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6.3: Technically Speaking - Professional discourse and privacy online

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    The rapid rise of the Internet, with the new communication possibilities it enables, has wrought changes in how professional communication and business interactions occur. The ubiquitous availability of free or low-cost communication through the internet has in some areas leveled the playing field among competing businesses. It has also changed dramatically some branches of business and commerce. Physical music stores have gone out of business through the competition in price, selection, and convenience of digital music. A similar process is playing out with movies. Amazon has put many book stores out of business. The internet has also allowed all kinds of businesses to outsource their labor pool or their customer relations. The Internet changes not only how products and services are sold and provided, it also radically changes how companies communicate with their customers. The affordances of the Internet have led to the expectation of greater transparency on the part of companies. It also leads to the need for fast responses to developing situations. Bad reviews or negative news stories can spread rapidly, leading to the need for companies to keep tabs on social media and popular web sites, in order to have a rapid response to counteract bad publicity. Companies routinely have a presence on the web and in social media, in order to provide information, build customer relations, and provide a channel for their own take on reports and stories.

    The important role that digital communications plays today in all branches of business and other professions has led to new job and advancement opportunities for those skilled in social media and online communication. It has also led to changes in the nature of business communication. Both internal and external communication is now done digitally. This change in communication mode has brought about a change in communication style. Communications on the internet tend to be more informal and unstructured than is the case with traditional business communications such as an exchange of letters. The dominant style on the internet is closer to the nature of oral rather than written communication. That style invites greater informality, along with a greater degree of freedom of expression. In some cultures, this might not signal a significant change, but it can mean a quite different dynamic in countries where communication tends to be more stylized and formal, with well-entrenched rules or traditions for personal and business interactions. Communication on the internet brings with it a sense of anonymity which tends to equalize social status. Junior executives may feel empowered through internet communications to bypass traditional approaches or barriers to communication with higher-ups. In some cases this could lead to a change not only in communication but also in corporate culture. In places like India the Internet may become a kind of equalizer since it is hard to assess a person’s status, rank, credibility, or caste membership online.

    Just as the internet has made public much of what happens in corporations, it has done the same for individuals, namely making much of what happens in our lives knowable by anyone with internet access. This lack of privacy has become a serious issue in many parts of the world, in some countries more than in others. In has been a big concern in many European countries. There is an EU regulation that Europeans have the "right to be forgotten" on the Internet. This provides the opportunity for citizens to submit requests to operators of search engines (principally Google) to have items removed from searches. There is a similar regulation in Argentina. Many people are likely to have a lot of personal information show up in internet searches. That can come from a variety of sources, such as posts on social media, photos submitted to sharing sites, official transactions such as court proceedings or real estate transactions, reports on participation in clubs, sports or other free time activities, written assignments from school or university classes, etc. In some cases one would likely prefer to have some of that information not shared, especially in cases where we do not appear in the most flattering light. Employers are now often conducting a Google search on job applicants, so that internet rants or naked pics might prove problematic. It's good to be aware of the fact that your identity in today's world is increasingly being created by your online activities.

    This page titled 6.3: Technically Speaking - Professional discourse and privacy online is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert Godwin-Jones.

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