In some ways, Internet communication is no different than any other medium.  Most, if not all, of the traditional communication rules (models, etc) are applicable to web communication.  For example, institutional and wealthy voices still have more command over the “marketplace of ideas,” even in cyberspace.  Further, economic modeling of online consumer behavior translates to the internet with relative ease: see “Piracy of Digital Products: A Critical Review of the Theoretical Literature” by (Martin Peitz, which is an aggrigation of digital piracy models almost entirely carried over from pre-internet consumer behavior theory. (

Yet perhaps there is room for serious academic inquiry into how the internet might challenge select long-held assumptions in classic communication fields.  Here is a list, mostly picked out of ideas and discussions from my other classes, of potential nuances and caveats to Internet communication:

Brandenburg v Ohio – The difference between burning a cross in cornfield and a backyard was the immediacy and directness of the personal threat [395 US 444: incitement to imminent lawless action test]
.  But as the Quran burning incident demonstrated, the equivalent of a corn field (wherever Florida) is as immediate an influence as a backyard.  Social media extends the reach of an event’s potential influence – such that a relatively small-time fringe group in the United States could cause riots in Saudi Arabia. 
[SEE ALSO: R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, MN (1992), striking down Minnesota's "hate speech" law: Justice Stevens concurring, "I belive our decisions establish a more complex and subtle analysis, one that considers the contnet and context of the regulated speech, and the nature and scope of the restriction on speech."]

Communication models like SMCR and encoder-decoder assume that messages are sent by a predetermined and definite speaker and listener (sender and receiver, encoder and decoder).  Forum-style social media like blogs or twitter present the opportunity for every person to be a content producer.  But does that empowerment result in a loss of integrity in the communication cycle, such that online participants all see themselves as speakers and no one as listeners?

Does the internet present a more neutral semiotic landscape, where cultural boundaries, language barriers, and traditional ideological or political language codes are less pronounced?  Could a common internet culture, though seemingly less sophisticated, facilitate a common openness and fluidness?

Public Sphere:
The Internet is no different from other media in that institutional and wealth speakers dominate the “marketplace of ideas” as it were.  However, perhaps a public sphere expressed through a sophisticated personalized web-based mass communication system will lend itself to a political economy in which individuals perceive themselves as empowered political participants, if only because they have a venue for voicing their ideas?

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