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Internet Agency

The Internet allows people and computers to change content. First articulated by Alison Clark and Roy Lipski for the CIPR/PRCA Internet Commission in 1999, the concept of Internet Agency posits that a message (and, in this context, a message can be words, pictures, video, voice and even a computer programme) can be changed by people and technologies and in this process acts as an agent.

Internet Agency offers a unique concept of Transparency. There are so many examples that it is difficult to imagine where to start. Typical examples are where technologies provide a different context.

For example, a lot of web sites are designed with a landing page. It is like the front cover of a newspaper, magazine or book. From it there is an assumption that people can navigate to the content that they need. But many web sited have hundreds (some thousands) of pages and it would take a long time to navigate to the one single page the user seeks. For many the solution is to provide 'flow' (see Hoffman and Novak) but in many cases people search beyond this context and, using a range of tools go to the page they want.

An example is when directed to a page or post using search engines and hyperlinks from other web sites, blogs, wikis and other media. In these circumstances the origination and direction can be from a context that is either created by another author of a search engine listing. Internet agency creates these contexts.

‘Agency’ is the process of transformation of a message as it is passed from one person to another, and acts through the application to the original data of new context and understanding (including text sounds and visual images). Agency is of itself neither benign or malicious.

Internet agency, where a message or story is changes as it progresses through cyberspace is commonplace.

It is quite common to see blog posts that re-interpret content of another author which is human Internet Agency.

Technology driven Internet agency is both powerful and one of the fastest growing areas of Internet development. Being able to identify information in real time and mix and match it with other information from one or many other sources to create new information or new insights (called 'Mashup') is a very powerful capability. For example, it may be that information about an organisations' stock market listing is allied to information about the number of web page views, blog posts and press releases issued by a company. Only the press release information comes from the company but all of these components can be presented as insights into the activities of the company on a single web page, created by the users web browser and in real time. Add to this a capability to include calculations in the background and new and powerful insights are possible.

There are thousands of "Web Widgets" available to organisations and the public alike. They frequently 'scrape' information, the rich content made available through corporate transparency, from web sites and present it in a new and different format.

Google maps, for example are made available in web pages, blog posts and even email using Google's web gadget.

There is a significant issue here for the Public Relations practitioner. Information out of context can and will be interpreted in new ways, the well crafted content can be juxtaposed with content than changes the sense of what is intended. This means that there is a need to be able to manage such events as part of online practice.

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Page last modified on July 04, 2007, at 05:45 UTC