April 26, 2008

Literature Map (ymmv)

Lit map for a comps question

Here's the lit map I drew for my Internet Studies exams (16 months ago, now!). It's very specific to my list, so your mileage may vary.

April 5, 2007

Network Nation

Hiltz, R.S. and Turoff, M. (1978). The Network Nation. Cambridge, MIT Press.

Key things to know about Network Nation:

  • These are among the very first (if not the first) social/psych CMC studies. Hiltz & Turoff built the earliest foundations of the field in the social/psych area.
  • The studies took place among invited participants. All transactions were via electronic mail in a closed network (as opposed to the wild World Wide Web we have now.)
  • They identified a number of central behaviors that later CMC research expanded: lack of social cues, unrestrained emotion, development of feelings of community between participants who had never met f2f, development of what we would now call Internet addiction, and unequal participation.
  • All the later 80s and early 90s CMC research builds off of these findings.

April 3, 2007

Cyberliteracy: Navigating the Internet with Awareness

Gurak,, L.J. (2001). Cyberliteracy: Navigating the Internet with awareness. New Haven: Yale UP.

Gurak’s intention with this book is to create a plain-language guide to central issues that ordinary citizens should be aware of as they click around the Net. She covers techno-rage, censorship, gender and identity (large debt to Turkle and Herring here), crime, hoaxes, privacy, copyright, and commerce. (Much reference to Doheny-Farina’s ideas of the local in the commerce chapter, which is titled “Think Globally, Eat Locally?.) This is an excellent book to teach in an undergrad course on aspects of the Internet, and I’m using it this semester. Some of it works better than others — my students had many issues with her treatment of gender — but it’s all pertinent and it all stirs thought.

All of this is meant for a general audience. The take-away for scholars is the second chapter, which delineates the familiar-to-us “Action Terms” of Speed, Reach, Anonymity, and Interactivity. (These also pop up in her 2004 piece, “Internet Studies in the 21st Century. Be sure to cite both.)

Orality and Literacy

Ong, W.J. (1982). Orality and Literacy. New York: Routledge.

The only portion of this book that is actually on the list is the Introduction, and it does provide a good overview of Ong’s most famous work. His basic assertion here is that the form of communication shapes thought and therefore shapes societies. Therefore, oral societies, while capable of creating a “literature” of tales and general knowledge, cannot construct a linear, forward-marching body of cultural knowledge. (He goes so far as to label oral culture as ‘primitive’, and has been heavily criticized for this Western, Enlightenment-based approach.)

Writing, Ong argues, restructures consciousness. (A relevant lecture/essay is titled “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought.” It summarizes his work in Orality and Literacy, so if you decide in the future that you need the short version, look this one up.) Literacy enables societies to order their knowledge in a linear fashion. It also brings what he calls a necessary distance, allowing literate societies to do things like write about language itself.

This quote from the preface is an excellent nutshell summary of Ong’s argument in this book:

Literacy, as will be seen, is absolutely necessary for the development not only of science but also of history, philosophy, explicative understanding of literature and of any art, and indeed for the explanation of language (including oral speech) itself. There is hardly an oral culture or a predominantly oral culture left in the world today that is not somehow aware of the vast complex of powers forever inaccessible without literacy. (14-15)

Two central terms that you’ll hear closely associated with this book are primary orality and secondary orality. “Primary” orality refers to “the orality of a culture totally untouched by any knowledge of writing or print” (11). “Secondary orality” refers to “present-day high-technology culture, in which a new orality is sustained by telephone, radio, television, and other electronic devices that depend on their existence and functioning on writing and print” (11).

(This is a basic overview that covers what’ needed for the exams. There’s a lot more to the book that’s worth reading, but not necessarily pertinent here.)

November 5, 2006

Persuasion and Privacy in Cyberspace

Gurak, L. J. (1997). Persuasion and Privacy in Cyberspace. New Haven: Yale UP.

This book examines two case studies on online persuasion and privacy: the direct-mail marketing database Lotus MarketPlace and the U.S. government-proposed encryption standard Clipper Chip. Online protests against both (in 1990 against Lotus and in 1993 over Clipper) erupted in varying degrees, tactics, and outcomes. Common among the two protests, however, were issues of persuasion (how consumers, citizens, and advocacy groups used the Internet to disseminate information and influence opinion) and concerns over privacy resulting from the availability and capability of new technology.

What could be called the first online protest was launched against Lotus MarketPlace in 1990. Stemming from concerns of computer privacy activists, the bottom-up protest here used online technologies, such as email to forward form letters, where information and opinion were quickly and widely disseminated to an audience of concerned and active participants, who then contacted (barraged, actually) Lotus. Add to this, the fact that management at Lotus were initially unaware of the campaign’s concerns (and the campaign itself), and latterly, were unequipped to respond in an appropriate fashion to the criticisms and concerns of the protest. That is, Lotus did not recognize the Internet’s ethos, its own rhetorical character. The company’s responses did not match the language and protocol of online communication, and as result, seriously lacked persuasive clout. As a result, MarketPlace was quickly defeated; in fact, it was never launched. Tagged as a “victory? for consumer and computer advocacy, nevertheless, the manner in which the protest was waged perpetuated some inaccuracies and introduced privacy issues for some of those involved in the protest. For example, erroneous information was vastly disseminated (the type of information that the database would make available and the number of names included in the basic subscription); and a leading organizer was later concerned over the privacy of his identity in the study.

While the MarketPlace protest’s structure was bottom-up, the Clipper debate was started and organized by two public policy groups, driving the debate in a top-down fashion. One of the groups, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), provided an online petition available on their web site. The protest’s focus was somewhat managed by the information available on the website. In addition, the web site provided specific suggestions for acting on this information, such as filling out the petition and sending it to policymakers. The government, unlike Lotus, was aware of the online protest. Even so, they did not participate in the online debate. Yet, despite these protests and the government’s lack of participation, Clipper was enacted as a standard.

Employment of case study methodology here is useful in examining broad issues of people’s perceptions of privacy in emerging technologies and the use of such emerging technologies in persuasive techniques. The case studies outlined here provide a wide and deep context for the social and political forces behind the two protests, rather than a more focused approach from an experimental-based methodology. What this work may lack in generalizability, it makes up for in providing a springboard for subsequent study—particularly as the cases examined here are seminal in online persuasion and perceptions of privacy surrounding Internet technologies.

The Wired Neighborhood

Doheny-Farina, S. (1996). The Wired Neighborhood. New Haven: Yale UP.

Doheny-Farina examines the social effects of virtual communities, coming out on what he calls the “middle ground? between utopian views of virtual worldwide communities as the answer to a wide range of problems and alarmist views that virtual communities tend to be damaging and isolating. His middle ground, however, sounds more pessimistic than optimistic. He states: “… I argue that we do not need electronic neighborhoods; we need geophysical neighborhoods, in all their integrity. The revolution that must be joined is not one that removes us from place but one that somehow reintegrates the elements of our dissolving placed communities? (p. xi). Throughout the book, he examines both the positive and negative effects of virtual communities within the arena of geophysical neighborhoods; specifically, the benchmark he uses in evaluating the effects of virtual communities is the ability to uphold, indeed advance, geophysical neighborhoods.

Yet, he is careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. He recommends “not shunning the net but steering it? (xii), and within this framework, he proposes “civic networking.? In his words civic networking describes “limited, focused, carefully applied efforts that attempt not to move us into cyberspace but to use communication technologies to help reintegrate people within their placed communities? (xiii). That is, avoiding blind acceptance of the continued “virtualization of everyday life? (ibid), and instead, adapting those technologies or applications that uphold or advance geophysical communities.

His hopes for a “wired neighborhood? begin to be outlined in chapter 9: The Communitarian Vision. Here he explores what constitutes community and builds on community nets. He reiterates that development of the net, with its tendency to isolate and abstract humans, is nonetheless inevitable. Those who wish to remain part of the culture will have to participate. However, there is a way to take control: “Given the inevitability of the net, the most fruitful path is to participate in it in ways that benefit our localities? (p. 123). Of course, this is no easy feat. In later chapters, he describes several community networks that have been ineffectual. Thriving networks, ones that benefit localities, not only have to be funded, built, and maintained; actual participation is crucial, and it is not a given. These networks, according to Doheny-Farina, must represent contemporary community life for potential participants to become involved. The argument becomes rather circular here. He seems to be saying that, to be valid, community networks must act like physical communities.

He ends with a call to action, listing 10 general guidelines to shape the net from a 1995 Morino Institute report. The last sentence of the last chapter summarizes Doheny-Farina’s stance on virtual communities: “Take part in it [the net] not to connect to the world but to connect to your city, your town, your neighborhood? (188).

Written at a time (1996) when there was mass of loud and relatively uncritical support of virtualization, Doheny-Farina’s attempts at reigning in the utopian view was perhaps a necessary and even noble effort. He states: “In immersing ourselves in the electronic net, we are ignoring our real, dying communities? (p. 8). Yet, one may wonder whether the benchmark he uses in promoting civic networking is as paramount as he makes out. His arguments for the superiority of physical communities, at times seem more personal than academic, and lack the rigor of the critique focused on virtual communities.

Interactive Written Discourse as an Emergent Register

Ferrara, K., Brunner, H., & Whittemore, G. (1991). Interactive written discourse as an emergent register. Written Communication 8(1). 8-34.

This study examined 23 experienced users as they made travel plans with a central agent. Coding of the rates of usage for subject pronouns, copulas, and articles (and the omission thereof) showed that CMC was beginning to demonstrate characteristics of oral discourse. The authors claim that this sort of discourse exhibited enough consistent norms to be considered an emergent register, and that these norms may grow to influence or replace more traditional written styles. (And indeed, these things have become of great concern in some factions of writing instruction.)

Reducing Social Context Cues: Electronic Mail in Organizational Communication

Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. Reducing social context cues: Electronic mail in organizational communication. Management Science, 32(11). 1492-

The authors conducted a field study on electronic mail at a Fortune 500 company, examining exchanges at all organizational levels. Working from a social/psych perspective, they coded the sample for self-absorption, status equalization, and uninhibited behavior. The results confirmed previous work on the effects of removing social cues from communicative exchange (see Hiltz & Turoff), and they concluded that electronic mail “does not simply speed up the exchange of information but also leads to the exchange of new information as well.” This new information would not have been conveyed through any other medium, since social cues would have prohibited it.

Researching Internet-Based Populations

Wright, K.B. (2005). Researching Internet-based populations: Advantages and disadvantages of online survey research, online questionnaire authoring software packages, and web survey services. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(3), article 11. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue3/wright.html.

Wright covers advantages and disadvantages of conducting online survey research. Additionally, he provides a guide to numerous online survey applications, explaining the requirements, benefits, and issues with each.

The article lists three specific advantages of online survey research:

  1. Access to unique populations: The Internet provides access to a broad spectrum of groups, including communities that only exist in cyberspace. Examples include communities devoted to specific virtual issues (cyber-stalking, online stock trading, virtual dating) and support groups for health issues that are stigmatized offline.
  2. Time: Internet-based survey research may save time for researchers, since you don't have to wrangle paper and issues associated with distributing it. Electronic data doesn't require time or funding for manual input, and the data is often more easily manipulated.
  3. Cost: obvious savings on postage, printing, data entry, transcription, recording equipment, travel, and long-distance calls.
Disadvantages discussed are:
  1. Sampling issues: Contacting participants may be an issue, depending on community support of your project. Response rates may vary drastically. Incentives may provoke repeat surveys (see Konstan, et al.) Self-selection can lead to systemic bias, since some individuals are just more likely to participate than others.
  2. Access: Gaining access to a community can be problematic, since members may consider you to be an unwanted intruder and your requests to be spam.

The remainder of the article is taken up with discussion of current web survey software packages and services.

November 4, 2006

Legitimacy, Authority, and Community in Electronic Support Groups

Galegher, J., Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1998). Legitimacy, authority, and community in electronic support groups. Written Communication 15(4), 493-530.

Galegher, et al perform discourse analysis on threads from three distinct Usenet support groups. Questions of legitimacy and authority are particularly interesting in this context, since participants must establish enough legitimacy for their advice to be trusted, and they cannot rely on many of the usual markers of legitimacy (clothing, mannerisms, obvious physical attendance, etc.) In such a situation, one must make a point of participating often in the conversation in order to even be counted present.

Shared experience is paramount in a support context, and the question-and-answer sequence is a frequent discourse feature (510). Both questions and answers are rooted in personal experience. These personal narratives are typically straightforward and unambiguous (511). Stating length of membership and remaining on-topic creates legitimacy, as does making legitimate claims (512). Simple requests for information that did not contain personal information or claims to membership often did not receive replies.

Authority stems from providing scientific information with explicit reference to scientific studies and, to a lesser extent, from personal experience (515). Challenges to authority often include requests for citations. Personal experiences are rarely challenged. Praise from other members and being quoted by them obviously bolsters one's authority within the group.

The authors note that establishment of legitimacy and authority increases the sense of belonging to a community. This is particularly important in support groups — there was a frequent incidence of comments such as “I no longer feel alone!” Discourse characteristics mirror those within f2f support communities: politeness, question-and-answers, and challenges to controversial or incomplete answers (524). Participants learn and reinforce group norms over time. One significant difference from f2f support groups is noted: permeable boundaries. No references, membership fees, or written constitutions are required for the support groups studied, rendering them far more open to newcomers.

The Story of Subject Naught: A Cautionary but Optimistic Tale of Internet Survey Research

Konstan, J.A., Rosser, B.R.S., Ross, M.W., Stanton, J., & Edwards, W.M. (2005). The story of subject naught: A cautionary but optimistic tale of Internet survey research. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(2), article 11. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue2/konstan.html

This article documents the verification process of The Men’s Internet Study (MINTS). Subjects were recruited through a banner ad on gay.com and offered $20 to complete an online survey. Manual validation was completed for residency, IP addresses, payment addresses, ZIP codes, age, birth dates, and email addresses. Duplicate surveys were weeded out by checking for duplicate IP addresses, email addresses, names, payment info, and e-payment receipts. Finally, surveys were checked for suspiciously quick completion times. These checks led to identification of 119 repeat surveys, 65 of which were completed by “Subject Naught”.

Four lessons were learned about validity threats in web-based survey research:

  1. Validity checking is absolutely essential when conducting Internet studies.
  2. Although automated testing can flag suspicious survey completion patterns, manual review is essential and the final decision to exclude should be a human one, not an automated one.
  3. Use of a rigorous validation protocol provides greater confidence in the study sample.
  4. Web-based survey research is still highly worthwhile, and can achieve high validity.

October 24, 2006

Word Perfect: Literacy in the Computer Age

Tuman, M.C. (1992). Word Perfect: literacy in the computer age. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Tuman’s book provides an interesting snapshot of how folks in the discipline were thinking about digital literacy at the dawn of the era. Some of it is rather humorous in light of where we are now: he bemoans the fate of literacy “in a world where economic expansion will be propelled forward by teams of workers collaborating through computer networks, not as it was in the last century, by amateur tinkerers working in isolation...” (14). (Social software has begun to adequately negate this fear, I think. What are most bloggers if not amateur tinkerers?) He suggests that the problems of successfully using a physical library system will be solved by CD-ROM (19). (Obviously before the Web, Google, or online encyclopedias.) He ponders the possibility that the private thoughts of individuals transmitted through writing will be lost “in a world characterized by radically more efficient means of storing and retrieving information.” (I'd point to both nonymous and anonymous blogs here, and argue that they have actually enhanced the production of this sort of knowledge.)

Of course, Tuman had no crystal ball to peer into and divine the digital future, and we must be fair about that. The book makes some good contributions. He spends some time thinking about that ways that hardware and code influence writing, turning what was formerly a private act into a “potentially public and social one” (11). He connects this to changes in a workplace where workers’ personal craft knowledge and skills have been devalued in favor of public, scientific knowledge that fuels sheer efficiency (14). (A la Zuboff.) Later on, he examines what he calls the “struggle between texts and graphics”, wondering how the new potential offered by word processing and graphics applications will affect literacies and what developing a field of multimedia comp instruction might entail (110). (A la Lanham.) He rightly argues that the discipline will either be transformed or marginalized, and so should get to work pronto. In the course of this discussion, he makes an argument that closely predicts the value of writing in networked environments:

The literate of the future will be neither the dutiful but unimaginative scribe, nor the powerful but at times heedless intellectual; the computer age will support a new literate, someone committed to working with others, indeed, inextricably linked with them, both literally through computer networks and metaphorically through common causes. (123)

He takes the interesting, optimistic step of hoping that developing digital literacies will have a generally positive affect on mankind. Transforming the limitations of print text, he says, may enable

  • more powerful transformations of nature
  • more powerful explanations of human conduct (a la Hiltz & Turoff, Sproull & Kiesler)
  • more powerful readings of texts (a la Landow)
  • more powerful, because more symbolic, renderings of experience (130)
All of this might be possible if people envision a better world and work to bring that world into being. He’s careful to avoid technological determinism: “the crucial question becomes, not what a technology can do, but how people will be able to interact with it in shaping and fulfilling their own motives” (133). He’s also not as blindly optimistic about the possibilities of democracy as so much early CMC research was, and is very sensitive to the fact that a world of “multiple, de-entered and unauthorized voices is precisely the world most supportive of a new post-industrial economic order managed by a new breed of robber barons, the multinational, de-centered, largely invisible corporations of late capitalism” (135).

October 19, 2006

Hypertext 3.0

Landow, G.P. (2006). Hypertext 3.0: Critical theory and new media in an era of globalization. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP.

Landow’s book is an excellent overview of the primary aspects of hypertext theory, and would be a solid main textbook in any textual history or digital text seminar. The primary aspects are grouped in eight sections:

  1. Hypertext: An Introduction — covering definitions, lexias, general history (Bush, etc.), and general connections to books and the print revolution.
  2. Hypertext and Critical Theory — the usual PoMo suspects (Derrida, Deleuze & Guattari, etc.), decentering and nonlinearity, convergence/confluence.
  3. Reconfiguring the Text — weblogs, visual elements, animation, dispersion, complications presented by open text
  4. Reconfiguring the Author — a condensed version of authorship theory as applied to digital environments. Nothing new here, but it’s a good intro to the subject.
  5. Reconfiguring Writing — writing pedagogy and problems in new media environments
  6. Reconfiguring Narrative — Issues presented by the choose-your-own-adventure aspects of hypertext environments, with several examples/case studies
  7. Reconfiguring Literary Education — researching and teaching literacy in hypertext enviornments
  8. The Politics of Hypertext: Who Controls the Text? — Postcolonialism, access, pornography, copyright, surveillance. IMHO, so much is shoehorned into this section that it becomes a mishmash, but there’s hardly room for proper attention to all of these issues.

The most useful sections for me are the first two, which provide further resources for areas I’ve been exploring: linking taxonomies, analogues to book history, and rhizomatic theory.
(B - If you need elaboration on any aspect of this, please let me know. Since the text is an overview of hypertext theory, any section of it could be blown up into a book, and that makes it hard to cover specifics. Plus, I'm not sure how much of this is useful to you.)

October 8, 2006

Relational Communication in Computer-Mediated Interaction

Walther, J.B. & Burgoon, J.K. (1992). Relational communication in computer-mediated interaction. Human Communication Research, 19, 50-88.

This comparison between computer conferencing and face-to-face communication found that CMC’s relational dimensions were similar to that of FTF, a finding that departed from previous research suggesting that CMC had depersonalizing effects on communication due to the absence of nonverbal cues (e.g., Hiltz, Johnson, & Turoff, 1986). This article points out that CMC, as a medium, is not inherently impersonal, but rather is affected by “specifiable conditions and kinds of partners? (p. 52).

Importantly, this research adopted an alternative theoretical perspective—social information-processing vs. “cues filtered out,? the dominant theory at the time. Cues filtered out theory explained CMC’s low SE by attributing the technology with a restrictive quality. Social information-processing, on the other hand, acknowledges time as a factor in relational development; because CMC groups typically require a longer time to communicate than FTF groups, CMC and FTF have differing rates of social information exchange. Addressing the shortcomings of time-limited experiments, which may not provide ample opportunity for development of interpersonal relations between users, the authors conducted a longitudinal study (as did Rice & Love, 1987, whose results also indicated greater levels of socioemotional content in CMC than previously reported).

Results offered mixed support for the study’s 13 hypotheses; however, it was found that “CMC groups do develop and evolve in relationally positive directions. Participants’ ratings of one another’s composure/relaxation, informality, receptivity/trust, and social (versus task) orientation became higher during their progressions; dominance became lower" (p. 76). In particular, the study found that the effects of time were stronger than the effects of medium—initial differences in relational communication between CMC and FTF tended to be eliminated over time. The authors conclude with suggestions that further research address not only the abilities of the medium, but the effects of users’ intentions, needs, and styles as determinants of relational communication in CMC.

October 7, 2006

E-health: Beyond internet searches

Gurak, Laura J. and Hudson, Brenda L. (2006). E-health: Beyond internet searches. In: Internet and Health Care.

This book chapter provides an overview of e-health and examines two applications: clinical service and healthcare professional education, as well as the issue of privacy with its significant implications across e-health applications.

Clinical applications include interactive telemedicine for remote consultations and diagnoses, managing chronic disorders via the Internet, electronic medical records, and tele-homecare. In addition to patient care, e-health has applications in clinical research, such as an electronic primary care research network, being developed at the University of Minnesota under the NIH Roadmap initiative to electronically network primary care physicians—tapping into a previously under-utilized patient base, as primary care providers deliver the majority of patient care in the U.S. Health education initiatives include online courses, virtual clinics where students “see? mock patients through virtual technology, and simulated anatomy lessons.

However, in both clinical and educational applications, barriers exist. The technology itself may not be available at a certain site; there may be resistance from medical professionals to the applications; and clinics and hospitals may lack financial backing to implement applications. In addition, it is important to remember that newer technologies in and of themselves do not result in better care or education.

Another particular concern in e-health is privacy, including: individuals’ right to determine what information is collected and how it is used; ability to access personal information held and know that it is accurate and safe; anonymity in Web-usage; and, ability to send and receive e-mail messages or other data without being intercepted or read by persons other than the intended recipient(s). In addition to technological measures to help maintain privacy (such as firewalls, message and browser encryption, and digital signatures), human judgment is also required; for instance, deciding when electronic communication is appropriate.

As e-health develops into more and varied applications, issues of barriers and privacy must be continually addressed.