April 30, 2006

a final link round-up

Here are some links that I’ve been saving for you guys in my aggregator.

Social Bookmarking 101, a virtual lecture by Collin Brooke at Syracuse University.
Break of Day in the Trenches, a blog devoted to historicized attitudes toward war in roleplaying games, written by Esther MacCullum-Stewart.
A brief account of virtual marriage proposals and sexism in MMPORGS by Jill Walker at University of Bergen.
Yochai Benkler's new book "The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedoms" is available in PDF. Essential for those interested in intellectual property in digital environments.
Pro-lurker points to Concordia University's CFP for a conference on conducting research online. The focus includes but is not limited to

  • Ethical Issues
  • Researching video game console culture
  • Fieldwork Boundaries & Possibilities
  • From online & offline and back again: the question of merging identity
  • Post-Virtual Research: Situating the virtual as a space of inquiry after the real/virtual debate
  • Ethnography in cyberspace
  • The future of qualitative research online
Deadline for submissions is July 1. She also points to a special issue of Interdisciplinary Humanities devoted to the topic of Technoculture. Deadline for that one is mid-May, so hurry.
Aaaand... Ann Galloway’s put together a working bib on the Internet of Things.

Update: Short, unscientific City Pages article on virtual economy and labor outsourcing in WOW.

April 25, 2006

Also interesting...

...but not as pertinent:


Judge finds that surfing on the internet at work is the equivalent to reading a book or talking on the phone.

April 24, 2006

This seems pertinent...

I don't know if anyone mentioned this in passing today...



On Lessig's "Rebuilding the Commons"

Okay, I'll confess...I am not quite sure what to do with Lessig's The Future of Ideas. While I do appreciate his
parsing the Internet into layers and the issues of control associated with each layer (...this sounds like a book
review), I have mixed feelings about the how-tos he lists in chapter 14. And some of it stems from my ignorance of
concrete instances/examples of what Lessig might be referring to. But to be more explicit, on p. 255, he speaks of
"Rebuilding the Creative Commons"--companies could donate their code (the ones they neither sell nor support) to a
conservancy to produce revised versions. From a purely utilitarian point of view, I wonder how important it is to have a conservancy of code that has fallen into disuse for a variety of reasons. Is there really a loss of knowledge? Software that came after it in all probability was built off of the "orphan". (And saying "Orphans could be adopted by others who saw their special benefit" does not really amount to much. It is as good as hoarding bits of string in the hope/belief that it might all come to great use some day). The theory of it appeals to me, but the Microsoft user in me wonders how one would actually implement it....

April 23, 2006

While we're on the subject...

I think the problem here is the word "richness." While I don't take it to be a kind of aestheticizing of communication, I do think that, even when considering the multiplicity of sensory information being transferred, that there are problems with putting FTF communication at the top of a hierarchy. This assumes that many features of FTF interaction cannot be likewise processed in the mind; for example, while FTF communication includes visual intimacy, the anonymity of some CMC can provide users with an opportunity to process a number of different identities and contexts for the same interlocuter. I think we would have to qualify "richness" by saying that the information processed--whether aural, visual, or cognitive--has to be "truthful" and/or "measurable." But even then, that would entail a preference for the empirical and experiential over the simulated... and I thought that was the kind of hierarchy away from which we were supposed to be driving at this point.

April 17, 2006

A contrarian speaks

I know that we discussed in class that media richness as a helpful paradigm to discuss communication technologies. We drew a continuum on the board and tried to place many common types of communication technologies on our scale of media richness from the best (FTF) to something very low in media richness (possibly unaddressed junk mail).

The more that I think about this the more this doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Doing this exercise is just as accurate and useful as trying to put artwork on a scale of beauty. It is not that the idea of media richness isn’t important; it is that determining whether something is high or low in richness will never be agreed upon without criteria. You will never get me to agree that email has more media richness than written addressed documentation. Not with all the spam, listserv messages, and task related messages that I receive on email and the lack of anything that even remotely that fosters community, friendship, etc. On the other hand, although I am sure I receive the same amount of junk mail and bills (spam/task related) stuff in my mailbox you do, when a friend or family member writes me a letter, whether that is weekly or a monthly occurrence, it is much more rich than email. I often receive drawings from my friend’s children back home, pictures from friends, clippings of articles, coupons, you name it. The most I ever get in my email box is the random link or ads with pictures that want me to visit a website – most of which I don’t care about. But even if your experience you rarely get snail mail, I hope you will concede that a personal letter has the potential to be just as high in media richness as an email or that either one can be very low in media richness depending on the circumstances.

I am not thinking that the scale is a bad idea I just think that media richness has to be based on a combination of a number of factors. FTF communication is the richest form of communication for many reasons: it is verbal and non-verbal, it is synchronous, it fosters community, it can occur in a dyad or in a group, it can serve different functions simultaneously, and the list can go on and on. The only effective way to use media richness is to determine these criteria that make media rich and build a scale (or set of scales that can be used in conjunction) that can determine media richness with less ambiguity.

Thinking aloud...

My apologies for jumping back several classes. However post the session on blogging and neighborhoods, I could not help but think about mixed reality games and the idea of social bonding that is often pushed by its creators, and proponents. Social bonding and social cues and context form some of the key themes in these games: bridging distance, connecting people socially, etc.

While the technology that supports such games spaces is indeed interesting, how does one situate the notion of "neighborhoods" (if we can appropriate it from mathematics), and communities within the mixed reality game space. And while the creators of such games wax eloquent about the social aspects of such games, are these new spaces that blend the physical and the virtual any different from current game spaces? And what does the concept of Transfiction mean anyway to gamers and role players (in some instances also called as performers)--does it alter the sense of community (because of changes in the feeling of immersiveness, if any) in any significant manner? But maybe, before we even begin to examine those questions, we might have to learn to grapple with the 'mixed reality space' (how does one theorise about it, how does one even study it?...)

(I am just thinking aloud here...)

April 16, 2006

Online vs. offline research

It's interesting to consider how internet based research is different from more traditional, offline research. As noted in the article by Wright, some of the greatest worries about internet research is whether or not we can get a representative sample and whether it's possible to ensure the validity of participants. Although I get why there might be some increased concern with these issues for online studies, in most ways offline studies suffer from the same problems. For example, trying to get a representative sample of gay men to take a traditional paper-and-pencil survey isn't very possible since we really don't have a good estimate of the number of gay men in the US and how they're distributed. Offline studies also suffer validity problems, especially is participants aren't required to complete an interview face-to-face (e.g., completing a survey and sending it in). Whether participants are completing surveys online or offline, they can always lie or distort their answers. So, it seems like a lot of attention is being paid to the possible pitfalls of Internet research, but honestly traditional self-report survey methods seem just as problematic.

Both Laura and Turkle brought up the issue of protecting participant confidentiality regarding online postings. Although good practice to minimize any harm to participants when possible, I do think it's also important to be able to cite the actual source where possible since the source is the foundation upon which good scientific evidence is based. If we aren't certain of the veracity of the source, it's a little hard to establish scientific credibility.

April 10, 2006

Can gaming provide experiential media literacy?

Yes, I know. ANOTHER gaming post.

Toward the end of Woosley's article, she asks of the three interconnected media, "Which will help [students] to understand and then contribute to the world around them, its politics, its science, and its literature?" (10). Although the question certainly implies a hierarchy, I'm assuming from the context that she wants to find utility in many of the discussed e-media. Since she mentions gaming, I'm wondering where exactly her discussion of "Experiential media" literacy comes into play with regard to the above question. I'm not sure I buy the idea of such a literacy; the term itself seems rather vague (of course, I do not discount that I am simply misreading it). Nonetheless, I find gaming useful for more general purposes mentioned elsewhere, such as collaboration skills leading to enhanced civic discourse. If there is one "practical" line in the burgeoning merger of education and ludology, it is certainly one of collaboration--the notion that gamers find specific roles that compliment each other, roles that enhance awareness of co-constructed systems of knowledge as well as the knowledge itself (I'm borrowing heavily from James Gee here). Part of that knowledge, of course, entails multiple other media: digital media in order to interact, older media forms in order to communicate, and so on.

April 9, 2006

a few definitions

It occurred to me that some of the terms in discussions of blogging might be unfamiliar, so I thought I’d post a few definition links here in case anybody needs them.

Social Software
Audio Blogging
RSS (Really Simple Syndication)

Also, a few relevant not-blogging social software applications:
And for people like us: CiteULike


This site is a discussion space associated with a Spring 2006 graduate seminar in the University of Minnesota Department of Rhetoric. The course provides an overview of theory and research about communication in online settings. Visitors and commenters are welcome.