, present, future exist in parallel and not linear form. The online space adopts both distance and time from the offline space and transforms them into relevant or irrelevant forms.

References

Althoff, T., Jindal, P., & Leskovec, J. (2017). Online actions with offline impact: How online social networks influence online and offline user behavior. Proceedings of the Tenth ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining, 537–546.

Baym, N. K., & Boyd, D. (2012). Socially mediated publicness: An introduction. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(3), 320–329.

Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 210–230.

Chambers, D. (2013). Social media and personal relationships. Palgrave Macmillan.

Hogan, B. (2010). The presentation of self in the age of social media: Distinguishing performances and exhibitions online. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 30(6), 377–386.

Ito, M. (2005). Mobile phones, Japanese youth, and the re-placement of social contact. In R. Ling & Per E. Pederson (Eds.), Mobile communications: Re-negotiation of the social sphere (pp. 131–146). Springer.

Kraut, R., Brynin, M., & Kiesler, S. (2006). PCs, phones, and the internet: Social impact of information technology. Oxford University Press.

Litt, E. (2012). Knock, knock. Who’s there? The imagined audience. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(3), 330–345.

Morris, J. W., & Murray, S. (2018). Appified: Culture in the age of apps. University of Michigan Press.

Quinn, K. & Papacharissi, Z. (2014). The place where our social networks reside: Social media and sociality. In M.B. Oliver & A. A. Raney (Eds.), Media and social life (pp. 159-207). Routledge.

Tsatsou, P. (2009). Reconceptualising ‘time’ and ‘space’ in the era of electronic media and communications. Journal of Media and Communication, 1, 11–32.

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