A MAJOR SOCIETAL SHIFT has occurred with the way we touch the internet and how we access social networks. By the time my newest students in LIT-Clonmel complete their third level degrees. the number of mobile internet users will surpass the number of users browsing the internet via a desktop computer. That's the conclusion of Professor Manual Castells. He is a former adviser to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and member of technology panels on the United Nations.
Professor Castells told a conference on web science at the Royal Society in England this week that the internet is a "key technology of freedom" for those able to access it, predicting that the planet will achieve "quasi-universal coverage of internet access as my generation fades away". In that time, he said, a "major disparity in the quality of connection around the world is a major issue of policy" for governments to tackle.
Conversations I've had in Google-Ireland echo Castells conclusions. John Herlihy, head of global advertising operations at Google, has told visitors to Google-Ireland that "desktops will be irrelevant". Things like the smartphones at left will replace desktops as the major access point to the internet.
The Guardian reported on Castells' remarks about the role of online social networking alongside movements away from the desktop.
"Increasing sociability, increasing happiness, an increasing feeling of being autonomous – all this relates to use of internet. The most important thing in this is that it's not anonymous – this is real people doing real things, sharing things. They're not just friends, they're contacts also. They're doing things together, they're not just chatting.
"Social networks are living spaces. People share with limited emotional effort. This is a constantly networked world that evolves with human experience, and individuals choose the terms of their co-evolution. Entrepreneurs build these sites, not corporations. The important thing is that even if people go into these sites, they can't do whatever they want. People will create another and take all their friends with them. The entry barriers are so low, the capital [outlay is] almost nothing, and [the barriers to entry are] so diffused."