|Purred: Mon Jan 14, '08 5:13pm PST |
|OK. I'm posting mom's cmc final because I'm still testing the size of message buffer.
1) Blogging can be used to suit several purposes (Herring et al, 2004), one of which is class discussions which take place outside of classrooms and class time. In this research study, I will analyze a discussion thread from a LiveJournal blog (http://ajwei.livejournal.com/2593.html) used by a class of graduate students studying CMC, in order to determine what characterizes this mode of CMC as used for this purpose, and what separates this particular instance of blogging from other modes of CMC. The topic of the discussion is a student's summary of an article on multilingualism, and each student in the class was required to respond to that particular article summary the week it was written.
In order to effectively characterize this blog, I will employ Herring's (2007) faceted classification scheme, as this is to date the most accurate way to categorize and describe various modes of CMC. The faceted classification scheme consists of ten medium factors and eight situation factors which, when applied to various modes of CMC, should yield an accurate characterization. I will then explain which of these eighteen factors are most relevant in distinguishing blogging as used for the purpose of class discussion from other forms of CMC.
In terms of the ten medium factors, most could apply to journal-style blogs more generally, and are not specific to this particular blog as used for the purpose of class discussion of articles, as they are intended to describe the affordances of the medium more generally. Medium factor #1 (M1) is synchronicity. This is an asynchronous discussion, and posts are completed before they are uploaded to the webpage. M2 is message transmission, which in this case takes place in a one-way format, as users cannot see what other users are writing until he/she posts his/her complete message. M3 is persistence of transcript. The transcript is persistent, as it remains in the system indefinitely, although users can delete their own posts. M4 is size of message buffer. This is also nearly indefinite, as posts can exceed at least 130 pages in length, which is more than sufficient for an article summary and a discussion. M5 is channels of communication, which in this case consist of only text, and in terms of a visual channel of communication, often a user profile photo which accompanies each post. M6 is anonymous messaging, which is possible to achieve to varying degrees on LiveJournal, but not in this case, since all of the discussion's participants are classmates who meet in real life in class. M7 is private messaging, which again is possible to achieve on LiveJournal, but not within this thread or any of the class' discussions, since class discussions are open only to designated "friends" who are class participants. M8 is filtering so as to block certain users from reading or posting. Filtering is not automatic on LiveJournal, but can be easily done by setting a journal post to "show this entry to: friends," as class participants are required to do, so that the discussions filter out everyone but class participants and the professor. Users can also filter out all other users and make theirs a private journal, or make it available to everyone. M9 is quoting, which is not automatic, but can be easily accomplished by cutting and pasting. M10 is message format. As in most blogs, the original post remains at the top of the page and comments descend from top to bottom. On LiveJournal, however, one can respond to specific comments, in which case a new comment would go directly underneath the comment being responded to, provided it is the first response to that comment. If it is not the first comment, it would go underneath the last response to that comment, again in descending order.
The eight situation factors in Herring's faceted classification scheme are particular to the dynamics of the group carrying out the discussion and the type of discussion in which they are involved. Situation factor #1 (S1) is participation structure. The summary, or the original blog post, is a one-to-many transmission, but the discussion below takes place between all the class' members and is a many-to-many transmission. The thread is set as private, between class members and the professor. Participants are not anonymous, since they all know each other in real life, are graded on their commentary, and must be "friends" of the blogger in order to read or post to the blog. Sixteen participants, including the professor, comprise the group, and all are active in this thread except for two who audit the course, and everyone’s participation is very well-balanced in terms of message length and number of posts. S2 is participant characteristics: the group is also well-balanced in terms of gender. All participants are graduate students, most in linguistics or library and information science, all are proficient with computers, CMC, the English language, are roughly between 25 and 40, have the same online personae (at least in this context) as they do in real life, and, as students, have similar sociocultural knowledge and interactional norms to bring to the discussion. Their attitudes, beliefs, ideologies, and motivations differ from person to person, and sharing these different perspectives is an integral part of the discussion. S3 is purpose, which in this case is educational, the goal of the interaction being to learn what each student extracts from the reading being discussed and thus develop a greater perspective on CMC. S4 is topic/theme. The topic of the course is CMC, and so is that of the group, The topic of this particular discussion is an article on multilingualism. The tone, S5, is mainly cooperative, but ranges from humorous to serious as well. The activity at hand, S6, is obviously class discussion. S7 is norms. Organizationally speaking, all enrolled students participated in this thread. In terms of social appropriateness, the content of posts is appropriate to class discussion and related to the reading, and in terms of language, fairly relaxed in terms of spelling and punctuation, but contains little use of slang. S8, or code, relates to language as well, and all posts are in English, in a uniform ASCII font, probably Arial.
The medium factors which separate this type of CMC from other forms are those which allow the discussion to take place only between class participants in the style in which it does, namely, M1, M3, M8, and M10. M1, asynchronicity, combined with M3, persistence of transcript, allows participants to carry out discussions over the course of several days. M10, message format, allows them to respond directly to whichever comment they choose (rather than placing all new comments in descending order). M8 allows the discussion to take place only between members of the class and the professor.
The situation factors which characterize the discourse are S1, S2, S3, S5, S6, and S7. S1, participation structure, is that of a one-to-many blog post followed by a many-to-many, private discussion among 16 non-anonymous participants which takes place in a fairly well-balanced manner in terms of message length and frequency. In terms of S2, participant characteristics, it is a small group of students (plus a professor) who are all fairly proficient with computers and CMC, all know each other from class and from prior LiveJournal discussions, all come to the discussion with an understanding of the sociocultural norms of the medium, and have similar motivations in participating in the discussion, as it is a requirement of the course. All participants engaged in the discussion are there for the purpose of education (S3) and to read what other students extract from the readings. The tone (S5) which characterizes the discussion is somewhat serious, certainly more so than IRC chat, but less so than an academic listserv. The activity (S6) that takes place in the blog, academic discussion, is related to S3, the purpose. Finally, the norms of the discourse (S7) shape the discussion, since all participants discuss the same article in the same language (English) and register, and all students participate.
Herring's faceted classification scheme provides an in-depth accounting of the various characteristics which can be used to describe CMC. When applied to a LiveJournal blog discussion, it yields an accurate picture of a form of CMC which is shaped more generally by the affordances of the medium, and in this particular case by the various situation factors which apply to the group being studied, their demographic make-up, purposes, and conventions.
1) Herring, S. C. (2007). A faceted classification scheme for computer-mediated discourse. Language@Internet. http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/761
2) Herring, S. C., Scheidt, L. A., Bonus, S., & Wright, E. (2004). Bridging the gap: A genre analysis of weblogs. Proceedings of the 37th Hawai'I International Conference on System Sciences. Los Alamitos: IEEE Computer Society Press. http://www.blogninja.com/DDGDD04.doc
2) Prometeus: The New Media Revolution is a video from the year 2051, when all the media that we know so well today have converged into the computer (assuming that that was their eventual destination in convergence). Producers and consumers are one and the same, and copyright was declared illegal over 30 years ago. Is this a viable reality? Maybe, in part. The video deals with media convergence and its effect on media consumption both in the present (2007) and in the future. The video takes into account both media convergence as both a top-down, corporate-driven process, and a bottom-up, consumer-driven process as described by Jenkins (2004) and gives us a vision of a future in which all media have completely converged into one medium, in which consumers are producers, and in which knowledge ceases to be static.
In terms of media convergence as a top-down, corporate-driven process, the video foresees "the Net includ[ing] and unif[ying] all the content. Google buys Microsoft, Amazon buys Yahoo!, thus becoming the world universal content leaders with BBC, CNN, and CCTV." While this is plausible, Jenkins notes that media companies are not behaving in a monolithic fashion and are using various different strategies to reach consumers, often within the same company. Executives are also "thinking across media," trying to reach consumers on the Internet, television, radio, etc. Provided that this trend continues, along with a move on the part of producers towards greater "narrowcasting" of niche media geared toward smaller groups of individuals, the video's vision of the future, with enormous media super-corporations, could be a viable reality, so long as the production companies continue to broaden their scope by gearing production toward niche audiences and across various media to more informed, more fickle audiences.
By contrast, both the video and Jenkins view media convergence as a bottom-up, consumer-driven process. The video foresees the birth of the "prosumer," while Jenkins makes note of the fact that consumers already successfully produce game content that gets picked up and distributed by larger corporations, and that this leads to better long-term relationships with consumers. Jenkins poses the question of whether user-produced content will continue to be restricted in other areas, like that of children's books, or whether companies will take heed and eventually relax intellectual property rights. According to the video, yes. In fact, copyright laws will be declared illegal in 2020. The video also states that "advertisement is chosen by the content creators, by the authors themselves, and becomes info, comparison, experience," which seems a little utopian, given that huge corporations will continue to grow in this vision of the future. But advertisement and content are completely different entities, and one often necessitates the presence of the other. Jenkins foresees the end of the Internet's "prevailing gift economy" in favor of pay-as-you-go media consumption, which has already begun to happen, as in the case of iTunes, Netflix downloads, and e-books.
According to the video, all media will converge into CMC. First, "the old media disappeared: Gutenberg, copyright, the radio, television, advertisement," as well as old-fashioned newspapers. This is definitely happening today, since the printing press has been replaced by digital copy, and the radio and television are increasingly moving onto the Internet, but so is advertisement. This is somewhat in conflict with Jenkins' observation that media do not disappear, but rather, content moves across various media as corporations seek out more and more ways to reach consumers: "One can listen to the Dixie Chicks through a DVD player, car radio, walkman, computer MP3 files, a web radio station or a music cable channel."
"Blogs become more influential than the old media," according to the video. This is plausible in the foreseeable future. Jenkins notes the rapidity of the development and growth of the antiwar movement in early 2003 via the use of blogging technology to assemble international coverage of the war in light of "the American media's hyperpatriotic accounts." In Lasica's (2002) view, “blogging represents Ground Zero of the personal Webcasting revolution.” She foresees "millions of Net users . . . tak[ing] on the role of columnist, reporter, analyst, and publisher," e.g., the news prosumer. Consumers are increasingly making use of technology to extract and report news stories that the mainstream media ignores today, while the public continues to be dissatisfied with the issue of media ownership and coverage (Jenkins, 2004).
"Wikipedia is the most complete encyclopedia ever," the video claims. "Wikipedia's success demonstrates that it meets users' needs for reliable, up-to-date information. Indeed, with its searchable content, convenient online access, and ability to create entries on recent events quickly, Wikipedia improves on traditional information sources, especially for the content areas in which it is strong, such as technology and current events" (Lih, 2004, in Emigh and Herring, 2005, italics mine). One could make the case that Wikipedia may not be the most reliable encyclopedia ever, but it is arguably the most complete, as well as the most up-to-date, and it continues to grow every day, not only through the addition of new entries, but also through the augmentation of existing entries. "No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity" (Levy, 1997, in Jenkins, 2004).
The video states that in the future, "the concept of static information - books, articles, images - changes and is transformed into knowledge flow." This vision is somewhat, although not entirely feasible, given that the world's largest single repository of knowledge is Wikipedia, which can be edited by anyone, anywhere, at any time. I do not foresee media convergence replacing literature and history, which will always reside in the past and continue to be reinterpreted throughout the ages, but news and information are already becoming more dynamic through traditional media, as a news crawl was added to the bottom of the screen on 24-hour news channels in order to keep 24-hour news more up-to-date in the wake of 9/11. The news may have slowed down since then, but the crawl has remained, as evidence of consumers' desire for more, and more current, news.
1) CasaleggioAssociati (2007). Prometeus: The New Media Revolution (http://youtube.com/watch?v=xj8ZadKgdC0)
2) Emigh, W., & Herring, S. C. (2005). Collaborative authoring on the Web: A genre analysis of online encyclopedias. Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences. Los Alamitos: IEEE Press. http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/wiki.pdf
3) Jenkins, H. (2004). The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7, 33-43.
4) Lasica, J. D. (2002, April 18). Blogging as a form of journalism. USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review.
5) Levy, Pierre (1997) Collective Intelligence. Cambridge: Perseus, In Jenkins, 2004.
6) Lih, A. (2004). Wikipedia as participatory journalism: Reliable sources? Metrics for evaluating collaborative media as a news resource. Paper presented at the 5th International Symposium on Online Journalism, April 16-17, UT Austin. In Emigh, W., & Herring, S. C. (2005). Collaborative authoring on the Web: A genre analysis of online encyclopedias. Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences. Los Alamitos: IEEE Press. http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/wiki.pdf
3) Many scholars have presented either one of two views which are much at odds with each other regarding the effectiveness of communicating via CMC when fewer channels are available. Some have argued that CMC is inefficient, unfriendly, and oversimplified, while others argue that CMC is appropriate and useful for relationship formation and community-building, both socially and for educational purposes.
Information richness is defined as "the potential information-carrying capacity of data" (Daft and Lengel, 1984, p. 196) Therefore, the more channels available (audio, visual, etc.), the richer the medium. According to Daft and Lengel, rich information is necessary for organizations to satisfy their informational needs in order to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity, as these factors lead to more time being lost gathering information. "Leaner" media are ill-suited to complex tasks, as organizations need to "create an acceptable level of order and certainty" which only "richer" media can provide, particularly when processing information about complex organizational topics. "Rich media enable people to interpret and reach agreement about difficult, unanalyzable, emotional, and conflict-laden issues. Face-to-face discussions lead to a shared language and interpretation" (p. 223).
According to social presence theory (Rice and Love, 1987, p. 103) the reduction in communicative channels and cues inherent in CMC causes online communication to be more impersonal and nonconforming than face-to-face communication. In CMC, participants' awareness of others and sensitivity to their feelings is directly related to the number of channels available. CMC is thus less inhibited and less adaptive than face-to-face communication, and is ill-suited to relationship-formation, as users do not seem to get closer, based on the fact that the socioemotional content of their messages remained steady over time. Kiesler et al (1984) found a similar "depersonalization" phenomenon (p. 1130). When people working in groups communicated using CMC, users were also more uninhibited and antisocial than in face-to-face groups, as measured by frequency of remarks containing insults, name-calling, and hostile comments (p. 1129).
Other scholars have argued that CMC is actually better for forming relationships than is face-to-face communication in many cases. McKenna, Green, and Gleason found that real, positive relationships can indeed form online, and that CMC is actually better suited to building friendships, particularly in the early stages, and especially for those who are shy or socially anxious (p. 28). They attribute this finding to the fact that their more socially inhibited subjects felt they could better express themselves online when conversing with strangers or newer acquaintances, and to the absence of "gating features" that are present in face-to-face situations. So leaner media does not necessarily lead to more antisocial behavior. In fact, quite the opposite can be true. The relationships formed online in their study were actually likely to become integrated into one's offline social life and to remain stable over time. Subjects were more likely to like one another than if they had met face-to-face, and to continue to like one another after a face-to-face encounter. Furthermore, the more socially anxious, introverted subjects who felt that they were more able to express themselves online found that over time, they became less shy and socially anxious as they increased their circles of friends. The more outgoing subjects were also able to become "friend-richer" (p. 29).
Rheingold (1993) also finds CMC to be a great way to meet new people and form webs of friends, and even communities. Community is defined by Rheingold as "social aggregations that emerge when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.“ He feels that the asynchronicity of communication and geographical dispersion of CMC users yields friendships and relationships that are just as valuable as "real-life" relationships, and that can migrate offline as well. He also regards the lack of visual and auditory cues inherent in CMC as potentially positive characteristics that can actually yield closer relationships than can face-to face communication:
"Because we cannot see one another in cyberspace, gender, age, national origin, and physical appearance are not apparent unless a person wants to make such characteristics public. People whose physical handicaps make it difficult to form new friendships find that virtual communities treat them as they always wanted to be treated--as thinkers and transmitters of ideas and feeling beings, not carnal vessels with a certain appearance and way of walking and talking (or not walking and not talking)."
Brown (2001) found that students in an online class could find community in the virtual classroom, regardless of the lack of audio or visual cues inherent in the medium, if they wanted to; the necessary tools were present for those who chose to utilize them. She found that students were able to learn from each other, network, and gain support. She found that students who were perceived to be "on the fringes" of discussions were "nudged" into the discussion by more involved members, which could be characterized as social behavior--the opposite of Rice and Love's (1987) and Kiesler et al's (1984) findings. Students were found to judge one another by their textual input, writing ability, and thoughtfulness of responses, rather than by their physical appearance or mannerisms. So while community did not arise organically, it was there for those wanted to be involved in it, despite the "leanness" of the medium.
I would suggest to creators of CMC systems that they first not write off older, "leaner" forms of CMC, as many users enjoy purely textual communication. For example, while Second Life provides a much "richer" form of virtual reality in terms of visual and auditory clues, many users still prefer the purely textual nature of "leaner" virtual realities like MOOs. Second, I would suggest that creators augment existing forms of CMC like chat with the ability to add user photos, as these often yield interesting clues about other online users, as well as make them easier to remember. Finally, adding video and audio channels to office conferencing systems - since many computers are now equipped with microphones and video cameras - might help eliminate some of the ambiguity that Daft and Lengel (1984) found so problematic in the office setting, as well as allow for the transmission of more information in a shorter amount of time, and thus the more rapid completion of more complicated tasks, albeit in a non-persistent form.
So while some scholars find that "leaner" media yield antisocial behavior and are inefficient for performing complex tasks, others find that CMC is appropriate and in many cases superior to "richer" media like face-to-face communication for forming relationships and communities, as it allows people to communicate asynchronously and to judge one another on the basis of their self-expression.
1) Brown, R. (2001). Process of community-building in distance learning classes. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2).
2 ) Daft, R. & Lengel, R. (1984). Information richness: A new approach to managerial behavior and organization design. Research in Organizational Behavior, vol. 6, 191-233.
3) Kiesler, S. et al. (1984). Social psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication. American Psychologist, 39, 1123-34.
4) McKenna, Katelyn Y. A, Amie S Green, Marci E. J Gleason (2002). Relationship Formation on the Internet: What's the Big Attraction? Journal of Social Issues 58 (1), 9–31.
5) Rheingold, H. (1993). Chapter One: The Heart of the WELL. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/4.html
6) Rice, R., & Love, G. (1987). Electronic emotion: Socioemotional content in a computer-mediated network. Communication Research, 14, 85-108.
4) CMC, for better or worse, in many instances affords users anonymity to varying degrees, due to its lack of audio and visual clues regarding user identity. In many contexts on the Internet, one is what he or she writes: one's identity lies in one’s textual performance. The characteristics of CMC which afford anonymity also allow users to play with identity, create multiple identities, deceive others, or to simply be themselves under stable pseudonyms.
Due to the inherent lack of audio and visual cues in CMC, users are by no means required to divulge who they really are, and can thus remain anonymous in their online interactions. Donath (1999, p. 53) identifies various levels of anonymity in online communication, ranging from complete anonymity to pseudonymity. One can maintain a single, stable pseudonym, which, while untraceable to a real-life identity, may enjoy a certain degree of fame online. One also can use a different pseudonym each time he or she ventures online. One can be semi-anonymous by using his or her real first name and giving no other identifying information.
Text-only CMC, while affording users near-total anonymity, often yields some clues as to users’ real-life identities. Donath identifies three "clues" regarding users' real-life identities which are present in Usenet posts: name (p. 35), language (p. 38), and signature (p. 40). User's account name (email address) often gives clues to his/her real-life identity, as certain domain names are considered more prestigious than others. Commercial account names are often viewed as "disposable," low-cost signals of identity, where as institutional domain names are more typically static and afford users more esteem in Usenet settings. The language one uses is also a fairly reliable signal of identity. Claiming to be someone else is easier than successfully convincing others through one's language (Herring and Martinson, 2004), particularly over time, for example, in a Usenet setting with a stable pseudonym. One's signature is the most deliberate cue to one's real-life identity on the Usenet, and while easy to fake, can also be used to anchor an online identity to a real-life person or to other parts of one's online persona via a link to a webpage.
Online anonymity can be used for positive purposes, such as recreation, safety, and freedom from sexual harassment. Herring and Martinson (2004) made use of the Turing Game in order to find out whether CMC users could successfully convince others of either their own gender or the opposite gender, and whether users could determine which users were which gender. Anonymity also allows one to experiment with his/her identity online (Nakamura, 2002), even to take on neuter genders or animal forms. Anonymity can be used for more practical purposes, such as protecting one's personal safety in an online world where one cannot be 100% certain with whom one is conversing (Bowker and Tuffin, 2003). Users can also be free from stigmatization on the basis of a handicap (Bowker and Tuffin, 2003), or free from the "tyranny of gender" (Danet, 1998). Users also find a certain degree of freedom in being judged on the bases of their ideas and ability to articulate them, rather than on real-life status cues (Danet, 1999, p. 53).
Anonymity also has its downside, mostly for those who deal with anonymous "others" in online settings, as CMC users can rarely be sure with whom they are dealing. Anonymous settings allow users to be deceptive for exploitative purposes. Anonymity eliminates accountability (Donath, 1999, p. 53), since online identities can rarely be traced back to real-life identities. Many users employ anonymity for safety reasons, since they cannot trust others' based on their online identities (Bowker and Tuffin, 2003). Users can emotionally take advantage of others by employing anonymity, as in the case of the Electronic Lover (Van Gelder, 1985) who deceived an entire online community for months on end by convincing them that he was a disabled woman recovering from a terrible injury, and eventually causing one user to fall in love with his online persona.
Avatar-mediated communication also allows users to be anonymous as well as to represent their real-life identities online. In some ways, users can remain quite anonymous, particularly if they choose to be animals or fantastical creatures in online settings (Nakamura, 2002) like virtual worlds or avatar-mediated chat, where one's signature and email address are rarely readily present. Users still communicate in avatar-mediated settings, however, and while anonymity may be easy to achieve and maintain, successfully pulling off an alternate identity, say, by pretending to be the opposite gender for extended periods of time, is difficult to achieve.
Anonymity is the norm in many online settings, to varying degrees and for many different purposes. One can often successfully enjoy a relative degree of anonymity via CMC, either for the purpose of safety, freedom from his/her real-life identity, or phatic purposes, the downside is that other users can also enjoy the same degree of anonymity, which makes trusting others in online settings more difficult than in real-life.
1) Bowker, N., & Tuffin, K. (2003). Dicing with deception: People with disabilities' strategies for managing safety and identity online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8(2). http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol8/issue2/bowker.html
2) Danet, B. (1998). Text as mask: Gender, play and performance on the Internet. In S. Jones (Ed.), Cybersociety 2.0.
3) Donath, J. (1999). Identity and deception in the virtual community. In M. Smith & P. Kollock (Eds.), Communities in Cyberspace.
4) Herring, S. C., & Martinson, A. (2004). Assessing gender authenticity in computer-mediated language use: Evidence from an identity game. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 23(4), 424-446.
5) Nakamura, L. (2002). Head-hunting on the Internet: Identity tourism, avatars, and racial passing in textual and graphic chat spaces. Chapter 2, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (pp. 31-60). NY: Routledge.
6) Van Gelder, L. (1985). The strange case of the electronic lover. Ms. Magazine, October.
5) CMC has been blamed for what is often interpreted as the degradation of written language, due to its often fragmented, abbreviated, incoherent style. Many of the characteristics which are often regarded as evidence of language in peril are in fact adaptations to the constraints of the medium or new ways of playing with language. Language is not being destroyed by CMC, but rather, adapted to it and used in new ways for practical and social purposes.
CMC is often informal, as in the cases of IRC chat, instant messaging, and quite often, email. A common perception is that is “less correct, complex, coherent” than more standard or formal written language (Herring, 2001, p. 5). In fact, few of the non-standard features of CMC are caused by error, but are rather adaptations to the constraints of the medium for various purposes. Baron (1998) regards email as a medium situated somewhere between speech and writing, and incorporating characteristics of both. Email is characterized by its often informal register, its capacity for one-to-one or one-to-many communication, and its asynchronicity. Email’s informality is characterized by a lack of editing, more casual lexicon, a tendency to use first names, even when addressing someone for the first time, and a tendency to become emotional in content. Crystal (2006) places CMC on a continuum between very formal written language and informal spoken language, and suggests that it can be adapted to purposes of both and anything in between. Herring (1999) notes the practices of linking (referring to the content in a prior message) and quoting (copying parts of a prior message) as strategies users employ in order to cope with the often disrupted turn adjacency and lack of immediate feedback in asynchronous CMC, as well as backchannels and addressivity, explained below.
IRC chat is characterized by Werry as resembling “conversations” (1996, p. 47). The style of discourse commonly used in IRC chat is, at first glance, quite corrupted and odd. Turns are taken seemingly out of order and topics are interwoven as multiple conversations take place at once. The messages are short and full of abbreviations and acronyms which may appear to be typos or errors, but rarely are, despite the rapid nature of the “conversations.” Rather than being deficient, IRC chatters are actually quite adept at communicating despite the restrictions of the medium. Abbreviations and acronyms are used to cope with the speed at which the discourse unfolds, since the chat scrolls up and off the page in time with the “conversation.” Addressivity is the practice of the placing of a username, or “nick,” before each message in IRC, without which it would be nearly impossible to determine whose message is whose, let alone with whom one is chatting. Disrupted turn adjacency is often mitigated via the use of the addressee‘s nick in order to direct comments at a particular user and maintain coherence in a fragmented “conversation,” as is “%,” meaning that the sender is not ready to give up the floor (Herring, 1999). Non-standard forms such as emoticons and typed actions, like *grin*, for example, are used in order to compensate for the lack of audio and visual cues inherent in the medium. Other nonstandard features such as CAPITALIZATION in imitation of shouting, s p a c e s, taken to mean “loud and clear,” and *stars* for emphasis, serve to compensate for the medium‘s lack of prosody (Crystal, 2006).
Thurlow (2006) notes the prevailing view of CMD as it commonly portrayed in the media to consist of corrupted, degraded versions of language, and seeks to reassure readers that a) the linguistic variations found in CMD are not a threat to “proper” forms of language, b) are greatly exaggerated by the media, and c) are not going to cause today’s children to grow up to be tomorrow’s illiterate adults. Quite the opposite holds true, in fact, since children learn to play with language and adapt it to various uses, often in more creative and practical ways than adults, if only for the purpose of having a “secret language” amongst themselves. If anything, today’s youth should grow up to be more literate than yesterday’s, since they are more used to communicating in writing than ever before, if only for the purpose of phatic exchanges.
While the often informal, fragmented, unedited nature of CMC may on the surface appear to consist of “corrupted” and “degraded” forms of language use, quite the opposite holds true. Users of CMC have learned to adapt language to suit the medium in very creative and practical ways, such as having conversations that are more like spoken language, for social, phatic, and more practical uses. Language is not in danger of being destroyed at the hands of CMC users, only applied in different ways to suit different purposes which may at first glance appear to be nonsense, but, on the contrary, simply consist of newer ways of using language in a newer medium.
1) Baron, N. S. (1998). Letters by phone or speech by other means: The linguistics of e-mail. Language and Communication, 18, 133-170
2) Crystal, D. (2006). Chapter 2: The medium of Netspeak. Language and the Internet, 2nd ed. (pp. 26-65). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
3) Herring, S. C. (1999). Interactional coherence in CMC. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 4 (4).
4) Herring, S. C. (2001). Computer-mediated discourse. In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen, & H. Hamilton (Eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (pp. 612-634). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Preprint: http://odur.let.rug.nl/~redeker/herring.pdf
5) Thurlow, C. (2006). From statistical panic to moral panic: The metadiscursive construction and popular exaggeration of new media language in the print media. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(3), article 1. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue3/thurlow.html
6) Werry, C. (1996). Linguistic and interactional features of Internet Relay Chat. In S. C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
6) Is community possible in online environments? The answer depends on whom one asks and how one defines “community.” Since the early 1990’s the Internet has been touted as a place where people could find communities of various sorts, a notion which has been often critiqued and has changed throughout the years to include commerce, education, and knowledge-sharing, but has yet to be distilled into a single, agreed-upon definition or characterization.
The evolution of the notion of online community can be traced back to Licklider and Taylor (1968), who saw community in some of the first groups of like-minded people who “ha[d] large multiaccess computers and have learned how to use them.” Howard Rheingold (1993) found community 25 years later in the WELL, where he found like-minded individuals centered around a common geographical are who developed friendships that often migrated offline. Rheingold’s definition of community was soon critiqued by Fernback and Thompson (1995), who argue against the possibility of virtual community. Brown (2001) then described the potential and the means for, and the beginnings of, community-building in online classes. Boyd (2002) described ebay as a “community of commerce.” Preece and Maloney-Krichmar (2003) created taxonomies of all the various types of community that were popping up all over the Net. Herring (2004) was critical of this phenomenon of nearly any group of people online being called a “community.” Finally, McClure, Wasko, and Faraj (2005) described an information-sharing network as a “community of practice,” as defined by “a tightly knit group of members engaged in a shared practice who know each other and work together, typically meet face-to-face, and continually negotiate, communicate, and coordinate with each other directly.”
Rheingold’s (1993) optimistic definition of community, defined as “social aggregations that emerge from the [Internet] when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace,” while much looser than Preece and Maloney-Krichmar’s (2003), is close in definition. They define community:
“Members have a shared goal, interest, need, or activity that provides the primary reason for belonging to the community. Members engage in repeated, active participation and there are often intense interactions, strong emotional ties and shared activities occurring between participants. Members have access to shared resources and there are policies for determining access to those resources. Reciprocity of information, support and services between members is important. There is a shared context of social conventions, language, and protocols.”
One might argue that this is a more purposeful definition of community, in that Preece and Maloney-Krichmar’s community centers around a goal/interest/need (other than communicating with others), and has support services and structures in line for regulation of access to resources. Herring (2004) is even more specific in her definition, which augments this last definition by requiring a core of regular participants in addition to active participation, as well as a that it be self-sustaining, and have solidarity and support in addition to shared ties and activities. She further requires that a community have means of conflict resolution in place, a self-awareness of the group as distinct from other groups, roles, hierarchy, governance, and rituals. By this definition, communities essentially comprise small societies. Fernback and Thompson (1995) argue against the possibility of online community altogether because they believe that “a hegemonic culture will maintain its dominance” even in light of the freedom of communication that CMC affords which Rheingold saw as so full of potential for community.
Other scholars also see online communities as centering around a specific goal/interest/need, but still have a broader conception of community than Preece and Maloney-Krichmar or Herring. Brown (2001) saw the possibility for, the means toward, and the beginnings of community in online education by way of a three-tiered process: (1) making friends and acquaintances in class and engaging in supportive interaction, (2) community conferment through students’ earning of each other’s trust and respect, leading to full engagement , and (3) leading to camaraderie, and long-term and/or personal interaction. McClure, Wasko and Faraj (2005) proposed the notion of “community of practice” as applied to a knowledge-sharing network in a law firm. Their findings concluded those who contributed knowledge the most did so because of their centrality within the network and the belief that contributing knowledge would enhance their reputations within the network. Boyd (2002) called ebay a “community of commerce” “defined and constituted . . . by rhetorical discourse” and centering around trust. This “rhetorical discourse” consisting of seven dimensions: one’s individual user I.D., a common symbol system, reciprocal influence, a shared narrative, an emotional connection to ebay based in a personal investment of time and interaction, the notion of “uncommunity,” or shared narratives about outsiders, the self-interested motive of status which positively affects the community, stickiness, and an inverse relationship between rules and trust. None of these three “practical” communities meet the criteria of Preece and Maloney-Krichmar’s (looser) definition of community because they lack “active, sustained participation” on the part of all members, although they all have enough participation “community”-wide to sustain themselves. They also lack “strong emotional ties,” except for maybe ebay on the part of a small core of members.
The question of online community is a tricky one because, although the notion of “community” is hard to define, enough definitions exist in scholarly literature to support an argument in favor of all different sorts of communities. Few communities meet all of Herring’s criteria, as measures of conflict resolution and governance may only arise after some sort of event that necessitates them, and it takes a long time for a group to develop hierarchy and rituals. So is community possible to achieve in online environments? Yes, unless one asks Fernback and Thompson (1995), but the question of whether a particular group comprises an online community remains fairly subjective.
1) Boyd, J. (2002). In community we trust: Online security communication at eBay. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 7(3). http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol7/issue3/boyd.html
2) Brown, R. (2001). Process of community-building in distance learning classes. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2).
3 ) Fernback, J., & Thompson, B. (1995). Virtual communities: Abort, retry, failure? http://www.well.com/user /hlr/texts/VCcivil.html
4) Herring, S.C. (2004). Slouching toward the ordinary: Current trends in computer-mediated communication. New Media & Society, 6 (1), 26-36. http://faculty.washington.edu/thurlow/com482/herring(2004).pdf
5) Licklider J. C. R. & Taylor, R. W. (1968). The computer as a communication device. International Science and Technology, April. http://memex.org/licklider.pdf
6) McLure Wasko, M., & Faraj, S. (2005, March). Why should I share? Examining social capital and knowledge contribution in electronic networks of practice. MISQ, 29, 35-57.
7) Preece, J., & Maloney-Krichmar, D. (2003). Online communities. In J. Jacko & A. Sears (Eds.), Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 596-620). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Preprint: http://www.ifsm.umbc.edu/~preece/paper/7%20Handbook%20v1.7Final.pdf
8) Rheingold, H. (1993). Chapter 1: Introduction & Chapter 2: The Heart of the Well. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/
7) “Social network” is as of late a popular term on the Internet, but it is also an important concept in sociology and had been for decades. Recent scholars have applied social network analysis to online settings in very different ways and for different purposes. A comparison of three instances of social network analysis, each with very different methods, purposes, and outcomes in terms of graph layout.
A “social network” is a social structure which is comprised of nodes (generally representing individuals or organizations) which are tied by one or more types of relation, such as values, financial exchange, or friendship. “Social network analysis” (SNA) refers to the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows (ties) between people, groups, organizations, animals, computers, or other information/knowledge processing entities (nodes). It provides both a visual and a mathematical analysis of human relationships (orgnet.com). It attempts to answer the questions “who connects to whom?,” “how often?,” “is it reciprocal?,” and sometimes “by what means?” SNA’s underlying assumption is that links between people are not random, but rather, are intentional and have meaning. SNA maps social networks, the ties between nodes. Social networking sites (SNSs) provide lists of, and links to, one’s online “friends.” On SNSs, nodes are profiles and ties are the links to friends’ pages.
I will compare three instances of SNA, one which maps social networks in real life using various media, one on user homepages, and one on IRC chat. The first study is Haythornthwaite’s (2001) SNA of a distance education class. Haythornthwaite mapped the work and social interactions of a small class (13 students included) and their use of various media over a 15-week term, in order to determine how they “build the social network infrastructure that underpins group interaction” and how this changes with time. The second study is Adar and Adamic’s (2003) SNA of homepages of MIT and Stanford students in order to predict relationships between users, where a friend is defined as someone who links to or is linked to someone else on a user homepage. The third, most complicated, and most ambitious study is Paolillo’s (2001) SNA of the IRC chat channel #india in order to determine the relationship between tie strength and linguistic variation.
Haythornthwaite’s study takes place across various media, and across several dimensions: who communicated with whom, about what, via which media, at what point in the term, and how media came to occupy users’ own communication niches. Data were collected via telephone, monthly, as self-reports regarding how often users had collaborated on class work (Collaborative Work), received or given advice about class work (Exchanging Advice), socialized (Socializing), or exchanged emotional support (Emotional support) with each member, and over which medium (Webboard, IRC, email, telephone, face-to-face, other). Each instance of communication was given a numerical score related to the frequency of exchanges. In this case of SNA, as in face-to-face communication, the subjects are nodes and the ties are relations, as maintained through communication. The total frequency of interactions per relation per each time period was taken as the sum of the frequencies of interaction via each medium, and totals over the term were taken as the sum of the frequencies of interaction at each time period. The greater the number of instances of communication, the stronger the ties.
The Adar and Adamic study took place in an online setting, where nodes are webpages and ties/friends are defined as links to other users, in order to predict relationships between users. They crawled webpages for text co-occurences (organization names and noun phrases) between users who link to each other, out-links to other pages, in-links from other webpages, and mailing lists. This study took place over far fewer dimension than the Haythornthwaite study, as it was only intended to predict user relationships, rather than user relationships over time and across various media.
The Paolillo study, while it had far dimensions than the Haythornthwaite study (5, vs. Haythornthwaite‘s 5 media and 5 types of communication over 3 time intervals), and far fewer subjects than the Adamic and Adar study (94 vs. Adamic and Adar‘s 10,000+), was still far more ambitious, due to the fact that subjects were coded for gender (male, female, undetermined) and status (operator, regular user, undetermined) and then broken into groups, based upon shared variation along the five linguistic variables coded for as compared to a random sample (instances of “u” versus “you,” “r” versus “are,” “z” versus “s,” Hindi codeswitching, and obscenity), and then tie strength was determined among each of the 16 participant groups. In this study, as in most types of CMC, nodes are people, ties are messages, and tie strength is determined by the number of instances of transmissions between each of the 16 groups.
The various studied yielded very different graph layout of tie strength and clusters, largely because the number of subject in each study varied so widely. The Haythornthwaite study yielded a graph with no real core, periphery, or clustering, even when all the media factors were included in the same graph. The Adamic and Adar study yielded a very clear graph in terms of clustering, in which the MIT students showed much more clustering (and thus more mutual linking between subjects) in the MIT sample than in the Stanford sample, and the Paolillo study also yielded a very clear picture, but in terms of tie strength much more than clustering, which suggests that a) fewer subjects were in involved than in either sample in the Adamic and Adar study, and b) communication is not very evenly balanced among his subjects, and more likely to be one-way rather than two-way.
Is social network analysis easier to conduct on social networking sites than webpages, IRC chat, or an online class? That would depend on the site. On LiveJournal and MySpace, one can have one-way (non-mutual) “friends,” which might make the data collection process equally labor intensive to the Adamic and Adar study. On other SNSs, like Catster, Dogster, and Facebook, “friends” are either mutual or not “friends” at all, which would make data collection very easy, since one‘s “friends” are all listed and linked-to and a researcher could simply visit a profile (node) and gather all one’s data from his/her “friends” page (or list of ties).
Social network analysis is a very labor intensive type of study to conduct in most CMC environments, as evidenced by the ease of data collection (but by no means the analysis) in the Haythornthwaite study, versus both the Paolillo and the Adamic and Adar studies, but it can yield very clear, very surprising, and very interesting results.
1) Adamic, L.A., Adar, E. (2003). Friends and neighbors on the web. http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~rizos/web10.pdf
2) Haythornthwaite, C. (2001). Exploring multiplexity: Social network structures in a computer-supported distance learning class. The Information Society, 17, 211-216.
3) Paolillo, J. (2001). Language variation on Internet Relay Chat: A social network approach. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 5(2), 180-213.
8) The e-learning environment, due to its essential placeless nature and situation online, is best served by making good use of newer computer technologies that facilitate learning. Wikis, MMORPGs, and iTV are new, interactive technologies which have yielded positive results in their early implementation in the online “classroom.”
Raitman, Augar, and Zhou (2005) are very optimistic about the use of wikis in a collaborative e-learning environment. Wikis are easy to use, accessible where there happens to be Internet access, require no software, and free. They are also versatile, since they can be used as a composition system, a discussion medium, a repository, a mail system, and of course, a tool for collaboration. They provide “an efficient, flexible, user-friendly and cost-effective interface for collaboration, knowledge creation and archiving, and student interaction.” In terms of classroom usage of wikis, the students had few complaints about actual use of the wikis, other than the fact that it was not possible for students to edit simultaneously and essentially that it was a very lean medium and did not make use of many HTML capabilities. Some students felt that the wikis did not lead to discussions or to building of virtual community. Many also feared that their wikis would be vandalized or deleted, but this never happened with any of the 550 students in the study. Students saw fewer pros as well as fewer cons, when compared with the DSO system. The authors propose several enhancements, as suggested by the students, to improve the wikis in the e-learning environments such allowing user to save files as PDFs or other file types, the incorporation of icons, making it impossible for users to delete their classmates’ work, and allowing real time chat. Overall, the use of wikis in the e-learning environment went fairly well considering that most users were unfamiliar with them initially.
Childress and Braswell (2006) made use of the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game Second Life, a particularly interactive new form of CMC, in order to facilitate cooperative learning in an online environment. This online environment is unique in that it is created entirely by users, who are free to build cities, change avatars, launch businesses earn Linden dollars, SL’s form of “microcurrency,” collaborate with other users, and interact with objects in the ‘world’ of SL. Settings and experiences in SL are anchored in real-life settings and experiences, only potentially better in terms of potential for positive change, growth, and evolution. The authors claim that SL is also a great learning tool from the instructor standpoint, since, “MMORPG virtual environments provide instructors with an opportunity to design highly social cooperative learning activities that can be constructed with relative ease and efficiency.” SL has a special learning program, Campus: Second Life for instructors in higher education where they and their students can make use of “simulation creativity tools in a large, heavily populated digital world.” SL is what people make it, so provided that users are inclined to build it, it should continue to expand and improve as the mode become more sophisticated and more populated, which yields interesting opportunities for researchers. The authors claim that MMORPGs will lead to increased realism and interactivity, “blurring the line between the face-to-face learning environment and the online virtual learning environment.” Many of these claims seem too good to be true, particularly due to the limitations of bandwidth and the affordances of many users’ computers, which may be slower than those of other users (if their graphics card supports SL at all!), resulting in time lag and disallowing seemingly real face-to-face interaction. Also, the dense population could be problematic in a learning environment, although it seemed quite sparsely populated to me. Still, the extremely rich medium and intense interactivity simply cannot as of yet on in any other virtual learning environment .
Lytras, Lougos, Chozos, and Pouloudi (2002) see the potential of interactive television to be another rich and interactive environment for online learning, in this case, “t-learning,” which the authors hail as the convergence of both iTV and e-learning, and digital television and interactivity. They state that t-learning is a social, rather than a technological phenomenon, although it is a newer forms of broadcasting, digital television, which facilitates it. They espouse iTV main characteristics as personalization (“the use of technology and viewer information, in order to tailor interactive content to each user profile”), digitization (the technological advancements that allow better audio and visual cues), and interactivity (moving control out of the hands of the networks and into those of the consumer). I have problems with this, since computers never place control in the hands of the networks in the first place. From a purely the technological standpoint, iTV seems to suffer from an odd paradox whereby the main drawback to its use is the fact that many users do not have digital television, which is often more costly than very fast Internet service, and yet the only drawback to achieving everything that can be achieved on iTV on a computer is speed of users’ Internet connections. Furthermore, from strictly a cost standpoint, students, if forced to choose between digital television and a fast Internet connection, or a high-tech television and fast computer, are almost obligated to spend their money on a computer and a fast Internet connection, particularly if they are distance learners. I do not see much potential for iTV, since it would require many users to acquire new technology to do things they can already do on their computers.
Wikis, MMORPGs, and iTV are all new, interactive technologies that can facilitate e-learning in completely different modes. Wikis are well-suited collaborative construction of textual projects. Second Life is well-suited to collaborative construction of potentially anything (virtually speaking) that is non-textual in nature. iTV could be well-suited to interactive learning, provided that users have access to the technology it requires, although I see more drawbacks than benefits to t-learning. I believe that both wikis and especially Second Life have only begun to unfold all their potential uses in the virtual classroom.
Childress, M. D., & Braswell, R. (2006). Using massively multiplayer online role-playing games for online learning. Distance Education, 27(2), 187-196.
Lytras, M, Lougos C, Chozos, P, & Pouloudi, A. (2002). Interactive television and e-learning convergence: Examining the potential of t-learning. Proceedings of the European Conference on E-Learning. Academic Conferences International: Reading. http://220.127.116.11/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=cache:Nig8aar8p-IJ:www.eltru n.aueb.gr/papers/tlearning.pdf+Lytras+M,+Lougos+C,+Chozos+P,+Pouloud i+
Raitman, R., Augar, N., & Zhou, W. (2005). Employing wikis for online collaboration in the e-learning environment: Case study. Third International Conference on Information Technology and Applications, vol. 2 (pp. 142-148). http://csdl2.computer.org/persagen/DLAbsToc.jsp?resourcePath=/dl/pro ceedings/&toc=comp/proceedings/icita/2005/2316/02/23162toc.xml&DOI=1 0.1109/ICITA.2005.127
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