CyberSociety 2. When CyberSociety was completed late in the WorldWideWeb was something I clearly recall talking about with colleagues online. As I had expected at that time, though, innovations in CMC, and communication via computers generally, exponentially increased to the point where electronic mail is as common in most countries as a phone call, or, as Adrianne Laird, then one of my undergraduate students, put it, even virtual reality was "just around the corner from commonplace. And, also like its predecessor, CyberSociety 2. Such assistance can be found in a variety of sources available at most bookstores and libraries, and even more readily available online. Some parts of those foundations are still present and visible in this book, and have been re-engineered, while many parts of this book represent entirely new construction.
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Was it you drawing near? Or me Pulling close? Electronically distributed, almost instantaneous, communication has for many people supplanted the postal service, telephone, fax machine—in some cases it has supplanted face-to-face communication as well.
There are now more than 30 million Internet host computers. Businesses continue to spring forth every day offering Internet access, consulting, design, countless services. Nearly every sector of business has been touched by the Internet.
And most any industry involved with delivering anything remotely electronic and in many cases nonelectronic—on-line grocery delivery services come to mind to the home, be it cable television, telephone, even electricity itself, has ventured into providing network services.
To borrow from Lynn Canfield: Are we pulling close to these technologies, warming to them, or are they drawing nearer and nearer, inexorably encroaching on daily life? In truth, such dualisms are never actual, and in the late s likely bespeak of millenialism.
Accompanying these technological manifestations is an ongoing resurgence in prophecy related to computers and computing. Some portion of that prophecy relates to virtual reality VR technology, which promises all flavors of reality on demand but has yet to deliver it. Some of it is associated with the combination of audio and video in the computer that is to lead us to the long-promised connection between the radio, television, computer, and to the combination of the Web and television, a match, one might say, made by those who make and sell couches.
Evidence of the expectations for social change can be found in the sublimity with which electronic mail and Internetworking are said to be of importance [Page xiii]to democracy. Electronic mail will bring the Presidency and this Administration closer and make it more accessible to the people.
More important, these hopes lurk between the lines of that discourse, in the assumptions CMC users make about the connections they have to other users. To examine those assumptions is to understand fundamentally human needs for contact, control, knowledge, the social and sociological elements of communication, and community. Whereas it is true that the Internet overcomes distance, in some ways it also overcomes proximity We may eschew some forms of proximal communication chatting in the hallway at work, for instance for ones that distance us as we concentrate on the computer screen and not our environs , even as these technologies make distance seem meaningless.
Each essay in this volume provides another glimpse of how the promises of technology and the reality of its use mesh, collapse, and reorganize, and of the forms of cybersociety that are conjoined with that promise. Excellent written introductions to electronic mail, the Internet, the World Wide Web, and a host of other computer networks, as well as software, are readily available, and I will not cover the ground they do. Each can readily assist with connection to the variety of computer links, experiences and activities described in CyberSociety 2.
Unlike many other analyses and studies of contemporary society, one may enter the communities and discourse described in these chapters with relative ease. The issues with which sociologists and anthropologists, among others, traditionally have engaged when conducting their research are part of that discourse, for it becomes necessary to cover ground concerning participant observation, privacy, and biography.
The best way to come in contact with those issues is to experience CMC. As background to the following chapters, though, some introduction to the history of computer-mediated communication is useful. The connections in place for the most widely discussed computer network, the Internet, were formed in the s and early s when the U. Of course, one may draw deeper connections to older technologies, as do Carey , King, Grinter, and Pickering , and Marvin , for example.
The former role took a back seat to the use of Arpanet as a means for researchers to share information by way of electronic messaging.
Initially such messaging was in the form we are accustomed to from using the post office; individual messages are sent from one person to another. Nevertheless, it quickly became clear that messages often contained information to be shared by many users, and thus mailing lists were created. Bulletin boards, though, generally referred to computers one could reach by dialing through standard phone lines with a computer modem and linking with another computer. Lengthy threads are created by individual messages that generate dozens, even hundreds, of replies.
The largest manifestation of newsgroups is known as Usenet, a massive repository [Page xv]of thousands of newsgroups accessible from most any computer with a connection to the Internet. The Internet essentially serves as the main connecting point for many other networks. It is a decentralized network, and its overall management now occurs via several not-for-profit governing organizations, though day-to-day management maintenance of network services, allocation of domain names and access, etc.
More important, no one group manages it. There are many purposes the Internet can serve, but the ones with which its users most frequently engage are text-based, even in the case of the World Wide Web. It could be argued, in fact, that the Internet is the latest expression of print-capitalism. Much as newspapers and pamphlets spread word of the New World to Europe, the Internet spreads word of electronic environments. Technologies continue to converge. Still, textuality and narrative provide an important focus of study for anyone seeking to comprehend the varieties of CMC, and it is important to ask questions about power in relation to them.
Some say software will enable all users to contribute to, or create, an unlimited amount of narratives and texts. The notion of self and its relation to community is one that must be taken up critically, and the contributors to CyberSociety 2. Given, for instance, the mutability of identity on-line, where it is possible to post messages anonymously and pseudonymously, how are we to negotiate social relations that, at least in the realm of face-to-face communication, were fixed by recognition of identity?
One answer to that question comes in the form of the previously mentioned constraints on CMC users. Still other means of fixing identity and conduct continue to develop, and along with them so does the exercise of power in the social relations being formed via CMC. Such matters speak directly to the creation of community via CMC, as one area of development, that of standards of conduct, is in a sense the development of a moral code, a system of values, akin to the ones that arise and are revised in most social formations.
Consequently, the question that needs to be asked is: In these fleeting worlds, how does an individual, much less a community, maintain existence?
That question points to one of the most compelling issues concerning CMC: Who are we when we are on-line? Perhaps the issue is not, in fact, identity but anonymity, a state difficult, in most ways, to achieve off-line. In a MUD, many users can interact using a text-based communication system and collaboratively created spaces. We have, in a sense, created virtual worlds since the invention of writing. But rarely have those worlds been created and shared simultaneously among people at such great physical distance from each other.
The spontaneity with which discourse and dialogue can occur affects the text itself, and MUDs are an arena within which users communicate in real time and with little time to construct carefully written texts.
CyberSociety 2. The contributors probe issues of community, communication, identity, knowledge, information, and power. One reason such work is needed is to understand the framing of reality that CMC brings about. The frames we once used, conceptually, to set the real apart from the unreal are not as useful as they once were; they are not as sturdy; they betray us.
As they become ever more fragile, we require new concepts and understandings. It also emphasizes that new social formations may require new forms of inquiry, too. How will sociologists, ethnographers, communication scholars, and anthropologists, for instance, grapple with issues related to studying electronic communities?
The essays in CyberSociety 2. They are descriptive, sometimes empirical, sometimes theoretical but not prescriptive. References Carey, J. Communication as culture. Winchester, MA: Unwin-Hyman. Carey, J. Everything that rises must diverge: Notes on communications, technology, and the symbolic construction of the social. Gaunt Ed.
Westport, CT: Greenwood. Chayko, M. What is real in the age of virtual reality? Symbolic Interaction, 16 2 , — The rise and fall of Netville: The saga of a cyberspace construction boomtown In the great divide. Kiesler Ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Marvin, C. When old technologies were new.
Stephenson, N. In the kingdom of Mao Bell. Wired, 2 2 , He also edits an Internet mailing list, the Red Rock Eater News Service, which distributes useful information on the social and political aspects of networking and computing to 4, people in 60 countries. Nancy K. Her research into the creation of the on-line social world of r. She is extending her research into the creation of social worlds in other on-line fan groups. She earned her Ph.
She is coauthor with [Page ]Stewart M. She has published several book chapters and articles in several journals including Critical Studies in Mass Communication. She serves as a tutor to junior high students in her free time. Steven G. Jones sjones uic. He is editor of New Media Cultures, a series of books on culture and technology. In addition to his scholarly work, he has been providing Internet consulting services to many corporations and not-for-profit organizations.
He also has been a featured speaker at numerous scholarly, government, and industry-sponsored seminars and conferences. Beth Kolko bek uta. Her recent work includes articles on virtual communities, electronic discourse, gender and virtuality, and teaching with technology. Cheris Kramarae cheris uiuc.
Elizabeth Reid elizrs mediaone. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a consultant on psychological and sociological factors in on-line system design. Her recent work includes articles on community formation in text-based environments and design issues in graphical virtual worlds.
Cybersociety 2.0: Revisiting Computer-Mediated Communication and Community
Was it you drawing near? Or me Pulling close? Electronically distributed, almost instantaneous, communication has for many people supplanted the postal service, telephone, fax machine—in some cases it has supplanted face-to-face communication as well. There are now more than 30 million Internet host computers. Businesses continue to spring forth every day offering Internet access, consulting, design, countless services. Nearly every sector of business has been touched by the Internet.
CyberSociety 2.0 : revisiting computer-mediated communication and community