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February 28, 2007

Carriage, Horse, and the Great Divide

In looking at the PIP reports included in the readings, I found little of the information surprising. I suppose as a well-acquainted user of the parallel universe we call the web, I am aware of its myriad of uses and ability to save (or just as often, waste) my time. In the Internet Penetration report it says: In all four categories (health information, job, hobbies and shopping), the internet earns the highest marks among the most frequent users. This statement seems like an obvious observation. It's sort of like saying those who walk around the city more find more convenient routes while those who stay in their house remain skeptical of these so-called "short-cuts." Sarcasm aside though, this observation says something about the increasing regularity of being connected. As the technology of the internet grows and changes, those with only casual access will fall further and further behind and thereby further and further alienate themselves from our fastest-growing technology. This trend will definitely expand the divide between the cyber-literate and non further than ever before, making reports like those we read this week valuable.
However, in the same article (Internet Penetration) I found something disturbing about the methodology. The data was gathered using phone surveys, leaving out a segment of the population from their sample. Whether we can believe it or not, there are people who do not, or cannot, have regular phone access. Financial burdens, as well as a high rate of address change, keep many people out of the reach of phone surveys. For this reason, I feel the optimistic "Look how everyone's coming around on this internet thing!" tone of the Internet Penetration report to be a bit under-supported and at least partially unrepresentative of reality.
I would feel like some kind of Big Brother disciple if I were to assert that every adult should have access to the internet and cyber-literacy. For a variety of reasons, there are people who simply do not feel the need to be connected. And in a time when American culture is exported like a cash crop, it is important to remember the dangers of an ethnocentric view of these issues. Surely it is becoming more and more necessary in mainstream American culture to have a good understanding and adequate ability to harness the potential of electronic communication. However, be it due to personal values or simple disinterest, there will always be people opposed to adopting its use. In the PIP report, The Ever-Shifting Internet Population, it says "more than half of non-Internet users – 56% of them – say they probably or definitely will not ever go online," and in light of this, a goal of having every adult online not only seems impractical but autocratic.
For the reasons listed above, I do support implementation of the internet into elementary and secondary educational settings. For the young generations today, the internet is something that will pervade much of their personal of professional lives. I use the word pervade intentionally as it seems, for better or worse, the internet is expanding and slowing replacing real-world establishments at a rate so quick, it would be inaccurate to say we're implementing it. More accurately, it feels as though we're the ones being implemented.
For this reason, I see the validity in the pure intentions of OLPC but have definite qualms with it as well. The goal of encouraging independent thinking and an understanding of technologies is surely a grand one and I don't doubt OLPC's good intentions. However, when many of these children suffer from malnutrition and live in a culture where even their elders have little use for, or to be gained from, such technology, such an implementation seems presumptuous.

The good kind of users!

The internet is becoming more and more accessible. People from the older generations are making use of the internet more and more. My wife's grandparents are a testament to this. Her grandmother that lives in Illinois has learned to email. She seems to like emailing her grandkids more than writing letters because her grandkids are more likely to write back when she emails. All her grandkids are spread out across the country so emailing is a great way for her to keep in touch.
Her other grandparents that live in Ohio. They also go online but do not email that much. They just go online here and there but do not use it religiously. The interesting thing is that they hold a unique distinction when it comes to the internet, which is that they both can be found on the internet if you search for their names. Her grandmother composed music all her life, her name shows up on a few sites.

Her grandfather has an interesting tie-in to President John F Kennedy. At the time of Kennedy's assassination, Harry Meuser was the Air Force Marching Bands conductor. After the president was murdered, Harry was asked to choose the music for the funeral procession. He and his band also participated in the funeral.
Here's a link http://www.jvmusic.net/11thWingKennedyFuneral.html

It's interesting that I happen to know three people over the age of 65 that use the internet. Amanda Lenhart's Pew study claims that only 4% of people over the age of 65 use the internet. Maybe my wife's grandparents were more likely to go online since they are not on a fixed income as many seniors are.

I was also surprised to find (in Amanda Lenhart's Pew study) that a mere 18% of Americans in the 50 to 64 age bracket use the internet. Living in the Minneapolis, Saint Paul area I almost find that hard to believe. Lots of people in that age group used computers (online) at my former workplace. It seems that most employed people have to use computers nowadays. Then again, there are those that are less fortunate than I.

Shrinking space between the clicks and the click-nots

I think real, useable Internet access means that a person knows how to find what they’re looking for, how to evaluate sources, and knows the risks of certain online activities. I don’t believe we ought to create a situation where we say that everyone should be on the Web... people should be free to embrace or reject new technologies based on their own feelings about what is lost or gained by using them. According to The Ever-shifting Internet Population report, "Most non-users live physically and socially close to the Internet Internet use is so normalized in America that even most non-users say they are in close proximity to the Internet. " (Pew p. 3) Perhaps some of these non-users fer the social consequences of becoming dependent on the Internet: I imagine that if a kid can do all her research on the Great Depression for her school report, she might be less likely to go interview her own grandma. Her information might be more comprehensive (after she gets past all the sites about mental illness, psychiatric drugs, and geologic landforms), but she would have lost out on that interaction with a living source of history, and her grandma would have lost that opportunity to connect with her grandchild.

Considering whether all kids (or adults) should should be on the Internet, I say, everything in moderation. Kids should be encouraged to drink water, but if a you take a child to the ocean, you want them to know how to swim, have a life preserver, keep away from sharks, and able to come to back to shore when it’s time to do something else.

The Pew Internet Penetration and impact report tells us that "Those in the lowest-income households are considerably less likely to be online. Just 53% of adults living in households with less than $30,000 in annual income go online, versus 80% of those whose income is between $30,000-50,000." (p. 4) I think of how many services are online now—paying bills, communicating with a child’s school, getting health information 24 hours a day, requesting materials from the library, all sorts of educational materials, looking for work. Without easy access to the Internet, we have to spend lots more time and energy to get these things done, and some things are always left undone. The more we can do with the Internet, the more people without access are going to miss out on.

I think there should be Internet classes taught in elementary schools. Computers are so pervasive in our society, and kids are drawn to them, but often lack the skills to figure out how to get the information they want from the Internet. I wish the kids I work with understood the difference between a site that has content as a lure to get viewers to see a bunch of ads and one paragraph of relevant material, as opposed to an ad-free site with pages and pages of relevant stuff. It also seems like kids are drawn to the free music video/lyrics/games sites that are relate to popup ads or spam or spyware. I don’t even understand how these things work. Jusat like marketers target kids because they’re a less critical audience, I think we see the same thing on the Internet.

I feel a bit skeptical about the One Laptop Per Child program. Under the 'People' section (http://laptop.org/vision/people/), there are nine who seem to be educated, probably wealthy Americans, and one Khaled Hassounah, who (though certainly as well-educated as the others) likely is not a wealthy American. Are we perhaps imposing our own vision of what is best for people on them without letting them participate in the decision about what;s best for them? Nowhere on the site do we see whether anyone asked the future recipients of the computers, would they prefer a hundred-dollar laptop, or a hundred dollars? If a hundred dollars could pay for a few pairs of glasses, or a prosthetic leg, or a birth control prescription, can we assume that a computer is what people would really choose? I question whether laptops are appropriate technology for every situation.

Access = Capability || Real Access = Understanding and Using Correctly

To me, access means the capability of getting onto the internet. I would

argue that it means one has physical access to technology. I completely

understand how ineffective the internet is if a person does not know how to use it,

what is available, and why it is helpful and of value to use. Education is key to

teaching the elderly, the young, and anyone without prior knowledge, how to use

the internet as a helpful tool. Unfortunately, nobody has had the same

experience with the internet, so it is hard to gauge where there understanding of

its function really is. As for Krista's relative who is afraid of putting herself out on

the internet, I still believe she has access, but just not an understanding of internet

security. Here, I sense she might have a case of " 'cautious clicking' " which is "a
behavior trait of many older internet users who may share a sense that one false

move on the Web could land them in unknown or unsafe territory" (PEW 2).
The immigrant example is a case-in-point of how a group of people

have perfect access, but not the right knowledge. This is too bad because there

are some people who have access but resist the internet due to other factors. ". .

. resistance is often related to a general misconception of what the Web and

email have to offer. In other cases, reluctance is connected to specific obstacles,

fears, or previous online experiences" (PEW 4).
Real, usable access, I suppose, would mean teaching a user all the

capabilities of the internet, its limitations, its security and dangers and its

uniqueness. If everyone understood this, and had access, it would be a much

more level playing field.
I would hope that one day all adults could be online. But, the internet

should not be a right, it should be a privilege. So everyone -- excluding felons,

internet-addicts, and anyone else that does not have the common good in mind--

should have access to the internet. As well, that same group should have the

opportunity to learn about the internet. Like many things that are

education-based, some users will have more reasons and ability to access the

internet more often, and therefore--know more about it. I think it could be a goal,

but I have never thought about it that way. It could turn out to become a

destructive tool if the internet gets into the hands of the wrong people. I think

children should learn from their parents. I do not always agree that children

should have the freedom to teach themselves and surf the internet too much. I

think that children need guidelines, guidance, and a guardian keeping them in

line (Just like any other activity, kids need rules.)
Lack of access or knowledge of the internet for low-income families

poses a problem just like many other things these families do not have access to.

Proof of this comes from the PEW study that, "While 40% of adults who have

less than a high school education use the internet, 64% of adults with a high

school degree go online. Among those who have some college education, 84%

use the internet, and 91% of adults with at least a college degree go online"

(Madden 4). If they cannot learn and utilize the internet, they are really put at a

disadvantage to those who are in constant contact with it, and who are accustom

and informed about all of its wonderful features and usefulness.
The positive parts of the one-laptop per child program are obvious:

everyone gains when everyone has the opportunity and chance to try and

succeed. But, sometimes, these types of goals are unrealistic. Providing free

services and donations can only reach so far and so many people. I think the

combination of technology and the basics of food, clothing, etc. would be the

best. It is a challenge, though, to decide which should come first. One would

hope that access to the internet would help those in 3rd world countries learn

about what "could be." But, its also like teaching a 2nd grader how to do

Calculus IV. Sometimes, its best to go step by step and not skip the basics and

important, fundamental parts of a civilized country. One missing step would be

instituting and education system or a working government.

The Big Division

Access to me means that you are in reach of the specific product or service and you are able to get to, however that does not mean that they want to or will use that product or device. Almost everyone in America has access to numerous different things, one being the internet. Although they may have access to the internet, many people may not have the education or knowledge behind it to be able to function it correctly. While I was reading each of the different articles, it made me think of my grandparents. They are each in their early 80’s and have no idea how to work a cell phone, let alone a computer. They each have access to these different new technology waves, however they are not educated in the proper use of the internet or a cell phone.
Each of the articles I felt were reiterating the common sense that I thought most of America had. I feel as though I don’t need a 5 page article telling me that the older generation doesn’t use computers and the internet as much as we do. It wasn’t even 6 or 7 years ago that my sister went through college at Madison without her own personal computer. She made it all 4 years and survived very easily. When thinking about this, I know for a fact that I would NOT be able to make it through a week without my own personal computer. I have access to many different computers throughout the University, but I do choose to have my own.
When it comes to adults, I believe that it would not hurt for them to be acquainted with the internet. Further down the road, we are going to have the internet in our lives even more than we have now. The internet is a very exciting and newer technology that the world is becoming more dependent on each year. According to Pew Internet, 74% of 50-64 year olds are using the internet which was surprising to me how high the numbers are, but they did not say what they used the internet for. The age gap between my generation and the age of 50-64 knows the world from a whole different perspective. My age group (around 18-25) use the internet for more social settings like we discussed last week and the children that are younger than us use the internet even more than we do from games on Nickelodeon to different computer games. As these children get older, the internet is going to be completely different from what my generation was used to as well as the older generation from me.
While I was a senior in high school (2003-2004), I was one of the first people to be offered an on line Physics class through Eagan High School. At the times, this was really exciting for our district because of this classroom setting change. I believe that schools should incorporate the internet through different lessons because for the lower-class children, school may be their only time that they are able to access the internet and a computer. As Pew Internet stated, Just 53% of adults living in households with less than $30,000 in annual income go online and the article did not state if this was during work or during their leisure time. If they are not using the internet as much, their children probably are not using the internet as much as they are as well.
Overall, Americans are able to have more access to the internet each year, especially because of the One Laptop per Child organization that is developing. Because of our society and the revolutions that technology is going through, it will not surprise me if in 10 years our world is completely reliant on the internet.

The place where everyone has a voice...provided they were taught how to speak

I see "the digital divide" as a radical narrowing of a greater topic. I think a better term would be "the educational divide". The question is raised in our assignment for this week (among many other places) if those who has don't know how to use the internet really have access to it. Do the illiterate really have access to libraries? Do those who don't understand how to read bus schedules really have access to mass transportation? What about the people who are afraid of flying...do they have access to the rest of the world?

Yes these examples take the idea too far but it serves as a reminder about the idea of knowledge in the world we live in. If someone chooses not to fly yet wants to see the world, they can take a boat, or maybe realize that flying is safer than driving a car (assuming they drive). Even if I've never seen a bus schedule in my life and I need to find my way downtown one day, Metro Transit has informational lines to call for information. For those who don't know how to read, the library very well might be their best resource for learning. This works for the internet just well. For those without a computer, again...the library (check out the first paragraph of the policy).

The real issue here is desire. I hate old adages but here's one I actually think is true when it comes to public resources: "You can do anything you put your mind to" (or maybe "Where there is a will there's a way"....meh you decide). There are enough resources in the world currently to allow everyone access if they look to long standing public sources of information for help. Tools available today even permit the blind to access the internet with or without a "standard" computer.

I believe that today the "digital divide" can easily be overcome by any of various, easy-to-access, means. Education is the real limiting factor in people ability to access the wonders of the digital age. And it is this very reason that it is important that our children continue to learn about the world they live in. When I was in grade school I learned to use a card catalog to locate library resources. Such a practice would be scoffed nowadays as obsolete and blocking access to the powerful indexing and search abilities of the internet and similar computer systems. (ok, that probably didn't need a wikipedia link in this crowd but the concept of treating something I learned in grade school as history makes me laugh) In order for anyone to have access to resources in this world they must be taught about them. In order for any kind of education to be effective, it must be flexible enough to change with knowledge considered relevant to the era in which it is being taught. This is true for the internet just as it was true for microwave cooking.

The important thing to remember that knowledge can be gained everywhere you look. It just needs to be applied in relevant ways. The digital divide is real but it is not a result of availability as commonly thought. It shares the same problem as many public works. If people aren't educated about their benefits, they will not be able to share in those benefits.

Do you use YOUR access?

The first thing that I thought about when asked to define “access? was physical access. If access were to mean specifically physical access, then it would mean that almost everyone would have access to the internet. People can use the internet at libraries and school facilities, as well as some cafes and coffee houses. This is not the case, shifting my interpretation of access while relating to the internet. The summary of the PEW findings shows that 24% of adults in the United States are disconnected, or offline (Pew, 3). Because of this, I interpret those with “access? to be those with daily access to a computer and the internet. I do not think that how easily one can navigate the internet has anything to do with whether or not a person has access to the internet.
I do not know very many people that do not have access to and use the internet on a regular basis. My friends, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all use the internet. One out of four people not having access to the internet seems high to me. This is not to say that I think less of those who don’t use the internet, though I do think it foolish to not at least attempt to learn a thing or two about the internet if you have that privilege. For this reason, I think it would be a good idea to teach at least some basic knowledge of the internet to elementary school children.
I don’t see any problems with the One Laptop per Child program. There are already programs to send other types of provisions to countries that need them, and this different approach could yield surprising results.

It's not the equipment, but the user.

So if 39% of daily internet users say that it the internet has improved the way they pursue their hobbies and interests, does that mean that the other 61% who use the internet daily feel no improvement? I guess it must, but it is hard for someone like to imagine how the internet cannot help a little bit improve the pursuit of happiness. Maybe it has something to do with the differing definition of “access? to the internet. I believe that there are many different levels of “access? to the internet. My “internet savvy? friend will come up with a bunch of random (sometimes interesting) stuff he has found on the net, and when people ask him how/where he found this, he simply replies that “there are two different internets out there, one of which you know nothing about.? True story, I am quoting him directly. Yes, my grandparents also have “access? to the internet, but their definition of “access? doesn’t stretch beyond that of going to cnn.com and aol.com/mail/. But I must say, I too was once at that point, it takes a while, but when you are not a “noob? to the net anymore that is when I believe you have actual internet access.

I do not believe that all adults and/or children should be on the net, nor should it be a goal. Simply because I feel there is too much reliance on it, why put all of your eggs in one basket? Sure it would be nice if we all were educated with how to fully “access? and use the internet, but I don not feel everyone should have a goal of becoming net savvy. Well maybe we as a people do not have anymore goals to go for, then yea, go for it.

Lower-income families are at a great disadvantage when it comes to accessing the internet. I cannot imagine using a 56k modem today, and that is just the start of it. For the underprivileged children who do not own, or do not have a reliable access to the internet just makes it hard for them to ‘catch up’ when they are older, similar to our senior citizens today. I think it is a good idea for elementary schools to have classes on the internet. It is very helpful when someone can help guide the “noobs? of the net, then let them roam free. The One Laptop Per Child Program has a very good means, but I feel that there are bigger problems within our world today that have a higher priority, at least in my view. Some will say today that internet access is a necessity, well, in the USA it may be that way, but in third world countries I believe the necessities are the bare essentials of life that should be first taken into consideration.

What about one regular meal per child?

As we said in the early weeks, Internet is not fairly accessible to everyone. The articles from this week confirm this assertion... The numbers speak for themselves : minorities, poor, old are less represented online. When this people go online, I don't know if we can say that they really have "access" to Internet. I do think that having access also involves gaining technological literacy. Even if many people discovered Internet on their own (myself included), school, University helped me a lot understanding it better or evaluating the risks. For a non regular user, it is hard to really measures the tricks that Internet can have, and to pay attention to everything. However, I was surprised that "Younger internet users take more precautions online" (Pew - Are wire seniors sitting-ducks page 2). The few old people that I know who use Internet are generally the most precautionous people, they have many anti-viruses / firewalls and don't visit websites that they don't know while my computer may be the most unsafe on Earth...

I don't think that all adults should be online. If everyone want to, that's ok, but some people don't and I hate the fact that more and more things are only available online (buying tickets for some events, finding some information, some music being released only in MP3). People should have the choice, and they have it less and less. I think it's really a Western point of view to say that everyone should have access, because it facilitates life etc.. Some kinds of culture disapeared or have been so modified because of technologies in the past (I think of oral cultures for example, which suffered a lot from television) so I hope Internet won't finish the work...
I am not a huge fan of technological improvement at all cost. I may sound paradoxal because I am a big Internet user, it helps me a lot but I understand that some people don't want that. Some would argue that they don't want it because they don't know what it is like, but that's wrong. Many persons have been users and abandoned Internet... ("In April 2000, 13% of non-users were net droppouts" Pew).

This leads me to my last point about the one laptop per child program. The title of my post may sound provocative and demagogic (or simply stupid) but let's think about it one minute. The idea of this program looks great on the paper but I'm definitely not convinced. I don't doubt that these people have good intentions (wiling to help poor children can't be blamed), but giving computers is a strange way to do that... If it's only educational, why not sending books? It looks to me that this will lead to a Westernization (not to say Americanization) of some weak countries which will lost a little bit of their identity.

I imagine many people won't agree with me, so if you react, let's just talk calmly!

What digital divide?

I believe that access means to be able to not only have a physical means to get information from a source, but to also be able to sustain that mean over a period of time. An example of this would be like my laptop or my pc at home. I can get access to the internet any time I want at home and it's always there and always on. If someone just goes to a library and gains access to the interenet and wants to shop or buy things or whatever I don't think that's having full access. This is because the library closes, you can't be there all day and you don't have full access to that source. I think in talking about access you have to think about having that access readily available to you any time you need it.

I think that all adults should be online and atleast experience it. From the reading, truly disconnected 24% offline (Madden, 1). That seems like a really small percentage of adults that are not online. I net penetration has now reached 73% for all American adults (madden, 1). Seventy three percent of all adults online is amazing, and that number will just keep going up. I think this goal of all adults being online can be useful, I think it shouldn't be a requirement or a necessity however. I think it would be useful so people can stay connected, stay up on current events, be able to shop and buy there goods online, and also be able to connect with new people and meet knew people and just basically keep the public informed of things that are going on in the world. As far as all children being online, I think kids these days need to spend more time on the jungle gym that at home on the computer. I think that face to face interaction would benefit them more and the internet for kids should primarily be just used as a learning tool.

A lack of access to lower income families does cause a barrier to advancement to them. As a learning tool, you can learn a lot from credible sources on the internet. Being able to communicate with people and also to integrade this into your work would be a barrier if you couldn't get a hold of someone. Advancing in technology and staying up on current events and learning new things would hinder there advancement as well without the ability to go online.

It would be wise to integrade internet use in elementary education because chances are they will have to use some form of internet use in there adults lives. Well not only there adult lives, even in high school and college it's a necessity to have internet access and if kids learn how to utilize it properly and efficently at a young age, it will help them better use it in the future.

The merits are that all children will have access to the internet and be able to use it properly when the get older. The draw backs could be the cost, and also just having the person to person communication, and also all the other junk that's out there on the internet, bad sites for children, identity thieves, etc.

I think food and other necessities would greatly improve developing countries better than handing them a lap top. I think we need to spend more time getting on the same page, ie, helping them from common diseases with vaccines, and also helping them out with shelter and food over technological issues.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit

To me, access is the physical distance between you and internet access, whereas if you wanted to use it, you could. I see this as a parallel when an employer asks a pizza delivery candidate "Do you have access to a car?" We assume everyone over the age of 16 has a driver's license, so I think we can also assume that with a little "behind-the-wheel" training, everyone should be able to use he internet. If you have internet access in your house, at a library a few blocks away, or when your cousin comes over with his Sprint Wireless card in his computer, I think you have access to the internet. But like driving a car, some users have more skill than others. A pizza deliverer with 18 moving violations probably is not the best candidate for the job. At the same time, an inexperienced user without knowledge of how to Google something is no use to themselves if they are searching for information. For example, in Are "Wired" Seniors Sitting Ducks?, they talk about how younger users take more chances, but also more precautions than their elders. In my opinion, a younger driver is usually at a higher risk for accidents (takes more chances) but also stays up with the news and changing of laws better than the elderly. That being said, the elderly still have their fair share of accidents, and this is why I believe that not everyone should be on the internet, just as not everyone is on the road. In America, we have the freedom to do what we want with our lives (generally speaking). Using the internet and associated applications can be compared to optional things like checking your mail (or even having a mail box), meeting people, or reading the newspaper. So while I believe the internet is advantageous to use for most, it may not work out in a cost-benefit analysis for everyone. Children should be able to use the internet when they have the skills and are mature enough to understand what they will be seeing. It can really help their knowledge-base, yet at the same time possibly be harmful to their lives. So like in many other situations, the parents' opinion is probably best in this case.

The internet's barrier to lower income families has promoted another rich-get-richer scenario. But like all things in Capitalism, there are ups and downs. Using the internet to, for example, trade stocks or start a business, can make someone a lot of money. On the other hand, while many companies do earn money (on the internet and in the physical world) there are others that lose money (although they are not around for very long and are in some ways made into another company every single time). While the internet may or may not take a family in or out of low income, using the internet definitely increases the number of opportunities a family has. As The Ever-Shifting Internet Populations article shows that less income generally relates to a lower likelihood of internet access, I think that that also means that lower-income creates a lower occurrence of opportunities.

Basic elementary education should definitely include internet access. Our youngest generation will be working with the internet throughout their academic and professional lives. I think that the earlier someone experiences the internet, the more lifetime opportunities they will have with it and its extended network of applications. I wish I could quote or cite a source, but I once heard a study in one of my classes that showed a third-world community where the people were not uneducated because they were poor, but poor because they were uneducated. When a similar community had schools introduced, the poverty level dropped almost immediately as the people realized the kind of things they could do, mimicking examples they read about in books. They took more chances, made more mistakes, but overall raised their net worth. While I think that food and other basic necessities would be better to give to a nation in poverty than laptops, I think the XO concept is interesting. It brings back the whole "chicken or egg" question, making me wonder which would eliminate starvation faster. Providing children with laptops may be more like teaching them to fish, while giving them food is a straight hand-out with no skill advancement. The concept of these $100 computers and servers will of course give everyone "access" to the internet. But whether or not it will give them the life they want, I am not yet convinced.

Questions about Access.

To me access means being able to use knowledge critically. Therefore, I would reason that people who can not use the internet do not in truth have access to it. This being much in the same way a five year old would have physical contact with the novel Moby Dick…but still not have the capacity to understand (read), and access it. Likewise, and 85 year old American who has never used a computer could have one with internet capability, and still not truly have access to the internet.

Due to the fact that there is a plethora of knowledge on the internet. I would recommend that all people learn to use it. This is because almost 70% of Americans say that it has improved their jobs (Hadden April 2006). Obviously if 70% of American say the internet has improved conditions on the job, then one can ascertain that all people should get a working knowledge of the internet before they enter the workforce. This because there is a high chance than the average American will have to use a computer during the course of their working life.

Computer skills should be honed from an early age. However, the internet should be left out of the class room until middle school. I believe this to be true because to use the internet wisely, one must have a level of maturity. I guess I just do not want young children reading up on the latest crazes in drugs and so forth…that comes in middle school. As far as the one laptop for every child program being viable…I would have to disagree. A program like this, while well intentioned will not solve the poverty issue in the third world. To say that a laptop program will solve their problems, is like saying that Giving people money will solve it to. We tried it through the IMF, and we in the developed world failed miserably. Likewise, as back up by statements aforementioned in the entry, giving someone access to the information, does not mean they will understand and utilize it. Therefore, I believe that giving the third world laptop computers will not solve their poverty problem because there is no guarantee that their population can utilize such a resource.

Old & Poor / The Internet = No Access

I have heard the question of access from classes before and have found it to be a complex topic. This is because there are so many different ways that people are denied access to the Internet. I believe that access has two different definitions for different generations. For those that cannot understand or do not want to understand the Internet they are preventing themselves access while those that cannot afford to get online are physically being prevented from going online. My definition of access is: A person that has the will and ability to gain entrance onto the Internet and has the understanding what to do when they reach it. I believe this definition takes into account both problems with access. Only those that understand the Internet and its capabilities have true access.

I don't know if it is a good thing if all adults were online. From watching Dateline and seeing research there are plenty of predators I think that giving the chance for all adults to get on the internet is a bad idea because of the potential consequences that many could bring. Also, there are those that do not take advantage to get online so why should we bother getting adults online? It should not be up to the taxpayers or government to worry about adults. However, I totally agree with the fact that all children should get online. According to the PEW research 91% of those that have at least a college degree go online. This proves how necessary it is to teach children to use it because it is the key to their future. Learning the Internet gives lower-class children to learn on the same level as their middle class and upper class counterparts. Along with this, I think that elementary schools should require education using the Internet because by the stats from the PEW research allow children to go farther in life.

Schools need to allow those that are not fortunate enough to use computers. The barriers of cost and learning the internet have to come into account. Again it is obvious from the PEW research that those that do not have access to the internet fall behind in school and in life. It is sad that we now require knowledge of the internet to get a head in life but we have moved away from conventional, cheaper, methods of communication and have moved to a more expensive form.

There are both positives and negatives to the One Laptop to Every Child Program. The positives include learning the internet, connecting with other children around the world, and looking for an increased use of online features for businesses, marketing, and schools. Some of the negatives include cost, the potential of violence that could come from adults stealing these laptops, and the fact that there is not real way to ensure that every child will get a laptop. While it is a good, innovative idea, I do not believe that it can happen. There are too many obstacles and not enough resources that will give these children the opportunity to receive a laptop.

I think that while the Internet is an amazing thing, not everyone needs it to get by. I know plenty of elderly people that do not use it and they do just fine. My grandmother does not use it and she stays current. She has no need for a computer and neither do many other elderly individuals. I do not think that elderly people are "timid" as stated in PEW research they just do not care that much. They don't enjoy the internet and have no reason to use it. Why should we be pushing this fact when seniors do not care if they get online when there are children that have to get online in order to get a suitable education.

Access points

Do you have internet access? That's a question I'd consider to be fairly simple and innocuous, and personally, I'd actually be somewhat surprised if the answer was anything less than yes. Of course, much of that attitude is likely heavily influenced by my age and social demographic, as well as the fact that I'm up here at college, where most students and staff easily have multiple points of access even if they don't necessarily have their own computer. Still, as technology continues to increase, we will have more and more ways to use the internet, and many of those will be public. Generally though, I would personally consider having internet access and being able to access the internet to be two different things. Pew counts the people who choose not to use the internet along with the people who literally have no internet as people who aren't online in The Ever-Shifting Internet Population, but just because you're not online doesn't mean you don't have internet access. After all, it's always there waiting for you to use it, even if you don't necessarily know how. Most unwired seniors do have the opportunity to go online, but simply choose not to since they're more comfortable like that. Those who live in rural or underprivledged areas who simply can't obtain the technology or go somewhere they can use it for free are the ones who are truly without access.

As a wired society as a whole, it is becoming more and more important to be literate with both computers and the internet, but that doesn't necessarily make either of them an absolute necessity. Becoming dependent enough on the internet that it becomes a required aspect of living in society is a bad thing since it relies so much on machines, which can break down at a moment's notice. Giving everyone at least a choice to become internet literate is a good thing, but everyone needs to know that it's a tool, not a requirement, especially children. That said, I still believe giving children in less developed countries laptops is still a worthwhile goal because access to technology does significantly improve the quality of education, but it really shouldn't come at the expense of more basic needs, like food, shelter, and clothing.

Internet Access: For the Young and the Restless

I believe that having access means both physical access and cyber literacy. Today, and probably just today, I am anti-internet and anti-access. I just got back from vacation and even though I had set up an auto-reply on my business email accounts telling clients I was out of town and wouldn’t be available, my clients (and some friends) were still perturbed they couldn’t reach me immediately. (Mind you it there weren’t any emergencies.) I couldn’t relax because I knew that being ‘off-line’ for a few days had repercussions. This leads me into a diatribe of reasons why I don’t think people of all ages, races, socio-economic status, etc, should be pressured, expected, or judged for their ‘access’ or non-access of the internet.

I feel sorry for the senior citizens who are being forced to use the Internet.
I know if my grandma were alive today, she would not use the Internet, let alone own a computer. She lived in a town of 300 people, was a mother, and a farmer’s wife.
She taught me how to cook, sew, and plant a garden. I am so glad I learned these skills and hobbies from my grandmother, instead of a website. There is sentimental value there- that could never be replaced. While Pew reports that “The share of online Americans who say the Internet has greatly improved the way they pursue hobbies and interests has grown to 33%, up from 20% in March 2001.? (Pew, Internet Penetration pg. 1), I wonder if the hobby/interest offers instant gratification and then fades away with time because there wasn’t a human element behind it.

Pew’s findings appear accurate in terms of what groups of people are using the Internet. “Overall, 42% of Americans do not use the Internet. And there remain clear differences along five demographic dimensions: race, income, educational attainment, community type (rural, suburban, or urban) and age. Race, ethnicity & income? (Pew, The Evershifting, pg. 7). Again, my grandma was from a rural area, with little education, and earned an income as a farmer. I believe that Pew’s research concludes that the Internet is the rich white man’s playground, especially for the up and coming younger generations. Which is very unfair for my late grandma, my ex-Hispanic neighbors in California, and my starving artist friend in Australia. How will they ‘get ahead’ when they were already set up to be so far behind? Their lack of access to the Internet puts them at a great disadvantage.

With regards to children and Internet access, my belief is it’s best if used in moderation. When I was young, my elementary school owned 20 Apple and IBM computers. I looked forward to computer lab, but am glad that it was only a few hours of my week. By giving 1 laptop per child anywhere poses a danger that they will be held prisoner by technology and will lose sight of other communication methods. If there isn’t anyone to monitor the time spent on the laptop, how do we ensure they develop properly? Will they interact less (physically) with each other? Will they become dependent on computers? Will they lose their penmanship? Their ability to read social cues? Perhaps a better solution is provide 1 Family or Village with a laptop so everyone can learn the benefits and the dangers of the internet together-and seen as a tool, rather than a toy? so that they, their families and their communities can openly learn and learn about learning.? (OLPC.com), and give aid or food as well.

February 27, 2007

The Great Divide

What is the meaning behind the term "access" when it comes to the internet? The defining discussion I found was when the authors were simply stating that people have access if they actually use the internet. So therefore, it is means physically accessing the internet rather than a complete understanding of the applications. I personally think you could expand the word access in meaning simply having the ability to access internet whether it be at a physical location such as the library or through the help of friends and family. For example in "The Ever-Shifting Internet Popoluation article it sates that 76% of non-users know of public access sites to the internet and 74% hae family and friends who go online. Therefore internet accessibility is common among the American population. The concern I have is for the 27% of Americans who know of no access to the internet. Although an alarming statistic that some individuals may not even know how to access the internet this is why education and federal and state support of internet implications are so important. (Lenhart, p4) In conclusion I do believe that the 84 year and recent immigrants have accessibility to the internet whether educated on applications or not.

What constitutes real, useable access is simply education. I do not remember much formal training to go online but rather a personal pursuit of knowledge of online application. Rather I've noticed that the baby-boomers and elderly do require some additional written or formal training when learning online applications.

Should all adults be online? Is this a useful goal? Seeing the adults that most commonly use the internet are individuals with a college education making over 75,000 incomes. Therefore, maybe adult should be online as it could be beneficial professionally and personally. With this statement it was in the Internet Penetration and Impact article that Madden sated that only 35% of Americans say internet greatly improved their ability to do their jobs. (Madden, p1) This statistic was the most interesting amongst all the articles for me. There is no job that I feel wouldn't be beneficial with internet access. Whether it be a garbage man organizing his database or a sales person looking up businesses and contacts I see the internet beneficial in the work place for account maintenance and overall improved communication. Another statistic that proves that it is beneficial for adults to be online is that 20% found that it improved the way they get information regarding health care. (Madden, p1) This is great for the youngsters and baby-boomers who easily access their personal healthcare information but is alarming to the government and insurance companies requiring or promoting the elderly to chose health packages online.

Should all children have access to the internet? I do believe this would only help the children in the long run. I believe that the responsibility of online access lies within the school systems so therefore also within the state funding. Not all parents can afford internet as briefly discussed in the articles, but schools should provide each student with this equal opportunity.

How does lack of access constitue a barrier to advancement for lower-income families? Because at times these families have a more challenging time accessing internet. They maybe unable to afford broadband unlike the 42% of Americans that have this access. (Madden, p3) But this should not be used as an excuse to hold anyone back. There are many public access sites and might just require some extra initiative on their behalf.

Should basic elementary education include courses on internet use? Yes. Children easily pick up on computer applications and should begin to learn the internet as it is essential during years of college and within the workplace.

One Laptop Per Child Program?

I see this program as beneficial but not necessary. Even in American that are neighborhood schools unable to provide online access to their students. it would be beneficial in a manner to provide an additional medium to their education but is not necessary for everyday survival. It is important we have programs like this so that technology applications in these countries do not become foreign. This is a political question and has many implications to consider. In short, I see this program as beneficial.

The Great Divide

What is the meaning behind the term "access" when it comes to the internet? The defining discussion I found was when the authors were simply stating that people have access if they actually use the internet. So therefore, it is means physically accessing the internet rather than a complete understanding of the applications. I personally think you could expand the word access in meaning simply having the ability to access internet whether it be at a physical location such as the library or through the help of friends and family. For example in "The Ever-Shifting Internet Popoluation article it sates that 76% of non-users know of public access sites to the internet and 74% hae family and friends who go online. Therefore internet accessibility is common among the American population. The concern I have is for the 27% of Americans who know of no access to the internet. Although an alarming statistic that some individuals may not even know how to access the internet this is why education and federal and state support of internet implications are so important. (Lenhart, p4) In conclusion I do believe that the 84 year and recent immigrants have accessibility to the internet whether educated on applications or not.

What constitutes real, useable access is simply education. I do not remember much formal training to go online but rather a personal pursuit of knowledge of online application. Rather I've noticed that the baby-boomers and elderly do require some additional written or formal training when learning online applications.

Should all adults be online? Is this a useful goal? Seeing the adults that most commonly use the internet are individuals with a college education making over 75,000 incomes. Therefore, maybe adult should be online as it could be beneficial professionally and personally. With this statement it was in the Internet Penetration and Impact article that Madden sated that only 35% of Americans say internet greatly improved their ability to do their jobs. (Madden, p1) This statistic was the most interesting amongst all the articles for me. There is no job that I feel wouldn't be beneficial with internet access. Whether it be a garbage man organizing his database or a sales person looking up businesses and contacts I see the internet beneficial in the work place for account maintenance and overall improved communication. Another statistic that proves that it is beneficial for adults to be online is that 20% found that it improved the way they get information regarding health care. (Madden, p1) This is great for the youngsters and baby-boomers who easily access their personal healthcare information but is alarming to the government and insurance companies requiring or promoting the elderly to chose health packages online.

Should all children have access to the internet? I do believe this would only help the children in the long run. I believe that the responsibility of online access lies within the school systems so therefore also within the state funding. Not all parents can afford internet as briefly discussed in the articles, but schools should provide each student with this equal opportunity.

How does lack of access constitue a barrier to advancement for lower-income families? Because at times these families have a more challenging time accessing internet. They maybe unable to afford broadband unlike the 42% of Americans that have this access. (Madden, p3) But this should not be used as an excuse to hold anyone back. There are many public access sites and might just require some extra initiative on their behalf.

Should basic elementary education include courses on internet use? Yes. Children easily pick up on computer applications and should begin to learn the internet as it is essential during years of college and within the workplace.

One Laptop Per Child Program?

I see this program as beneficial but not necessary. Even in American that are neighborhood schools unable to provide online access to their students. it would be beneficial in a manner to provide an additional medium to their education but is not necessary for everyday survival. It is important we have programs like this so that technology applications in these countries do not become foreign. This is a political question and has many implications to consider. In short, I see this program as beneficial.

Digital Divide: To be or not to be?

I think each individual defines the definition of access. My parents, for example, are retired and were hooked up with the Internet (my sister did it for them). For them, it was purely entertainment. My mom tried to do some genealogy but became frustrated with the cost of software. The few packages she purchased proved to be useless. She tried to find people in Europe to email for help but found very few had access to the Internet. For her, it was easier to spend a day at the Historical Society or writing letters (the old fashion way) to people for her information and documents. My dad on the other hand, would play solitaire and read jokes from his siblings in the evening. But once the weather was nice, the computer was never turned on. It was a lifestyle choice, as the Pew survey defines this action. They have physical access and are technologically literate but chose not to connect to the Internet.

“The common perception of the timid older Internet user is quite accurate, even for relative newcomers to the ranks of seniors? (Wired Seniors, Pew, 1) is an accurate portrayal of the majority of seniors I know that get wired. They start out brave. But, once a virus hits the computer, they get defensive, frustrated, and paranoid. They become nervous about any updates and therefore, do not keep up on the security software updates. More viruses and more frustration lead to limited use and comfort of their computers and Internet activity. My parents eventually fell into this endless loop. They did not perform their due diligence and secure their computer.

When I purchased my Mac, the Apple Store said they actually sell a large percentage of computers to seniors (in the opinion of one salesperson in the store). Seniors like it for the graphics and projects they do (apparently life documentation is very trendy now.) So, the population is changing as more seniors hop on the Internet wagon. Hopefully they will put into place the security safeguards just as they do with telemarketers on the phone.

In my opinion, access for a younger person is more than having the physical access. Most positions require computer literacy and experience. Without this, a young person (immigrant or not) could miss out on a potential opportunity for employment. Many positions though discourage employees from using the Internet during work hours. To get more experience and comfort, the person needs to have access to a computer and Internet to explore and practice skills. The PEW survey (Internet Penetration & Impact) found 35% of people found that the Internet helped them do their job better (up from 20%). If job performance is up, the chances for salary increase or promotions increase. Lower-income families can advance their standard of life. Many of the community college courses geared toward novice users are helpful – especially when the cost is low and the class offerings to accommodate a working schedule (Ever-Shifting Internet Population PEW, pgs 11, 34). Opportunities should be available to those adults (or children) who want or need education on computers (Internet).

I personally am an “intermittent user? (PEW) and only use the Internet for work and classes. Once the semester is over, my laptop is rarely turned on. I don’t feel I need to be online to have a successful or fulfilling life. I would much rather be doing something physical than sitting at my computer. If I wasn’t at my computer all day, I might be of a different opinion. Since I sit for eight to ten hours, I’d rather be doing something else. Maybe I should get one of those computers that mount on a treadmill? Hmmmm…

A Divide from who's perspective?

Is the digital divide manufactured? Who decides we have a digital divide? Is it the “haves? or the “have-nots?? If a group of people is missing something from their society, whose responsibility is it to tell them they are deficient? Maybe they were satisfied until we explained to them that they should be miserable without online access…

When I think about the digital divide and access I think of the physical ability to go online. The fact that a technology is presented to a person or a group constitutes access. Whether they use that access to their full ability is another issue. The desire or lack of desire to go online can be based on a number of issues. The Pew article touched on barriers that are physical (don’t have a computer or their disability prevents them from using a computer) to ignorance (I don’t understand the computer, it wastes time and it will not provide any value to me).

Page 20 of the Pew article brings up a good point about the adaptation of a new technology. There are always going to be the first movers, the early adapters. But with all new technology there is going to be a lag time before complete acceptance. Telephone penetration dropped during the Great Depression due to lack of income to afford the new technology. That is a valid reason for the digital divide for some people.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to be online anymore than they should be forced to watch television or read a newspaper. The real issue is the opportunity to access the internet. As more and more communities become wired, more people will have economical access to the internet.

I think basic internet use should be taught in schools at an early age. As business becomes wired we have to prepare our children for the future. It is no different than the evolution of the slide rule to basic calculators to the TI 85. Basic computer and internet use should be a major part of the teachings of children.

I think the OLPC program has its’ heart in the right place but their head is in another. The idea of providing computing power to third world nations makes a lot of sense but I think the beneficiaries of the computers should be the people who can utilize the information to the fullest to help grow their resources. Providing laptops to children in third world countries is a nice gesture but I think it would be looked at as some sort of novelty.

The Great Digital Divide

I think that access to the Internet means both physical access to the technology that gives one access to the physical Internet and the technological literacy to be able to use the Internet safely and responsibly.

I do not think that all adults nor should all children need to be online. Online activities are a personal choice and should not be a requirement of life in our society. In my opinion, the Internet is a tool and not an electronic collar and tracking device as some would have it. We keep getting closer to a cashless society, but thank goodness for cold hard cash. I use cash a lot more now for the same privacy issues we discussed last week. I really hate coming back from a trip to find that my credit card company has left a voice message on my answering machine asking me to verify this or that transaction. Just like I don’t want big brother (or my neighbor) knowing about every single financial transaction that I make, I don’t want every Internet transaction, financial or social recorded either (Schneier, B., Lessons from the Facebook Riots, p. 4). The Lenhart studies did not go into detail about “what? people actually do online other that search for medical information (Lenhart, A., The Ever Shifting Internet Population). I would like to read research about online activities before forming an opinion of whether or not more adults or more children need to be online.

I do not think that there is a lack of access to the Internet for lower-income families. Through our tax dollars, public libraries give everyone the physical access to the Internet and libraries also have the tools and programs to help everyone become technologically literate. However, having said that, if the only access an individual has to the Internet is at a public library, they are at somewhat of a disadvantage. For example, they are not as likely to be able to share their online experiences with other members of their families simply because of issues with distance and scheduling. I think that basic elementary education should include courses on use of the Internet to help fill this void of peer interaction while online. Just as in this course blog, we grow by listening to and evaluating the thoughts of others.

I personally think that the One Laptop per Child program is ridiculous from what I could understand of it. Aid in the form of the basic necessities of life to third-world counties would be much more beneficial than a child in Ethiopia getting into a chat room with Sally in Hoboken. I think such a program may be detrimental in many third world countries. For example, the logistical concerns of power for a laptop and Internet access for one thing and the black market for the computers for another. It’s bad enough that people are already being killed around the world every day for humanitarian food shipments. Now someone thinks that it’s a good idea to place an expensive laptop computer in the hands of a child? Without power and access to the Internet what use would the laptop be?

Just How Wide is the Digital Divide?

It seems that the central question posed in this weeks reading is what constitutes access? Is it just having a computer available to you? But if one lacks the knowledge to use it, does that person really have access the internet? In my opinion they have access, but that access comes with qualifications. Until that person can gain the tools or knowledge required to use the internet, they have only half of what they need. With the constant expansion of the internet into programs that are easier to use all the time and materials that are constantly getting cheaper, it seems that the industry is destined to eventually give access to all those who desire it. We can see by the PEW research that usage in all demographics has grown fairly steadily in the last 10 years (except perhaps for the misleading data on senior citizens), and it's obvious that the internet is becoming more and more a part of daily life nationwide.
In regards to the life of children on the internet, it's clear that children that are now growing up in the digital age are more used to electronics than their parents were. I'm sure we all have experienced having to show our parents how to work the remote or do something on the computer at some point in our lives. With this in mind, it seems uneccessary to teach children anything but the most basic internet use, because they'll be able to figure it out for themselves before long anyways. However, I definitely think schools should take time to teach children about internet safety, because I believe that is the area they wouldn't pay much attention to on their own.
On the related topic of the One Laptop Per Child initiative, while it obviously isn't as important as basic necessities of food, clean water and shelter, computers are at their core (at least how they're being used in this case) an educational tool. I think it's hard to dispute that educational materials should be distributed to children around the world as widely as possible.

Internet and its mighty powers

Access is having the physical access to technology and not necessarily gaining technological literacy because understanding and using technology may not be a priority for the individual. For instance, I have a friend who has a computer but refuses to use it unless they absolutely have to. Usually this involves help from me, as a great friend! ? So, they do have that access to the computer but prefer to use other resources such as books or the news. Same with the example of the 84 yr old relative who has the access but chooses not to use it because of her fear of information about her on the net. As studied “Non-users say they feel no need or desire to use the Internet, or that going online is not a good use of their time. This nonchalance and resistance is often related to a general misconception of what the Web and email have to offer. In other cases, reluctance is connected to specific obstacles, fears, or previous online experiences.? (Lenhart, Amanda. Internet & American Life, pg 4.)

I don’t see a problem in why all adults should not use the internet. There is great information one can find although it isn’t necessarily a useful goal. There are other resources people prefer to use and feel more comfortable with. As technology advances, not everyone cares to take advantage of it because they feel comfortable where they are at. As for children, growing up in this time, it can be resourceful to learn because as they become adults, technology will be more important.
Access does create a barrier to advancement for lower-income families. As mentioned, they will have “less power as consumers and fewer economic opportunities, less access to high-quality health information, fewer options for dealing with government agencies, no chance to learn about their world from the millions of organizations and learning centers that have posted their material on the Web, and less opportunity to interact with others through email and instant messaging.? (Lenhart, Amanda. Internet & American Life, pg 6.) Therefore, because some are not as fortunate, including internet classes would be beneficial for elementary schools so students have the opportunity to alternative options for learning how to research, etc.

Personally, I think both food/necessities and education may be beneficial for third world countries. More so, the necessities. It’s a great thing for everyone to receive those opportunities but perhaps sending computers right away may be too soon. Access to technology can be helpful to third world countries in improvement but I think perhaps later down the road.

Internet access and its effects

My take on what "access" means is the physical ability of being able to log onto the Internet and use its features. According to "Internet Penetration & Impact" by Mary Madden, about 73% of all adults use the Internet. Only 24% of people truly have no direct or indirect contact with the Internet (Lenhart). The internet is mostly used for things like shopping, personal interests, work, and information about health care (Madden). I think that anyone who has the Internet in their homes or a way to get to a computer that has Internet, has Internet access. I think that the immigrants who go to the libraries to use the Internet also have access even though it's not located in their homes. Since they are able to go someplace that has it and use it for their purposes, I'd say that they have Internet access.

I don't see why all the adults and children should not have access to the Internet. I think that it's a way to communicate as well as educate oneself. The Internet is also a way to get necessary research done and also a way to pursue one's personal interests and hobbies. I definitely think that by not having Internet access, lower-income families are faced with a barrier. The barrier may not seem as large as a life or death situation, but it is a barrier in communication as well as attaining information about certain things. That's not to say that those people are cut off from society and have no way to communicating and getting information about things from different sources, but having the Internet in one's home is definitely easier and more comfortable. Lower-income families that do not have Internet access in their homes probably have to go some place where the Internet is offered, such as the library. According to "The Ever-Shifting Internet Population" by Amanda Lenhart, 41% of people who do not use the internet have a household income of less than $30,000. For those that fall into that category, I think that it would be better for them to use the library's Internet than to go completely without it. I think that in our fast-paced society, the Internet is definitely beneficial.

I think that it's a great idea to have Internet courses in elementary schools. I know that in my elementary school, we had little lectures on how to use the Google search engine and I think that it will make the kids more technologically competent. The Internet is not something that will go away or be replaced by another technology that we know of. So, the best thing to do is to make sure that kids know how to use it properly and how to make sure that a site is credible.

I think that it would be great to have a couple of computers with Internet access in Third World countries' schools. I think that it will motivate the children and let them know that there are great things and better places that they can go to when they succeed in their education. They will be able to learn more about technology and new technological advances and I think that it will let them know that they live in an incredible time of great advancements. However, I don't think that the One Laptop Per Child program should be in place of food and basic necessities aid. I think that it should complement the aid that the Thirld World countries are already receiving. I think that computer companies should just donate some of their computers and other software like computer games. I think that it will include those in poverty with the rest of the world. I don't think that the people in Third World countries should be technologically alienated just because they don't have a lot of money.

February 26, 2007

The "Power" of the internet?

In it's literal sense I believe having access to the internet is having a physical capability to log onto and access all that the internet has to offer, irregardless of whether one is capable of taking full advantage of that access or not. If you are speaking in terms of whether someone has the ability to actually implement all the tools the internet gives you are speaking more in terms of competency. In other words its the user's fault not the hardwares.

I see no reasons why all adults shouldn't be online. I believe the internet to be a good thing for society for the most part. I can see reasons why maybe there would be a reasonable cause for some particulars to not be on the internet however. This would be in cases of hackers who have a history of causing great harm or possibly child molesters who have shown repeated offenses stemming from internet chat with kids.

Also, I do believe that while most people should have internet access I think that everyone should have some sort of general knowledge before jumping into the internet. Obviously nobody should be tested on it before getting that access but it should be basic knowledge offered to everyone. Both young and old alike should be made aware of the dangers they might possibly find on the internet. Whereas the young might have to learn how to control the quantity of the data they expose, the old need to work on controlling the quality of the data they expose. As the Fox article says the young are more apt to taking extra chances but being more cautious and the old being the other way around (Fox 2).

I do believe a major barrier to "access" to the internet is a lower income as well. While there are places that offer free internet access to others (such as libraries) it still is not as pleasing or easy to get at as one's own home. A personal computer can be a large expense to those who are held under a much stricter budget. This seems to be the case as in the pew article only 53% of those households under $30,000 use the internet, whereas this number jumps to 80% for those in the $30,000-50,000 range (Madden 4).

In regards to basic elementary education including basic internet use I think that would be a great thing. The internet has become integrated into our society as a basic skill that the child is highly likely going to need in the future so why not? A lot has changed in our society in terms of internet usage which has almost forced it to become a basic skill of the average citizen. In fact it has changed so much that in the past eleven years internet usage has grown from 15% to 75% (Madden 3).

The one laptop per child program sounds like a good program in its heart. After all why shouldn't a third world child have access to this great technology in order to grow. I believe that the heart is there but some things might have been overlooked. For instance, does a person who is on the brink of starvation really care if he can check out myspace or would he rather have food for the next year? I do believe that one of the main reason's a third world nation will grow is through education and the internet/laptops can be a big part of this, but some of these kids should at least have their basic needs covered first.

Will the Digital Divide Ever End?

The question, “What does access mean,? can be justified in a couple ways. In my opinion, I believe that having access to the internet includes the following: Having an actual physical connection to the internet, understanding the possibilities that the internet can give us, and having the know-how to navigate ourselves through the online world. However, when taking the example about the 84-year-old relative into consideration, I believe that she does indeed have access to the internet. Even though she does not want to use it for fear of privacy and fraud, my guess is that she has the means, and the know-how to use the net. The fact that she doesn’t want her information on the internet is her decision. If a person really needed to get something done online, and was capable of doing it, I would call that having access to the internet. Where I draw the line for having access, is when a person does not understand or know how to use the internet, even though they have access.

The question, “Should all adults be online?? is a good one. In my opinion, I think that all adults could benefit from the internet in some way, shape, or form. However, I do not believe that all adults actually NEED to be online. There are many people who live a life-style that has nothing to do with the internet, computers, or even technology for that matter. I think that it should definitely be a goal to educate all children to understand and know how to use the internet if needed. I think that this would be a much more useful goal for us to try and reach as a society, as opposed to having all adults with access to the computer. However, as the PEW Internet American and Life Project explain in, “Are Wired Seniors Sitting Ducks,? eventually the wired baby-boomers are going to be the senior citizens in this world. At that point in time, the internet usage will be at an all-time high, due to the fact that a large majority of the baby boomers are well educated in the use of the internet, as all the following generations have taken after them.

We all know that the internet has been a great invention and tool for people to use. However, because of this, individuals who have a lack of access are at an extreme disadvantage in becoming successful. The PEW Internet American and Life Project article, “Internet Penetration and Impact,? shows us that the people who use the internet the most, are the ones who notice all the benefits and improvements that it has to offer. This being said, people who do not have this type of internet usage are therefore missing out on the many opportunities. There are many jobs today that require a person to be able to use the internet. It is nearly impossible for a child to receive a good education today without having the use of the internet. It has been implemented into many schools, and almost all higher-education opportunities. This would mean that if a person did not know how to use the internet, receiving higher education would be much more difficult, thus putting them at a disadvantage. This is why I believe that basic elementary schools should have specific, required classes on internet use.

In regard to the “one laptop per child? program, I don’t think that having the use of the internet in 3rd world countries is on the top of their priority list at this moment. First of all, I agree with the prompt with the fact that those areas need food and shelter for their communities before they become concerned with education of the internet, let alone, computers. Second, I do not think that these areas would have the infrastructure necessary to support such a task. I do see where the vision of this program is going however. It’s kind of like the old saying, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a life-time.? Unfortunately, I don’t think that many of the third world countries’ ponds have any fish to hunt for. However, from what we see on OLPC’s website, this program is just starting to be implemented with Libya, Uruguay, and Rwanda just recently signing up for the program. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Ellen Goodman Article on Privacy and New Media

Hi: Here is an article by Ellen Goodman which expresses what I was trying to say in my post this week much better than I did.
In essence, are we allowed to have checkered pasts or youthful indiscretions now that the internet has such a long memory and such thing can be broadcast immediately (witness The Smoking Gun)

Or given that the reality is the same for all of us, maybe we can know the information is out there and cut one another some slack on occasion.

February 25, 2007

Old Topic But Interesting

Hi everyone. I saw this blog post about Second Life and thought it was really interesting, and what is currently happening in Second Life


computing award goes to female for first time

(AP) -- One of the most prestigious prizes in computing, the $100,000 Turing Award, went to a woman Wednesday for the first time in the award's 40-year history.

Frances E. Allen, 74, was honored for her work at IBM Corp. on techniques for optimizing the performance of compilers, the programs that translate one computer language into another.

This process is required to turn programming code into the binary zeros and ones actually read by a computer's colossal array of minuscule switches."

Search engines and Privacy

I found a quote by Eric Schmidt who is the CEO of Google and I have to say that it really surprised me. The article itself is about gmail and you guys can visit it at http://www.gmail-is-too-creepy.com. It's titled "Creepy Gmail." In the article, Eric Schmidt states "Search is a force for peace and a better world. Google will reveal how everybody lives and thinks and speaks and looks and that is beneficial to world peace. Societies get along better when they know/see/hear more about each other." I find this quote a little erie because it seems to me like this guys has a really warped idea of what would create world peace. I personally don't think that just because I can look up a picture of someone in Singapore that it will make me want to go out and hug everyone in the world. What purpose could I possibly have in looking up complete strangers online? If anything, I think that this would lead to more stalkers and problems.

Google acting as Big Brother

I found an article called "Google as Big Brother" and I thought that it tied really well with our discussion this week. Check it out at http://www.google-watch.org/bigbro.html. I found it interesting because they talked a lot about the concerns that some people have with Google. The article discussed how Google records every action people make when they log on; it also talked about how Google can access and record all of people's information when they're added to the toolbar menu on people's computers. The toolbar also updates itself without notifying the computer owner, which makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable because I think that any kind of upgrades should first go through the computer owner. There's also information in the article about how Google never says why it is that they need eveyone's information collected and saved. My concern is that they're going to have some sort of thing going on with the government and the CIA for some odd reason. There really should be more limitations and restrictions placed on such a diverse and growing company so that they don't turn on their customers.

So, once again the article is called "Google as Big Brother" and the URL is http://www.google-watch.org/bigbro.html

RIpped from the Headlines:

Did anybody notice this in the St. Paul paper's business section on Saturday? The article, called "When to sell the Goldmine", is about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's decision to continue building the website rather than selling, and the lucrative business of running asocial networking site.

FACEBOOK. Oh you gotta love it?

So, the real reason I joined the facebook was out of pure innocent. I had no idea what sort of power this thing had. My friend’s roommate explained to me that the facebook was something “you can use to see who is going to be in your class and get notes from them and stuff.? Yea right, I have not used that since I edited my privacy options to not listing my classes anymore.

Facebook today is not what I had initially thought, it is a social tool that can be used in a variety of ways, whether for research on a person, stalking, posting pictures, adding notes, or “poking? your friends, it is its own community. Today a few friends of mine refer to it strictly as the Creepbook. I know last year, a girl I am friends with had to erase her facebook account because the workers at her dorm were constantly harassing her through the facebook. Now she has set it up so that only she can “invite? people to see her profile.

Personally I have recently changed my profile so that only my friends can see my “whole? profile. I used to be against it, letting my whole U of M network view it, but not with many employers and alumni with U of M e-mail accounts, as well as teachers, I believe if they are interested in my interests, they should try to get to know me first rather than just stalking. All in all, I feel that the facebook, for the time being, is fun, but I know I will eventually have to erase my profile, all good (digital) things do eventually come to an end.

GoLemur... the new Facebook

On Wednesday I was in a focus group for a company that is coming out with a new "Facebook" called GoLemur. However, this new "Facebook" has a catch to it. You can now get paid for having people visit your site. It is still in the process of figuring out all the quirks to the new program, but I think it seems pretty cool. It's a combonation of MySpace and Facebook where you can design your own page along with posting videos from YouTube and depending on how many people veiw your page and your videos, you would then get paid for how many "hits" you have a month.

The only catch there is, is that you have to pay a certain amount each month or year depending on how "intense " you want to have your page be. You can check this new thing out on www.GoLemur.com

Also, along with PostSecret which I love reading every Sunday, there is another web page "Find of the Day" that posts different letters or notes that people find each day. It is pretty cool to read some of the posts. www.foundmagazine.com

I am a big fan of PostSecret and I look forward to the new posts each Sunday. There are so many secrets out in the world, and if you have read the blog, some of them are pretty deep. I find it interesting the lengths that people go to decorate their postcards. I have each of the books, and am planning on going to see the exhibit this summer with a few of my friends that are also very interested in the blog. I don't feel as though this page is breaking the privacy rights of these people because they volunteer to send in their postcards hoping they will get posted.

February 24, 2007

Go Facebook!!!!oh no they can see me!!!!

Once I finally joined the Facebook brigade I found it quite fun and interesting. I hoenstly originally joined becuse my good friend who is completely obsessed with facebook told me to set up a profile because it is a good way to meet some girls. I had just broken up at the time, so I figured that I could justify joining for this reason. I think I sat at my computer for at least 4 hours setting up my page and basically marketing yourself to be appealing. Then I just sat there and searched and flipped through all the options you had, and could "control" your privacy. Facebook is definitely the premier avenue, if you don't like the sensory overload that myspace has, to stay connected in college. When I would meet new people in my classes here at the U, we would chat for a bit then part ways to our next class but not before we got each others names and said "Hey hit me up on facebook!" Its just apart of my college life now. It is super fun finding and reaquainting yourself with old friends from a past job or even a girl you used to date just to see what they are up to. Facebook has made this so easy, you can basically bypass alot of small talk if or when you see the person live because you have already gathered almost all the relevant small time information you would normaly talk about because of facebook.
With reagards to the privacy issue, especially the mini- newsfeed of facebook, I don't believe we really have any control. I did think the mini-feed was somewhat overkill when first introduced, but facebook does give you some decent privacy options for who sees you and what specific information you want shared. If you do a search for me on facebook, my name will not be found just because that is how I set my privacy options. You can only find me through someone who is already friends with me, and you cna only see my information or pictures if you are friends with me. I do not believe that schools should institute any guidelines (at least college level) on facebook use. Once again the information that students provide could be quite advantagous to universities. We are adults and need to be responsible for what we post about ourselves. Look at the example from the Cornell article about the young man who went to an interview and was turned down because someone in HR had seen his post. The rest of the Cornell article tells us that it is our responsibility to how we market ourselves and what we post and since we have other internet sources that cache information. Since we know that internet institutions have this ability we can or cannot put ourselves at risk on the information highway by what we do post or discuss on the internet. The "Big Brother" syndrome should always be in the back of our minds, and its not going to go away anytime soon.

I do believe that facebook has a responsibility to respect our privacy, or at least the facevalue of it. Maybe they are trafficing our personal information around to others, but honestly just keep it in the dark. I have a friend who is a programmer connected with the government and its scary what they can access at anytime they want, and they will without your consent. This might sound like im just being weak and not wanting to step up and fight for privacy, but remember what Schneier said, "But we all need to remember that much of that control is illusory." I believe this to be quite true and should be somewhere in the thoughts of everyone who uses the internet.

February 23, 2007

Internet social problem

I don't know if I would call this random cool stuff....it's more like uncool stuff.

In today's Star Tribune, there was an article about the "grave social problem" in China with the internet. A survey found that nearly 14% of Chinese teenagers are vunerable to internet addiction. The Chinese government has launched a nationwide campaign to stamp out this social problem that threatens the nation. They have created a law that bans youth from going into internet cafes and they have created software that will kick people off of the internet after 5 hours of game playing.

The government is helping to fund 8 inpatient rehabilitation clinics across the country. The clinics use a "tough love" approach using counseling, military discipline, drugs, hypnosis and mild electric shock. One of the clinic leaders near Shangai, Guo Tiejun believes that the root of the problem is loneliness. He states "the kids who get addicted to the internet have some kind of disability or weakness. They can't make friends, can't fulfill their desire of social communication so they go online".

Parents who force their children into the clinics are paying upwards of $1,300 per month for the treatment (about 10 times the average salary in China).

I knew that the Chinese government had been censoring the internet for some time but I think they have gone a little bit too far.

Very uncool.


February 21, 2007

Profile Builders Anonymous

Hello. My name is Andrew. I have been Facebook free for...about a day.
I feel compelled to keep up with my social networking sites because I use them mostly to maintain long-distance friendships; friendships which otherwise would be hard to proliferate. There is no doubt though that my information is much more widely available that simply to those I make actual, active, efforts to contact. As far as Facebook is concerned, I have reduced the amount of information displayed about myself for the simple fact that I don't feel it is necessary. When it updates me on people's posts, on another third-party's wall, I feel a bit gluttonous in this new form of global village human experience. At the same time, I have little problem with people seeing my basic profile--it's pretty bare-bones anyhow. It reminds me of someone I heard say "You can't put your phone number online," to the response "Why, what are they going to do? Call me?"
I don't want to contend that people should be more lax with their information however. It is obvious that there must be as a spectrum of options for different levels of comfortability with the specific community in which information is shared. This wide range of options, though, must be observed with an awareness that all information, no matter in what context, could be recovered or examined by a third party. This leaves companies free to deny (legally) responsibility for shared information because the fine print of the internet is just that much easier to skim it seems. Laura Gurak speaks of this in this week's passage. Most frightening of all, aside from over-ambitious companies looking to gloss over the fact that they take and use your information often guiltlessly, is the low amount of awareness among the mass-population of internet users. The head-over-heels acceptance of the internet into our lives goes as deep as the legislation that is repeatedly rushed through approval in a vein attempt to stay up with the times.
This combined with an amazingly massive user-base makes everything high-stakes with unknown odds. The data we covered this week was a fine example of this mass-usage and active participation. A part of the data in "Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview" struck me, " 5% of online teens who reported use of a social networking site said they had not posted a profile online, which suggests that there is a very small subset of visitors to social networking websites who merely view the profiles of others and do not create profiles of their own." This illustrates our changing concept of social acceptability regarding the internet and specifically hyper-social sites like Facebook.
I think there is some validity in the writings from the University of Minnesota and Cornell regarding SNS's. It is important that a school at least addresses an issue that will arise in student life, but beyond that, it's a very user-controlled reality. It is a personal choice what to post, and what to omit. Legally and socially, though, universities have no obligation to fulfill. This sentiment seems vaguely present in the two pieces, Cornell's a bit more personal and conversational whereas the University of Minnesota piece was short, concise and formal.
Whatever the case, I think I've found my balance of feeling secure and staying in touch and wouldn't look to the university for guidance in such a matter anyhow, making such informal and unrequited policies seem like more of a public service.

Be Responsible For Your OWN Privacy

I’ve been a member of Facebook for a few years now, but to be honest I’m not a big fan of it. It has been more of a community to re-unite with high school classmates and contact people I’ve met in college rather than a community of true friends for me. Personally, I find the whole privacy issue a bit humorous. Like I’ve said in previous blogs, I am very conscious of what I put in my online profiles. I don’t put anything out there that I don’t want anyone with a computer to see. Fact is not matter how “secure? a website is there will always be someone who finds a way to hack in. I do have to say that I think Facebook is better than some online communities. Theoretically, people can only view your profile if you add them as a friend or if they attend your school. That does narrow down the amount of people who have easy access to your profile. I think this is a good feature compared to Myspace, where you have to manually change your settings so only your friends can see your profile (a hard/confusing task for some). I think it is good for schools to give students guidelines for Facebook use. I think some of the younger students are not as wise with their online use and providing them some warnings or recommendations is a good way for the schools to help them out. I personally don’t think it should be Facebook’s responsibility to protect your privacy. I think it should be your responsibility to be smart about what you put online and protect your own privacy!

Event: We are having 2 kegs and a wop!

Facebook to me is the greatest social tool to be created to this date. My first experience with a completely open online community was with facebook 3 years ago. Since, I have created a social group that consists of far more people than anyone could possibly keep track of. I think of last weeks article on how we define our so called "friends" in our online communities. I would go as far to say that half of my "friends" are only minor acquiantances. However, Facebook allows me the oppurtunity to network with people I would have otherwise not have reached.

I remember the News Feed situation that Schneier's article alludes to. I was very alarmed by the idea that all of my information was being shared to not only my friends but to social acquiantances that I had made. What upset me about the news feed was exactly what Schneier stated; the lack of control I had over my information. Most users would have chosen to use the news feed if just given the option. However, if your not given that option you feel your privacy is being violated which from a humanistic stand point it is. Now the news feed allows us to delete feeds or not allow others to see the feed which gives the user control of his/her profile.

I only allow designated friends of mine to view my profile and from there I limit certain users from viewing pictures or other personal information of mine. My personal privacy at this time I admit is very liberal. I don't try to be very political in my posts or raise other issues that may be controversial just because I know not everyone feels the way I do. I feel that me being a less active user than that of others keeps me private.

Schools should regulate facebook in a way that correlates to their recommendations. The U of M's policy is very open that it basicly says to not be stupid and post things that will make you look like a criminal. Cornell's is more in depth in its explanation of why they are implementing their policy. Both schools seem to have the best intentions for students in mind by reminding them that now is the time where we are young and stupid and that maybe we don't want to be recorded forever that way in history.

Facebooks responsibilty to me is what seperates itself from other social networking sites. The ability to control my privacy and to be a social community builder relating to reality. The success of facebook relies on the users to be able to participate in activities and social events. These events are what builds and creates true friendships.

Privacy and Control

Privacy and the Internet is a battleground and I think the opposing sides are just beginning to amass various weapons of mass destruction. The problem in part as Gurak noted, is that people don't know what their rights are or what the are the rights of the service providers. Copyright is also a grey area. Most important though is the illusion of coziness we may have with ourselves in a home office with a cup of coffee and our computer. Behind that screen, for lack of a better term is not big void of incomprehensible plasticity, but of liquidity--ever-changing, but with a wicked memory, and depth. We have noted that many of these applications are very accessible and friendly, but Gurak says "technologies do their work in the background." (p. 114) Behind all of this simple and easy to use design is a lot of work, code, and data.

I have trouble with the fact that employers see it as a right to look into Facebook or other sites for transgressions of young applicants. To me that steps over a line beyond reference checking. I liked that Cornell steps away from that approach as an institution--"Cornell University is very proud of its policy against monitoring the network for content as a practice." This gives college students a chance to breathe and as the policy states again "make decisions about who you want to be." The idea that every move one makes on a computer is monitored and recorded and indexed---somewhere has the potential to make paranoiacs or exhibitionists of us all.

Sneier contends that the Facebook rebellion was not really about privacy, but about control, and that users of such sites have practically no control at all. He goes on to state that Facebook's privacy policy states that it can change at any time (just like credit card policies and rules). But in a publicly used space is that really the case? It seems to me the outcry proves just the opposite--the feed was removed. This does not mean that Facebook does not have the data or the power to use it in other ways. The example Gurak gave of Amazon's friend matching seems like a similar situation--(supposed) good intentions backfiring. Data and technology are a powerful team, and sometimes I think companies like to dazzle themselves rather than the customer.

I find it kind of sad and limiting that we have to be so careful of providing on-line information, as Gurak says "a good guideline for cyberliteracy is that you should never post anything on the Internet or on e-mail that you would regret seeing in a different context." I would think it takes a lot of the spontenaity out of many interactions. However, it seems like young users (Pew) are aware of such hazards and make good use of privacy settings on social networking sites.

Interests: Facebooking

After about six months of using Facebook, I encountered my first stalker. Prior to this, I had used Facebook to contact friends mainly from high school so I had most of my information such as my new phone number that I had just recently got along with my screen name, address and such. Having Facebook as my first on line community, I didn’t think much of putting all of my information on line. I just thought it would be nice if my friends could access it, if they needed to get a hold of me. Well, as I stated before, I started getting messages from this person that “found? me through Facebook and obviously had all of my information. I started getting letters daily from him, flowers delivered weekly, as well as him leaving me horrid messages. This was my rude awakening about privacy issues. After this incidence, I learned about blocking people and changing your privacy settings. Currently I have my privacy set to the most intense level it can be at which enables me to be completely invisible to people that are not my friends. For instance, if you searched me, my name would not show up. I feel as though this lets me to still be able to use the network as a on line community with my friends and not have to worry about creepers on the web.

Also as a side note, at the beginning of the “news feed? many people were very upset about this feature displaying information that they updated or their friends updated, and Facebook came back with the response that the news feed is not violating privacy issues because everything that is posted on the news feed is open to the pubic, the Facebook crew is just making it more accessible. I also think that it is interesting that the day after the news feed came out; it was the headliner for the Wall Street Journal. Facebook is bigger than anyone ever thought it would be.

In my opinion, I believe that the University does not have any control over Facebook, especially now that you do not have to be part of a network to join Facebook. I have heard of instances where people have been reported to their dorms because of their Facebook pictures. I know that when posting anything on Facebook you are responsible for that particular item, but getting punished in an academic setting for your social life is completely uncalled for coming from the University’s standpoint. Because of this, many people have been changing their last names or spelling their name differently not only because of the University but as companies as well.

Overall, I think that Facebook is the next new communication tool and people just need to be aware of the privacy issues that happen and take charge and change the settings to something that is comfortable to their own taste. As far as the University believes that it has the right to punish people for issues and comments on Facebook, I think they need to take a step back and reconsider this new tool that is being integrated into every college kid’s life.

Google...the 8th Wonder of the World

Looking at the second list of sites I realized that I have seen the PostSecret site. From the first time that I saw it to now...I find it extremely creepy. Regardless if they are random and no one knows who they are from, I feel either bad or horrified at the deeds that some people are willing to get off their chests. There are some things that I believe are going on in this site. I think that this proves how anonymous the internet can be. How many people actually know who sends in these letters? One or two I would think. These people want to admit something but are ashamed or guilty to say it to the people they should be talking too. The internet provides a place for people to be anonymous. This tells me that the Internet is like a free psychologist to tell your problems too. If this trend continues and people continue to admit wrongs that could be crimes authorities will begin to look at these sites. People need to be careful. (I do, however, find it respectable that PostSecrets provides a depression help line and an event for people to express their problems.

I also watched the Google Master Plan video and find it ridiculous. I find it amusing that people continue to accept these conspiracy theories as reality. Google probably is gaining information about those that use it because they are a business. When you get a call from a telemarketer they got you information from another business. This type of marketing has gone on for years. It does not surprise me that people get so worked up on the power of a company and cannot accept its success. If we really wish to be private, why do we have computers, cell phones, or credit cards? Other businesses have been accused of working with authorities and these people have not taken over the United States. If they had wouldn't Bill Gates have been dictator years ago? People need to get over their thoughts and accept Google as a business.

Pinky and the Brain vs. Privacy!

In her book Cyberliteracy,Laura Gurak tells us about the sobering fact that law enforcement agencies can legally use words that you have posted on the internet as evidence in a court of law (Gurak 112). Once you post a comment on a blog, or send an email, that information is no longer in your control. It makes me worry about how my own comments could be twisted and used against me.

Over the past few years I have been frequently posting comments on various news sites and blogs. The topic usually revolves around politics and our ailing election system. I've posted comments on topics regarding the electronic paperless voting machines that were furnished to some states by the Help America Vote Act. These untested machines were somehow supposed to be an improvement over the older machines that at least provided a paper record of citizen’s votes. I was outraged to find out that these new machines provided no reliable record of the votes that they were counting. An electronic tabulation could be manipulated or lost in the blink of an eye. Having a background in electronics, I know full well that it was a terrible decision to use these machines. So I voiced my outrage online and hoped it would make a difference.

Looking back, I wonder if anything I said could be used against me. I shouldn't worry, I never go over the top and call for people's heads or anything (oops I just did!). But it does get me wondering about people's rights to the words that they post on the web. It would be great if there were basic protections to people's postings. Maybe including your email address with you comments could be a sort of postage stamp that protects your words from ever being used against you. And if you are in fact an evil psycho, the authorities can then get a warrant to inspect your transactions.

I have to say that I am not a fan of the practice of data mining. When I'm online, I'd rather that my information stays private. I hear stories about how companies are taking and selling their client's personal information and I think that it's deplorable. Take Facebook for instance. Bruce Schneier claims that Facebook owns all of the data that its members upload to their site. Basically, Facebook can sell its customers personal data to anyone they wish. I think that it would a good idea if our government passed legislation that would prohibit this practice.

Another data nightmare that comes to mind is the frequent reports of corporate and government employees that somehow lose their laptop computers that contain the data and personal information of millions of people. There was an occurrence just recently where the Veterans Administration lost a hard drive that contained the data of 1.8 million people. The article claims that millions of social security numbers may have been lost. This loss of valuable data could hurt a lot of people. Here's the link to the story. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/4548367.html

As for Facebook in general, I just signed up so I don't know a lot about it. It's different from other networking sites like Myspace in that you can actually hook into local communities. This seems nice because you can communicate with people that live in your general area. In a way, I feel that this makes for more of a personal online community because the people that you interact with are actually living in your real world community. A community conundrum if you will!

In Facebook I trust

I trust in the current privacy guidelines set up by Facebook and understand that I am responsible for the amount and degree of information I post.

I thought the readings chosen for this week were very applicable to the discussion of privacy and Facebook. In which case I have organized my blog into four sections covering various points from the articles.

1. Social Networkig Sites and Teens (Lenhart & Madden)

The article states that their study shows girls are using online social networks to reinforce friendships and boys in addition are using the networkd to flirt and meet new friends. The statistic is that 70% of girls are using these networks vs. 54% of boys. My personal response to this is that older girls are at an age of insecurity. I think places such as Myspace and Facebook can boost a girls self esteem and provide a sense of community during these interesting yet challenging years. Teenage boys using networks to flirt and meet new "friends" is understandable based on there curiousity in the other sex and sexual exploration at this age. This is a random arguement but sums up my thoughts of the reasons teens may seek to use online social networks.

2. Living in Online Communities
I believe it is great that the U of M is responding to the need to educate students about posting information on online communities. My favorite piece of advice was when posting items online consider if you have your friends permission to post pictures or stories of them online. This applies to me and my facebook community in a way that I do not appreciate friends putting certain pictures of myself online. I want to chose the pictures and stories I am apart of online, period. I don't appreicate the ability of others to paint the way others may perceive me through these social networks.

3. Thoughts on Facebook (Mitrano, 2006)
II. Caching
Under this section was my favorite quote from all of the readings:

"Don't give people an excuse to think of you in a single dimensional way. Instead of trying just to fit into a single group, think about yourself as an interesting person with depth of personality and character. What you put out on Facebook about yourself should be an invitation to the rest of the world to get to know you better." (Mitrano, 2006)

Perhaps these online communities are challenging students to perceive how others see them which I think represents a strong validation for such networking.

4. Lessons from Facebook Riots (Schneider, 2006)

This article was most useful when reviewing my personal thoughts of privacy and Facebook.

For example it begins the article discussing the implementation of "News Feeds" and the follow-up of privacy options. I was a member of Facebook previous to the News Feeds and upon implementation of this so-called tool I was upset that I did not have control of other people tracking my new adds, profile adjustments, etc. I found myself using Facebook less and feeling less confident in my online privacy. Upon implementation of the privacy options I strengthened my privacy and have since felt more comfortable about my Facebook participation.

The only personal policy I have implemented is to not become obsessive of checking my Facebook. I admit that it at times serves as a distraction but am not concerned about an overuse of time spent networking through this community.

Upon proposing the question if schools should concern themselves with Facebook pages and develop guidelines I referred back to the study of Social Networking Sites and Teens by Lenhart and Madden. They stated that 42% of students are spending time at school on their online social networks. This had proposed a concern to me and in response I believe that schools should not allow this participation during school hours. Students are not using these networks to improve their education or professional skills so in the case of highschool students it is best if this participation takes place at home.

The final question is what responsibility Facebook has to respecting my privacy?

This question will require some additional pondering. I will address this question in a later blog.

In Facebook I trust

I trust in the current privacy guidelines set up by Facebook and understand that I am responsible for the amount and degree of information I post.

I thought the readings chosen for this week were very applicable to the discussion of privacy and Facebook. In which case I have organized my blog into four sections covering various points from the articles.

1. Social Networkig Sites and Teens (Lenhart & Madden)

The article states that their study shows girls are using online social networks to reinforce friendships and boys in addition are using the networkd to flirt and meet new friends. The statistic is that 70% of girls are using these networks vs. 54% of boys. My personal response to this is that older girls are at an age of insecurity. I think places such as Myspace and Facebook can boost a girls self esteem and provide a sense of community during these interesting yet challenging years. Teenage boys using networks to flirt and meet new "friends" is understandable based on there curiousity in the other sex and sexual exploration at this age. This is a random arguement but sums up my thoughts of the reasons teens may seek to use online social networks.

2. Living in Online Communities
I believe it is great that the U of M is responding to the need to educate students about posting information on online communities. My favorite piece of advice was when posting items online consider if you have your friends permission to post pictures or stories of them online. This applies to me and my facebook community in a way that I do not appreciate friends putting certain pictures of myself online. I want to chose the pictures and stories I am apart of online, period. I don't appreicate the ability of others to paint the way others may perceive me through these social networks.

3. Thoughts on Facebook (Mitrano, 2006)
II. Caching
Under this section was my favorite quote from all of the readings:

"Don't give people an excuse to think of you in a single dimensional way. Instead of trying just to fit into a single group, think about yourself as an interesting person with depth of personality and character. What you put out on Facebook about yourself should be an invitation to the rest of the world to get to know you better." (Mitrano, 2006)

Perhaps these online communities are challenging students to perceive how others see them which I think represents a strong validation for such networking.

4. Lessons from Facebook Riots (Schneider, 2006)

This article was most useful when reviewing my personal thoughts of privacy and Facebook.

For example it begins the article discussing the implementation of "News Feeds" and the follow-up of privacy options. I was a member of Facebook previous to the News Feeds and upon implementation of this so-called tool I was upset that I did not have control of other people tracking my new adds, profile adjustments, etc. I found myself using Facebook less and feeling less confident in my online privacy. Upon implementation of the privacy options I strengthened my privacy and have since felt more comfortable about my Facebook participation.

The only personal policy I have implemented is to not become obsessive of checking my Facebook. I admit that it at times serves as a distraction but am not concerned about an overuse of time spent networking through this community.

Upon proposing the question if schools should concern themselves with Facebook pages and develop guidelines I referred back to the study of Social Networking Sites and Teens by Lenhart and Madden. They stated that 42% of students are spending time at school on their online social networks. This had proposed a concern to me and in response I believe that schools should not allow this participation during school hours. Students are not using these networks to improve their education or professional skills so in the case of highschool students it is best if this participation takes place at home.

The final question is what responsibility Facebook has to respecting my privacy?

This question will require some additional pondering. I will address this question in a later blog.

Facebook...the Evil of the World.

I’ve been on the facebook for three years. I started on it in 2004. A lot of my experiences with facebook involve both benevolent uses and malevolent uses as well. On facebook I’ve stayed in touch with old friends, contacted them, and traded pictures. I also made my relationship with my girlfriend “facebook official.? However, facebook has been used for slander as well. I’ve been threatened by a person on facebook before, and I’ve seen people hounded by facebook groups as well.

Due to malevolent uses of the facebook, I have censored by profile a bit. I keep crazy pictures off of it; I do not give out my phone number, and I almost never leave wall posts. This is mostly because I do not want employers to see it, or the University of Minnesota. This is because, “Pictures or other evidence of illegal behavior, such as underage drinking, could put you at risk for legal consequences, including violations of the Student Conduct Code and Housing and Residential Life policies (The University of Minnesota, Student Code of Conduct).? Also, stated in Bruce Schnieder’s article; “Facebook members are just fooling themselves if they think they can control information they give to third parties.? Due to both of these factors, I think the only one responsible for what people know about one is YOU. As far as facebook is concerned, if one does not want others to know something about oneself, then do not post personal information on the internet. This is because once one posts upon the internet, their post can be queried, and searched for. Likewise, when one posts upon the internet, one volunteers thier information. Consequently, facebook has no responsibility to keep posted information secret. This is because the facebooker has already volunteered their information to the facebook and its wider community.

Facebook is smarter than I

I’ll start off by saying I’ve never like Facebook. To me, Facebook seems cluttered, and I don’t like the idea that it is marketed towards students. I don’t want my online communication to be limited to a specific age group, where there are other blogging sites that I feel do a better job of integrating people of all age groups, student or not, into a blogging community.
I do not, however, feel that the privacy issues that were raised in the readings have ever affected me. More importantly, it would be a terrible idea to gather information from personal blogs, as there is no way to tell what is truth and what is fiction. I find that many of the blogs I read have profiles that amuse me, which I think is the intent in most cases.
I tell the truth in my blog, and that is the very reason I stay away from Facebook. On Facebook, you are identified by your name, and are required to imput your school email. This alone takes away more privacy than I want to be taken away; I’d prefer to remain anonymous. Under the cover on anonymity, I am fine with posting anything and everything, not that I do.
One thing that interested me, was that Facebook states that they have the right to alter their rules whenever they see fit (Schneier). At first, this seemed to be unacceptable, but the more I thought about it, it is completely necessary. Because the internet is still new and changing, with controversy over sometimes vague rules and regulations, leaving itself in a position to change the rules whenever they want is like a get out of jail free card. With this being the case, Facebook is free to say they have no responsibility over your privacy.

Facebook Has Covered Its Bases on Privacy

I feel like I could write a book about my impressions and experiences with Facebook! I have been using it for almost 2 years now, and have seen its interface and functionality evolve substantially. I must say that I liked the oldest version of Facebook the most. This is because it was simple, clean, easy to use and a little less intrusive! The live news feed about what EVERYONE is doing EVERY second of the day is a little much. Although, I am starting to adapt to it and find it helpful once in awhile to remind me of an event or let me know what old friends are up to. The privacy issues are quite important for me to manage. I am under the most limited view profile. I only let my friends see my profile and pictures. One reason I do this is because I am aware that if I don’t I have opened myself up to ALL of the public. (Because now Facebook is opened to anyone). I also do not participate in the section where it asks you how you know someone. I think this can give away a lot of personal things and so I just skip that step. Additionally, when a random person asks to be my friend, instead of just saying yes, I say no! I have to know the person pretty well or have a class with them in order to allow them access to my profile. I think what I am most protective about are my pictures. If I am tagged in a picture I wouldn’t want my grandma to see, I delete it, ask someone who posted it to delete it, or untag it. (This doesn’t happen very often! But, there are times when I wouldn’t want a future employer or “my grandma? to see the picture!)
I do not think schools should concern themselves about Facebook pages. It would be quite an undertaking and full-time job to monitor content. Maybe, though, it could be a way for schools to note or see problems a student may be having (especially high school), and a way to catch illegal activity. Even though students may think it is cool to have pictures and quotes up that are inappropriate, it is a signal to schools that misbehavior is occurring. I do not think that finding something on Facebook is enough, though, to substantiate getting in trouble. More physical proof is needed in my opinion.
Facebook should be very careful about others’ privacy. They should let users know ahead of time when a change is about to occur, so that users can make adjustments accordingly. Additionally, it might be helpful if Facebook sent out a note reminding users to check out their policy statement…and maybe even make an abbreviated or annotated one!
As for the readings, I was very enlightened by the differences in the two school policies listings. Also, the first article from the PEW study seemed obvious and affirmed some of my assumptions about MySpace and Facebook. The most interesting table was: (PEW 5).
Less than $50,000 55%
$50,000 or more 56
White, non-Hispanic 53%
Non-white 58
What this table tells me is that income and race really has no affect on users. This also tells me the playing field has been leveled, and that all types of teenagers are participating. Thus, it is truly a representative sample. I also think the marketing and targeting companies can do to this age group are astounding and the opportunity is large.
My favorite two quotes that are so contrasting from the Schools’ policies are: “
It is very important that you read the terms and conditions for any Web site where you create an account? (U of M 1) and “Think not only about what identity you create for yourself online, but also how you represent others? (Cornell 2).
The U of M’s policies are so dry and straightforward, and Cornell’s are actually helpful. Cornell gives specific examples that actually might make you think “Gee, sucks for him, I better be careful.? The U of M quote about reading the policies is funny, because I bet there are a select few users who have read through ALL of them. I do think the more worried users read through portions, but I cannot imagine someone reading through all of them.
Lastly, the quote from the Schneider affirms what I thought previously. “Unfortunately, Facebook can change the rules whenever it wants. Its Privacy Policy is 2,800 words long, and ends with a notice that it can change at any time. How many members ever read that policy, let alone read it regularly and check for changes?? (Schneider 2). I doubt many people fully understand that the rules can change at anytime. It is pretty smart, though, of Facebook to say this. It means they will have very limited liability in the case of lawsuits.

Facebook: Do they know more about us than we do?

I first joined Facebook my sophomore year of college (Fall of 2004). This was when it was known as The Facebook, because when typing it into the address bar, you wouldn’t get anywhere without typing “the?. The reason I joined Facebook was because two of my roommates had, and one of them pointed out to me that it was a great way to keep on contact with people from high school. So, naturally, I created a profile for myself, and instantly I had a plethora of “friend invites? from old high school friends. It was actually kind of nice to see what they were up to. Since then, that has been the extent to what I have used Facebook for. Never mind. I actually used it onetime to look up people who were in one of my classes and messaged them to see if they knew what the homework was, because I couldn’t get hold of the professor. It proved useful in this case too. However, one of my roommates used the Facebook in a completely different way. He would spend hours and hours a night on it, messaging and poking (I always thought the “poking? thing was completely ridiculous, but hey…to each their own) as many girls as he could. Yup….he’s THAT guy. The weird thing is that it actually worked. He received a couple dates from the process, and even one “random hookup?. Due to extremely thin walls, it was exactly at that moment that I realized the true capability and power of the Facebook. I thought it was amazing that this one program could actually be used as a social network

As far as privacy issues go, I feel that the Facebook is a spawning ground for private issues that you don’t want to get out, to eventually go public. I personally am decently protective of myself on the Facebook. I don’t give out my phone number in my personal info, nor do I go into detail about my interests, or favorite anythings. I don’t like it when people post or “tag? pictures of me up on my profile, so I usually delete them if it happens. I’ve never invited anyone to be my friend, and don’t do the wall posts. I guess as Baym put it, I’m more of a watcher than anything. The PEW and American Life Study showed us that 66% of teens who have created profiles limit access to their profile pages. I also do not let my profile be viewed by just anyone. In order to view my profile, I either have to accept a friend request from them (which I actually give some thought to), or they had to go to my high school.

I have no problem with how the University of Minnesota and Cornell University are taking action with Facebook. They are not intruding into the space of the students, or banning it by any means. Instead, I see it as the university warning the students of the possibilities that Facebook brings, so they don’t do anything that would ruin their future. In the Cornell University Facebook Policy, they state that students should follow the “Golden Rule,? which is, “don't say anything about someone else that you would not want said about yourself. And be gentle with yourself too! What might seem fun or spontaneous at 18, given caching technologies, might prove to be a liability to an on-going sense of your identity over the longer course of history.? I find this to be great advice for all students to follow when using any aspect of the internet. The possibilities of information that can be gained from our computer using habits are so amazing that it’s actually scary.

Along those same lines, Facebook is the legal owner of any information that people put on it. I completely agree with Bruce Schneier saying, “When Facebook unilaterally changed the rules about how personal information was revealed, it reminded people that they weren't in control. Its 9 million members put their personal information on the site based on a set of rules about how that information would be used.? I believe that Facebook has a contract with all if its members, and does not need to abide by anything else. Morally, I do not think that it is right. However, with many companies in the business world, what’s legal is the new definition of being moral.

The many Faces of Facebook

My first impressions of facebook where amazement. A fellow student introduced me to facebook around 2 years ago or so and I was hooked instantly. Now I have realized that there isn't a whole lot to it. It doesn't have a lot of features like instant messaging and things like that. If they were to intergrade these features eventually on facebook that would be a real plus. However, I think it's pretty innovative and lets you stay in touch with old high school buddies and other college friends from all over the world. I have a cousin that I don't get to talk to a lot because of the time difference because she lives in London. So it work well communication through facebook and looking at each others pictures over what we did the past weekend and so on.

The privacy issues that facebook has raised I have now not given really any of my location information or my cell phone number or anything. At first, I didn't think there was much of a privacy issue with all the information that facebook had, the Schneier points to this issue, ... "all it did was take available data and aggregate it in a novel way for what it perceived was its customers' benefit. Facebook members instinctively understood that making this information easier to display was an enormous difference, and that privacy is more about control than about secrecy." (Shneire, 1). I didn't realize how complicated this privacy issue really was until I read this article. Shneier points this out in another part of the article, "Privacy used to be about secrecy. Someone defending himself in court against the charge of revealing someone else's personal information could use as a defense the fact that it was not secret. But clearly, privacy is more complicated than that." (Schneier, 1).

Some of the policies that I have adopted is just not giving out any location information like I have pointed out earlier. I think it's important not to give that information out to just anyone. Especially now when anyone can log in and see anyone profile.

I think that schools shouldn't be too concerned with the privacy issues. I think that resets more with facebook. I think that they should, I'm not sure if they don't already, give you privacy notice before you sign up and also send you a privacy notice when you log on maybe every month. I think if they give us some educational material about privacy issues and have that displayed right when you log on, that would help benefit us instead of schools getting involved and having there own policies. It also means, however, that it is up to you to set your own limits and create your own identity and to be responsible for the consequences, given that you live in the real world of rules, judicial discipline, employers with their own interests as well as other people who, like it or not, will make judgments about what they see. (Cornell University article 1).

Facebook has a pretty big interest in protect our privacy. I think that if you use a service were you can virtually tell people who you are, what you like, where you work, where you hang out, your phone number, e-mail address, etc. they have a responsiblity for letting you know the consequences of giving out this information to anyone that can log in and use it illegaly.


I found Facebook to be an interesting online community. But I need to experiment further before I decide to become part of the community. I have handled the privacy issues Facebook raises by entering only the required profile information for myself and narrowing the search criteria people are allowed to look for in my contact information as I indicate in the next paragraph. I am not paranoid, I am very security conscious and I don’t want to populate my Facebook profile with private information until I have evaluated Facebook’s worth vs. the information I may decide to share. I think that this is the balance we need to be constantly aware of when sharing private information on the internet.

I modified my Facebook ‘My Privacy’ settings for Profile for all of the default settings for my Contact Information from ‘all my networks and all my friends’ to ‘only my friends’. I also modified all of the default settings for Profile Features from ‘all my networks and all my friends’ to ‘only me’. I further modified My Privacy settings for Search to ‘only my fiends’ in college networks to narrow the search scope for this course. Of course Facebook has no responsibility to observe my privacy configurations as Facebook reserves the right to change their policy at any time (Schneier, B., Lessons from the Facebook Riots, p. 3).

I certainly can understand how students have run into serious issues regarding their postings on Facebook. An example of this was the male student posting intimate details about himself and later discovering he had not gotten a job because the potential employee discovered his postings (Tracy Mitrano, T., Cornell University, Thoughts on Facebook, p. 2).

I do not think schools have an obligation to concern themselves with a students Facebook pages or need to develop guidelines for their use. However, having read the two guidelines for this weeks reading from Cornell (Mitrano) and the University of Minnesota (Regents of the University of Minnesota, Living in Online Communities: A User's Guide), in my opinion it certainly is the responsible thing to do. Schools are institutions of learning and educating students about the responsible use of online communities is important. After all, not all students will be fortunate enough to take Rhet 3401.

Get Out of My Face....book

When Facebook was created I thought it was a great idea. It was a way for college students to keep in touch and post interesting things about themselves so their friends can learn things that they didn't know before. However, my opinion changed when it decided to open Facebook to anyone and turn into a MySpace. I do have a Facebook page and as I get closer to graduation and a job, I become more and more aware of the things that are posted, tagged, or claimed on my profile. I have considered whether or not I should discontinue my membership altogether but have not because I enjoy the site. I have also considered removing my tags from all my pictures that feature me consuming beverages. While I am 22, some companies may look done on this. Some other things that I have done to keep my privacy hidden is used their more advanced privacy features where only friends can see my full profile. I believe that Facebook has done a decent job of addressing its member's concerns when it began the newsfeed and making it open for everyone. Along with the steps I have already mentioned with keeping myself private, I also have tried to leave all the groups that deal with drinking and removed all the comments that may be pro-partying.

In the Schneier article, "Facebook should have added the feature as an option, and allow members to opt in if they wanted to. Then, members who wanted to share their information via News Feeds could do so, and everyone else would not have felt they had no say in the matter." They have actually implemented privacy that revolves around this statement. I believe that Facebook has tried to keep people from leaving and better privacy issues are a way to do this

In regards to the question whether schools should concern themselves with Facebook and other social networks, my answer is: If they want to yes. I think Cornell and the U do a good job recognizing the harms that can come to those that use social network sites. The schools use their students in graduation and job placement statistics and the more good jobs that graduating students get, the better it looks for that University.

In all honesty, I think that Facebook has hardly any responsibilities when it comes to our privacy. We let this go out the window when we agree to the contract. If someone does not like it, leave. Some of the information needs to be private for high schools kids. However, when we reach 18, we have to control what gets put on the internet.

I also looked at the data in the PEW research and I have trouble finding the relevance to what we are discussing. I am assuming that everyone on this site is over the age of 18. Therefore, while I do find some of the data interesting; such as the fact that 91% of the teens use it to stay in touch with someone they see alot, I do not feel like this article is relevant to the class.

In Gurak (113) she talks about Big Brother and how they are tracking us using sites like Amazon. However, I believe that they could track people much better using social networking sites. They could get a much better feel of what our likes and dislikes are. It is scary to think what the future holds but we need to recognize that Facebook has privacy settings for a reason. So use these sites with your own caution and make sure you don't post anything that you don't want the world to see.

Book 'em, Danno.

I hadn't used FaceBook until this week. Most of my friends aren't affiliated with the U, so it isn’t very useful to me. I was looking at it once, and found my old dentist-in-training from the U's student clinic, and so could see where he's practicing now. Which I suppose is good if I wanted to track him down, although if I’d found pictures of him doing things I found distasteful, I probably wouldn't want his hands in my mouth anymore.

I've chosen to put relatively little information on my profile, and no picture of myself, and I'll more than likely delete it after this week. I've had momentary profiles on other sites, but generally nothing with my real name or anything that identifies me personally.

I don't think schools should feel they need to protect students from themselves. In the real (non-college) world, cops investigate and prosecute law-breakers, employers look for dirt, and people stalk each other. That’s how we learn how to act— by experiencing the consequences of our words and actions. I think schools are developing policies and “Thoughts? largely for legal and business reasons. If a college can show that students were given fair warning about the perils of FaceBook, they stand less of a chance of being sued by someone who didn’t get the job they wanted because of their online history. Since the student body reflects on the school, it’s in the best interest of any institution to keep their image as shiny and respectable as possible— that way, parents will want to send their kids there and alumni will want to keep making donations.

I agree with Mitrano’s statement in Cornell’s “Thoughts on FaceBook?: “On FaceBook, you have absolutely no expectation of privacy.?(Section IV) To me, FaceBook is a business, and doesn't have any responsibility to do anything but make money. It doesn't pretend to be truly concerned with serving its users while taking nothing in return; Facebook makes money off of our willingness to give up information about ourselves. Users get a social networking opportunity, and advertisers get a captive audience of young, educated consumers. “Young adults are the primary trend drivers in our society. Marketing to young adults on their own terms is critical for success. Facebook offers relevant and integrated advertising opportunities to engage the tech-savvy youth audience. We can help you develop the ideal Facebook advertising solution that reaches an active audience of youth trend-setters and influencers. “(From FaceBook’s ‘advertise’ section)

Why Facebook?

A while ago, I never would have thought I'd be signing up for one of those social networking sites. The idea of thousands, possibly even millions of anonymous people being able to read all about me at any time just didn't appeal to me. But then my roommate last year introduced me to Facebook, and it just seemed different somehow at the time. For one thing, you needed your university ID to even access the site, and when you got there, nearly all the people there had actual names and faces, not pseudonyms hiding behind avatars. Also, everyone I've befriended since then I have at least some passing familiarity with in real life. It's been an invaluable tool for keeping track of certain people I otherwise would have totally lost all connection to as soon as I left high school. Maybe I was slightly ignorant back then, but now I've certainly heard the horror stories, people getting turned down for jobs or even arrested because of things they posted on Facebook. The story in the Cornell University article about the student who was turned down for a job because of what he posted in a chat room is particularly chilling for me because this tells me that could happen anywhere online. Because of this, I've made sure not to post any extremely personal information on my Facebook profile beyond fairly mundane things about school and random interests.

However, knowing about stories like those, I have to wonder, how much is too much? While I know people should be aware that the internet is a very public place, couldn't some people be intentionally led into a sense of false privacy? After all, what's the point of privacy settings if your Facebook profile isn't really private anyway? Seven hundred thousand people were outraged when every single move they made on Facebook was suddenly tracked by the "news feed," not an insignificant number by any means (Schneier, Lessons From the Facebook Riots). Would that many people have made such a fuss if the ownership of the information posted on Facebook was common knowledge? It might be a sign that more people need to be educated on this serious issue, but still, the companies being entrusted with this kind of information don't seem to be all that concerned with letting you know about it.

Flaming Article

Here is an article on flaming and psychology from the New York Times, that was kind of interesting. Also reference some journals and authors that may be useful in various papers folks are working on.

Best regards,

FaceBook and the Presidential Race

Jill Walker at jill/txt points out that John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton all have FaceBook profiles. The comments on Jill’s post are brief but interesting: there’s some pondering about whether or not this is an effective use of FaceBook and whether or not it actually reaches voters. What do you smart people think?


And, because I wouldn’t ask any of you to do something I wouldn’t do myself, I now have a FaceBook profile. Just in case you wondered.

My own private Facebook

When I arrived in the US in august, I got used to hear two questions. The first one was always more or less "So what do you think of America so far?", and the second one was "Are you on the Facebook?". I quickly started to visit the website and I had an account after a few days... At that time, I did not think I would really use it and I was thinking that my Myspace account would be enough. I did not realize how the Facebook was popular and important here. I am still surprised that I had never heard of it when I was in Europe...

I have to say that I became a regular user very fast, and the Facebook was very usefull for me because I did not have a phone. For a few months, it helped me to plan almost all the activities and parties I have been to.

The first reflex I had when I created my account was not to put my real name. I often do that when it's not required. I just put the first letter of my name as a family name, I did not think it would appear on my profile (a lot of websites just put your nickname on the profile...). I also put my account as private, but I agree with Bruce Schneier when he says that "Facebook members are just fooling themselves if they think they can control information they give to third parties." I saw the limits of the private profile when someone uploaded a picture of me, which appear on his public profile... This is a risk, but signing on a website like that implies agreeing to take that sort of risk.
Putting personal information on Internet creates a risk and a loss of control on these informations, and setting profiles as private may limit the risk in a way but will never erase it. (Bruce Schneier summurizes this very well : "Whenever you put data on a computer, you lose some control over it. And when you put it on the internet, you lose a lot of control over it.").

People take the responsability to create or not to create a profile and everyone know (or should know..) that by sharing information online, they won't share them only with their friends. I was surprised to see that the University had an official policy concerning Facebook, and I don't think it is very necessary.

About the fact that potential future employers may use the Facebook to verify who they want to hire, I was very surprised and almost shocked I was told that, but I quikly agreed to say that I'd do the same... However, I should verify it but I am almost sure that this would be illegal in France (meaning that if you could prove that the reason why you haven't been hired is something on your internet profile, you could attack them..) so I am safe for a while on this point.

February 20, 2007

Spreading like wildfire...down a slippery slope

I remember back in early 2004 sitting in my friend's basement after school one day when she turned away from her laptop to me to ask: "Does your school have a facebook?" At that point I had no idea what the facebook was or what it was all about. I decided to check it out and noticed that it seemed to be limited to a couple east coast schools so I quickly lost all interest. I remember thinking it was a good idea, an opportunity for people to learn a little about the people that they would be living with when they went to school. It seemed like nothing more than a freshman year name game type of thing...I guess I was wrong.

Flash forward 6 months or so. I happened to overhear someone talking in the dorms about the facebook and decided I might as well give it a whirl. I didn't really put much information in it. It seemed like a waste of my time to sit there and type about myself when I could be out meeting real live people (and it still seems that way). Over the year I would add a little tidbit about music or movies here and there but never anything I wouldn't tell someone upon meeting them for the first time. My experience with facebook was rather uneventful. That didn't last long.

Towards the end of my freshman year, when I was admittedly young and stupid, a couple of my friends and I (all engineering students) found ourselves discussing the problems often encountered when using a beer bong (again, young and stupid). We concocted a plan over lunch that day for a beer bong that used basic laws of density to automatically filter out and recycle foam. We built this contraption and one of my friends decided that there needed to be a facebook group dedicated to this feat of modern dorm room engineering.

That was where things went terribly wrong.

The picture that was used for the group showed the device hanging in front of a dorm window. Hall management caught wind of this and decided to use it as grounds for a punishment. Now this group never said anything about drinking, the tubes were empty in the picture and there was nothing to suggest we used this contraption in the dorms. Over the course of the next couple weeks I was informed to remove evidence of Frontier Hall from the picture so I changed the background of the image...to a different window. Ultimately, I was told that the group had to be taken off of the facebook all together.

I could live with being punished for being stupid and building that thing in the dorms but the thought being told what I could and could not do in a medium that is completely unaffiliated with the U infuriated me. I used the group as a means to voice my opinion about Housing and Residential Life's ability to punish me for what I say on the internet. About a month later and after exchanging some nasty letters with upper management I stopped hearing anything from HRL. To this day I was never informed what decisions were made and put on my housing record but I digress.

Sorry for the long-winded anecdote however I think this story touches on most of issues we are discussing this week.

First, my friends and I were careless about the information we divulged about ourselves in this community. We did something stupid and then decided to tell the world about it. Low and behold it came back to bite us in the end.

From here we dive into the sticky subject of policy based internet information, which is (ironically) a very slippery slope. The majority of the trouble I had to deal with as a result of this incident was a result of challenging unwritten policy. It could be policy that students remove association with the University when they portray themselves doing unsavory things but at what point do we draw the line? How do we deal with the fact there's no way to know how much of this activity is being caught? And the ultimate question, can we tell people what they can and cannot say at all?

Facebook gave me a way to deal with problems like this. Now, anyone who is not my "friend" gets a very limited view of me if anything at all. I think this is a feature that goes overlooked by many using the service. People can't be surprised when they open their life to the world if someone the don't quite expect finds out about it. I think facebook has done a good job of protecting privacy by providing the user with the tools to do what they are comfortable with.

I really like the Cornell policy on the facebook. They embrace the open nature of the internet and furthermore use it as a means of encouragement to students to think about what they post. They touch on the subject of freedom of speech and acknowledge the fact that there is really no implied freedom on private networks. They can tell you what you can and cannot do. However again they embrace the free flow of information as a tool that can be used for good and/or evil if you will.

It all boils down to the fact that the internet is the largest and longest running jury trial ever argued. Everybody involved is a defendant, a prosecutor, and a juror. Ultimately what you do will be judged by your peers (in the broad sense of internet users). If they find you guilty, chances are you did something wrong and therefore have to deal with the consequences. The only way to avoid scrutiny is to keep a clean nose. (Bob Dylan's words seem to fit well.)

Facebook Attack

Let me be clear: I am not much of a Facebook user. The personal policies that I follow when posting to Facebook needn't be over-engineered: I generally only use Facebook as a tool to keep up on the people I know. They would, I think, find it quite difficult to use Facebook to keep tabs on me, simply because I don't particularly care to create any content.

I am, however, aware of the possible privacy issues that Facebook raises, and I certainly didn't need anyone to tell me that publishing data to the internet will result in other people being able to access that data. In this respect, I think it would be good for schools to provide guides to Facebook use, much like Cornell does, as there might be someone, somewhere, who doesnt't understand this fact about online content. However, I think that it would be a step in the wrong direction for a university to limit students' access to Facebook and similar communities. Why? Because a university should be in the business of upholding the value of free speech, even when exercising that freedom might be stupid.

I think that one very important privacy issue raised by Facebook is the social repercussion of posting pictures of people. I have managed to mitigate this risk through two highly ingenious techniques: not taking many pictures, and not having many friends (who might take my picture, and in general). So for me, this issue is really a nonissue. However, as many of the anecdotes emphasized (in, for example, the Cornell policy), having publically viewable and searchable images (or other postings), and a way to associate such data with "real" people, can result in dramatic "real world" effects. While I have never experienced any "real world fallout" from Facebook, it does happen. This issue is related, I think, to the ability for anyone to take a photo of anything, anywhere, and quickly post it to the internet. This ability really sprung up with the advent of camera-phones, and has muddied the area of intellectual property quite a bit. That is, who owns a photo taken of a public place or event? Similarly, who "owns" an image taken at a party and posted on Facebook? The photographer? The subject? Perhaps both, in some way, though I am not an IP lawyer (and hope to never become one).

Unfortunately, at least according to the law, it is clear that Facebook has almost no legal responsibility to protect or respect its users' privacy. In my opinion, it has a moral one, but when has that stopped any company in the business of making money? The last line of Facebook's privacy policy, as stated in "Lessons From the Facebook Riots", makes it clear that Facebook is not concerned with the privacy of its users. What's more, the official response to the Facebook riots makes it clear that Facebook is, *gasp*, a business. That is, instead of instituting a clear and permanent privacy policy aimed at protecting users, it fixed a symptom of the problem to keep users happy, but did nothing to fix the problem itself.

"Lessons" goes on to discuss how a user of an online community generally does not have any control of how their data is used. While the author makes a valid point about the legal reasons that the community's users have no control, the "Facebook Riots" made it clear that a community's users have the same power over a provider that a consumer has over a company. That is, Facebook users "boycotted", in a certain sense, changes, and those changes were "fixed". Facebook depends on its users for funding (through advertisements, amongst other ways I am sure). Finally, even ignoring this form of control, events like "YTMND-Day" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YTMND) make it clear that the members of an online community, when drawn together by common cause, can be as powerful (and as impetuous) as a "real" community.

Finally, achieving privacy on the internet is almost impossible. Some people working to make it a bit easier are the freenet project (http://www.freenetproject.org). If you are interested in anonymity and privacy on the internet, take the time to browse their site.

Hello All, I figured I"d shout out to all you [new] music lovers out there

If anyone here is interested in sampling some 'fresh' tunes from all over the world, I highly recommend that you check out www.goodweatherforairstrikes.com. It is a great site, I use it all the time. If you really like the song, just right click on the link to "save link as" and open the new tune in your music app. Better do it quick though, because most likely it will be taken down.

Good luck.


The Facebook Era

This weeks reading on privacy in social networking sites illustrated to me
just how scary it can be to put peronsal information on myspace or
facebook. In the past, privacy issues online has always just meant
financial information, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.
I've never (until this weeks assignment) used a social networking site for
myself personally, I've only used a myspace account on behalf of my band. I
haven't put a whole lot of thought into what is shared on that page seeing
that it is a group and getting exposure, advertising, and personability
with anyone who might like your songs are the main focuses of my use. But
after the readings, especially the Wired article, I realize that in
creating a myspace or facebook site for yourself, you're making a
representation of yourself for use in that sphere. Any aspects of that
representation however personal or minute that you put online can stand in
your place for anyone that looks at it. I was surprised at the anecdote
given in Cornell's Thoughts on Facebook about the student who lost a chance at a job because of a post he made online. It really clearly illustrates the point that what you do online is nearly the same as what you do in real life. It also surprised me to learn that businesses will actually search online for comments made by job applicants in effort to weed out poor candidates. It seems an extreme streaming tool to me, expecting applicants to have conducted themselves like fine upstanding employees before even knowing about the job, unless he was applying for work as a fireman or an astronaut. Of course, I don't know the details of the situation, so maybe I shouldn't defend what I don't know.

Anyways, I never spent a whole lot of time thinking about what I post online, but personal information about yourself, where you go to school, work, who you hang out with, and even what you're doing at specific points of the day could be as dangerous and leaving your social security number in a blog for anyone to see. On Facebook, I noticed that they didn't spend much time telling me as a newly registered member about privacy concerns, except of course in their privacy policy. But as an internet user for all these years, I've grown accustomed to always accepting those agreements and I don't think I've ever looked at one closely. Schneier's point that Facebook owns all the data uploaded on the site really struck me. It's clear that special care must be taken when considering what you can post online.

On another note, the Google Masterplan site brought to mind this article from The Onion. "Google Announces Plan to Destroy Everything It Can't Index"

We can't hide, nothing is private

I now have a profile on Facebook. I feel myself getting younger each day in this class. I only included the basic information on the site but I feel it was too much. I set up my profile after viewing the Google video about the access they have to all of the data. They say they won’t sell the data but there isn’t anything prohibiting them from doing so. That made me even more cautious with Facebook. Very few people in my demographic have profiles on Facebook or MySpace. I find it a little hard to relate to the value to these sites. In the Pew reading, 91% of the online networking users use the site to keep in contact with friends they see frequently and 82% use the site to stay in contact with friends the rarely see in person. If they see a friend in the hallway, do they talk to them or do they rush to their laptop to converse in cyberspace.

“The Master Plan about the power of Google? describes a situation kind of like big brother. Google scans all emails for keywords to build profiles for their users. They claim their goal is “don’t be evil? but who knows if the almighty dollar can change their mind. Companies are always data mining for information on the next trends or product usage. When Google taps into the key words in our emails, they can tailor advertising to fit our perceived lifestyle. This isn’t that far from zip code sorting for certain advertisers based on location and income. I am sure the mailings in certain neighborhoods in Edina are different from certain neighborhoods in Hopkins. There is a lot of money tied up in direct mail and address delivered advertising. Google has taken it to the next step. Not only can they project your income based on your profile, they can also provide competing advertisers with your IP address.

Cub Foods and SuperValu tried to do this with your receipt after your checkout at the store. The cash register is able to look at the scanned products from your cart and offer coupons from the competitor’s products for your next visit to the store. These coupons are printed on the back of the receipt.

Is there going to be a privacy backlash soon? With all of the information floating around it is only a matter of time that there is a major crash of all of the data. After that, nobody will be willing to give out any information. What will everyone do when they can't get their MySpace fix and they have to meet friends in person?


Just like every other social network, FaceBook brings up questions of privacy and it really depends on the users on how much they are willing to give out. I’ve had FaceBook for a few years now but probably logged on four times a year. It has a different layout than a few other networks that allow you to be creative and design your own layouts, etc. whereas FaceBook contains information on class schedules, who’s become your new friend, where you will be, what you will be doing, etc. That, I think is a little over the limit when speaking of privacy because it could potentially put you in danger for identity theft, stalkers, harassment, etc. It’s a scary thought when others can see your every move.

Although it can be dangerous, I think Facebook is so popular because it is a great way of keeping in touch and finding friends. Like mentioned, “It offers you an opportunity to interact with an extraordinarily expansive universe of new people. You can sculpt your on-line identity and learn more about how the Internet and its various programs work to create new relationships and communities. For the entrepreneurially minded, it might be an introduction into business as you think of how to "market" yourself.? (Cornell, Thoughts) People are so intrigued with this method of communicating that they don’t further look into the privacy issues. I, myself am guilty of this too.

Facebook gives you the option to choose your type of privacy much like other online communities and I think that is respectable. They follow two core principles; having control over your personal information and having access to the information others want to share. I enjoy using a few online communities which I prefer to keep private and allow friends only. It depends on individuals of the extent they are willing to share “and so it is important to remember that Facebook is malleable and creates as many obligations as it does opportunities for expression.? (Cornell, Thoughts).

I agree that “with freedom comes responsibility.? (Cornell, Thoughts) Facebook was used as an example of this and Cornell University valuing the idea that you are a mature adult who can make your own decisions. I think this is also respectable and we do have to remember that the internet is an open space for anyone to freely speak and view others posting.

Google and Privacy

I was really surprised when I read and saw the video on Google. I think that it's a great search engine, but there's definitely something sketchy about it. I don't think that they need to mess around with having people's genetic information displayed for everyone to see online. I'm not sure what the motive for that could be. Why would they want people's genetic information displayed online? What would be the advantage for that? I also think that the whole issue of having people's genetic codes online is something that is not aided by the government, but I think that the government will definitely stick their nose in it if it really happens.

The sheer size of the company is also a little bit worrisome because if they end up completely dominating the internet, that could definitely raise some issues. As far as the issue of gmail goes, I'm not really comfortable with them storing people's personal information. The whole thing just creeps me out. I think that gmail is probably somehow collaborating with the CIA in making sure that there aren't any terrorist threats or plans being exchanged with people.

I'm curious to know how the people that put together the anti-google website got all of that information. Who exactly are they? Did they get their info from current or former Google computer workers?

A matter of privacy

I haven't really had to deal with any privacy issues with Facebook. I take into account that whenever there's a picture or comment that I add to my wall or other people's walls, that it will be displayed for everyone to see. Because of that, I don't put things on there that would illicit problems. I know that I am accountable for the things that I put on there and I also know that when I enter the job field that I will either privatize my profile or I will completely get rid of it. I don't think that the school needs to concern themselves with my Facebook pages. I have, however, been put off by the News Feed feature that has recently been added to Facebook. I do see that as an issue of privacy, but more so just as a general concept. Once again, I'm not worried about what information about me gets put on News Feed because I try to stay away from things that would cast me into a bad light. I personally just don't like the idea of having other people see what I have posted on other people's walls and who I've added as a friend and who I didn't. I don't think that it's anyone's business and I don't think that other people really care, but like I've stated before it's more about the general concept that makes me uneasy. However, I think that it was great that 700,000 protesters brought up such a fuss about it because online networking companies cannot just overstep other people's privacy without consulting them.

I think that Corness University is doing the right thing in not monitoring the content of Facebook because then people would need to be accountable for the things that they say and learn to deal with the consequences of their posting and pictures. I don't think that it's necessarily the University's job in monitoring "adults" comments. I think that there should be a disclaimer or some sort of notification for students that if they see some sort of illegal behavior in pictures or postings that could cause harm to the person or others that they could call a contact number to report it.

February 19, 2007

Talk about Paranoia

It doesn't surprise me that a group of 700,000 angry people planned to protest Facebook's new feature, News Feeds which " shows an aggregation of everything members do on the site, such as added and deleted friends, a change in relationship status, a new favorite song, a new interest." (Wired News, Lessons). I would probably be part of that group too.

What I do wonder is who the heck is employed at Facebook- and if they were drunk, tired, and/or apathetic when making such a massive decision. It's hard to believe that a group of professionals would think that releasing information like 'deleted friends' and 'newly single' would be welcomed in such a close knit social community. It's like marching little Billy up to the town's hall and humilating him in front of his whole community with the news of his failed relationship. I can only speak for myself, but at my age (30), I wouldn't think the announcement "Julie's single!" is anything to celebrate. Most would interpret that as "Julie's single AGAIN! Please help out this poor old maid."

But, I do believe both parties (the creators and the online users) are casualties of online social networks. Conflict is going to happen no matter where we go or in what ways we communicate.
Facebook's debaucle was necessary. It builds awareness on issues like privacy and control.
While reading both articles on the Uof M and Cornell's webpage, I was sorely reminded of the lack of privacy we have when logging on to the internet. I forgot about caching, "Caching, in effect, means that if you post something on Facebook, let's say for a day or two, just to be funny or to make a point, even if you take it down or change it, it remains accessible to the rest of the world on the Internet anyway" (Cornell, Thoughts). This frightens me because I often don't think about what I write, and sometimes edit it later. And I rarely think about who else could be monitoring my profile. Cornell's article gives an excellent example of this, "trying to get a deal on car insurance? Who knows, maybe that little Geico went to Cornell! Do you really want him seeing a photograph of you bombed out of your mind?" (Cornell, Thoughts). I am a business consultant and would not like future clients to view or read about what I did last weekend. Not only does it challenge my credibility, but it's incredibly embarassing as well.

In conclusion, the articles this week really resonated with me. I will check myself before posting any more crass comments for which I could be liable for, or incriminating photos with comments like "medicinal purpose". Privacy affects everyone, therefore I would assume wanting some control over our personal lives is universal. Facebook, despite its last misstep, seems to be a sound website that respects this universal desire successfully.

Facebook - My Skeletal Profile

I have never been a member of Facebook until now. Actually, I was pretty stringent with the information I entered. It felt easy to maneuver around Facebook and check out the options available. I felt like I’ve been to this site already. Could it be all the students with laptops that sit in front of me during lecture classes warmed me up to it?. A small percentage appears to take notes and the remaining are on Facebook or some other messaging site. So, this probably is the case. The first thing I did was check out the privacy and account section. This week’s articles confirmed my paranoia on having personal information on the net (albeit they are common sense). In the PEW article, it states that Facebook encourages users to “register using their real name to be identified with offline identity.? But Bruce Schneier wrote in his article, “Whenever you put data on a computer, you lose some control over it. And when you put it on the Internet, you lose a lot of control over it.? Apparently my personal policy that I have instituted is “scarcity? when it comes to the net. I’ve tried to drill this into my teenage kids as well. They do have the advantage of knowing the repercussions of posting personal data all in the name of fun. Those who were having a fun a few years ago did not foresee the problems they imposed on themselves and how powerful the Internet would become in every aspect of their lives. Who would have thought a few years ago that employers would be googling prospective employees on the Internet?

I tried to search for some friends on Facebook. Yes, I struck out on just about everyone. I figured it must be my age group. Then I thought I would look for some acquaintances I’ve met at UMN - still no one. Hmmm…so I resorted to my friends’ kids and my nieces/nephews. I did find a couple of people. Did I message or “poke? them. Nope, I decided to just lay low. That privacy thing was still in the back of my mind. Apparently my trust in Facebook isn’t there. It feels like I should have control but I know I really don’t. Schneier ends with “But we all need to remember that much of that control is illusory.? I agree.

I found the statistics in the PEW article interesting but not all that surprising. If I were a teenager growing up with this technology available, it would be great. I was familiar with MySpace but had not heard of Xanga. I think teens have always been social, especially teenaged girls. Regardless of the method of communication, MySpace, phones, or even letters, teens need to (and always have) socialize more. It’s one of the first steps of growing up and becoming independent (their own person). I remember my grandmother always wrote letters and said she had numerous pen pals in her teenaged years. My mother was always on the phone as a teenager (as I was too) – letters were old fashioned. My daughter, well she has multiple options from the phone (house phone or cell phone?), MySpace, IM, texting, and the list goes on.

Only at the U

The University of Minnesota cracks me up. I love my college, and will continue to do so when it is my alma mater, but really, when you're bad your bad. Here are some examples (in my opinion):
Signing Football Coach Glen Mason to a new medium-length contract, then firing him one year later
Pretending that MyU is basically on similar ground as Facebook and MySpace
Moving the football team to the Metrodome in the first place

Okay, you get it, I'm a football fan. But before getting to our real assignment, I would like to discuss why our great university thinks MyU is such a revolutionary tool (just hang on, it blends with it eventually). I was in one of my classes last fall, and the professor was talking about a meeting he went to over the weekend that dealt with the university's technology. He said, while he had never heard of it, that this MyU thing was really great, and all the students love it, according to the administrators in charge of the meeting he was at. So he asked the class, "So you guys really like this, like outside of class?" The class responded with a "No?", as in, what are you thinking, all in unison. Everyone laughed, and then he asked, why don't you like it. There were many reasons, but summarized they are:
First, it should just be called My Tools, you should be able to access it just like web registration; one click and login, and select your class, and you have everything in front of you. This is very similar to Facebook's rioting dilemma, in that the U just forces everything on top of you. I am one of the few people that use UMCal, so I wouldn't mind that on my page. But a whole page of unwanted news, portfolios, lists, and other options stands in the way between you and your class. These are the same options we get a million emails about per week about, and if we really wanted we would have signed up or attended to it by now.
Second, I think I understand that Vista is a copywritten term, so (unless you buy it out) you cannot really call it your own and embed it into your current format. So why not just give the students what they want, a quick link to vista, and not put all the crap inbetween. Now when I log into FastWeb (a scholarship search engine) I understand why they try to get you to fill in ads for the Army or the University of Phoenix, they are trying to make money. But the U seems to have no money making schemes that I know of on the initial MyU portal page, so why? That is the question I would like answered.
We are smart enough to get through MyU portal, but unless my class survey sample of 150 is wrong, I think this is a great example of why people need options. Oh, the reason I started this whole rant is because in the middle of the University's Living in Online Communities: A User's Guide they state

The University has its own online community too, called MyU. All students, staff and faculty have an account that is accessed by entering their own unique log-in. If you have not accessed your account yet, visit www.umn.edu/initiate. This will give you access to e-mail, discussion boards, an online calendar, and more. Just sign in at myu.umn.edu, and find out!

Only at the U. Wow, I'm glad they put that enticing exclamation point at the end, I'm ready to find out!

Here is a story that goes out to anyone who's ever lost a friend (because you didn't know what their complete name was) and won them back again:
I met a friend at a camp in middle school, only remembering his first name, because his first name is so unique. I learned about Facebook in 11th grade doing college visits. I went to Macalester and it was my friends homepage. He explained it was only for college kids, but while I was there, we spent time looking at pictures of our friends (we went to the same high school) who I had not seen since school started. About a week after I was admitted to the U of M, I logged on, and within a week was able to see a lot of my friends' adventures over the past 3/4 of a year. As time went on, Facebook allowed you to be less exact when searching for people. First you had to know their name and school, then I think you could search anyone if you got their exact name, then Facebook put in some sort of google search for names, and you get renditions of peoples names with the relevancy to your original query. Well, a month ago I put in my friend's name from middle school, and poof, there he was, one of about 15 matches. Over the past four weeks we have exchanged emails and caught up on each other, planning to meet again when we have enough money (he lives in California now).
As you can probably tell, I like Facebook. I would say while keeping in contact with my close friends, if you check Facebook every day (sad, I know) you will be able to see all your friends' names once a year via the birthday announcements. I do not necessarily wish everyone that shows up a happy birthday, but I can at least remember some people I have not talked to in a while.
I was part of the Facebook Riots (Schneier), and was at one point a proud member of the group, "I will quit Facebook the day my mom joins". Luckily for me, I don't think that day will come, but she is definitely able to. When Facebook expanded to include employers, I think the fun died down. Before, it was the equivalent of going to a safe party that your parents would never want you to attend. Now, its like the ladies in the lunchroom in elementary school making sure that you clean your plate and keep the noise level down, or you cannot go outside. We all understood that anyone could have a umn.edu X500 sign-in (Guests could/can login for a temporary amount of time to the U of M), but just assumed everyone who would try that hard probably could find out another way as well.
Personally, I am off the NewsFeed, I just get worried about the day that Facebook tells me, "That girl that used to like you in middle school was staring at the picture of you on the beach for 25 minutes at 10:23 am". I do not think that is a message any Facebooker wants to receive. I limit most of my other content as to I would want it limited to me. That is, I search Facebook profiles the most when I want to find out more about people that I could potentially befriend, in real life that is. So I like to use Facebooks to look for any red flags, much as employers use behavioral interviews. For this reason, I open up my profile (and thus my life) to all people at the University of Minnesota. While I understand the University is a large network which makes a lot of people able to see me, that also means to me that there is a smaller chance of someone coming across my profile randomly.
As far as schools are concerned, I prefer Cornell's "Do what you want, but be careful" attitude to our "Be very careful, but do it if you think it is the best decision for your life". College is great time for people to find themselves and make mistakes. If the U paid Facebook enough to not allow any umn.edu addresses, our students would be behind in the future because Facebook seems so big that it will our adapt the communication styles of our future managers and coworkers.
While I agree with Schneier that Facebook etc. has full power of my information, they all know that it will take one lawsuit where someone who "clicked the privacy box" had their data accessed inadvertently by a third party, and the company could go down. Companies are still run by people, and I think that people running social networking sites want a balance between happy people, happy lawyers, and happy profits. So if things like Google or Facebook are ever bought in the way, like how General Electric and Disney, among others, basically own everything, I think then we will see profit pushed much faster than happiness.
Now that you're done reading this, you can go back to MyU and have tons of fun posting with 3 other people on the message boards with the rest of the undergraduate community!

FACEBOOK - Waste of time or great social networking device?

Facebook is a wildly popular social networking website in which just emerged towards the beginning of my college career. I remember Freshman year when it did not exist and I actually had to talk to people face to face. Disregarding my sarcasm, I actually think facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends. I've always had great experiences with it and much prefer it over other websites like Myspace (see previous posting). Some features that I particularly enjoy about Facebook are the pictures that you can upload, the class/school listings, groups (of which 99% are just for fun), and the friends. While at the same time many of these features can possibly be seen as bad things or private information.

I remember talking a bit about this in a few of my classes regarding privacy. People seemed to be concerned about whether the information or pictures you put on your profile might become visible to others that you may not wish it to be. The subject of whether or not a facebook profile should be used in a hiring process came into play. I am not entirely sold on this issue of if it should be used or not but regardless I think it is the user's discretion which should be at fault in the end. You must remember that everything you put on your profile is a choice that you make and you have the final say in the matter. Anything you put on your profile about yourself is essentially a transfer of your personal data to another person. Whether or not Facebook has the rights to do what they want with that data is debatable, but if you are going to worry about it, don't put it there. In other words, "facebook members are just fooling themselves if they think they can control information they give to third parties" (Schneier 1). Essentially all that is saying is that you should be aware that you don't know what could happen to the things you put online. Once you put it online, you have made your data availible to everyone and you should be aware of this.This is because "if you post something on Facebook, lets say for a day or two, just to be funny or to make a point, even if you take it down or change it, it remains accessible to the rest of the world on the Internet anyway" (Mitrano 1).

More on the privacy issue. I do believe that Facebook does give you plenty of options in regards to your privacy if it were something of an issue (besides just not posting it). By these factors I think that Facebook shouldn't have very much liability in regards to what you post or your data. To quote the Cornell website again as it has a great deal of my beliefs that you are liable for what you post and not Facebook, "On Facebook, you have no expectation of privacy" (Mitrano 1).

In regards to schools needing to have a stance on guidelines I don't think this should be an issue. Schools do not have guidlines for people's personal webpages or blogs so why should they with facebook? Essentially Facebook is just another form of communication that could be detailed as free speech. And as a school of thought and human developement, the U of MN (or any other school) should follow along as in the Cornell policy of keeping free speech "a part of our values as an important center for research, teaching and outreach internationally" (Mitrano 1).

Sidenote: I find it hilarious how on facebook you can join groups that are "virtual" mobs or riots. You can join a group and join their "virtual" cause.

February 18, 2007

Myspace is an occult!!!!....not really, I just won't join!!!

As the internet has evolved obviously so has the socializing because of our now endless opportunities and the no distance barrier function that the net presents. We can so easily stay in contact with all of our friends, family or whoever!
I could probably estimate that I have been in the social networking scene for about 4 years now. My first online experience with social networking or being involved in an online community was when I first became involved in the world of cars. The net presented such a fantastic opportunity to get connected to very knowledgable people in the business and also get connected to those who shared the same likes as you. Mainly for myself is when I joined my number one community which is my Nissan car community. (www.sr20forum.com) This site helps bring together from around the world those who love the infamous sr20 engine and lets us discuss the endless possibilities that we can come up with to help modify our engines and the cars that those engines came with. I believe that what Baym's writing still has much application to todays social communities. Well at least for myself and my online nissan group I can pick out many things that Baym describes and I see everyday. For instance "the emergence of a particular individuals within the communities brings with it the potential for tension with those who are less known (page 10)." There are specific individuals who are just know and respected as experts on my forum, and someone new comes along with information or a radical idea, or even dares question some of these experts. They probably are going to have an uphill battle to fight if they want to be liked. That sounds rediculous to say in my opinio, but if a person gets a bad rep in our community, most likely anything they post with regards to questions or pictures will be ignored or will be recieving uber amounts of flaming. The person will usually leave and basically need to try and start over now. I don't think all of Baym's words are applicable though when looking at communities such as Facebook or myspace. I think that Boyd's article does a fantastic job of discussion though with regards to friends within the online world.
I vowed I would never join myspace or facebook or anything resembling them. I guess I really did not have a particularly solid reason for this logic, but it just seemed "fake" to me. I try to use that word somewhat loosely. What am i really going to do with 500 myspace friends, they are not my friends. I sent them an online text, they thought I was cute and BOOM you have a new friend. Just a little to superficial for me, I might never really even get to know that person!!! But then I joined facebook, I think out of strait peer pressure from my offline friends who were all online. I played with it for awhile, sent out a bunch of friend requests, and yeah now I have my online community! But it actually became a fun distraction to even stay connected with my real offline friends and I have actually met in person some of the people with whom I hooked up with online...imagine that, and became friends who actually talk and chill together. I have a buddy who met his girfriend on myspace, and soon to be wife!! But it is truely amazing as Boyd makes clear when she lists the most common reason for friendship from current users of online friend communitites. Also the fact of there actually being social online costs to rejecting people. People are honestly getting frusterated as if this was offline and the people were right there because you have had a pending friend request to someone for 5 days...and you know they are online because the site tells you they are! But I do agree with the statement "There are so many reasons why people link to strangers that there seems to be little incentive to be selective about Friendship. If someone seems interesting or you want to get to know them better, what’s the loss in Friending them? As far as most participants are concerned, Friendship doesn’t mean anything really, so why not?" This is true why not. I believe with these online communities the offline and online will become more relieant and have greater impact on each other and our social lives.

It is so great being friends with movie stars!

So, is the whole eFriending with famous stars, bands, and those people you met at a party really legit? Personally, I would have to say no, but it is nice to be able to check out what those people are doing rather than going to killsometime.com. Danah Boyd writes that "a friend is a relationship that involves some degree of mutual love or admiration." (Boyd, chapter 2.) Well then, maybe a 'myspace add' does follow the definition... to a certain point. I think it is nice that a band member will 'add' a fan of theirs, same for a movie star. It is funny to see the differing realtionships presented just by looking at a wall. One person will write to the band member "Thanks for the add." While the earlier post will be asking if the person will meet for lunch on Saturday.

I really liked common list of reasons people will add someone as his/her friend. Thanks to the innovation of the facebook, for those people I am "friends" with from freshman year Bio class, when I look at his/her profile, usually there will be a little story behind it. My cousins are listed as "in my family" while that random person I have not spoken to for a while, will be hopefully listed as something like "met in math class 2004." Fun stuff. I have a funny example of what happened this last weekend at a basketball game. My friend and I were watching the game at Hamlin, and he started a conversation with a nice lady next to us. After the game they decided to exchange information...he asked for her number, but instead she told him her name, and to "facebook" her. Are they what I would consider "true friends?" No, but who knows, maybe they will be.

This new e-friendship list is not what I would consider true friendship. It is very useful for getting and staying in contact with people, but the "friend" title really is just a preferred word. Though I must say, it is nice to check out your "friends" when you have some time to kill.

Kids these days...

I was looking for some evidence of the Myspace-related fights/crimes/ threats I'd heard of, and I came across some things I knew nothing about: several sites like these were the most surprising to me... I knew Myspace was wildly popular, and that some schools had blocked it, but the desperate tone of these messages from kids wanting to sneak onto Myspace from school is kind of alarming. Every time the students find a new proxy server or anonymizer, the schools block those as well, and the kids have to search for new way to get their Myspace fix.

February 15, 2007

Social Networking is now mobile

I thought that this site really applied to online communities and social networking sites. It explains how executives and analysts in Barcelona are trying to convert everything that's available on the net to be available on your mobile device, including YouTube among other sites. They are trying to make this content free to use on you mobile devises and easier to use.


February 14, 2007

Are you friends with Tom?

Let me start off by saying that I have in the past and/or currently participate in the following online communities: Myspace, LiveJournal, Friendster, Facebook, Tagworld, and deviantART. Wow that seems like a lot! Currently I really only participate on Myspace, I have 70 friends (that’s actually not very many in the Myspace world). Besides the bands, I do personally know the vast majority of my Myspace friends in real life. I pride myself on that; I don’t like to add people just to have a lot of friends. I’m definitely not a collector, and actually think the whole idea of collecting friends on an online community is pretty lame. I was skeptical of Myspace at first and really didn’t what to join; now I’m a Myspace addict. Do you think in the future there will be support groups for online junkies? Anyways, I must admit that Myspace has actually been a great way of finding friends from my past that I have lost touch with. I loved the quote in Boyd by Tonya “Who are we kidding? ...Myspace is psychological warfare.? This made me chuckle. It made me think of when my brother’s friend Mike put me (instead of my brother) in his top 8 because my brother didn’t put Mike into his top 8 after he added him. I actually know people that have had the debate on who should go first in your top 8, should it be your boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, or sibling? It’s kind of off the subject, but let me just say that I didn’t realize that the acronyms ROTFL or ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) were used fifteen years ago (Baym, 113). I really don’t recall using online acronyms such as that until the last five or so years, I guess I must just be slow!

Friendship update

The first community I took part in was on mIRC and consisted in chatting every night with the same people. Originally, the chat-room had been created in relation with a band, but after a few months, people connected on it without talking about the band at all. We were a few regular users, we finally started to know each other and the chat-room was just a meeting point...
Some people from this first small community created a webzine about music and put a message board on it. We have been very surprised how quick the site became popular (now it receives 5000 visits a day) and the message board grew up very fast. Today it has 2900 registered users, with around 200 of them posting every day. I am registered on it since the day it opened and I am sometimes ashamed to say that almost all my friends are on it.
That does not mean that I first met them online, but a lot of my friends are more or less related to the music field and they all end on this place. Today, I think I know them better and I see them in real life more often than friends that were in highschool with me...

I think that internet websites as Myspace or Facebook, and a few message boards, are not the best place to make new friends, but they are very good to keep in touch with them.
As a good example, since I study in the USA, two friends from France visited me, and both of them are from the message board. They were not at school with me, we never lived in the same town... but we met randomly in a music festival and then stayed in contact thanks to websites like I said before. Being here, I can't use telephone to call France and I have been to lazy to send e-mails just to give some news, so the only people who have news get it through Myspace or message boards...

Then, I completely agree with Boyd when he says "people display social connections to reveal information about who they are". On myspace, I generally have an idea (maybe wrong, but it still works like that) of who the person is just checking his or her friends... The first thing that I did when I created my account was to request friendship to all my favourite bands and persons in general.
The article made me smile with the whole paragraph about the TOP 8. I never thought of that before but it is true that it must have created some dramas for many teenagers!


I found these articles interesting even while they brought back chilling memories of grade school drama. I think there is material for about 1000 'Seinteld' episodes for adult users of MySpace--you find the childhood bully, person you embarassed, who embarassed you--or fill in the blank, and revenge, apologies, or comedy ensue.

I think what is interesting about social networking is also what is scary, and what many of us have been talking about all along--and to some extent is also true in real life--you have to put yourself out there to get anything back--but are you willing to share yourself with the rest of the world? It is one thing to talk about soap operas or a special interest daily or weekly with a select group of people, and perhaps sharing more over time. It is quite another to craft a profile that may be a half-portrait, may be self-delusion, may be self-promotion, with photos, to simply access the site.

The fact that boyd noted that in the early stages of MySpace and Friendster different populations existed in their own bubbles, more or less ignorant of one another, is hard for me to wrap my mind around, but interesting to think about (and could be another few 1000 'Seinfeld' episodes). I also thought her comment that social networking spaces were "not friends-only space[es], but ehya re a public space with some assumptions about the scope of that public." How Friends are addressed publicly or privately matters on the site just as much as it would in a physically social setting.

I also find it interesting that for every social networking site, there seems to be an angle, scheme, or way of strategizing to get the system to work for the user in ways that may not be the intention of the designer or the assumption of other Friends--like the Fakesters who were destroyed in the Fakester genocide. This also mirrors RL. There are always people who can pull back and read a situation and make it work to their best advantage, sometimes within the law, sometimes outside it, while others are mired in minutae. This is a gift in certain contexts.

I'm not sure if I agree with boyd that 'teenagers have not way of being simultaneaously cool to their friends and cool to their parents." (p. 13) You can see I am someone who gets caught up in minutia. That depends on the expectations of the parent and the expectations of the friends, I guess.

I'm also perplexed by the idea of being defined by your Friend networks rather than your interests. Again, you would be using a personae, or at best only a part of yourself to attract this network.

So.... are you on Facebook?

It was just within the past few years that my interest about on line communities caught my eye and had me hooked within a week. It was the day before my 19th birthday and my brother called me to tell me about this new “Facebook? thing that was apparently popular within the army. I of course registered for the program and have been going to the page at least once a day from that day on; its now two and a half years later. I do not know college without online communities.
Online communities such as Friendster and MySpace have been a huge success just within the past few years. As defined by dictionary.com a community is, “a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.? If you look at the structure of a community, online communities fit this description. However, I feel as though people need to have an emotional connection to each other to make it a real community. In every aspect, on paper, online communities fit the description and I will say that these different websites such as MySpace and Facebook are online communities but in my eyes I feel that I do not take these communities as serious as some may do. Virtual and realistic communities do act in the same way of communicating within each other but on a different level.
Looking at a simplistic level of communities, such as blogs, one could place this class itself into that community. Everyone in this class is replacing the chance to meet face to face and discuss these same issues, but instead we choose to over the internet. This blog is more secure than most blogs because it is through the University, however there are many blogs such as Soap Operas which Baym studies about 10 years ago. On a side note, I noticed that it was interesting in itself that one of her statements, “They videotape soaps and save then for evenings and weekends, if they watch them at all. (byod, 105)? In this day and age, the option would have been to TiVo the program or the option of watching online later which probably coincided with the daily blog for that particular show.
When signing up for these communities, I think that many people as stated in the article by Boyd and last weeks topics about gender people can “make up? their own characteristics and background depicting someone who they are really not. However for those who do become involved through these communities with their real identity can get hooked very easily. Personally, I don’t think that I could go a day without hearing the word “Facebook?; in relation to who updated their profile, to looking up people who we just meet to find out more about them, or to look at the newly posted pictures. I am guilty of hanging out with my friends and doing homework, but we would all look up and realize that we are all “Facebooking?.
Boyd talked a great deal about “friendng? people and reasons why they do. I find that it is a common reoccurrence that people will friend each other because they have seen then in a class or they have common friends. Many times as well, people friend each other if they haven’t talked in years, probably with no intention of ever talking to them but being able to say that they are “friends?. According to Bob, “When I see somebody with a large number of supposed friends, I suspect that they’re using the term ‘friend’ to mean ‘acquaintance,’ or that their motives in getting Friendster-recorded friends are not really about the relationships for the their own sake? (boyd).
Many people as well have to be aware of what they put on their profile and who they are friends with. As Boyd states, as people navigate profiles they build an image of who people are through their Friends.(boyd) Because many people are not in the same place in their career as me (looking for internships) I have chosen to make my profile private, which is an option for most communities, because I have known people who have not been hired because of their Facebook profile.
Online communities can provide a great deal of communication and bonding within the specific site itself, however the communities that I am aware of and part of are known to be a more social community that builds of the reality of our day to day lives.

You've Got a Friend In Me

I'd like to call into examination the term MySpace Whore. The mere existence of such a word signifies the presence of a sharp divide and ever-widening gray area in the appropriate use of social networking sites. Some, like myself, try hard to limit their use to relationships that do indeed exist in reality. I'm friends with my brothers on facebook for example, but I'm also friends with Devendra Banhart (see: anti-folk hero) but I count our relationship as something tangible even though I'll probably never meet him since I'm a fan. Others see myspace as a way to meet new people or simply dive headlong into the growing world of socio-technology. SNSs have even proved a roadway to fame for some who maxed their friends list out and gained attention for their uninhibited electronic acceptance of every web-persona that came their way and ability to harness this massive population into something useful for their career, be it nefarious or not. ( Example: Tila Tequila (Time Article))
Most people, however, are just another of us "normals" looking to keep up with the times and maybe find a n easier way to keep in touch with people out of our geographic range or regular social circle. No matter what the case, there are definite socio-cultural norms that have developed over time that apply specifically to online communities. The Baym article this week, while indeed dated, had some nice encapsulations that apply everywhere, not only to soap-opera-junky newsgroups. Before I get into the meat though, wanted to single out one line for its ability to date the article as well as bring up memories of caps-lock-chat-room-arguments of yore. I am referring to the second paragraph in the Participation section on page 105. It begins, "R.a.t.s participants are well educated, as in most of the internet," and I spit up a little tea. Not to stray to far from my goal though, I'll move on.
The points I found most interesting in the Baym article were regarding online social-status building, which is definate present in any social environment, and perhaps even magnified in online environments. At the bottom of page 111 she writes of the act of responding to a post as a sign of approval, or simply validation. "Receiving responses is considered flattering and fairly exciting," and later on "The worst feeling I ever had was when I thought I was bringing up something interesting and got *no* replies." (I found her use of asterisks here amusing as well, straight from the message-board she is). This passage reminded me of posting pictures on myspace and waiting to see if anyone would comment. Granted, I can't hope for the astronomical number of replies a scantily-clad young woman would receive, given the environment and motivations behind picture surfing, but even one can brighten my experience. I'm a real boy!
Baym also speaks of status-building traits like a deep understanding or knowledge of the subject matter and the ability to use humor in posts. Of course in an environment like the one she's focusing on, if you aren't aware of Stacy's evil-twin, you should probably remain a lurker. But if you can get a laugh you're one step ahead of the lurkers. It seems to me something about the energy put into a post that is satirical or clever is enough to merit praise. People like to think others put as much energy into something (possibly something trivial in some eyes) as they do, and this is highly appreciated.
This translates directly to things like facebook or myspace. Myspace profiles are no longer boxed in and homogeneous, but can be tailored to fit individual tastes. I once had a friend who plastered the background of his myspace with a repeating picture of Hulk Hogan simply to spite those with gaudy pages. This effort, like humor or emoticons in a newsgroup, is appreciated and seen as a status symbol. Much like the size of a friends list, or the members of your Top 8 as mentioned in the Boyd writing. I especially liked the line about Myspace Top 8 as Psychological warfare because truly it is no different from the pecking order and saved-seats of the lunch table for many younger users.
Finally, I like the term Identity Performance used in Boyd's article numerous times. This is such a fitting label for much of our online social-lives whether we know our friends or not. The information we share, pictures we post, and friends we...friend--that's a verb now right?--come together to form a composite image of our status and cultural identity; even if we simply are someone's friend to "save face" as examined by Ms. Boyd. I'm definitely one of those people--at least one a site like facebook (see: anti-anonymity)--that will accept someone as a friend rather than reject them simply because I'm Minnesota nice; but you can count on it that my top 8 is reserved for those near and dear to my heart. Am I kidding? I don't even know.

Who wants to be my Facebook Friend?

I have been involved with a few online communities in my brushes with the internet. My first experience was with an online game. This was similar, although less advanced, to the community of World of Warcraft or Everquest for those of you familiar with them. It was fun for me to belong to a social group that was outside of my everyday reality. However, as time progressed the internet evolved and so did my online habits. I created a web page and visited others through the Angelfire community and then finally joined Facebook.

Facebook is by far the most active I have been in an online community. From my personal perspective Facebook made the right move by targeting individuals in the right market. Boyd touched on how members of online communities at first did not know how to respond to adding friends or what to share. Facebook targeted a culture that wants to become socially open and meet people, college kids.

There was a high level of comfort surrounding facebook because at first, it was only college students that could even be on the network or view your profile. This encouraged individuals to be open and honest about themselves. In a school this large it is also necessary to remember the name of the kid in class next to you. Facebook helps a lot with that.

I was interested in Boyd's issue with the classification of friends and the "Top 8". This part of the article really touched base with me because it addresses the issue of friendship. I look at a lot of online profiles including my own and see many people with over 300 or even 1,000 friends. Are they really all your friends? When do you classify that person as acceptable to join your list of friends. For most people who use facebook I assume most of the people on their friends list aren't even involved in their life anymore. Furthermore, some people you might not even know. I laughed at the "Top 8" issue because you can see the social pressure and implications that idea has before it is even implemented. It does bring to light though the hierarchy of friendship. I know that if I had to list all of my friends I wouldn't even come close to everyone on my Facebook "friends" list.

Facebook: What is the definition of a friend?

I am ashamed to say my use of online communities is really limited to facebook. Although, I once created a MySpace account JUST to look at some profiles of people I met in California one summer. (Isn’t that sad?) I also use discussion boards on some online health websites, but that is the extent of my activity. After reading both articles and then watching the video, I actually think I relate most to the video. It sometimes upsets me that young people are so connected online. It makes me think we are losing our face-to-face interaction and social skills. “The valuing of individuality, just like the prizing of humor and insight, therefore relates to the need of soap opera fans to share and compare personalized interpretations of the show? (Baym 116). This quote best sums-up what I have found to be true as well about any online community. Everyone wants a way to express themselves and be responded too. It is in the voicing of opinion about a topic, being responded to, and then getting to add more that drives online communities, blogging, and posting. It is almost human nature to want to be heard and it is made easier when the topic is of interest and people who share your interest are listening and reacting to you. Thus, I do believe that Baym’s observations observed more than a year ago still exist and are evolving as we speak into more complex communications and meeting people’s needs.
As well, Boyd really makes an extension to some of Baym’s arguments. Specifically, I think the sentence “People define their community egocentrically? (Boyd: Egocentric Networks Replace Groups). Like I stated above, individuals want to be heard and recognized, and feel like they are part of a similar grouping. But, Baym says now we choose friends first and then find similar topics to communicate on. It is revolutionary the way we continually redefine the context of many concepts and forms of communication. From my experience with facebook, I have learned that my “friends? are more like people I sort of know. It was a struggle for me to accept people I just met once as “friends? at first. My true friends in real life are much more than facebook friends (obviously). And, like the argument in the comedy central bit, it takes work, commitment and responsibility to be a true friend. There is not much commitment or reliability with a friend you have in an online community. I had a hard time relating to the drama that ensures with “top friends? on myspace. I think it is quite juvenile to actually choose a certain group of people as your top friends.
Overall, I think the two articles, and the video do an accurate job of depicting the evolutionary and revolutionary nature of online communities. There will be a constant redefining of original contexts as time goes on, and the virtual world will look less and less like the real world.

Facebook & Myspace. . the online communities of the new millenium

“More recent conceptions of the folk group require that groups only share a common factor and unique traditions, or that traditions are grounded in distinct shared rules for the conduct and interpretation of speech.? (Kiesler, p103)

I believe this quote describes the Kiesler writing style and description of online communities. “Newsgroups? as Kiesler describes in this article seem to be rather foreign and seems that the article is seeking justification for online communities. It quotes members of the R.A.T.S. to be “well educated.? It also describes the common term blogging as “posting.? (Kiesler, p105) This contrast in terminology I believe represents the impact that the web culture has implemented in today’s society. Today we say online communities with pride and a sense of belonging. Today people are more open about their desire to belong to communities and obtain their own sort of web language when belonging to specific communities.

Two online communities that I participate in are facebook and myspace. My personal participation within these communities are distinguished by Kieslers defining of lurking and posting. Facebook I am an active participate. I leave notes, considered blogs, for my friends accompanied by photos that emphasize meaning to my notes. Myspace I would be considered to only lurk as I do not actively have an account but use it to not post but just to check people out and participate at a minimal level. I believe your affiliation within an online community can play bias to an individual. For example, my friends belonging to Myspace and posting hundreds of so-called model photos of themselves are trying to portray a specific demeanor.

The most useful and important online community that I participate in at this stage of my life is Linked In. It is an online community for business professionals and used strictly for networking and business discussion. I feel comfortable belonging to this community because I want to be affiliated with other individuals seeking professional networking.

In conclusion I feel that there is a significant difference in the acceptance and comfort that people feel within and belonging to online communities today versus fifteen years ago. I appreciated Kieslers definitions but feel that more up-to-date terminology speaks greater to the true communities that exist today.

Signal vs. Noise in Online Communities

I do not make much use of online communities in a social sense. I have a facebook account, and I frequent a few forums, but on the whole I feel that I use such services less than the average college student, certainly. Of the forums that I visit, 3 are technical forums, and one is related to a MUD that I play. On all of these forums I generally either do not post, or post only very rarely.According to "Interpreting Soap Operas", I fall into the majority of posters, who post less than 5 times per month. The essay goes on to note that generally a small group of posters (in newsgroups) makes the majority of posts. I have found this to be true on all forums that I read. I have also noticed that two of the technical forums that I read have declined noticeably in terms of quality since I began reading them. It seems to me that, for a technical forum or newsgroup to be successful, the few big contributors (mentioned by Baym) must not only be both interested and dedicated, and also must be very technically skilled. In my experience, the greater the ratio of new (to both the forum and the field being discussed) members to experienced members must not exceed some threshold before the more experienced members will cease reading and posting. In each of the aforementioned forums it seems that this threshold is being approached or exceeded.

In terms of "social" online communities, I certainly found Boyd's discussion of the social awkwardness of rejecting a friend request (in my case, on Facebook) is frequently more trouble than it is worth. A few months ago I was going through the process of removing anyone from my (already meager) friend list that I didn't know or particularly care for, and accidentally removed an acquaintance that was a friend of a friend. He proceeded to message me, wondering why I had done so, and it was easier for me (socially) to simply add him back than to explain to him that we weren't "close enough" friends to bother having him on my list. I think that this situation is similar to one where, for example, when a person that you do not consider a “close enough? friend calls on the telephone, you choose not to answer, but when you run into him or her in person, you do not ignore his or her greeting, either. In both the online and real cases, one entails significantly more possible social fallout than the other.

Finally, a brief side-note: I think that some of the elements that Baym observed in "r.a.t.s" were an effect of a small and dedicated community, and likely would be markedly different today. Specifically, in 1993 it is likely that the people participating in the community were relatively early adopters of the internet and newsgroups, and that the community itself as relatively small. In such a community, just as in a community in "real" life, it is far easier to ensure that certain norms are followed. As an example, it might not be possible to limit the number of "flames" in a larger community simply through self-policing and scolding offending members.


According to Boyd, “Participants in social network sites want to be public where public means interacting with all people who might have similar tastes or be entertaining or provide useful information.? I think this is a great summary of how online communities differ from physical communities. People participating in an online community are participating due to personal interest in the topic at hand. Where as in a public community, sometimes you don’t have a choice about the interactions you encounter or the situations you will become involved in. However, both community types both encourage encountering with people and engaging in some type of conversation with others, whether it be personal or a topic of interest.

To gain social capital in the online community you have to almost create a desirable image for yourself. For example according to Baym, “The use of humor as a criterion in evaluating performance on r.a.t.s. is directly related to important functional concerns in the group. It helps keep fans entertained during times when a soap opera may fail to do so, and it help to create an accepting and caring group atmosphere.? Overall I think it’s all about how you present yourself and the image you create for yourself via the Internet and these various programs.

I think digital communities have become very popular within the past couple of years. I know that I wasn’t too involved in any type of online communities, prior to hearing about MYSPACE and FACEBOOK. The article written by Boyd about Friends and Friendster was very interesting to read, because I could relate to some of the information within the article. For example, I know that on MYSPACE I have friends that are friends with over 500 people, and over ¾ of the friends they have listed as friends, they have never met or talked in real life before. Overall I believe digital communities are affecting physical communities. Boyd mentions a case about fights in schools because someone wasn’t on someone’s TOP8 on MYSPACE.

Can we just be online friends?

I find it funny that in the 80s, people used web technology to discuss their favorite soap operas. I also am surprised that there were so many computer geeks that watched soap operas. You learn something new everyday. A lot of what Baym wrote about regarding virtual communities in the nineteen eighties sounds very familiar. It seems to back up a belief of mine that people really do not change much over the span of time. Technology surely makes changes in everyone's lives but the way they interact with one another stays the same. I sometimes think that we people in the "modern" age think that we are somehow smarter because we have more advanced technology. Current events tell me that this is not the case ha ha.

It's interesting that current day people seem to communicate in online discussions in a similar fashion that people who used the R.a.t.s discussion groups used. I sometimes visit an online discussion forum called "JeepForum.com." I usually visit the site when I have a question about my Cherokee and help others out if I know how to solve their problem. There is a discussion thread called "Open Topic." In this thread people talk about all sorts of topics. I once had a long argument about the merits of ethanol as a fuel. We got good comments from other members commending us on our debate. That was nice.

There were other times that didn't seem as enjoyable. Some of the folks in this forum are a sort of tight knit group. Some times when a hot discussion was in play, I would chime in if I felt that I had a valid opinion. I'd check back to see if anyone responded to my post, and nobody acknowledged what I had to say. This kind of bothered me. Why didn't they respond to me?

When Baym recounted the story of the poster who apparently was blown off by the "ingroups" of the forum, I instantly thought of my experiences with the Jeep Forum members (Baym 117). Basically, the poster had valid information to supply to the conversation, but the "ingroup" chose to listen to the more popular posters instead (Baym 117). This kind of reminds me of the whole high school mentality where people hang on every word of the popular person. The less popular person might be trying to warn people that the buildings is on fire, but nobody moves until the popular person decides it's important ha ha.

On the Jeep Forum, there was a guy that started posting and everybody seemed to be perplexed as to what his deal was. His user name was "Sizzlechest" and he used a picture of a strange looking person as his avatar. People who were curious about him would ask him questions and his replies were pretty interesting and eccentric. He finally showed everyone what he really looked like and people became really drawn to him.

Sizzlechest's popularity seemed to happen because he lived up to the groups "performative potential" (Baym 111). His actions and online presence met the criteria for a "skilled performance" (Baym 112). He showed "humor, insight, distinctive personality, and politeness" (Baym 112). What a character!

Online discussion forums like Jeep Forum and Photographycorner.com are my favorite type of application. I'm sort of an introvert and I hate going to new places trying to drum up conversation when no one has anything in common. These sites are nice because they were built for the purpose of discussing fairly specific topics. They are an online club of sorts. I feel at home when I am chatting with a fellow photographer.

I haven't had much of an urge to sign up on Myspace. I don't feel the need to impress anyone on there. I've looked at my brother's Myspace um....space and it seems kind of interesting. He set it up so music of his choice kicks on when you enter his space. I think it might be a good way to find a significant other, but he just seems to have posts from his friends that live hear in Minnesota. One amusing thing is that he created a space for his two cats.

The web address for this is www.myspace.com/marshallandrandall if anyone dares to look. When I read in Boyd's paper that Friendster kicked all of the "Fakesters" out and they all flocked to Myspace, I thought of the site that my brother set up for his fur balls (Boyd). This actually seems like a fun way to be creative. I'm really close to making a space for my cats so the can flame his cats. Wouldn't that be mature!

Now I'm part of a meta-online community.

I have only used social networking sites to spy on people-- to find names, to find out more about people I have just met. I also follow (but rarely contribute to) a discussion board about bicycling in the Twin Cities.

I find that much of what Baym discusses in relation to the R.a.t.s. site ten years ago still holds true-- for example, that “a small group of people does most of the performing.? (Interpreting Soap Opera, Creating Communities, p.105) I find this on the discussion board I frequent, and it seems like (as in real life) the people who talk the most tend to take control. Baym also refers to the "lurking" phenomenon (p. 108)-- It is still common to lurk on discussion boards or social networking sites, either by creating a nearly empty profile, or setting privacy controls so that no one can see it. Baym's remark that “R.a.t.s. participants are well-educated as in most of the Internet…most read newsgroups at work or at school? (p.105) really dates this piece of writing. Ten years ago, it was much less common to have a connection to the Internet at home. College students and people with computer-related jobs (presumably the most educated people) would have had much more control over online content, and I think the conversation has opened up a lot since then.

In “Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8?, Boyd tells us that “the number of people in one’s network was perceived as directly related to the number of friends one had.? I do think this is still the perception, at least among younger users. I agree with the idea that Top 8 is often wielded as a weapon; I’ve overheard kids talking worriedly about it, and I know of one local high school that has sent home a memo to parents asking them to monitor their children’s computer use, as a number of online disputes have led to fights during the school day. The other point I thought was particularly interesting was that “the users of social networking sites are faced with a conundrum, particularly those who must simultaneously interact with their peers and those who hold power over them.? The kids at my library would be mortified to know I’ve seen their Myspace profiles, full of booty pictures, amateur cussing and fake gangster posturing. Similarly, I couldn’t create an honest profile for myself without alienating some of the students I work with.

Out With the Old

While I have not used any of the three "friending machines" we talk about this week. I am part of many technological communities. I think I am well networked into a lot of places, and my network resembles my friends and people of similar interests. For example, Facebook is by far my favorite network. I was much happier with it when it was "only for college kids", while that wasn't of course the case because anyone can get a .edu address from the U of M or anywhere else, but it seemed like college kids just having a good time. I use it mostly for pictures. I like to see what people do for fun. While there are some crazy and some boring ones, the unique parties and ideas are fun to look at and then think about how your friends would act in that situation. MySpace seems like that part of town that is pretty cool, but your parents would never want to know you went there. For me, there is just too much on a page to care about. Facebook seems more like a more readable format. Of course formats also limit freedom and creativity, but if I want to know what my friends are doing, Facebook lets me know, and doesn't keep me confused.
I also have my blog, which started out as a daily conversation for my family and friends with me. I would post, and they would comment or email me to react and talk about their day or things I would like to know about. Then, it expanded. I was searching google at the beginning of my bloggings, by just entering my name, and nothing would come up. I was happy about this because the more intimate it was, the better I feel about sharing information. But one day, a press secretary in my office was searching for information and stumbled upon it (because I talk about the Member of Congress I work for and issues that she was looking for were talked about in my blog). My boss called me into his office, I hadn't done anything illegal, unethical or even put in information he wouldn't like, but he just reminded me that it is now public information, and to realize what I say may be taken as the attitude of our office. So luckily he just said to ask if I thought anything I would be posting is contriversial, but instead of asking, I just stay away from controversy (and have less dramatic writing). A week after that incident, two people had found it while searching the web or being contacted through one of my friends, and came to our office to give me their business card. I apologize, but needed to be long winded to explain the progression of what started out as a daily intimate conversation turned into a job advertisement to some extent.
My final network I will discuss is my office email. While email can be bad at any office, I assure you that the US Congress is horrible as far as the volume you receive each day. It's one thing for people to be able to email you from their work stations but after 9/11 everyone was issued a Blackberry. Now you can get emails from workstations, while people are going to and coming from meetings, and even in meetings. While the messages are not "all business", they are a lot of time, most of which spent making sure you DO NOT have to reply to them.

I think Baym's arguments and examples hold up today. I see Facebook as an application for making a tangent, or a TAN (Baym, 109) as they called them in years before. Here comments like "are you going to ..." or "did you do homework for ....'s class" can turn into 40-post conversations, that will double as instant messaging if you are both online. Another thing about the Facebook-type applications is that they can be used as instant messaging, with an added kick of opinion (as talked about in the texts somewhere that I can no longer find). When you post on someone else's Facebook wall, some people are able to see your post when they login. If it is two of your best friends talking, you may add to the conversation by posting on both of their walls.
On blogs (and even more so, message boards), I see a lot of what I just named "Soap Opera Syndrome". People get so obsessed with something that it goes on forever. You have, like the Soap Opera addicts, the daily posters, the people who randomly butt in and out of the conversations, and the people who disagree with everything the daily posters say. Besides my blog (where I am obsessed with my day, my family, and my political science grade), I have been on niketalk.com. It is really a site for all stakeholders in Nike. There is of course a shoe page ("Post pics of your shoes"), many sport pages, and topics you wouldn't expect that Nike people agree on.
My work email relates a lot closer to the Friendster/Myspace/Facebook research than I originally thought. Yes, there are many emails from user to user, but there are many from user to list. In responding to a list, you send the response back to the whole list, directed at the person with the original message. This is the business-style Facebook as you are promoting yourself to others (but in this case showing that you answered the question) while at the same time completing the task. Your signature at the bottom of each email can also tell people about your personality, especially when adding an inspirational or humorous quote. The one thing this community doesn't have is friends. In Facebook I have friends, in blogging, I can link to other and related blogs (although I don't), but in this email, you just have contacts. I can reach anyone and everyone on Capitol Hill. Your friends/most often emailed do get saved to a list of people recently emailed, but that's as far as it goes. There are no public displays of affection in email via saying which people you like and which you do not.
While I think the ideas and concepts Baym discusses move on, the old technology gets left behind. I can reminisce about the post on how to not make people mad (Baym, 117-8), and remember the first time I left the caps lock on in a chat room. At the time I had no clue it was another form of yelling, and was instantly booted by some robot in the room. boyd is on the right track, we are not that removed from who we are on the net, but at the same time, some people are constrained. I think the social norms of real life give way on the net, and this allows/forces people who want to branch out and explore, everything from soap operas to pornography and chat rooms to kitty litter, to do so in a manner where they will not be looked down upon by others. So my conclusion is that while, as boyd explains, the internet helps people "define themselves and the context in which they are operating", through friending and everything else, they are also changing and exploring. In other words, I think people can truly change, not just continually get closer to finding who they always were. Without the internet, many people would not be who they are no matter how long and hard they searched, because it is just a different medium of creativity.

Congrats, you're ePopular!

Online communities can mean a variety of things, and the sites listed for us to take a look at are only one type, although they are some of the most popular. I’ve been a member of many different forums through the years, mostly consisting of people that I’ve met online through games. Because of this I tend to relate the word “forum? to something relating to gaming, even though there are countless topics that different forums discuss. I also use Xanga for the little amounts of blogging that I do outside of this class.
“A prevalent assumption by many observers is that the articulation of Friendship is equivalent to friendship (Kornblum, 2006). In other words, if people say that they are Friends on these sites, they must be friends in other contexts as well. This paper challenges that assumption.? (Boyd).
This brief overview of Boyd’s paper agrees with my thoughts about online communities completely. The best example I can give is an artist’s Myspace page. Some artists have thousands of friends on Myspace, yet most of the time the artist will never have any contact, on or offline, with a majority of these friends. If people can be friends online without any type of contact, then an online friend is really constituted by common interest. This is where Baym’s paper is still relevant. Baym compares an online community to a concept that, in my head at least, resembles a book club. This comparison as well as the data gathered about how the forum was used and what types of people used it goes to show that often, online communities are topic based, supporting my theory that online friendships are established merely by common interest (much the same as real life, except without the interaction.)

Myspace= DRAMA!!

I found Danah Boyd’s piece to be quite interesting and allowed me to reflect on my use of online communities. I was interested in the concept of “friending? online. It was mentioned that “people saw friendships online as content, offline facilitator, online community, trust, courtesy, declaration, or nothing.? (Boyd, Danah) I’ve used blogs, chat rooms, discussion boards and aim and my view of “friendships? online has changed throughout the years. When I used to chat, everyone on my buddy list was seen as a ‘friend’, from friends who I interacted with on a daily basis to friends who I had never seen in real life but felt comfortable enough by allowing them to know me more as a person. Now when I think about online friends, I see them more as “acquaintances? rather than friends. I’ve learned to be more aware of trusting people and using the term “friendship.? I wouldn't necessarily agree with the statement that their just "nothing" relationships because if you communicate in some way, there is some degree of relationship involved.

“Participants must select who on the system they deem to be ‘Friends.’ Their choice is publicly displayed for all to see and becomes the backbone for networked participation.? (Boyd, Danah) It was interesting when I read more about Myspace. Like mentioned in the article, Top 8 is allowing people to show a connection that states who they really are. In other words, they described it as a bookmark that serves as a way to chose people who matter the most. I use Myspace now and then, but have never been a huge fan of it. It’s interesting how TOP 8 has been such an effect on friendships/relationships online. Just like most Myspace users, I put people who are closest to me on my top list but have never had people complain about it! For instance:

“Myspace always seems to cause way too much drama and i am so dang sick of it. im sick of the pain and the hurt and tears and the jealousy and the heartache and the truth and the lies ... it just SUCKS! ... im just so sick of the drama and i just cant take it anymore compared to all the love its supposed to make us feel. i get off just feeling worse. i have people complain to me that they are not my number one on my top 8. come on now. grow up. its freaking myspace.? — Olivia (Boyd, Danah)

CRAZY! Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever let myself get TOO sucked into these communities. Seems like they are kind of harsh! :X

Wide Open MySpaces

I never thought of myself as belonging to an online community because I do not belong to MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, or any other SNS (social network site). I had heard of, but until this assignment, I had not visited a SNS. But as I thought about online communities I realized that I do now belong to an online community and have for many years. I certainly now belong to the online community of Rhet 3401. Other online communities I have belonged too are the communities of people I have ever exchanged e-mail with or chatted with online. The contexts of these communities have been family, friends (real life friends that is), and business associates.

The online communities I’ve listed and that I have experienced function as an additional means of communication. These online communities, as well as SNS’s, differ from physical communities in that the individuals are usually separated by both space and time. I do not think that online communities are replacing physical communities in our lives, rather, I think that they supplement our lives by giving us yet another medium to communicate our thoughts and ideas in “complex, interwoven, and personalized communities? (Nancy K. Baym, Interpreting Soap Operas and Creating Community: Inside an Electronic Fan Culture, p. 119).

I think that some of the elements Baym observed still exist today in all of the online communities. An example of this is the short-hand idiom used in online communications, such as, ‘r u hungry 2’ (Baym, p. 107). I also think that Danah Boyd is correct in her assertion as was Jenny Sundén in that “in order to exist online, we must write ourselves into being? (Jenny Sundén, Material Virtualities: Approaching Online TextualEmbodiment, 2003). If we do not write, we do not exist because our thoughts through words have no way to make it into cyberspace.

MySpace is my space

In answering the first part of the questions, communities function by a group of people interacting and sharing things with one another. So you can say that real life communities and online communities function and work in the same way. Online communities are obviously different from real life face, to face human contact type of communities because you interact differently with them. In online communities you can hide your identity or make it up. Member gain social capital in the community just by interacting with other people, helping them out, and doing favors for others even when you are not asked to do so. In online communities I think it kind of works a little in the same way, just by interacting, talking, and sharing different things with one another like music and things like that.
I do think that virtual communities are replacing physical communities in some of our lives because it's easier to talk with people because you have more time to do so. An example would be if your at work on a break, you can go online and talk, in a physical community you would have to leave your job for the rest of the day, set up a time and place to meet. It's a lot easier to do this online.

When I first experienced online communities it was primarily on AOL chat rooms. I just thought that in writing text and trying to express yourself online is very difficult. Then I started noticing people using smily faces and things of that effect to convey a sense of emotion. A segment in the Baym article really sums this up. "The computer medium seems at first glance to eliminate just these kinds of cues, [a wink, gesture, posture], but given time, participants respond to this deprivation by creating new ways to convey crucial metacommunicative information." (Baym, 111). The article goes on to say the use of the smily face :) and the sad face :(. This example goes to show that my own experiences online line up with the Baym reading and that this element still exists. I really don't use too many other online communities besides facebook. I rarley use that either but Boyds article really was spot on with how we make people our friends and how it's easier just to accept them as friends instead of rejecting them.

I believe that Boyd is correct in her assertions about making friends, adding friends, etc. in her article. "For some participants, only the closest pals are listed while others include acquaintances. Some are willing to accept family members while others won’t even include their spouse so that they can write bulletins to “just my friends.? Saying no to someone can be tricky so some prefer to accept Friendship with someone they barely know rather than going through the socially awkward process of rejecting them." (Boyd, 1). I think that this part of the article really shows you how online communities develop and how we define ourselves as well. Some would say that what makes you and what defines you is the friends that you hang out with. Well what may define you online is the friends you have on myspace or facebook.

Myspace doesn't make my "Top 8"

Ok, I’d like to start this off by wishing everyone a happy Valentines Day. And I believe that because this week hosts such a Hallmark holiday, the idea of online communities are a perfect conversation piece.

I am or have been involved in online communities. I am currently on the Facebook, and becoming a valid member with in this community. It counts! ? The other communities I have been involved in, I used mainly for information purposes. These mainly included forums for Xbox, when I used to have time for video games. Within those communities, I was mainly just a lurker, as Baym puts it. The only time I participated was when I really needed to find something out that I wasn’t able to get from other peoples conversations. I do not have a Myspace page, because I just don’t see the point…..for me. I already feel bad enough that I have a profile on the facebook, but it proves to be useful once in a while. I’ve noticed that other people in this discussion also feel the same way when it comes to Myspace and Facebook.

As I was taking a look through everyone’s posts thus far, I was rather surprised to see how many of you actually acknowledged the online community as a legitimate community. That’s not to say that I don’t agree, but I thought that there would for sure be people out there who think that online communities contain no legitimacy at all. Just for fun, I looked up the definition of community online, and there were over ten definitions that came up. I read through each one of them, and I did not see one which an online community did not meet the requirements of. However, I feel there are definite limitations that are set by online communities in comparison to real life communities. The main limitation is that in the online world, you can’t actually have physical contact with others. To me, online communities are great for the use of words, but for actually having a physical relationship, I just don’t think they cut-it in that respect. When I’m interacting with someone, I would much rather prefer to see them in person. I understand that there might be some argument to this by saying people identify themselves on Myspace and Facebook with pictures of themselves, or how we even made Avatars. But in my opinion, it is still not the same as actually experiencing that in real life. Boyd talks about how Myspace and how some of its characteristics have the same effect of a real life community, whereas others don’t. The idea of befriending people on Facebook, Myspace, and Friendster is not realistic in my opinion. However, I thought that Boyd made an interesting point of how certain things on Myspace, for instance the top 8, can affect real life relationships and communities. I found this to be so interesting because I could never see myself becoming that involved and care about an online community so much. As someone said in their review, “It’s just freakin’ Myspace!? I also agree with md2506’s post in the sense that the older and more experienced partakers in these communities probably do not have so much drama, and do not become as involved as the younger, more immature, and less experienced users.

Overall, I feel that online communities serve a purpose for many people. However, I do not feel that they will ever take the place of a real life community. People (at least I will) always feel the need for the physical aspect of relationships and communities that the online world can not provide.

Are you really my friend?

According to Boyd's article, a friendship, in typical terms, must involve "some degree of mutual love or admiration." In other words, most people would consider friends to be at least somewhat intimate with each other. This is an interesting definition for Boyd to bring up in an article about internet communities. How many of us can say that we're intimate with our computers, or with the profile of some random person we've never met on Myspace? Still, I think community and friendship can be two totally different things. When I think of community, the first thing that usually comes to mind is just the people who come together in a specific place to make civilization possible for everyone. Maybe I'm closer to the people I live with than I am to some of my professors or the people who sell me food at the restaurants around campus, but everyone still comes together to make the campus one big community. Online communities are pretty much the same, only instead of making civilized life possible, they make a social network or discussion group. After all, you can't have either of those things without people.

But anyway, back to the concept of friendship online. I'm proud to say I don't have a Myspace profile, but I've still been sucked into Facebook being a college student and everything, so I'll use it as my first example. Many of the people on my friends list on Facebook are people I see and interact with everyday, people I'd list among my friends here at school if you happened to ask me. Others are people I don't see that often, but I still see and talk to them occasionally when I happen to be in town at home. You could call them friends of mine too. Still others are people I was basically familiar with in high school, but even back then I didn't talk to them much. Sure, I'd recognize and say hi to these people if I happened to run into them again, but are they really friends in the sense that the people I talk to every day are? Also, consider the friends I have whom I've never even met from the message boards. I do enjoy talking to them, and I know I probably would be friends with them if I ever met them face to face because of our common interests, but there's still a level of intimacy that just isn't there with them. In that case, it almost seems like the meaning of friendship, at least colloquially, is totally changed online. It seems to be less of a question of how well you know a person than it is if you know a person. But even so, the idea of there being online communities is still a sound one. Baym's example of a soap opera community is actually pretty similar to the adultswim.com forums. In fact, much of the anime I discuss there is often compared to soap operas because of its serial nature. And just like the soap opera community, there are abbreviations to refer to specific shows (i.e. FMA = Full Metal Alchemist, CB = Cowboy Bebop, and comedy too, ATHF = Aqua Teen Hunger Force etc.), people who lurk, occasional trivia threads, pretty much everything there only relating to a totally different genre of TV.

Other research at the U on gender, identity, and power in digital spaces

Brunner has spent the last decade studying female leaders and power within school administrations. In 2002 she and colleagues from the University's Digital Media Center created Experiential Simulations (ES), an online environment similar to a chat room where people's true identities are masked to others in the group.

Each person is given a "modified persona"--an assigned gender, racial, class and positional identity unlike their own. They are instructed not to reveal personal details to one another. When they log in, each sees his or her own image, while their classmates see images and video that represent the assigned persona. The students are unaware of this, however, and assume that the others are seeing them as they actually are.

In this context, students work together in situations designed to show how their perception of other people shapes their own decisions. Offline, the students answer questions concerning their assumptions about power and stereotypes, their communication and their decision-making practices.

Afterward, they compare their profiles of themselves to cumulative data sets collected since 2002 that expose to them their skills in communication, leadership and collaboration, as well as their biases and how they use power.

Read the rest here.

One Big Happy Community

I find online communities very interesting. Through them we are able to show how many friends we have, what type of people we are, and just try and be cool. I do not belong to any of the three groups that were linked this week, I do, however, belong to Facebook. I like using facebook because it helps me find out how my friends ( and people that I am not a fan of) are doing. It also helps that I can learn their birthdays and screenames so I can IM them and start a conversation to see how they are doing. While I do enjoy Facebook, I can see the negatives that come from it. We can stalk people using social networks and possibly, "mate poach" if we see that a girl has just gone single, we can jump at the opportunity right away. I also enjoy reading posts and blogs, I try and not respond, however, because people take things way too seriously and soon there is just name calling and put downs on the discussion board.

In the case of the Baym article, I found it interesting that while this article was dated, chat rooms were still really popular even at the very beginning of the internet when the connections were slow and it was difficult to look at pages. I totally agree with her statement that "There are two ways to participate in any newsgroup...lurking involves reading without ever posting and posting which means writing messages" (Baym, 105). I consider myself a lurker because I do not like to get into arguments with random people. However, I do find some of the arguments that they present on the different sites I look at interesting. There are also many cases where poeple post spoilers and interesting facts about favorite shows on the website or a place like imdb.com. If you read and post on blogs continuously, you can get to know the people that also post regularly. I also found it amazing that acronyms such as ROTFL (Baym, 113), were created so long ago. I still do not know what they all mean. From reading the Baym article I concluded that if she did the same research that she had done in 1991 now, she would get results that are similar. I am amazed that while so much has changed with the internet, many things have stayed the same.

In the Boyd article I believe that she is somewhat correct in her outlook on Friendster, MySpace, etc... While I agree that we like to have access to as many profiles as we can and can show how many friends we have, this is just not the case for me. I have often rejected people that have tried to be my friend because either I do not know them, or I knew them and didn't like them and I knew that they did not like me. Why would I want to associate myself with someone that I will just talk bad about when they leave the room? From what Boyd states, "varied populations who began to participate and define context through their Friends were faced with context collision when people from different facets of their lives joined the site." It seems to me that social networking sites have almost created cliques on another level. There are groups that peopel cannot get into unless they are asked to join, parties that you need to be invited to, and groups that you know there are certain people in them. I agree with Boyd that many people do do this sort of thing in social networks, however, it is not something that I like to do

As a previous poster said, it is easier for people to communicate in social networks. However, I do not know if this is a good thing. People know that no one knows who you are unless you want to reveal yourself. You could say somehurtful things and get into an argument without ever meeting someone, when, in fact, you and that person would have been great friends if you met in a class or at work. I think people need to realize that it is not that important how many friends you have because when you do things like "Top Eight" or the feed on Facebook could hurt the feelings of a true friend and that relationship should be the one you want to save.

My Name is Earl....

I do not know if many of you watch “My Name is Earl?, but there was an episode a few weeks ago relating to online communities. To summarize it briefly….
Earl & Randy went to help the deliveryman (the one that was in the truck Joy stole) so that he could cross him off his list. When they got to his apartment, they found that he had passed away (apparently the Murphy bed flipped up and crushed him). Earl decided Karma wanted him to throw a funeral for the deliveryman; he could not find any family or friends. His neighbors and co-workers did not remember him. Earl and Joy were cleaning out his apartment; Earl accidentally bumps the keyboard of the PC. Messages began popping up all over the place. Here the deliveryman was part of a large online community –he played games, chess, cards, ate dinner weekly via video with a woman from India, belonged to a book club, etc. He was very well known and liked in his own online community. Earl held a funeral and invited all of his online friends (who all physically met each other for the first time).

That episode popped into my head after the I posted. Just thought I would share it with you. I know it is just TV series, but sometimes it can reflect how society is changing. Anyway, the timing was there….

Virtual Communities

I use the Internet multiple times throughout the day, every day. I mainly use sites such as facebook, my emails, and course blogs to send my ideas and thought across as well as help maintain my social relationships. Even though I have not been a participant of such things like r.a.t.s and MUDs, I think that my facebook account satisfied my social needs. For instance, I am able to talk with my friends and those that I am only slightly acquainted with, I am able to join groups and post pictures that I like and take out ones that I don’t like of myself. I am able to be social without face-to-face interaction from the comfort of my bedroom. I have known some people that could spend hours and hours on facebook whether it was looking at other people’s profiles or loading their weekend partying pictures. I think that it is a sort of an escape and allows people who are shy to be more active and social than they otherwise would have been in a face-to-face situation. I think that it lets people express themselves freely because they can post their favorite quotes and random comments, and put a lot of information about themselves if they really wanted to. I like the fact that the only people who can see your profile your friends. I think that it really helps to create a sense of security and trust in the facebook community. I think that r.a.t.s does a similar thing where it satisfies some part of people’s social needs. People are able to post their comments on the different soap opera episodes and to talk with other about more serious issues by placing “TAN? in their subject line. I think that it lets people be more serious but at the same time have fun and enjoy reading the spoilers if they so chose to do.
Because of the way the Internet and computer-mediated communication has become a huge part of the way we keep in touch with people, I think that it will continue to decrease the amount of “face? time that we have with our families and friends. The more people will feel like they can be just as social if not more so when communicating online, the more time they will continue to spend in front of the screen.

The building of social communities and relationship ties are not foreign concepts to people. People like to have friends and families that they can communicate with and depend on for emotional support among many other needs. It used to be that people depended more on face-to-face contact with one another and that was until the creation of the Internet. The Internet opened doors to a different kind of communication; it made some things that were thought as impossible possible. A thing like communicating with someone clear across the world in a matter of seconds was unthought-of. MUDs, email, online chatting, and r.a.t.s connected people with each other and created the same emotional bonds and ties over time as did the face-to-face communication. R.a.t.s is something that I have not heard of until I read the article by Nancy K. Baym. I did not know that there were sites that people could go on to be updated on the latest episodes from different soap operas. It’s a community of their own because they all share a similar interest and there are certain norms that people need to abide by. R.a.t.s is one of the many “computer-mediated groups share the topics around which they organize, the system that links them, and the communication that passes between them? (103). Traditions develop in computer-mediated communities when there are prominent and prolific groups of people who have influence and power in guiding the formation of traditions. “Traditionalization occurs through a group’s communicative practice? (106). I found it interesting that people conducted a study on the demographic of the r.a.t.s participants. The study showed that there are approximately “72% females and 28% males? (105). I was more surprised to find that there were that many men who were participants in the group. That’s about a third of the participant population.
Another thing that I found interesting was the r.a.t.s offered a tangent section in the group. It let “those who have developed social relationships to enrich them by increasing the breadth of their interaction? (109). “Tangents are used as a forum for discussion issues of particular concern to women, including experiences with violence against women, worst dates, whether or not to change names when marrying, and more? (109-110).

February 13, 2007


I first wanted to come right out and say that in my current opinion Myspace is taking a downward slide. It takes forever to load and is loaded so full of fake friend requests and spam that I don't even enjoy using it anymore. The idea of Myspace and all other online social networks is great. Users can join various communities, get in touch with old high school friends, check out new artists on the rise, perform long term chats through wall postings, and ect. The biggest problem that seems to have came out of it is the whole concept of friends. According to Boyd only 2 out of the top 13 reasons for people to friend people are because they are actual friends or family with them (Boyd 8). I believe that because it is the internet and there is so much anonymity to it people just become "friends" with anyone. Why not, theres not as much risk involved as there is in real life in developing friendships. This often leads to so many people who take advantage of other's disregard for who they let into their "network" in order to spam them. Often because they have nothing better to do or they need an easy way to advertise. I do love how the author notes that the type of people who commit this spamming/hacking/joking are, "shy and even anti-social, and they enjoy the power of hitting so many systems with such little effort" (Gurak 97). (This quote was more so directed at hackers, but I like to fit spammers in the same catergory).

Besides Myspace, there are other internet communities that I really do find a great deal of pleasure in being a part of which havn't been corrupted quite yet. For example when I used to build computers for my friends and family I quite often participated in usergroups to problem solve things that would come while putting the computers together. I have also participated in other social networks that dealt with music and movie reviews as well.

To summarize. I believe people need to be more careful with how they treat their myspaces and other SNS's. While they can become a great tool to help keep in touch with your real life friends or discuss things in an environment that is much more anonymous than real life with others, it is very important to keep a distinction with who is really your friend. After all, "friends are expected to provide a shoulder to cry on, be a partner in crime, and guarantee to bail you out of jail" (Boyd 4).

It's Freaking Myspace

My favorite quote within a quote this week is, " 'come on now. grow up. its freaking MySpace.' " (Boyd, Friends, Friendsters and Top 8) I agree with this quote. If we take the internet too seriously, we will lose sight of reality.
But how do we define reality in 2007? Boyd takes this question a step further in her study of online the reality of friendships and how they are being skewed by online communities such as Friendster and MySpace. "Failing to understand the culture of Friending that has emerged in social network sites contributes to the fear of the media and concerned parents over how they envision participants to be socializing." (Boyd, Friends, Friendsters and Top 8).
My first thoughts of this article were, big deal, so what, get over it. I can handle the social implications of MySpace, why can't everyone else? But then I imagined myself as a concerned parent. I fast forwarded my life 13 years to a time when I will have a teenager. How will I monitor his use of MySpace? How will he deal with rejection, or never being on someone's "Top 8"?
Will he have the same struggles at school as well as online? Suddenly I want to shut down MySpace to protect him from hurt or any venue that could damage his self-esteem. However, that's when the communication piece comes in and we, as adults who understand that social networks are not always as them seem, need to teach our children a greater insight into human relationships and human needs.

One way of gaining better insight is understanding William Schultz's FIRO-B Program.
This theory/program describes the fundamentals of interpersonal relations. The dimensions are called Inclusion, Control and Affection (basic human needs).

"Schutz says that the need for inclusion is the inner drive 'to establish and maintain a satisfactory relation with people with respect to interaction and association.' It has to do with being in or out. (AFirstLook.com) This dimension relates to social networks 'add me as a friend" and "look at how many friends I have" mentality.

"Schutz defines the interpersonal need for control as 'the need to establish and maintain a satisfactory relation with people with respect to control and power.' It has to do with being on top or on the bottom. (AFirstLook.com). This relates to "Top 8" and social networking "accepting and rejection".

The third interpersonal desire of the FIR0 triad is 'the need to establish and maintain a satisfactory relation with others with respect to love and affection.' Whereas the need for inclusion had to do with being in or out, the need for affection has to do with being close or far." (AFirstLook.com) This dimension strangely, is the one I believe is the greatest need for all humans. The need for affection and attachment. I would boldy assume that most social network users have had insecure attachments in their lives and that MySpace is compensates for that void. In the Gen X and Y we see more insecure attachments because our primary caregivers were in the workforce and other factors in our environments. The pendulum is shifting though, and with an increase of stay at home parents, we may see social networking shift in a more positive direction as well.

In conclusion, I believe not matter if it's our high school cafeteria, the breakroom at work, or on online social networks, there will always be social hierarchies and interpersonal joy and conflict. We cannot escape it, but we can control our own personal awareness and self-actualization.

Soaps + Online Friends = Community

Which online community do I belong to? I belong to my online work community. I email a group of people frequently and feel as if I know them. I have never met or talked on the phone to them. There are some people who telecommute exclusively and online is the only way to reach them.
I actually found the Baym article on soap operas and community creation quite interesting albeit dated. While I try to avoid getting hooked on soap opera type shows, I can see how it can happen. Yes, I do admit to being hooked on Melrose Place a few years ago. Every week, first thing in the morning, my friend and I would talk about it. We must have had too much enthusiasm. Our co-worker finally asked us one morning what kind of friends we had that slept with everyone else. Apparently he didn’t watch Melrose. Anyway, the soap opera community is obsessed with fictional characters played by actors/actresses that they do not even know. On the other hand though, they have developed an online community built around a single passion, soap operas. If you feel like posting, spoiling, or updating, go ahead! If you just want to lurk (of all words), go ahead! Feel like introducing yourself, then go ahead and unlurk! Beyond the topic of soaps, it is truly interesting to see how the group structure (standards) of R.A.T.S. was developed over the course of time. I was actually surprised at some of the rules and their simplicity – abbreviated soap names, key words in the subject line (update, trivia, TAN), etc. With structure, it makes sense that these created communities last and draw in new members. Just as in any conversation, opinions and insights are part of the R.A.T.S. community. Through this, the group gets to know one another better and have a stronger sense of belonging.
I was surprised that when Friendster was launched, the founders expected users to list their actual friends instead of others. But it makes sense to me, that if you want to meet new people, show a different side of your personality (true or assumed), create an aversion to a boring life, then why would you only include the people that you already know? An option would be to create duplicate or fake Profiles, but Friendster was not happy about this decision. As the article states, “One of MySpace’s early strategies was to provide a place for everyone who was rejected from Friendster or who didn’t want to be on a dating site.?

In these online communities, I think it is easier for people to communicate. Users have more time to think about responses, can delay answers (or even decide not to answer questions), word questions carefully, and avoid gestures that may give away more insight than is intended. There is a lot of good that can come from digital communities. There is no limit with whom you can communicate with. It’s like the pen pal from school but on fast mode (no more waiting weeks or months for a reply). But, in my opinion, there is nothing like a face-to-face friendship in a physical community.

Digital Communities

My first contact with the social networking giant Myspace came when a member of my band set up an account for us to advertise. I remember when I initially looked at the site, I took me some time to figure out what the point of the website was. Now of course the site is a peice of every teenage vocabulary and such a thought would seem absurd to some. But even as I've become fairly familiar with the site over the years in using it for band related purposes, (posting events and invitations, blogging here and there, dealing with comments and things, and most importantly contacting other bands) however I don't have a personal one for myself. I think the site is a very useful networking tool for bands at other groups but as for having an individual account I've never really seen the point for myself. Whenever I used the site it was only to check mailings and the like; I didn't spend much time exploring other peoples profiles. Another online community I would consider myself a part of is a news foum at a music website called absolutepunk.net. There's a lot of users posting there at varying degrees, so until recently I've been a lurker. But I've began making small posts from time to time. The message board as a whole functions iin many of the same ways as the r.a.t.s. forum described in the Baym piece. There are many different subgroups covering all music related topics, and I've definitely noticed Baym's point in action that "a small group of people does most of the performing" (Baym, 105). "Flame-wars" (117) are also definitely in full affect in the forum, as it's basis in music allows for much difference of opinon. It's interesting that these sites that are aimed at recreating personal socialization over distances seems to have replaced (for some) socialization even for those that live nearby.

What is a community?

My first thought was that I don’t belong to any online communities. Occasionally I will visit the message boards for companies I invest in but you can never be too sure who is doing the postings on those boards. Some of the time it may be the PR firm trying to create some buzz. We have also seen that with viral marketing. Plant an online seed and create some buzz with a new product. Get some bloggers raving about a product and soon you have a groundswell with media coverage. How do we know if those bloggers are legitimate? What is their intention? Is it to independently share their find or was it to help in the companies' marketing plan?

When I started writing this post I didn't think I belonged in any online community and then it hit me in the head! My online communities are my RHET 3401 and ABUS 4509 classes. That is as close as I’ve been to an online community. We occasionally work in teams and I get to know my online classmates pretty well.

Most of the employees in my office have MySpace pages. They all talk about how they can keep in contact with their “friends? and find all of the concerts and parties they potentially could be missing out on. It has been fire walled at my company because of the disruption it can cause. danah boyd writes in her "Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8" article how Top Friends and Top 8 can impact real friendships. She quotes a user who says “MySpace always seems to cause way too much drama?. She also remarks that most of the users are predominantly young. Her study involved mainly14-30 year olds. Did that skew her findings of is that just the demographics of the user? P10

Older (age and experience) MySpace users tend to be less emotionally involved with all of the drama. They shrug their shoulders and accept it as the limitations of the system. P11 Is that a sign that once the newness wears off they lose interest in the product? Is there more to life than online communities? I think my age is beginning to show because I have trouble understanding why a person would prefer a virtual relationship when they can cultivate a real life relationship. The definition of community has changed over the past 15 years. I think what we now call a community is getting looser and looser. Are MySpace and Friendster considered communities? I think the new definition of a community is any gathering of people with like interests or goals. It doesn't matter if it is online or live.

boyd’s definition of friends on page 3 states, “friends are expected to provide a shoulder to cry on, be a partner in crime and guarantee to bail you out of jail.? How does that work in an online community?

template change

We have a new look around here as of today. The last template was the most appropriate for our topic, but its CSS was very hinky. Anytime we had images in our posts, the sidebar ended up at the bottom of the page. And it also refused to display our blogroll.

Things should be better now.

February 12, 2007

Thr Reality of Internet Communities

Internet communities often function in the same way many other entities function. This is because; like in the “real world? hierarchy is created by man. For example, in the soap opera news group from the readings, a relatively small percentage of group members contributed to the group’s message board more than once. This is true of many organizations both on the web, and outside of it. To back this up, in Greek Letter organizations there are a relatively small percentage of people that “do? the work necessary to keep the organization running. Especially in proportion to it’s total membership. Likewise, this connects to Danah Boyd’s piece as well. Making friends is essential to networking.

That being said however, Boyd and Kiesler seem to disagree on whether or not online networks are different than “real? world networking, both in gaining social capitol, and is assessing if online relationships are trumping real world ones. Kiesler’s article, while outlines how online networks function, seems to me to support the idea that online networks are an outgrowth of natural human norms. That online networking is not unnatural in the least. One can see this in Kiesler outlining of traditions within online groups. This is because tradition (or even ritual) is at the center of any strong organization. If these organizations had no tradition then it would stand to reason that they had no real importance to people. Therefore It is reasonable to state that Kiesler believes there is a possibility that online groups can supplement, or even replace real world social groups.

Boyd on the other hand makes the assessment that online groups are fickle in comparison to real life groups because the term “friendship? is used more loosely online than it is in reality. This is because friendship is necessary to an online group’s existence. This makes online groups farcical because online, one does not have to associate with enemies. Whereas in real life, one must live with, and work with people they despise. Therefore, one can surmise that, according to Boyd, the only way to gain social capitol on the internet is to gain as many friends as humanly possible. By doing so, one will have a humongous network on which to draw.

Personally, I believe both the authors make reasonable points. However, they both are making general assumptions about the internet, and the people that use it. The assumption is that they both have left out the individual equation. The internet is a media tool, and mankind has subscribed, and written into them for centuries, where it was the Federalists and Anti-Federalists arguing government in the newspapers in the 1700’s, or bloggers today arguing for government, people are just looking for intellectual outlets, and the internet is just as good if not better for doing so. And, it allows people to converse, and associate from hundreds of miles away to converse in seconds. That is why the internet has replaced some of out associations with people in modern times. Just as the TV did, and just as newspapers did in the past.

February 11, 2007

Opposites Attract??

Meet my opposite Juan. The main reason why he is the opposite of me is because he is COLD! I hate being cold and would do ANYTHING to avoid the winters. I enjoy looking at the snow fall from the inside looking out, but I would much rather be on a sunny beach somewhere in paradise. After many hours of frustration and wanting to throw my computer against the wall I was able to save Juan and carry on.

Playing different gender roles on the Internet at times may be thrilling for many. Through the readings and learning about the different personalities that people pursue can be frightening at times. I personally have never entered a chat room or talked with people that I do not know for this reason. It started when I was in middle school when I would talk on-line on AOL and my parents somewhat regulated who I was in contact with and would scare me about horror stories that they “heard?.

When playing a different gender on the internet can be hard and many times impossible. After a certain time, no matter the situation people becomes too comfortable with their “friends? and things start to slip up and their true personality comes out. According to Turkle,? to pass as a woman for any length of time requires understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, and the interpretation of experience.? It would be very hard to be 100% in the other gender role; however I think that it is much easier to do on the internet instead of in person. When looking at the differences between the genders, it is not only their personality but their mannerisms and the way they portray themselves is like black and white. This has just brought to my attention that maybe the people that I have been talking to may not be completely trustworthy in the things they say on-line or I guess now even their gender. I would never think to ask someone what their gender is because I feel as though I just assume based off of their screen name. I myself feel as though I trust people too easily either in person but now as it was brought to my attention through the events that has happened to me this past week that the internet is so much easier to say something on the internet and believing it.

People are so much braver when they do not have to be face to face or hear the tone in the other person’s voice of their emotion. For example for Turkle, Rob, the shy 14 boy uses the internet to almost build up his confidence. He talked about how being on-line he can really just talk, and they could be on line all day long but could never do that in person because of all the pressure he has from society. I feel as though the on-line chatting is almost testing the waters of who you are or where you want to be without the pressures of anyone else for instance making fun of you because of the way that you approached the situation or anything of the sorts.

RL, and the Meez Kayla.

Well this is extremely frusterating.....since I just typed my entire blog....and the wonderful page timed out, so basically I need to retype everything. which I don't particularly have time for .
I guess I could describe Kayla as someone who reflects some qualities of me, who has plenty that are not me, and someone who might have some I am looking for. She's relaxed and doesn't particularly live loud. Definitely could put herself permanently on a beach.

Both of these articles were really good reads. The more I read the more light is shed onto my novice understanding of how much people's real lives are intertwined with virtual reality. As I read through Turkle I tried to pull both the positive and negative feedback as it pertains to me about exploring this seemingly double lifestyle that so many people have engaged themselves in. I believe alot of positive can be pulled from these online lives, but so much of this so called "tinysex " seemed to interfere with more of my moral / emotional side of me. Even in the first example involving the two individuals Corey and Joely (who would pose as joel in MUDs) were able to experience conversations being the women they were in RL, and as males or even unknowns in the virtual world. They would be able to fufill the saying of "well put yourself in my shoes" and the internet can give you endless shoes to fill with maybe even no consequences. I said maybe because there are always going to be some sort of repercussion to an action, and they could be good or bad.
This more pertains to the issue of "tinysex" over the net. As Turkle described this act as many people's centerpiece of their virtual world experience. This concept is not that hard for me to grasp since our society is so inclined to sexual vices to grab people's attention. Why would this concept hold true over the safety wall of the internet where your options are endless as to how you want to experience it. But run into my moral dilemma on this issue because it can hurt a relationship deeply. Turkle gave us some examples of couples who had experienced these internet "affairs" I would not consider either to be healthy. Maybe you are able to explore stuff and gain some knowledge that might help your RL relationship, but is that knowledge worth the risk of hurting or loosing your RL relationship and then you are just left with your virtual one. I t is not worth it to me in the least bit.


The Meez program is really quite entertaining. I was quite impressed regarding how many options one can choose from, it gives the user a sense of being able to customize the Meez to a fair extent. Anyway, this is Giselle; she is 23 and a model. She enjoys the Euro style look, hanging out, having a good time, and making money. It is funny to think that I could make a false myspace page, find an image somewhat similar to Giselle, post my Meez character, and start acting on it.

After reading the Tinysex and Gender Trouble, I realized that having another gender online might have more strings attached than I ever thought possible. I found it quite interesting when Turkle talks about the online affairs people have; whether or not the person is physically a male or female, it does not matter when one can make a cyber MUD the same sex, opposite sex, or of a different species. One of the interviewers said he broke off a relationship because of the gender swapping his girlfriend did online. He said “We are not ready for the psychological confusion this technology can bring.? (Turkle, 225). A lot of the online role playing games really can be more powerful that initially thought. One of my friends decided to start playing World of Warcraft, it came with a 3 month free trail, and now, 7 months later, he is still hooked on it. I believe an online persona can become part of you, for better or for worse, but it can happen.

In many senses it can be good for people to communicate and experiment socially, sexually, etc. But when I read about the shy 14 year old Rob, in Turkle’s article, explaining about how he feels much more comfortable flirting and talking to girls on-line rather than in person, I feel sorry for him and that generation because of the lack of intimacy involved, compared to when speaking to someone face-to-face. Anyway, I realize that this is something that will definitely shape our future generation’s social communication strategy. Peace.

February 8, 2007


I don't know if this would constitute "cool stuff" but I sell television commercial time to advertising agencies here in town. Five years ago the only thing I was selling was television time.

As television stations are trying to find ways to squeeze more money out of advertising, they have begun to aggressively sell their station's web site. The numbers of eyeballs are enough to justify taking some of the client's budget. It used to be just a few tiles or banners and that was it. Now we are selling pre-rolls before streaming video of news stories and commercials inside of the streaming episodes (VOD) of Lost, Greys and Desperate. The newest platform I have been selling has been mobile. We are selling clients logos on the cell phone's streaming videos from the television station. What will they think of next. It sure keeps my job fresh.

I commented on a blog earlier wondering if they allow advertising in Second Life? If it can generate revenue for SL, it won't be long before they sell out to cell phone, computers and ISP's. Are there virtual billboards in MUD's. We see that in many of the popular video games now.


Meet Skinny Pipes

This is Pipes…he’s a guy’s guy. But from the mullet, we can see he has no sense of fashion. He loves sports, especially football. I expected to give him a “meatier? body frame but was limited to this skinny one. But Pipes has enough self-confidence that he doesn’t need the muscles to appear. Meez reminded me of Mr/Mrs. Potato Head. You have the framework (the potato) and the characteristics could be changed by altering the details on the potato body. Meez was actually quite entertaining but not a site I would go back to and create new avatars.

My experiences online are limited as I am more of an information finder. From the pop-ups, there are a number of derogatory ads exploiting women. During some of the comments I’ve read on other blogs, it is interesting to try and figure out the author’s sex. Some the of clues mentioned in the articles (flaming remarks, lack of help when asked, unable to maintain the gender for a given period of time, etc) were obvious but nothing that I put together in my own mind. The web is virtual and a number of the flaming remarks as made by men online are incredible. I wonder, if these people were face-to-face, would the same remarks would be made. Most likely not. I think when women communicate via the web, they often tend to write as if it truly were a face to face conversation - ? included. I do not use the : ) in my writings but have noticed them in others. They were all women. If the message was negative, the unhappy face : ( was part of the sign off.

I wear my sunglasses at night

so I can, so I can...Hi there. Apologies for the slightly late submission (once again) and I'd like to say, first of all, thanks Comcast for giving me faulty internet access. (Takin' it to the man!)
Swiftly moving on, this Meez thing was quite fun. Though I do believe it would take a power-user to get through all the options. It is sure, however, that much consideration went into the creation of these online-identity-builders. Obviously Meez is aiming for the generations that are growing up when online identity can be just as important as reality. Similar to the cell phone industry. These days, if you don't have a cell phone, you almost, just almost, don't exist in theminds of the mobile-subscribing population. It's a matter of presence in the mediums through which people commonly communicate, and Meez (or others, like DookyWeb) allows users to mold this presence very thoroughly. This promise of close-to-infinite customization makes the number of options less surprising, but still it is reduced to generalities and stereotypes. I find the "sort by theme" options interesting. Things like "Hipster" and "Mom" bold judgments to make about one's self, but we have to do it in every interaction we have, and this holds almost more true in online communication where our self-projection is the basis (and monopolizing force) behind other's understanding of our character.
My internet usage is characteristically confined to communication with people that I know from outside of the web. In this way, I am able to place a lot more trust in people's self-projected identity though it is still very malleable. For this reason, I found the Turkle article interesting, but much harder to relate to. Her interviewees, while discussing the nature of their MUD experiences, were confronting issues I haven't come into contact with. Of course, when chat rooms were still very new it was almost unavoidable to see the e-sex happening seemingly everywhere. And of course when someone signs in with the screen name "HotLesbianGirl" you've gotta think it's a thirteen-year-old boy looking for kicks. But some of the stories, like Ribbit, the helpful frog, were oh so lucid. A nice cut-away of a social-experiment of sorts, but with benefits. The ability of Ribbit's human player to work through social issues by role-playing. I couldn't help think of Borat during this reading. Though Sasha Baron Cohen's alter ego was a permutation of ethnicity, the results were the same. People treat you like what they think you are.
And how fitting that the Gurak text quotes Turkle in the epigraph to chapter four. Her explanation of the male-dominated birth of the internet gave a nice dimension to the gender-bending MUD experiences. She really takes it to Mattel too, but I couldn't help but think "Aren't people still buying this stuff?" Truly, if the products didn't sell, I doubt Mattel would bother. But, this article (hyperlink) makes some good points about the inevitable limit to the power of pink and flowers over adolescent females. Bad news for Mattel I guess.
The parts in Gurak's text about message-board behavior were interesting too, though as with MUD's I'm not a regular (or even initiated) user, so I haven't the experience to bounce her words against. Her analysis of trends like emoticons and flaming as generally prevalent gender roles--or more accurately--habits, are not surprising most of the time. Would a teen boy building his meez choose the "Hood Candy" animation so his avatar could sit alluringly on top of a hotrod? Maybe "HotLesbianGirl" would, but he's the real deal...right?

February 7, 2007

It's a Meez, Mario

Okay, so the name's not Mario, it's Mailliw02, which is William and 20 backwards. My Meez is a girl, cares about her hair, dresses up, and likes to show herself off. She is also in front of an anarchy symbol which I thought was perfect being that I am in Washington, D.C.

I think it is amazing that so much study goes into all of this. Before I knew the Cyberliteracy book and Turkle's chapters existed, I could not have even thought about so much brainpower going into the equivalent of "women's rights on the Internet". Now that I have found it, I'm kind of intrigued. Because most everything is laid out in text, or at least the Internet started that way, it seems it is easier to put different spins on things, and take things out of context. At the same time I now realize there are some real gender issues on the web that I have not thought about. I just think that sometimes people take it to the extreme.
One thing that I thought was amazing to study was Gurak's analysis of gender swapping near the end of the chapter. I didn't realize we could breakdown what a person was so easily by gender. While I'm sure there are exceptions, it seems we can learn a lot by the way people type, like in "Joan's" case, where a man was trying to be a women, but was much more aggressive than most women. "Men, even when disguised as women still exhibit classic male traits." (Gurak, 80) While this is of course true, I think she takes it to the extreme when she says, "Cyberspace is not cut off from the everyday sexism of the regular world" (Gurak, 81). I would argue that it is. If a man goes into a chatroom and starts sexually harassing a woman, it may have nothing to do with him being sexist in "real life". Just as women can step out of character to be men, men can step out of character to be women, I think both can step out of character to be sexist. How do we know that "Joan" wasn't a very shy male in real life, who would have a heard time approaching a woman? At the same time "Joan" wanted to really be a powerful overbearing male, so he went online to try and engage women in sex by being smooth and coercive. Women could do the same thing, be very powerful in "real life", and like to be submissive. While Gurak tries to tell us to stop the stereotypes on the net, I think she herself is creating her own while trying to fight for women's rights. While I think there should be equality on the web and would agree that "fake-lesbian syndrome" (from Turkle) probably occurs, the authors do not do a very good job of stepping out of their issues at hand (women's rights) and looking at what women want men to be, which I think has a lot of influence about how men act. I don't have any studies at hand to back me up besides my own observations, but I would argue that women like men who are confident. One way of doing this is to be cocky, while there are other ways that do not get the point across as easily (like being modest AND confident at the same time), so it is easier for men to be dominant and cocky and respected by women in my opinion. Because I don't want to further open up that can of worms, I will stop there, but I just want to make sure that we understand that these two readings are both written by women, which is fine, but they aren't doing a very good job of gender swapping.

“My Meez character is definetly having a personality crisis?

My Meez character is so far from who I am, it just makes me laugh! I chose a male who was into gaming and being in his room late at night on the computer. He is into punk rock and likes to talk with words like “raddddd, man? and “totally sweet game…? I am a very social person who enjoys sports and being active, and I rarely spend time alone unless I am working out or reading a book. While I like being online, I find that being on the computer too long makes me feel disconnected with the world. The last time I can actually remember thinking about being a male was when I was little. I always thought that I could be better at sports if I was just a guy! The character I created would rather make eye contact with the screen and is shy around anyone with who he does not know. I, on the other hand, love being with people I know and do not know. I think it is so much fun to hear about other people and their lives.
From Cyberliteracy, I enjoyed reading about the little things men and women do to make online communication more comfortable for their gender. For example, women use emoticons to make light of topics, or to set a tone (Cyberliterecy 72). I think this is so true, because if I am unsure of the tone someone might think I have, I know I can always add a “?? and get away with it! I also
The quote from Turkle I would like to discuss is “. . . chivalries communicate belief in female incompetence? (Turkle 211). I really think that it is amazing how chivalry still presents itself today; both in the social world and the online world. We, as women, are to believe that there is gender equality, but I still think it exists. Many assumptions about women’s responsibilities on earth are due to our anatomical differences. But, when it comes to the workplace, our brain power should never be thought of as lower. I also think Gurak’s discussion of online gender bias’ being that of the real world, is true to many degrees, but is harder to always see. Online, the reality of no face to face contact means that we are not always aware of the bias’ going on. If you pretend to be male and are female online, you will have less prejudice and probably more acceptance. But, once a person finds out you have been lying, I think they questions come flooding in.
As far as Turkle’s experience being a male, I think I would have felt the same way. I would be unsure of myself, because there are so many different aspects of a male that are just unfamiliar and foreign to me. It even boils down to how manly you should act in any given situation. All in all though, it is a good exercise of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes? and understanding the struggles of the other gender. It would probably be a good exercise for companies to engage in; perhaps in an interview setting. If you could allow a male to see how a woman gets treated (just because she is a woman!) I think this could help resolve and enhance a male’s insight into our world. The opposite is just as true for a female seeing what it is like to be in a male’s shoes. During an interview, there are probably assumptions about a male’s capabilities and knowledge that make the interview tough for the male as well. Overall, I believe that this week’s readings and use of the Meez site have really gotten me thinking about gender and gender differences in an entirely different way.

Who's who in whoville

I found myself getting way too engaged with Meez. Not only did I make a character opposite from myself I also made a character that is very similar to myself. For the character opposite myself I tried to model him after an active strong older male. I toyed with his looks and setting many times, he was a sports fan, a hippy, but I ultimately decided to have him be a snowboarder. I did this because I’m not a fan of either winter or winter sports, the though of snowboarding makes me cringe. As I played around with this guy’s looks I found myself creating a story for him. Who is he? What kind of job does he have? What are his likes and dislikes? I think that he is a macho guy, so I think he would prone to “flaming? in online conversations. In Cyberliteracy, Gurak says that “flaming is often a male style of communication? (p. 72). A classic flame would be “assertive, sarcastic, and rood to boot? (Gurak, p. 73). After reading Gurak I found it very interesting to read the following quote in Turkle: “In other words, for Case, if you are assertive as a man, it is coded as ‘being a bastard.’ If you are assertive as a woman, it is coded as ‘modern and together.’? It really made me think, if I as a woman make sarcastic strong remarks, but if a guy does it he’s a “bastard!? I’m really enjoying contemplating gender roles online.

Are you (wo)man enough for Chi-chi?

Opposite MeOpposite Me2

Meet Chi-chi, the cigar-chomping, in-your-face, rough 'n tough but not afraid to dress girly girl. Like me, she has some features that are usually associated with the opposite gender (I've been told I have many feminine features). Take the cigar or the big, angry eyes--or the metal--all are often associated with male aggression. I'm usually not at all like that. ^__^ Then, of course, there's the bright hair and pinkness...

From playing online games, I have seen quite a bit of gender-swapping. Usually, I have only seen or noticed males playing as females, because it really is obvious much of the time. It was also my experience that, when playing as a female character, male characters would follow or talk to me much more often. I played most of my time, however, as a male with a female name (that I chose under the impression that it was a male name--kind of like Shannon).

Hola Lola

I've always enjoyed the story of Alice in Wonderland. The complexity of the story lends itself to analysis beyond the layer of fun on the surface reveals imagery of a completely unexpected nature. Something so fanciful and far from reality seemed like a good antithesis to myself. Not going to lie, this picture is pretty ridiculous however it is a perfect example of how one can represent themselves as such a farce on the internet.

The idea of gender identity on the internet is largely driven by stereotypes as opposed to what people chose to represent themselves as. I like Gurak's example that starts at the bottom of page 72 showing how people reinforce these opinions. It is always easy to find posts supporting stereotypes and even easier to look over the posts that discount them. It seems to me that services such as Meez seek to perpetuate these stereotypes with the default appearances they give when a gender is chosen.

While these stereotypes are an ingrained part of the internet, general users can often benefit from them by finding easy ways to disguise themselves as a member of the opposite gender or of any social group for that matter. The stereotypes provide a barrier in terms of a wall and a blind. One to shut out, the other to hide behind. They have both draw-backs and uses to those who act on or exploit them.


Here is the avatar I created. He represents a male punk, who likes to be portrayed as bad and get in lots and lots of trouble. Likes to get in a lot of fights with men or women—doesn’t matter to him, as long as there is some type of controversy present, he is happy! Well in reality, this is the complete opposite of who I am. I am a female and am the type of person that stays clear of trouble and likes to portray a pretty good/innocent image. The one thing I hate is any type of controversy, I try and avoid it at all measures. This was my first time creating an avatar, and I must say I had a wonderful time doing so. It wasn’t the easiest thing to pick and choose from the hundreds of choices from hair color, skin color, personality type, to what kind of clothing. I’m a very indecisive person to begin with, so you can only imagine it took me a while to pick and choose every quality of my avatar.

This was my first time, creating an avatar and creating an identity of an opposite gender of what I really am. I don’t know how well I’d actually do going further into trying to portray myself as a male via the Internet, while communicating with others. I think Gurak brings up a good point when she talked about that there are different gender behaviors that help differentiate the communication style differences between male and females. Gurak states, “ …when women contributed, their language was attenuated and meek, while men’s language was assertive and imperative. Men made more statements while women asked more questions. Men were more sarcastic and self-promoting , while women often asked supportive questions and made apologies for themselves and their thoughts.? (72) I found this to be extremely interesting and I could definitely relate a lot to the women’s generalizations found in this study. I feel that men are more direct and to the point with particular answers to questions, while women have a tendency to elaborate on the answers, but this is just my personal opinion.

I guess I don’t really know how I feel about being able to play with identity so easily via the Internet. I personally haven’t seen any perks in my own experience, that would lead me to inform people I was a male verses a female. However according to Gurak, “It is true that switching gender via the Internet can be an enlightening experience, and many online participants have reported new insights when they logged in as the opposite sex.? (79). This brings up the credibility of people online as well. To what point to you trust the person you are communicating with, that they are feeding you truthful information? If people are willing to lie about their gender, what other measures about themselves are they willing to lie about?

(He's secretly wearing lingerie under there.)

Here is my alter-ego: a skinny, dark-skinned, male sports fan. I think the clothes are supposed to be football, but the background seems more like basketball. As you might imagine, I don't know or care much about organized sports, and would probably not be able to carry this identity off very successfully. Like some other folks here, I noticed that on Meez, at least, we are given a rather false sense of variety... too bad for you if you want to be someone that isn't on the menu.

For the most part, I agree with Gurak's position that "Cyberspace is not cut off from the everyday sexism of the world" (Cyberliteracy, p.81), and that part of being a cyberliterate person is to recognize the similar social problems that affect us on-and-offline. Cyberspace replicates society at large, and can more easily accomodate the long tail (making it easier for users with obscure interests or concerns to find eachother) but as long as sexism ( racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, look-ism...) as long as these attitudes persist in the 'real world', they'll be replicated online. The Internet allows for safe spaces to exist in new ways, but I don't believe these spaces exist only because identities are disguised--there are real life spaces where men can safely behave or dress in "unmanly" ways, and where women can assert themselves without being labeled a bitch. Gurak reminds us that these spaces are increasingly mirrored on the 'Net: "We can construct sites that defy this trend, reject Barbie computers, create new role models for girls and women, and recognize that there is no utopia, even in cyberspace." (p.81)

in "Tinysex Gender Trouble", Turkel writes, " We are tempted to believe with the utopians that the Internet is a field for the flowering of participatory democracy and a medium for the transformation of education." (p. 12) I think it's interesting that both of these writers feel the need to remind us that the Internet is not a utopian paradise, and in such similar language. There are certain aspects of my life that are more convienient thanks to the web, but a new piece of communication technology does not an egalitarian wonderland make. I'm curious whether there are actually people who believe it does. I don't spend very much time socializing on the computer, but I have noticed some of the things both of these writers talk about: differing language styles and goals, men (or users I believe to be men) tending to dominate the conversation, and users in general being interested in knowing the gender of others, whether or not it's relevant to the discussion.

Hey Boys...Wanna see whats under the hood?

First things first, I’d like you all to meet my Meez. Her real name is Bianca, but some other meez already had that, so she is going under the pseudonym “szes0002?. I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve altered my gender on the internet, except for a few practical jokes; but that’s neither here nor there. I tried to make my Meez as different from myself as possible. However, with this assignment, I found it very interesting how I wanted to make my Meez be what I would consider attractive. Yes, I know she’s a little underdressed…but I was just having fun. In the same respect, I could have had just as much fun making her ugly and repulsive, but that’s not what my first instinct was to do.

After reading the material given to us in class, I was very surprised, and yet curious regarding a point Turkle made. She explained how a variety of people created a different gender than their own online. She then went on to explain that a majority of these people did so because they wanted to understand and feel how the opposite sex was treated, how they thought, and what situations they were put in. Using a specific example, in “Tinysex and Gender Trouble,? Turkle talks about a 28-year-old male named Garrett who has taken on an online female gender. She quotes him, “I wanted to know more about women’s experiences, and not just from reading about them… I wanted to see what the difference felt like. I wanted to experiment with the other side…I wanted to be collaborative and helpful, and I thought it would be easier as a female...? However, I fail to see how playing a different gender MUD allows you to REALLY experience all those things. Yes, I believe that certain things are definitely different, such as women probably get hit on a lot more than men in the online world. But in regards to Garrett’s case, I feel that in the online world, men and women are on an equal playing field when it comes to helping another person out.

After being exposed to Second Life last week, I became interested in doing a project for another one of my classes on it. In order to acquire the necessary data, I had to create an account, and actually try it out. After learning to walk and fly, I learned how to interact with people. In answering the question, “How does this ability influence our actions in digital spaces?? I would like to use SL as an example. When online, it depends on the medium you are using to connect with people. If you were chatting with someone on a dating website, you would want to be careful, and make sure that the person you are talking with is actually the gender that you are being led to believe. AKA, in this situation I believe your actions should be shielded with precaution. However, after trying to interview people on Second Life, I found that they did not like to even acknowledge their first or real life. So in that respect, when within the realm of SL, I don’t think people even consider being cautious in regards to gender.

Personally, I am not really involved in an online community, so I don’t have much experience with the matter. Also, because I don’t count on the online world to build relationships, I don’t have any concerns about the possibility of people using a pseudo-gender. However, if I did, I would much rather prefer that everyone was truthful in telling their gender online, so I could know who I am really dealing with, as opposed to a person that is completely fake.

My Meez

I created this Meez because he is physically different than my real life identity. To begin with he is male, I am female.
I wanted to give him crazy blue hair, but every time I tried to save the hair, it disappeared. In contrast, I have black hair that rarely gets colored or altered. I dressed him in punk attire to make him appear young. While I think skull shirts rock, I don't think it is appropriate for a pregant 30 year old (me) to wear them. And finally, my Meez is Caucasion and I am Korean. Because I was adopted, I mostly identify with Caucasion culture (namely Scandinavian), but my features are quite different than this Meez that I created.

In my opening statement, I mentioned that my Meez was physically different than me. However, I believe we have a simliar personality. I have masculine personality traits, therefore creating his "persona" was easy. In my writing and acting classes I usually take on the male perspective. I feel more comfortable speaking in first person as a male.
Perhaps that is why I found Gurak's statement "And no wonder women are still having difficulties gaining access to cyberspace" (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, p. 71) surprising. I have never encountered 'sexism' on the internet. Nor did I ever think it was gender biased.

Further I realized that my type of communication on the internet is like a males, " assertive, sarcastic and rude to boot" (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, p. 71). I used to work in an HR position at a company where 95% of the employees were females. I was often confronted on my 'short, emotionless emails'. As a result, I began using smiley emoticons to soften my communication approach. " This use of such emoticons as smileys is often a feature of women's discourse, used to deflect the tension of a situation and provide a bit of comfort for the reader." (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, p. 73).

Last week I was neutral on the subject of falsifying one's identity online. But now, after this activity, I see how fascinating it can be to create an avator, adopt a new personality, and explore a different side of yourself. I would be interested in trying out my male persona to see how men react to it. I believe it would be similar to Shakespeare's As You LIke It, when "Rosalind and Orlando meet 'man to man', as Ganymeade and Orlando, they are able to speak freely" (Turkle, Life On the Screen, p. 216). It would be entertaining to see how long it takes until the man figures out that I am actually a woman. Now if only I could trick one of the sexist Rensselaer alums...


The Meez character that I chose to create reflects a different kind of personality from mine. The character that I created has a bad boy attitude and it is reflected not only from his body language, but also by his unique hairstyle, the eyebrow piercing, as well as the punk-like clothing. I am far from being this kind of character. I for one, do not have half-shaven hair and I only have ear piercings. The character that I created is far more aggressive and also forward than I am. You could tell from "his" looks and attitude that he doesn't really care about what other people think and is not shy to express his personality. I think that this character represents some of the things that I wish I had. For instance, I wish that I could have as bold of a personality and attitude as well as the inner freedom to express personality and not care about what other people think. I am one of those people who tries to please everyone and tries to avoid fights and confrontations. This character represents someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and stands up for his views. The dark alley in the background is supposed to suggest that he's not afraid of any other person and could defend himself in any fight.

In relation to Cyberliteracy, I think that my Meez character represents a classic male who can flame another person without a second thought in his mind. As Susan Herring has found, "flaming is often a male style of communication" because "men [make] more sarcastic and self-promoting" remarks (Cyberliteracy, 72). Women, on the other hand, such as me, tend to use language that is "attenuated and meek" (Cyberliteracy, 72). Women are also more likely to use emoticons such as smiley faces which are "used to deflect the tension of a situation and provide a bit of comfort for the reader" (Cyberliteracy, 73). The underlying reason for that difference in communication styles is due the social "norms" and expectations. For hundreds of thousands or millions of years, women have been inferior and subordinate to men's power and statis in societies across the world. This sort of view, which has been changing over the years, had leaked into the cyberworld from the beginning of the computer age. "Gender bias, just as in real life, are evident online" (Cyberliteracy, 66). Gender biases have been carried into the cyberworld because from the very beginning, they have reflected the views of men who were seeing women as sex objects and not as people who were on the same plain field. I think that with more time, the gap between the two gender roles are going to become more diminished. I think that through the means of gender swapping, people are going to become more aware of what it is like to be in the shoes of someone of the opposite gender.

"Gender-swapping is an opportunity to explore conflicts raised by one's biological gender...the practice encourages reflection on the way ideas about gender shape our expectations" (Turkle, 213).
The "exercise" of switching genders on online communication programs has allowed many people to experiment and better understand the other gender. By pretending to be of someone of the opposite sex, they get to experience the ways in which they get approached by other people. For instance, Turkle has stated that when she pretended to be a man on MUDs, she felt that it "was a strange exercise, especially because a significant portion of the female-presenting characters were RL men, and a good number of the male-presenting characters were RL women" (Turkle, 211). This kind of gender play is a much safer way of experimenting than in real life. For instance, Turkle gave the possible scenario of a man trying to pretend to be a woman and the various things that he would need to do in order to play it off well. For one thing, he would need to change his voice, mannerisms, wear makeup, dress up in a woman's attire, and risk being harrassed or arrested if he wasn't successful. (Turkle, 212). There is just a lot more work involved into pulling off a stunt like that in real life than on the computer where everyone hides behind a screen. I think that if people were to experiment with gender swapping, it is better to do it online because many people probably are aware of the possibility that the person that they are communicating with are not who they say they are. I know that the article "Tinysex and Gender Trouble" has talked about the issue of deception. "Although some peopel think that representing oneself as other than one is is always a deception, many people turn to online life with the intention of playing it in precisely this way" (Turkle, 228). I personally think that deception is not a good thing, and I really don't know if it is right to pose as someone else online, but I think that it's better when you don't know the person that you're communicating with. Let me explain by saying that, everyone who goes online and chats with people all over the country and world, needs to be aware of the possibility that they are being deceived by the other person's description of themselves. Many times, people pose to be someone who they are not whether it is personality wise, or gender wise. In either case, I think that if people are aware of that, and they are okay with it, then it's not probably not that big of a deal. But to think of a fourteen year old girl having online sex with a fourty year old man is kinda creepy. I know that from my own experience, I tend to not fully believe the other person who I am speaking to unless they consistently prove to me that they are who they saw they are. The way that I can tell is if the things that they say and the way that they write have consistent patterns and fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. Overall, I think that the gender playing is more like a game of getting to know what it is like to be someone of the opposite gender and is much safer and easier to do than in RL. Other than that, things like the ethics of online sex still require more time for people to figure out. I think that it has a lot to do with personal morals and preferrances. It's still a hazy issue.

SWF that likes Clint Eastwood movies?? rrrrrrrrright.

Reading Gurak's ideas on gender were interesting. She described the roots of the internet and how gender roles present themselves even though some claimed that on the internet "There is no race", and "There is no gender" (Gurak 66). Having worked in an engineering department that's 99% male, I can readily imagine that male engineers and programmers were responsible for the design of the Internet. The internet may very well have been designed based on a masculine style of communication.

I was concerned with a few of Gurak's assertions. She implied that commands like "abort" have some sort of feminine connotation (Gurak 71). I think that her reasoning was really strained on that one. After that claim she states "...no wonder women are still having trouble gaining access to cyberspace" (Gurak 71). Even if the term was taken from the concept of a woman having an abortion, I don't see how that could prevent a woman from accessing cyberspace.

Gurak then goes on to discuss the concept of "flaming", which basically is challenging or assaulting someone online (Gurak 73). Her description of the conversation on page 72 seems a little biased. Yes the "flamer" was assertive and rude, but I think that the wording of the woman's statement seemed a bit combative as well. This seems to be a good example of how people need to be careful how they phrase there communications in email and messenger style chat sessions.

I also took exception to Gurak's implication on page 75 that the flame stickers on the "Hot Wheels" style of children's computer had any relation to the concept of flaming in an email message. That flame logo happens to have been on Hot Wheel cars for well over 25 years. I don't see how she could justify that assertion.

I don’t think that Gurak was taking care to be objective when she wrote this chapter. Her claims that the roots of the virtual world are male biased seems a little strange. From her perspective, there can never be any balance because the core of the programming and the equipment has a male slant. I don't see how software, which at its core is a collection of ones and zeros, can have a male bias. She implies on page 72 that the hardware of the computers have a male bias. That is absolutely ridiculous. This makes it sound as if the issue can never be resolved because the equipment and the programming's roots are tainted.

What we really need to consider is the different communications styles that masculine and feminine genders utilize. In that sense, the virtual world was most likely designed from the standpoint of a masculine communicator. This is where Deborah Tannen's Genderlects theory comes into play. Tannen states that male and female conversation is cross-cultural communication (A First Look at Communication, Em Griffin). This vantage seems fairer and doesn't assign blame as Gurak's ideas seem to. If we consider Tannen's point of view, the whole thing isn't tainted, maybe we just need to work on creating sites that suit both gender's communication style.

I found Turkle's ideas to be a bit more interesting and well thought out. It's interesting that people have frequently portrayed themselves as the opposite sex. The internet seems to be a safe place for a person to create a whole new persona or walk in another person's shoes.

It's an amusing coincidence that people (of either sex) who portrayed themselves as the opposite sex had similar experiences. Both Zoe on page 221 and Case on page 220 shared that they felt as if they could be more assertive when they were claiming to be the opposite sex. Both felt this way because they didn't have to worry about the negative stereotypes that either sex suffered in regards to being assertive in conversation.

I've never tried it but think that this could be valuable if used in other realms. People could take a sort of virtual trip to see what it's like to be a different race or religion. This could really help people better understand one another. It sounds like people find it rewarding when they portray other people.

I guess as long as you accept the possibility that the person you are talking to might be the opposite of who they claim to be, you can walk away from it with something positive. I usually only discuss technical issues with other people online. I don't really care who they are as long as their nice to me. Then again, I might get faster replies from people at the Jeep Forum if I say I'm a 25 year old super model. There are just a few female Jeep owners that frequent the site.

I definitely think that kids need to be careful when they venture online. The thought of online predators makes my skin crawl. On the other hand, the virtual world sounds like it could help kids that, like me, were really shy. It's a new way for them to be able to talk with other people. Escape and communication can be a good thing when you are a teenager.

Meez is funny. I can see it really taking off. It's another way for people to portray themselves in a different way. I set one up for myself. I don't know if I'll use it much. In the past, I've used a favorite landscape photo or a picture of my cat sitting next to a little statue of Buddha. I like doing that better than using Meez. It feels like I'm expressing myself when I use a pic that I shot myself.

Les Meezerables

This is my avatar on the cheap. We are different in the following ways: he is well-dressed, deep-complextioned, square-jawed, has an apparently good cash flow, blond spiked frizzy hair; I am a female, pale, cash-strapped, formerly blonde. This was fun, though as another student noted, there seemed to be a dearth of age/shape diversity in Meez. Ahem.

I have to say I really enjoyed the Turkle chapter of Life on the Screen, "Tinysex and Gender Trouble." It would have never occurred to me that men would pose as women to try to suss out their own feelings about gender and roles. As Turkle points out, "Biological men have to construct male gender just as women have to construct female gender." (p. 215 Turkle) It was fascinating to me that Turkle's study subjects, Case and Garrett, came at the same problem with opposite conclusions. Case thought, erroneously in my opinion, that it was much easier to be an assertive woman than an assertive male online. Garrett, tired of male competition wanted to find ways to communicate cooperation and non-competitiveness, without being interpreted as manipulative. In the end, I think a lot of assumptions about gender come from the user. Garrett valued his mother's influence on his childhood, and wanted to strengthen the skills she fostered in him. Case seemed to think that his assertiveness taxed the patience of the women around him. I thnk the person who summed up the problem of posing and being seen as someone of the opposite gender was Ellen, who posed as a non-threatening male "looking for his socks" --"People are nice if they don't view you as a threat." Does that mean that assumptions about gender are really assumptions about power? I think so!

In my own on-line life I have seen hints of the male "helpfulness' to me and other 'women' when first on a messageboard. The material, as another student noticed last week was published in 1995--have attitudes changed? I read in Newsweek the week that this generation of children notice race far less than previous generations. Perhaps that will be true of gender and the Internet. That we are aware that the party to whom we are 'speaking' is very likely not who we think they are, or what they would like us to believe, COULD create eventually, a culture of care and neutrality.

In my experience, flaming is not gender specific, although I do agree with Gurak (p. 72) that the "operating standard" of attitudes and rhetorical style (read informed bluster) may have been the genesis of the flame. I see that even now with the e-mails my husband receives from his gaming buddies--there is a kind of jovial rudeness that can escalate when the subject allows. I sometimes peek at messageboards for television shows I like, and feel like the flaming is distributed evenly between men and women.

I liked what Gurak had to say about computer and software design for girls and boys. This is a prickly subject for parents of small children that I know. Many will tell you that their little girl will run to the princess outfit with no previous exposure or encouragement, they will embrace the pink or purple computer monitor. On the other hand, it was interesting to notice that the ad for the Purple Moon software Gurak believes was superior to the Mattell software of the same era, offered a free 'lipsmacker.' Isn't that kind of the same thing as a pink computer? Or is there a fine line where we are saying--it's OK to be a girl--here's a lipsmacker--let's talk about where our differences make us special. And here is a game where you don't have to kill a bunch of things to win. Where does the sale stop and the lesson begin?

Hi, I'm Mat... Laaauraa

Although it seems like it shouldn’t matter on the internet, priority number one was to make an attractive looking character. I tried choosing a stereotype, because that way I was able to guess what people would think when they look at my character, and it won’t be something that reflects my true personality.

“To pass as a woman for any length of time requires understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, the interpretation of experience.? (Turkle, 212).

This quote, in my experience, is very true. The problem is, I’ll never know how true, because I can only spot the people that do make mistakes. I’ll never know how many people there are that are males, yet manage to successfully pull of being a female. I had an experience in a gaming community where a man managed to successfully dupe about thirty of us into thinking that he was a 22 year old woman for six months. Once you find out that you are wrong about a person’s gender, you feel used. Now it is common in gaming communities (elsewhere as well?) for members to be required to spend some time on a Voice over Internet Protocol program such as Ventrilo: http://www.ventrilo.com/ or Teamspeak: http://www.goteamspeak.com/. This makes gender much more difficult to fake, as opposed to photoshopped pictures posted on a forum.

I generally am truthful about myself, and unless someone is telling me an absurd story, I try to believe what I am told. This isn’t to say that I’m likely to be duped into a warehouse with a 45 year old man I thought was a 20 year old woman. I just like to think that people are generally as truthful as I am, and I think that for the most part it is the case. The problem with being able to play with identity so easily, to be whoever you want to be while in the internet, is that it is going to make future generations much better liars.

Please select your gender

NOOOOOO my whole message was typed and a wrong manipulation erased everything... Let's start again.

I just spent at least one hour on Meez, trying many combination to find my perfect opposite. I have been a gothic girl having fun in a cemetery, a princess visiting a saloon, and I'm finally a woman in bikini taking care of her pig, in a US military camp... It's away enough from me to be my icon.

For me, the first step we have to go through creating our meez icon is a perfect "résumé" of this week's readings : "Please select a gender". When I first discovered Internet, I did not even think of the possibility of presenting myself as a female user.. and I did not imagine people doing that. I don't remember very well but I may have been in the same situation as Tucke "naming and describing a character, but forgetting to give it a gender" (210).
However, after a few months of using Internet, and geting used to it, I finally tried to connect as a female user, by curiosity. Contrary to the examples given in readings, I never tried to build a personality or some relationships as female, but I was just going to some chatrooms sometimes, to see how it felt to be a female online user... HORRIBLE.
I agree with Gurak when she writes : "switching gender via the Internet can be an enlightening experience". (79). I had no idea how male users could be agressive and insulting for girls. Generally, the main chatroom remained "clean" before some administrators moderated it but the private messages I was receiving were insane.. After 2 minutes into the room, I had dozens of messages asking me if I was interested in having sex etc... My answer "No" was generally followed by "you have been ignored by this user" or "So why d'you come here?".
Internet is definitely a mysogin place.

About the trust I give to other users, it depends on the kind of website I'm on. The chatrooms I used to visit were I believe full of people like me, switching genders.
However, I know visit some message boards which are completely different. I am a regular user on one of them for 5 years now, and it deals with music. People don't come on it to make some new friends but to talk about music, and I met in real life almost all the users... The purpose is not the same and I would say that I trust these people.

I'm so pretty!

Hi my name is Michelle. I am a shy person who prefers being alone than in the presence of others. I like the 80's because of all the movies about teen angst. I prefer staying in than going out for an activity like bowling, movies, or social gathering. My whole life is planned out for me as soon as I finish school I want a family with 3 kids and 4 cats in the country.

It was fun while making my Meez, to think from an opposite gender perspective. I understand the fascination with the opposite sex and the questions we have about them. I actually liked dressing my girl in a bunch of different fashions. I don't have that option as a guy. Turkel discusses the reality that many men and women portray members of the opposite sex for benefits in communication given to that sex. (p. 211) What interests me about this is the higher percentage of men portraying women than women portraying men. You would think in a Real Life society where men still dominate the world that women would want to be more like men. Men are given the opportunity to communicate more freely by the social norms our society has constructed.

So why are men wanting to be women? Women in online communities are hounded by men while men are able to sit back and choose who they want to talk to. However, women in the online communities have all the power. Turkel hits the main reason for this in her discusion of virtual sex. (p. 223) One man is married to a woman who allows him to have virtual sex as a need for expression. The other man is now seperated from his wife because she doesn't think he should be having an online relationship. The greatest power in this world, as many psychiologists have stated, is sex. Men are so fascinated by that power that they won't admit it in the Real World because it would ruin all power we have created for ourselves socially. However, we show it in the online community by showering women with all the attention.

I think I took this blog in different direction, but the thoughts really connected as I read this article on the extreme significance in gender both in reality and the virtual world.

Virtual Cross Dressing Debate

Who is responsible for creating this cross dressing norm going on in todays MUDS? Men and women are both responsible and have admitted to this form of cross dressing for reasonings ranging from equaling gender ratios in the chat to self exploration. The most interesting topic in the Turkle writing surrounded around the topic that gender switching online is not easy. Consider the following:
"To pass as a woman for any length of time requires understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, the interpretation of experience. Women attempting to be men face the same kind of challenge." (Turkle, p213)
This point does represent how I feel about "cross dressing" online. I do not feel that I have understanding of how to communicate like a man, nor do I find an interest or desire to do so. I think the objectivity of sex in normal communication minimizes this desire, in this manner I do not have the desire to talk with women other than a woman-to-woman. Rather if I found myself intimately interested in communication with women, maybe I could forsee the challenge of becoming a virtual man.

I also respect the statement that the character Corey stated in the Turkle reading, "I also think the neutral characters are good." (Turkle, p212) Being a young female entering the business world my communication via the internet or live is slanted to being gender neutral on the basis of fairness and respect. I want to be treated with respect online whether I am female or male. I want to be treated like a human being, not a sex object. I want to be treated like a business professional and not a cyber buddy.

Responding to the question How does this ability influence our actions in digital space?
I personally believe that individuals should act ethically and respectfully about their online identities. In this manner I believe it is ethical to reveal your true gender. If I truly believed people followed a sort of online code of ethics I would be more trusting of MUDS and other cyber communities. Because I do not feel safe about the true nature of online identies I feel less willing to participate in online relationships.

Global Network


Meet Danola. My Meez buddy! He is krumping and showing the world his style. Say hello and welcome Danola to the club. AR

Gender Bender

This is the MEEZ I create for myself. This is obviously the complete opposite of what I am, which is that I am a male not a female. I played around with the different aspects of MEEZ and I feel that I have created something that is the polar opposite of what I am. I felt that picking a woman, spiky blue hair, blue jeans which I hardly ever wear, and Anarchy in the background pretty much went with creating and a character that is not like me and in fact the opposite. I had fun creating this character and I really hadn't known anything about MEEZ characters.

As for the readings and the questions, the articles really do mirror some of my own experiences online. I noticed when I created a male character in Second Life I really didn't get as much attention as all of the female characters did online. Turkle had a good point in the article about this, "not only was I approched less frequently, talking about having a male character, but I found it easier to respond to an unwanted overture..." (Turkle, 211).

To me, playing with identity so easily means that you can be whoever you want to be online. It's really easy to even switch genders if you wanted to. All you really need to do is just change your name to a female or male name. Turkle says, "we can easily move through multiple identities, and we can embrace-or be trapped by-cyberspace as a way of life," (Turkle, 231). I agree with this statement because moving through different identities is easy just by making up a fake bio of yourself and also chatting and talking online differently than you normaly would. I also think that people can get trapped in this virtual cyberspace because some people just get hooked and then cyberspace becomes their norm. "Another effect of simulation...makes the fake seem more compelling than the real," (Turkle, 237). I think this sums up how people interact with the fake online people and get involved in it and then believe that it's real.

I believe that this ability to change identities and even genders influence us to act differently and also respond differently in digital spaces because it's so easy to do. If you are talking with someone online who says they are 5'6" blonde hair blue eyes, 100lbs, at first you think, wow that's perfect. Then after you talk to them for a while and they send you a picture of themselves and they are male, 56, 6'3",. 340lbs, you feel let down. It's just easy to make up your own identity and go with it.

I generally don't go on to chat rooms at all or have time to be apart of any virtual worlds where you make your own avatars and such, but I really don't believe about 80-90% of the people online. There's just too many people out there trying to be someone there not.

Gender Bias In Action


The avatar that I created using DookyWeb Facemaker was the first online avatar that I had ever created to represent a person, similar to my own appearance or not. I chose to make a non-white woman, which is superficially the most different character that I could make that fit into the realm of reality (ie, no blue skin). The personality that I was trying to reflect is also very different from my own: to me the avatar appears outgoing (pursed lips), fashionable (earrings and other accessories), and perhaps even attractive or seductive (if such a drawing can even be described thus), adjectives that I wouldn't apply to myself.

I was again struck by the sense that some people have that the internet is not "real". One interviewee, Rudy, complained that it was "too easy [for his ex-girlfriend] to avoid the social consequences of her actions" when she engaged in "TinySex". This highlighted to me the different ways people experience the internet: to me, the internet is as "real" as the "real" world, where to Rudy, the internet is somehow fake, and without consequences. Certainly one can (generally) commit online transgressions without real-world repercussions, just as one can (again, generally) commit real-world transgressions without online repercussions. However, one can almost never commit transgressions in one of these worlds without results in that world.

The various different reasons that people gave for assuming a different gender caused me to examine my own experiences on the internet, and how gender has played a role. At one of the forums that I frequent, an article was posted on a very technical subject. The author of the article had made some broad claims that many on the board disagreed with. Additionally, the author's name was one traditionally deemed to be female. I noticed that the replies to the article seemed much harsher than they might have been had the author's name been more "female". Oftentimes the replies were simple claims that the author "doesn't know what she is talking about". The interesting thing about the situation was that the author was indeed a man, just one with an unorthodox name. When this was revealed, replies rolled in, not just apologies about the gender confusion, but also restatements of the attacks in gentler terms. To me this indicated that the "technical" forum viewers believed that a woman was not as proficient in the field as a man, which reflects traditional biases in technical professions.

Finally, as a brief aside: I noticed earlier that Turkle's text seemed outdated, and found that it had been written in 1997 (likely the research was done before then, as well). MUD's these days are far less common; they are a dying breed, there are only a handful of commercial MUD's left. Certainly some of the work refers to chat rooms, though my own experience at least suggests that these are far less popular as well. I wonder how applicable this research in to newer or more common forms of online interaction, such as instant messaging or graphical MMOs?

It's me!(ez)

This is the meez I made. When I think about what is the opposite of me I think of someone outspoken and not afraid to say what's on their mind, with a louder personality. The avatar originally had spiked hair until I found it it cost me some coinz (?), so I switched. I thought the outspoken part fit with the placard, and since it says "Save the Princess" it just kind of makes sense that she would be in a dugeon. They're waving to me!

Much like the issue of identity, the related issue of gener online is an interesting one. Now that people can engage in relationships with others without having to show or even disclose their gender, people are more easily able to experiment with their gender, enabling them to see how things feel for the opposite sex. But is this insight into the perspective of others, or is it just a way to mislead others? I think it's clear to say that people all have masculine and feminine sides to themselves, and it's interesting that now people have a way to act out those sides of their personality so fully, free from any conceptions people may have about a person. I think this could be a useful tool, as in the case of Zoe (Turkle, 221), who used MUD's and gender swapping to help her express herself more readily. That's something I could use more assistance on in my own personality, so I can see how it would be of great help.

However, the ability to misrepresent oneself in such an area has more far reaching implications depending on what others perceieve about the sexes. In the case of Alex/Joan (Turkle, 230) for instance, Alex used the notions notions people have about women to lead them to his real life self, and take advantage of them. This to me is an obvious abuse of the system, and potentially very detremental to the psyche of those involved.

Hockey Anyone?

I created this image because I am an avid hockey fan. I not only enjoy watching it but playing it also. From looking at Meeze, I was surprised to see how close one can get to an actual image of yourself. However, I was even more surprised when reading the Turkle readings and realizing that many people in MUDs choose not to represent themselves and instead choose to make themselves a different gender or species.

I am amazed by people and their connection to their avatar. Some people are even more connected to their MUD world than the real world. An example of this is Case, "He's happily married to a co-worker and is currently MUDing as a female character. In response to my question, 'Has MUDing ever caused you emotional pain?' he says, 'Yes, but also the kind of learning tha tcomes form the hard times" (Turkle, 221). It seems to me that he has more emotional connection to his MUD world than to his wife and real world and the relationship that is more important in the long run. While relationships online are nice, they do not give you the warmth and affection that real relationships give. I cannot belive ignoring my girlfriend so I can experiment being another gender and fooling around and "cheating".

While I belive I made my avatar look like me, there are many peoplel that try and look like someone else so they can prey on people. Turkle gives many examples of people that do not care that their partners are cheating on them, however, there has to be mroe that have been hurt and possibly ended relationships because when people play online more than in a committed relationship, it leads to pain in the other person because they feel unloved and useless.

Also, people can prey on children and parents need to be careful. Turkle asks a 12-year old girl, " if she thinks that online sexual activity has changed things for her. She says that she has learned more from "older kids" whom she normally wouldn't be allowed to hang out with" (Turkle, 227). As I sat there reading this, I thought to myself, "There is a reason why you are not allowed to hang out with these older kids". Parents are keeping them away because no one really knows how old they are and could be sexual preditors. OR even if they are a 20 year old, it is still wrong. This leads me to believe that while MUDing can be fun and adventurous, we need to be careful what kids are being subjected to and should ask which is more important, protection of kids or freedom of speech? Soon, one will be chalenged and we will have to take a side.

Me, the party girl???

Well here's mine. Most obviously, she's female and I'm not, but beyond that, I went out of my way to give her a definite party persona. First off is the American flag painted face, which was originally paired with some crazy, spiky, punk style hair before the site informed me I needed to pay for that. I also gave her the midriff-baring alien shirt, the grass skirt, and platform shoes. Overall, she looks like a nonconformist kind of person who enjoys going out to wild parties. I was going to make that even more obvious by having her crowd surfing, but that too wasn't available unless I paid for it. The hip hop background by itself should reflect some of that though. I, meanwhile, am a fairly conservative dresser who tends to dislike loud, wild parties and is defintely not hip hop in any way. Seriously, if I tried to pass myself off like that, I'd probably get beat up.

I really don't think gender is as big a deal on the internet as it once was, at least not depending on where you look. Maybe specific things are still more male-oriented, particularly some of the more technological aspects, but it seems like the internet has gotten to the point where it's for everyone now, not just some small clique of mostly male engineers. Pretty much all students here, male and female, need to be at least somewhat proficient online to do everything for school, and plenty of women make use of instant messaging and social networks like Myspace and Facebook every day. Even on the message boards I frequent where there's some degree of anonymity, women make many contributions and good points to discussions (unless some of them really are men masquerading as women, in which case they're doing a very good job and have many other people in on the charade).

But even so, "cyberspace... is certainly not a utopia when it comes to gender." (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, 81). Even behind the anonymity of the internet, human gender stereotypes come into play. Really, the only difference is the ability to live out a fantasy and design an identity for yourself that doesn't reflect your true gender. Even then, the way you choose to play out that fantasy is indicative of your own gender biases. I found it particularly interesting how those differences come out in the way people type. Most emoticon users being women (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, 73) is actually something I've noticed as kind of a gender bias on my part, whether I realized it or not at first. It's something I might throw around more often if I was trying to pass myself off as a woman online. Not that I don't use them ever, but as Gurak says, as a male I tend to get to the point and be a little more assertive with my posts, although I certainly try not to be overaggressive to the point of flaming.

February 6, 2007

Hi! I am Arnold—a professional break dancer. : )

“If you don’t like being female, just change your screen name to a male one.? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg 65) – although this is not the case for me, identity is something easily fooled online, just as I have done playing around with Meez and DookyWeb Facemaker. I have created an identity as a professional break dancer who can do… an excellent worm : ) But in reality, I can’t! Of course, I don’t look anything like Arnold nor do I carry the characteristics and talents of him. Meez allows you to play around and choose all types of identity. From the athlete, to hip hop and many more.

“What! I am NOT flaming!?
There are different characteristics of men and women online. Men tend to make more statements, be more sarcastic and ‘flame’ more often. Women tend to ask questions and made apologies. This is a subject I never really thought about before when using the internet—gender. It is evident online that it is a very gender biased, just as we can see in everyday real life. For example, women are viewed as sex objects rather than their brains and skills which may be reasons why they feel as if they have to disguise their gender online. I have never felt threatened as a woman and never felt like I had to disguise it although “it is true that switching gender via the Internet can be an enlightening experience and many online participants have reported new insights when they logged in as the opposite sex.? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg 79). Women were harassed more often, getting asked out on dates and such. It does not seem to surprise me though because just like everyday real life situations, this can also be seen.

As Laura Gurak mentions, the internet was “created by men. Even today, science and engineering fields are dominated by men and many scholars have examined this.? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg 67) Perhaps that would explain why the internet can be seen as “gender biased? today, because of the history and the way it was created.

There is no race. There is no gender. There are only minds on the internet? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg. 65)

My opposite

First things first:

To explain this you wouldn't have to think very hard. In the first place I'm not a woman and so she is one. Secondly her hair is long and mine isn't. She is in pink clothing and is quite girly of which I obviously am not. Also note the pregnancy, this is a symbol of my not wanting to settle down and life, sort of a symbol of my early post youth stage of life. You could say I'm at the point where I want to discover new things, travel, ect. and not settle down, get married, have kids, and purchase a house. The kitchen is also a part of that settling down factor. You may also notice the car as well, and this comes from the fact that I could care less about cars (they really only get you from point a to point b) which is somewhat different than a decent amount of males out there.

As a comment to what relevance these websites have, I will continue what I had stated in my previous post. I had mentioned that the website from the previous assignment (second life) was somewhat of a form of escapism or even a curiousity. It seems to me that Meez also has this factor in it as well. You have the option of creating a character that is totally different than you (or maybe you would like it to be like you?) and putting on a different image that you would like to portray. This also directly ties into a topic I had thought about before in which a member of one sex does it to more accurately understand the opposite sex. "By enabling people to experience what it 'feels' like to be the opposite gender or to have no gender at all, the practice encourages reflection on the way ideas about gender shape our expectations" (Turkle 213). There also is the thought that people could change their gender in this way to cut down on social norms that they would have faced being of their biological gender. In Turkle's paper there is a genteleman who has a female frog character in which enables him to "feel freer to express the helpful side of his nature than he ever did as a man" (Turkle 216).

Besides all of this discussion of gender and people using it for their best interests I also wanted to mention a couple small notes on how males and females vary in their ways of communication on the internet. The book mentions that females tend to use such things as emoticons or colorful text because of the stigma that woman are more of an emotional gender. Men are more likely to write bland but often bold in content posts, pages, emails, ect. The authors explanation of this is that "life on the Internet is like real life" (Gurak 74). Whether or not you agree with that or not Gurak's statement definitely tends to cut down on the effects of people's use of hiding behind their character's gender.

etisoppo yllaer t'nsi sihT

This isn’t really opposite.

How can I get any more opposite? The fact that I have an avatar is contrary to my current lifestyle. I am an over 50 male who has been in advertising for the past 30 years. My Meez profile lists me as a 21-year-old female and my avatar fits that description. She is young and is ready to party at the penthouse pool. I would imagine my avatar would fit many similar male choices. Young and wild, ready to party. I didn’t see many older, overweight boring choices on the Meez site. It seemed like they were all clones of each other. Did I miss the option on the Meez site for a grandma?

Guark had a few observations from Janet Gardner (p71). Gardner’s discussion focused on the problems women had accessing the online community and the reasons for the difficulty. The temporal issue focused on the time available to learn the technology necessary to interact online. Linguistics created a roadblock because of the special language needed to communicate on the internet. Topical issues deal with the real life biases that bleed over into the internet. Are women perceived the same way online as they are in real life? The last issue Gardner mentioned was psychological. Do women feel comfortable and can they identify with the goals, values and styles on the internet?

I think all of these issues can be transferred to other demographics. It seems these questions and observations posed by Gardner can be observed in many other people besides women. Depending on their ages, think about your parents and older relatives. Many people 65+ shun the internet and don’t want to take the time to learn a new system of communication. There is a fear of “going online? because it is unknown and they are out of their comfort zone. This lack of access can be viewed just as important as the slow growth of women on the internet.

Along with the age issue, we can also add income to the barriers of the online society. You can’t surf if you don’t have a computer or access to the internet.

Two new categories

I’d like to direct your attention to two categories on the sidebar: app shout-outs and random cool stuff. Remember, you can earn bonus points for extra entries. Here’s two ways to start mining the gold in them thar hills.

App Shout-Outs give you an opportunity to talk about applications that we’re not covering in the course. (After all, there’s only so much time and space in the syllabus.) For instance, we could have talked about del.icio.us or de.lirio.us when we read about folksonomies, but we worked with Flickr instead. A couple of you mentioned social bookmarking in passing, but we never really discussed it in depth. We could do with a stand-alone post that explained what it is and why it's useful for people like us, if one of you wants to write it. As we move through the semester, feel free to post about other apps that fit the weekly topic. You probably know about some things that I don’t!

Random Cool Stuff: If you see something on the Nets that applies to technology and might be useful or funny to the class, you can post it under this category with a few words of explanation about its relevance. For example, the Blockbuster Super Bowl ad is funny and technology-related, but it doesn’t really fit in with our lessons. (Except it does — I think it says a lot about the digital divide and the trepidation a lot of people feel about understanding computing technologies.)

(You might want to hold on to your YouTube links, though, unless you have several. A future assignment will ask you to post a tech-related, YouTube-based blog entry. But there's lots of stuff out there on the Net besides YouTube.)

You’re also welcome to post about random “Hmmm” moments that have to do with the lessons, like Mike did when he wandered how The Matrix fits in with our current conceptions of avatars or William did with this post about Jimmy Carr.

Good luck! And if you have questions about grades or bonus points, drop me a line. If you’re still confused about how this works at this point, we need to get that cleared up so you can have a successful semester.

second life in distance ed

Since a few of you have been talking about using Second Life in the workplace, I thought I'd point out that it's also starting to be used in distance education courses like this one. In fact, if more of us had prior experience with it and the course was set up for synchronous meetings, we'd be meeting that way now.

Here's one example of how Harvard Law is using it:

February 5, 2007

Gender On The Web

Well, I picked my Meez to be a guy. I did so because I enjoy being one. I also picked him to be a cowboy. I am no cowboy in real life, so I figuered, "I like John Wayne Movies, why not have my Meez be a Cowboy;" and Eureka, my Meez became a Cowboy.

Do the claims in these articles mirror your own experiences online?
I feel as though some of the claims in the article do mirror both online experiences, and real life experiences. As stated with the Corey example in Turkel Piece, it is easier to be taken seriously when people think they are talking to a more authoritative figure. In Corey’s case, people think she is a man, and therefore more authoritative. In my experience, I have been confused for my father (we share the same name, and sound alike on the phone). I have been lent more credibility by this because people think I am a 50 year old man, not a 22 year old college student. To tie this again back to gender and credibility, my Meez is a man because I wanted to be a Cowboy. Male cowboys make more sense to me (not to offend).

What does it mean to be able to play with identity so easily?
I believe that making easier to tweak with gender identity allows people to better understand other genders. That is to say that one can take on the roll of any “kind? of person they want (whether it be a strait person, gay person, black white, woman, man what have you) and delve into their world. One could possibly a great deal about other people this way, by masquerading accordingly.

How does this ability influence our actions in digital spaces?
The beauty of gender swapping is that it makes our actions on the web limitless. That is to say, one is totally uninfluenced, as to their initial actions on the web. However, as one’s masquerade continues. One must continue to play their part, and convincingly. As Turkel again points out in her case study.

Can/do you generally trust people online to be whom or what they say they are?

This is a tricky question because as in reality, some people lie, and some people tell the truth. I would propose that just because it is easier for someone to lie on the web, does not mean that they will necessarily lie any more than they would in person.

Hi Baby

The Meez I created as my avatar is a flirtatious young thing. Until our online assignments I have not done anything on the Internet other than conduct business. In those business situations, the role of gender has not been a factor. However, if I did become a member of a MUD or visit chat rooms I’d probably misrepresent myself as this MEEZ.

I do not trust people online to be who or what they say they are. I wouldn’t expect that anyone would trust my identity or gender. Before I would share any information with anyone I would first have had to verify the actual identity of the individual. I think the Internet too easily lends itself to deception and the adage of buyer beware still applies. “Life on the screen makes it easy to present oneself as other than one is in real life? (Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen, Identity in the Age of the Internet, p. 228).

The claims in these articles do mirror my own experiences online, not only in regard to gender but rather in regard to false identity and phishing. Once while selling an item on EBay I was harassed by someone with a false identity phishing for information. On another phishing trip, I received a fraudulent e-mail supposedly from EBay, including the EBay logo, asking me to verify my credit card information.

I chat with men and women software engineering colleagues daily at work on a secure chat application called Pod. I have witnessed gender based flaming where “men made more statements while women asked more questions? (Laura J. Gurak, Ciberliteracy, p. 72) and I a have also found “that most people using emoticons were women.? (Gurak, p. 73)

I think the ability to play with identity so easily means that our actions in digital spaces requires of us the utmost in vigilance.

February 4, 2007

Real, Virtual...I choose real people

I have not particularly been a big user in the virtual world, or even what I might call an alternate reality for creating a life inside the world wide web to express, explore or even be someone you might not be able to be in real life. I have known about IRC's on the net for awhile, but never became involved with them. I have never created a character online as in RPG's (role playing games) like "World of Warcraft" ect. Most of interactivty online has been held to only long weekends running some LAN parties with some of my serious gamer friends. The readings definitly shed some light onto how involved people can get with regards to life online. i had actually never heard of the term MUD (multi user dimensions) or MUDding as they refer to it. Probably the closest I become to having some kind of virtual identity would be related to me playing Halo 2 (XBOX) online, but I did not create a new identity for myself. i just played the game way to much and I almost dropped out of college to become a professional and go on tour with my team, sufficed to say I stayed in college and I am glad I did. So I might not have created a new identity online, but i understand the effects can have and how much of your real, physical life can be consumed with you honestly not being aware of how much time has really been devoted to your virtual reality or gaming life in my situation. When dealing with a person's identity, I belivea person can change their stars (quote from "A Knights Tale") and that change to be real should not be done with a mouse, keyboard and screen just sitting lifeless in front of you. I am not trying to imply that living an online life is completely negative or cannot be used for some positive reinforcement as with the young man named Robert in the reading. " He was able to use MUDding as an environment in which he could talk about his feelings in a constructive way", otherwise he had problems doing this in the real world.

Secondlife is an amazing concept and I do believe could be the furture for commerce, communnications industries and the list could go on and on. It would be hard for me to really and truely get involved in this world because I need to be around people and have true human interaction. I believe Secondlife has such great potential to be an amzing tool for learning trades or other endless avenues that one might never have had access to. But the concept, or some cases of this truely being your reality is somewhat disconcerting for myself. Seeing the kind of attention and hype that Linden has brought (even trading land and making Linden money) is incredible, but still it is just a person interacting with a machine and not truely living life.

The Counter-Strike 2nd Life.

Looking back on my “second life,? I would say that it all started back in the day, when my buddy introduced me to Counter-Strike. This really was not much of an online community (it is a first person shooter,) but with so many servers online, and after one has established a “home? server, one starts to develop a somewhat of an online counter strike persona. So you are probably wondering what could possibly make a first person shooter online personality. Well, in the world of Counter-Strike, there are many different ways to play the game, much of which reflect on the type of person you are. (ex. A ‘camper’ is who just sits and waits for people to come for them, an attacker who is always on the move, or the sneak who just kind of sneaks around and does their own thing.) This is the beginning of the Counter-Strike second life. After a while, people start to know the name you have been using, and when you are constantly talking to the other players throughout the entire time you are logged on, a second life emerges. One can only choose one of two teams to be on, and each team has four player choices. Yes, they look human, but are all very generic. When your user name has been established in the server’s community, other players will start to recognize you and either enjoy playing with you, or not. There are many quirks that go along with an online first person shooter virtual persona, but really, it is not that great.

After looking around on “Second Life,? I realized that this community offers a lot more that I had initially thought possible. With their own currency and so many options, I find it quite entertaining and interesting. But I feel that the whole second life scene really isn’t for me. When Kirkpatrick writes in his article that “(the) 3-D realms such as Second Life the ‘next phase of the Internet's evolution’ and says they may have ‘the same level of impact’ as the first Web explosion.? I disagree with this; I honestly look at the whole second life scenario as a game rather than having any sort of serious impact comparable to the ‘first Web explosion.? But then again, maybe I am wrong. Maybe the whole second life scenario will take off, and become bigger than I could have ever imagined.

Online Self-Actualization

Today, the social aspect of the internet has become as lucrative, if not more, as the online shops and multitude of other web-businesses that operate, launch, and degrade into non-updated web-junk day after day. I am a regular user of social networking sites (such as facebook and myspace) as well as (how can we not today?) an email junky. There are definate choices I have made however, regarding my 'online-self.' For example, I don't provide very much information on my facebook.com profile since I feel that many of the peopleI have become "friends" with [in the online sense] don't really need to know too much about me. And as for the real friends that I actually socialize with, outside of the web, they could probably ask for information or come to learn it as they see me. Either way, I have always been opposed to putting too much information about my personal tastes and things, as, to be honest, I find it rather trivial. Another aspect comes with my use of myspace as a music promotion tool. I do not use it as a personal social-network communications device, so that changes what information I have available as well. Only news regarding future shows, and etc. can be found there. Also, the profile I have written tells really nothing about myself, but is rather more of an impression to instill on possible listeners. Whatever the case, I spend too much time on social-networking sites, but the thing of it is, as people keep writing me messages and adding me to thier lists, it has become a responsibility rather than a leisure activity, similar to the evolution of my email inbox as a fun space where I could read jokes and lame chain letters to a workspace where each new message has some task included therein.
I found the Turkle readings kind of scary in conection to the Second Life phenomenon. Immediately in the beginning, the author pinpoints the major swing in peoples' social habits today.
Many of the institutions that used to bring people together—a main street, a union hall, a town meetring—no longer work as before. Many people spend most of their day alone at the screen of a television or a computer(Turkle, 178).
It immediately called to mind the mainstreet in the town I grew up in, which was only bustling on holidays like the 4th of July or during a parade, otherwise a deadzone of human activity. Home is where the heart is, and the internet connection I guess.
I also like the points about the ability to "forge" an identity in online-sociability. In a way, I suppose, my band's myspace site is a "forged" identity since it gives off an impression that is solely related to my musical self, and has very little to do with the rest of my identity.
Though, I did find the interviews with extensive MUD users rather disturbing. The most telling line, I think, was the example regarding a flodded dorm room (from a burst water-pipe) and how this trauma increased[!!] the users' MUD time from approximately 80 hours a week to somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 hours per week. This kind of escapism is frightening as I see it all over these days, from friends that play WoW to people that sit on facebook and look at hours and hours of profiles, photos, and whatever other information they can find about thier friends whom are probably doing the same.
Second Life I suppose is just another cog I would imagine, and like anything else, users will have to learn to use it in moderation. The seamless integration to real life however, (using 3-d models, real cash, and citing the IBM meetings example) seems to raise the stakes a little more for someone who is prone to compulsive behavior. As a child of a former compulsive gambler, this kind of fantasy land is very, very frightening. Like the casinos where the windows tint and the lights are always bright, it's easy to lose sight of time, and in this case, identity. But for those with money and time to waste, I'm sure it will be great. I guess I can't forget to mention the third group, those with ambition and skills to turn second-life into a career.
As a last add-on, this comes directly from the second-life website:
"Islands are priced at US$1,675 for 65,536 square meters (about 16 acres). Monthly land fees for maintenance are US$295."
Wow, that's pretty cheap for some electricity and server space....right?? Right??? Who will be god of this universe that's being created? Will it be a virtual, or actual democracy when we know cash is the bottom line?

The Matrix

Where does the movie "The Matrix" fit into this world of 3d internet/SL/avatar? Is it the next level of a virtual reality for the players?

Just a random thought on a chilly Sunday afternoon.


Only One Personality For Me

Like any one, I have made various choices over the years that I have spent online as to what to reveal about my "real" self, and what to keep hidden or secret. For the first several years that I spent online, I didn't have to make decisions related to this issue, as I used the internet primarily for informational purposes. What's more, even though this was before the popularization and broad media sensationalization of the internet or "Myspace Stalker", I had what must have been an innate sense that revealing information about myself would not be the right thing to do.

My internet isolation changed, however, when I began MUDding. I got into MUDs through a series of fantasy novels, for which inspired readers had created a MUD. The first thing that I had to do was create a "persona", or character, and to create a description of this character. It was easy to create fantasy character containing no identifying information; this was a fantasy realm based on books that I had read and loved, so I made up a fitting name and birthplace, etc. However, I found it hard to separate my personality from that of my fantasy character. Where some people in "Aspects of the Self" discussed being a different person on a MUD, or of cycling through characters and personalities, I simply behaved in the way that I would in "real life". Even when I created new characters I found that each new character had the same personality, my "real" personality.

Since then I have become far more active in various internet communities, particularly forums or message boards related to topics that I find interesting, generally programming related. However, I have found again and again that I cannot separate my "online" self from my "real" self. I wonder, does this make my online self more real, if it more accurately reflect who I "really am"?

One of the first things that I discovered, and was particularly struck by, when perusing the SL website was the ability granted to users to take part in the construction of the virtual world. This was is so highly reminiscent of certain MOOs and MUSHes, as mentioned in "Aspects of the Self", that it colored my whole perception of SL, and has made it seem far more accessible. I had almost no knowledge of SL before this weeks lesson (in fact, think I actually avoided contact with it, it seemed too "cool" to bother with). I see the SL concept as simply a graphical projection of such a MOO, allowing users to construct their own objects, and to provide new functionality through scripting. It seems that these sort of features are intended to make the simulation seem more "real", just as the introduction of a "real" economy (ie, one that can be valued in a "real" currency) might lend the simulation a sense of reality.

One thing that I found a bit disturbing, in some sense, was the following quote I noticed on the website: "Linden Lab creates new land to keep up with demand. What began as 64 acres in 2003 is now over 65,000 acres and growing rapidly." Land in SL costs money, from what I have read on the website. Therefore it seems clear that, despite efforts to market to the contrary, the economy in SL is not "real" in the sense that we are familiar with. I wonder if eventually the novelty of a "more real but not really real" economy will wear off for the broader population of SL?

The Machine is Us/ing Us

I so wish this had been uploaded a few weeks earlier. Next semester, I'm using it as the introduction to this class.

February 3, 2007


I never thought of something like this happening, and wonder how it will work, you lose all the facial expressions and gestures... Jimmy Carr, avatar superstar

February 2, 2007

Is there life on the Web?

How the internet has grown...from dial-up to broadband we are now moving into the realm of creating new identities for ourselves. While I have not taken the opportunity to engage in teh world of Second Life. I can see why so many people have. It is interesting how we portray ourselves on the internet. We change our looks and identities to something we are not and believe that this will make us feel like we are something different. As I stated before I do nto participate in Second Life or WoW, however, I contribute to things online and never use my real name. I always use pseudonyms that if someone looekd hard enough, they could figure out my name birthday or my home address. I know some people that use avatars that look exactly like them. It is actually scary to see this because we could run into someone we have not seen in years on the web. The only way I have dealt with the issue of Second Life and WoW (World of Warcraft) is through my roommates constant play. They have failed classes, lost jobs, and are struggling to be social anymore. I occasionaly play games on the internet, but not to the extent of Second Life, however, as Gurak puts it, "these sites reflect an anger and disempowerment that have become noticeable in the United States."(54). Some of the things I see on the Net and the rage that people have toward each other makes me question whether having a second life online is a good idea?

From looking at the Second Life sites I am amazed how successful it has been. From the amount of money that it has made to the possibilities that it holds. One can form friendships, build a blogging site, and form romantic relationships. The site makes sure to continually update to keep their Lifers happy and actually publish a guide that will help people be more successful in Second Life. It is even changing the way people do business. ""We're all used to teleconferences," says Hughes. "But in Second Life we gather and mingle before the meeting, and when it finishes, some people stop and talk again. We start to form social networks and the kinds of bonds you make in real life." (Kirkpatrick). From looking at the sites and the readings I believe that Second Life is a positive thing. However, if peolple become too involved and detatch from reality will there be anyone that will stop thinking about making money and help?

Username: vote4me2008

This was on the radio this morning, and it seems to relate to our discussion of online identity. I think it's interesting that the 2008 presidential candidates are not only using the web to tailor their messages (perceived identity) to appeal to certain groups of people, but that being seen as a web-savvy candidate is a bonus. I'm curious what you all think about this approach-- do you pay attention to internet campaigning, or does it seem like more of an advertising gimmick than regular televised speeches would?

February 1, 2007

A Second Life? To me, its still a game.

Sorry that this is a day late everyone. My computer crashed and is currently being fixed by Chipheads (a great company by the way!)

In the past, the only places that I have had an internet identity were on AOL in chat rooms or instant messaging, or facebook (which really isn’t a hidden identity at all!) But, on facebook, I have decided to limit who can see my information. I made this decision because I know that what I put up there could be used against me or in the wrong way. Especially as I go into the workforce, I am careful to post only things on my profile, picture, and on others’ walls that is appropriate. MY rule of thumb is, “What would my grandma think if she saw/read this?? That way everything is respectful and not offensive. On AOL, my account was set-up when I was in second grade. Therefore, my mom made up our screen names. She used the first part of my last name for all 4 screen names (mom, dad, brother, Kate) and then our initials after that. We ended up with “GUSTTA, GUSTSC, GUSTTJ, and GUSTKC.? Original I know. On facebook, I am hiding nothing. There is no need for a pseudonym. Again, neither one of these allow me to use Avatars. Well, I suppose AOL allows you to use a symbol or a face, or a musician, or a season to decorate your name. So, in the past, when I used to IM a lot, I remember using things like snowflakes, hearts, and sometimes smiley faces. I can also remember dealing with chat room problems. The whole a/s/l took me a while to figure out. Once my mom found out what I was doing, chat rooms were off-limits in our households! (Little did she know that IMs were the real problem!)
After reading the assigned articles, I find the Turkle articles the most thought-provoking. I believe that my experiences do not relate to the MUDS talked about, but the idea behind it makes a whole lot of sense to me. I think that individuals seeking social contact, but may fear rejection can come to an online environment and feel like they can project themselves onto characters or be someone entirely different. As far as the argument between psychotherapy or addiction, I believe that any online community with any hint of anonymity allows people just one more outlet to “try? being someone else. The example of the individual who was violent online instead of real life is actually a saving grace. So, in my mind, as long as the environment does not change the individual and does not become a habit that can become defined like any addiction, then the activity is just fine. But, summed up nicely “MUDS blur the boundaries between self and game, self role, self and simulation? (Turkle 192).
I also think the CNN article by Kirkpatrick is a nice lead-in to what’s to come. It’s an outlet for individuals to explore who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to act. But, what I find most interesting is the statement regarding future business. “But what's beginning to catch the attention of IBM and other huge corporations is something potentially far more profound than a new online pastime. It's the ability to use Second Life as a platform for a whole new Net - this one in 3-D and even more social than the original - with huge opportunities to sell products and services? (Kirkpatrick 1). As a marketing major I find this compelling. You could use product placement, have avatars be spokespeople for items, offer services in the virtual world, and so on and so forth! The opportunities are endless, and an entire new media outlet would be created.
Secondlife would be a nice addition to the online world, but I also think there could be dangers in it just like any other online community. People have been known to abuse things that are new in the virtual world, and this program should be monitored and used with caution until it is wholly figured out. If I joined Secondlife I would bet that I would try things that a CEO of a large marketing firm would do. It would be interesting to “test? ideas without real consequence.

Mo Linden Mo Problems

My online personality has changed over the years. Like I stated in my first post my virtual birth was in the form of an AOL account: Booboo1187. It was a nickname that my uncle gave me for who knows what reason. It was the dawn of my internet personality. I was chatting and making online friends via AOL at the age of 13. Our computer was pretty slow and the only game I was able to play online was Mechwarrior 2, which did not work so well. So the only way to represent my virtual self was my AOL profile which doesn’t even remotely come close to what my Facebook profile looks like. I don’t have much experience using avatars or characters in massive multi-player online role playing games. I tried playing Runescape once, and even a little Diablo 2, but none of that captivated me like my former roommate who still plays World of Warcraft. He was addicted to it, which he even admitted and referred to playing it has “playing some crack.? My exposure to such online realities is limited, but I think if I were to get into it, I would probably not have my character look like me.
Second life is CRAZY. I never knew such a world existed, I always thought after playing the Sims, that it would be neat to interact with real people and not Sims. My dreams, as well as millions of other gamers’ dreams, were realized; however I still have not joined. Reading about the currency, the Linden, made my eyes pop. It is crazy how there is a simulated economy that follows some of the same trends as real life, because after all second life is modeled after real life. I will not be surprised when there are robberies for Linden or hostage situations where someone is attempting to delete a character unless given so many Linden. It is funny to think of how many real life situations can be played out virtually with all the creativity Second Life has to offer.

Second Chance at Second Life

In my online life I've never felt a need to lay everything out on the table as did poor Stewart in Turkle's "Aspects of the Self" (pp. 193-209). I remember reading a book of correspondence of Flannery O'Connor, and she recounted how a fan wrote to ask her how much she weighed and what she looked like. Her answer was "300 pounds, and I have one good tooth!" I always thought that was about all the information I was willing to provide the online community. I've never had advanced enough technology to be part of an on-line interactive game--so I can't say that in the context of a fictional situation that I would assign myself attributes that were painstakingly accurate to my personality. I could see creating an avatar that is younger, hipper, stronger than me--but it would depend upon the game and what the goal is--or at a deeper level what my goal is in playing the game.

I think the idea of working out problems with games is fascinating and Turkle's commentary about who is helped (Gordon, Matthew) and who isn't (Stewart) is interesting. I do think that Stewart's illness may have had something to do with his glass-half empty outlook on his real life. These were all college students kind of working things out, though. I wonder if Turkle had any case studies on older subjects, Mr. Bungle the dirty clown of indeterminate age notwithstanding (Turkle, p. 251-252).

My computer at work did not allow me to download any of the SL software, but I was able to see the contest winning trailer/ad and some of the photo galleries of characters created by members. As the CNN/Fortune article (Kirkpatrick) mentioned there are "lascivious fantasies" being indulged as well as, apparently, real estate fantasies being realized in real dollars. While the concept is initially compelling, and there are no doubt pockets of brilliance, I had to wonder how much time it takes to set up and control a parcel of the cyber-American dream. Also, I did attempt to create a (free) avatar, and noticed that my choices were almost exclusively young ("many avatars appear buff, invitingly dressed and about 20-years old." Kirkpatrick) and white--so much for diversity. I guess that is only available if you subscribe. But making diversity desirable is a step forward.

The mix of commerce and entertainment in SL did have a mall quality about it. Turkle was wise to compare malls (new versions of main street) and virtual main streets. I worked for a time at the Mall of America. When I interviewed for the job, the manager asked me why I was attracted to that location. I told them that I thought the Mall was kind of like its own community-- a town even-- and I wanted to see how the store would fit into that community. I love the mall for a lot of reasons, but I was dead wrong about that one. There may be mall groups and sub-groups, both those who frequent the mall and those who work there, but there is no community per se.

If I were to enter the SL world, I think what would most hold my interest would be building things ($$) and interacting with other participants. I enjoy games where I'm building communities, growing crops, or solving problems. Don't enjoy killing people or foiling the progress of other players. All in all the allure of a second chance with a new personae is compelling, but I think I would always wonder whose problems I was helping to solve under false pretenses on the other end. Perhaps it doesn't matter--that there is such a thing as virtual truth. I enjoyed Gordon's revelation in his trip to India that he was not forever doomed to be friendless. That was a real life-second life.

Are you stuck in the MUD?

I try to keep my online identity true to who I really am. I have no desire to create different online personalities for myself. I think that it is dishonest to represent yourself as something that you are not. When it comes to blogs, messengers, e-mail addresses and other online forums I generally do not use my full real name, I usually use just my first name (with some numbers or another word) or I’ll use a pseudonym that represents who I am. I chose not to use an avatar, nor do I have the desire to do so. If I had to make an avatar for myself I would make it to resemble myself, which would be a twenty-something white girl, and from the sounds of things that is pretty common. Ho do you know whose avatars really represent them or if their avatar represents the person they wish they were?

I personally don’t really understand the point of virtual worlds. I have friends that are obsessed with them, but it seems like a waste of time and money to me. I have a hard enough time paying rent to spend my money in virtual realities. If I have extra money I’m going to spend it in this reality! But there must be something cool about it since according to the Second Life website over three million people have joined since 2003. If you haven’t done so already check out the “police blotter? I found it pretty amusing!

With so many people already wrapped up in these virtual worlds it is a little bit disturbing to think about the quote at the end of Kirkpatrick’s article: “virtual worlds are where video and VCRs were in the early 1980s, or where the Web was in 1993" (Kirkpatrick, p. 3). If this is only the beginning, I don’t even want to think about where it is going to end up.