The web (and web multimedia) became commonly used in the early to mid 1990s (in countries with decent communications infrastructures), nearly three decades after the birth of the Internet, largely for viewing text and light graphics due to connection speeds being far removed from what they are today. From my own personal experience, a 14,400 bps modem connection then was considered acceptable. This was the start of web and web multimedia use for despite being restricted in speed and browser capability, the sharing of information by these means already had tech-savvy people captivated and some more forward thinking businesses were beginning to take interest. Of course, during these times the number of commercial web applications was limited due to the low number of proven/profitable people who could afford expensive connections (pay per minute), equipment and expertise. Therefore its use remained basic until cheaper and faster bandwidth emerged in the mid to late 1990s, when major changes in users’ collective and individual behaviour began to change as Engholm (2007) noted that “web design is a field in rapid development, which has developed, in just a few years, from a primitive text-based tool into a sophisticated design medium”. Changes have developed from the subtle influence of a new means of communication (e.g. emails replacing paper) to a profound collective social interaction in many cases (e.g. facebook) on a global basis.
Much in the same way that human behaviour developed culture in the world before the web (e.g. fashion, language, humour, belonging, etc.), web cultures developed from simplistic cultures such as early netiquette to life consuming, for some, multimedia experiences like Second Life where users can experience a total submersion into a separate web multimedia existence and find those like-minded globally to form groups. The impact of web and web multimedia that it now crosses what would have been seen as national cultures to impart its own effect and in turn give birth to web cultures which form a global part of one’s national or environmental culture. Something no other system has been able to transcend. Ribière et al (2010) found that “cultural differences between countries are becoming lower and lower, at least for the Millennial generation”, which, being in the education arena with over 90 nationalities, is certainly echoed in my own personal experience.
I find that the evidence of the development of web and web multimedia based sub-culture is well demonstrated when my graduate students, eighty percent of whom come from countries with open web regimes (i.e. their home governments allow almost free access to everything on the web), go to work in some of the largest emerging economies (e.g. China) where this freedom is removed. It often results in students emerging feeling that their personal culture has been attacked and that their rights have been abused. Not something my generation would claim.
Engholm, I (2007), ‘DESIGN HISTORY OF THE WWW.: WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF GENRE AND STYLE THEORY’, Artifact: Journal of Visual Design, 1, 4, pp. 217-231, Art & Architecture Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 6 February 2011.
Ribière, V, Haddad, M & Wiele, P (2010), ‘The impact of national culture traits on the usage of web 2.0 technologies’, VINE, Vol. 40 Iss: 3/4, pp.334 – 361, EBSCOhost, viewed 6 February 2011.