The Conceptual Access-Network Thesis: Theorizing the Success of New Internet-Based Products, Services, & Technologies

By La Shun L. Carroll
2017, Vol. 9 No. 03 | pg. 2/2 |

Distortion of the Intimate Stranger Phenomenon

An example of technology currently establishing itself is virtual reality (VR). VR was pioneered in the 1960s by Morton Heilig's work on the Head Mounted Display (HMD) device (Burdea and Coiffet, 2003) and is quickly becoming a mainstream technology. Although it is mainly found in the gaming world at the time of this writing, virtual reality devices and technology will eventually be used to allow for a full range of personal social interactive experiences via the internet that are reminiscent of the Sensorama Simulator of Heilig (1960), which provided users with sensory stimuli that immersed them in the experience. When coupled with the surge in availability of personal genomics products and services that use next generation sequencing to code individual genomic data, eventually both virtual reality and personal genomic information will fuse into new Internet-based intimate social experience services and products that can provide an extremely nuanced virtual social experience that will be based on information contained within the genetic data.

The first concept that might result from the fusion and widespread availability and access to a network of personal information without or before the personal is a distortion of the familiar or intimate stranger phenomenon (Milgram Blass, 1977). Interestingly, Dr. Milgram is known for his social research and small world experiment that investigated the connectedness of social networks giving rise to what is commonly referred to as the six degrees of separation theory (Milgram, 1967). In other words, relying on the foundation of the Conceptual Access-Network Thesis, efforts to predict the future of Internet-based products and services for 2017 and beyond sparked the idea of a warped intimate stranger phenomenon, which led to Milgram's original work in 1967 nearly fifty years ago. Moreover, Milgram's work preceded the first use in 1969 of the internet's precursor ARPANET for computer-to-computer communication by two years (Volti, 2009).

A Reversal of Ordering

The reversal of ordering at the center of the distorted intimate stranger phenomenon results from the familiarity of gaining initial exposure to one's personal genomic data before ever meeting or getting to know them. An unintentional consequence of such a reversal is that, by first having the opportunity to know the most personal information of another that normally requires many years of relationship, people will subconsciously associate having this intimate information with knowing another very well without necessarily knowing anything of substance at all. As far as this is concerned, it does have the potential to ease the process of establishing new relationships since the awkwardness of knowing nothing about someone the first time they meet is alleviated. Nevertheless, it may backfire instead by supporting ignorance and misinterpretation when used to justify social rejection.

While it is not my intention to portray a bleak future regarding the development of new Internet-based products and services, but I argue that the evolution of products, services, and technology according to the access-network thesis will become problematic socially at first, then professionally soon after that. The lines between personal, social, and professional will become much more blurred than they currently are with nepotism being supplanted by discrimination (or favoritism) based on genetic information. People may ultimately use personal information as the basis for the social rejection of another, or cost another their professional livelihood. Such blurring as an unfortunate consequence of this hypothetical scenario could exacerbate extant social injustices with which society already deals and motivate the occurrence of others. The usage of Internet-based products and services with malice could easily trigger the desire for retribution in the slighted who would then feel justified in committing mass murder in a former workplace, or otherwise targeting people whom they believe are responsible. As unsavory as this scenario may be, it would not be possible without having access to information and people, or the existence of connections through a network of Internet-based information services and individuals, which is in alignment with the Conceptual Access-Network Thesis.


Although it may be argued that satisfying consumer needs play a major role in the development or success of new Internet-based products and services, I argue that the development or success of any new Internet-based product, service, or technology is really contingent upon how well it satisfies the criterion of providing access to or creating a network of, potential users, products, and services, which the I propose as The Conceptual Access-Network Thesis. The original concept of tying together computers by DARPA relied on two notions to achieve this end: access and network. Although there have been periods of change throughout the development into its current form, every Internet-based product or service that has existed has been grounded in the ideas captured in words such as access, system, group, and connection. While the products that resulted from the changes have not always been improvements, the process of change through which the internet and all things go should be viewed as good regardless of the outcome.

It is the opportunity to improve that the process of change affords us to which we should attribute the qualitative characteristic of good, as there would otherwise be no way of accurately assessing the status of outcomes, determining their context, or deciding that the process of change may be warranted. Outcomes as products and services that are internet-based subsequent to an instituted process of change driven either allow for previous conditions to be fully appreciated for how great they were, which acts as a social force to drive reversion to the former state at worst, or compel society to surpass the previous state of affairs by distancing itself at best because the conditions were much worse than originally thought. In the latter case, it is only through change that previous conditions may be appreciated because accurate assessment cannot be accomplished while entrenched firmly within a situation regardless of whether it is good or not. With respect to the continual process of change and context, it is ultimately through each that the other may be achieved and appreciated; in contrast to the process of change and context, however, whatever conditions in which society and technology find themselves, stagnancy will always be unfavorable as opportunities for improvement can never exist. As it specifically relates to internet products and services as a whole according to the Conceptual Access-Network Thesis, what would the core notions of access and network be about if not opportunities to improve? Given the fact that the internet provides the opportunity for improvement, as is the case for the process of change, regardless of the products that result, the internet will always be good.


"Access | Definition of Access by Merriam-Webster." Last modified 2016.

Burdea, G, & Coiffet, P 2003, 'CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION',Virtual Reality Technology, pp. 1-15, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 20 January 2017.

Golding, Paul.Connected Services: A Guide to the Internet Technologies Shaping the Future of Mobile Services and Operators. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley, 2011.

Kurzweil, R. "The accelerating power of technology." PowerPoint Presentation and Ted Talk Transcript, November 2006.

Milgram, S., and T. Blass.The Individual in a Social World: Essays and Experiments, 3rded. NY: Pinter & Martin, Ltd., 2010.

Milgram, Stanley. "The small-world problem."Psychology Today1, no. 1 (1967), 60-67. doi:10.1037/e400002009-005.

"Network | Definition of Network by Merriam-Webster." Last modified 2016.

Volti, R.Society and technological change, 7thed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2009. Kindle 6 Version.

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