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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.)