Thursday, December 13, 2001

Journal 1: CMC Pop Press Article

For this assignment, I am writing about Wired News's article about Yahoo's new multimedia instant message system.

Article can be found at:,1412,47782,00.html

This article described Yahoo's new IM system that allows users to customize their instant message window with cartoons and backgrounds, listen to streaming music, play games, and watch movie clips. Thus, people can use their instant messaging system as an all inclusive computer-based entertainment center. This decision was based on research that suggests that people tend to prefer email for business, and they IM primarily for entertainment.

This system reminds me strongly of Bill Gates's conception of an overarching computer system that facilitates all your activities, rather than having seperate applications for each one. It's certainly a seductive idea, being able to deal with one computer system and then having that system take care of all of the details of daily life. And if the future is anything like the way writers of science fiction imagine it, that's probably the way we're headed (i.e. the computer on "Star Trek"). However, it seems like the downside of such "package deals" is that it doesn't allow you to choose what you want for each application--much like using a GUI interface, you sacrifice transparency and control for user-friendliness. This makes me wonder if, as our society becomes increasingly technologically savvy, people will choose control over ease of use after all. Probably the best way to get a sense of this is to monitor the success of such all encompassing technologies as Yahoo's new program.

Friday, December 07, 2001

Journal 4: Article Database

Computers and Gender

Gender and computer usage:

Bennett, Caroline. (1998) "Men Online: Discussing Lived Experiences on the Internet". Available:

Ferris, Sharmila. (1996) "Women On-line: Cultural and Relational Aspects of Women's Communication in On-line Discussion Groups", Interpersonal Computing and Technology,
October 1996 V4, N3-4, pp. 29-40. Available:

Haraway, Donna. (1991) "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature
(New York; Routledge), pp.149-181. Available:

Hatt, Daniel. (1998) "Male/Female Language use in Computer Dyadic Interactions". Available:

Herring, Susan. (2000) "Gender Differences in CMC: Findings and Implications", Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Newsletter 18(1).

King, Lisa. (2000) "Gender Issues in Online Communities", Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Newsletter 18(1).

Lewis, Peter. (1995) "The Internet and Gender" The New York Times. Appeared Monday 29 May 1995. Available:

Lingenfelter, D. and Kelley, M. (no date) "Gender Language Style and Group Composition in Internet Discussion Groups". Available:

Mazur, Tomasz. (1996) "Virtual Classroom and Virtual Identity: Sex and Gender in the Virtual Space". Available:

Pastore, Michael. (2001) "Internet Remains a Man's Domain". Available:,,5901_809341,00.html

Perry, L. and Perry, T. (1998) "Gender Differences In Internet Use: Do They Exist?" Available:

Spender, Dale. (2000). "The Digital Life Style for Women", Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Newsletter 18(1).

Stewart, C.; Shields, S.; Monolescu, D.; Taylor, J. (1999) "Gender and Participation in Synchronous CMC: an IRC Case Study", Interpersonal Computing and Technology:
An Electronic Journal for the 21st Century
7(1). Available:

Sexuality and gender online:

Bell, Vicki and La Rue, Denise. (no date) Gender Harrassment and the Internet. Available:

Fraiberg, Allison. (no date) "Electronic Fans, Interpretive Flames: Performative Sexualities and the Internet" Available:;3

Hammon, Robin. (1996) "Cyborgasms: Cybersex Amongst Multiple-Selves and Cyborgs in the Narrow-Bandwidth Space of America Online Chat Rooms".

Harmon, Deana. (1997) "A Content Analysis of Internet-Accessible Written Pornographic Depictions", Electronic Journal of Sociology 3(1).

Kibby, M. (1997) "Babes on the Web: Sex, Identity and the Homepage". Media International Australia Special Issue: Sex Acts N84 May 1997: 39-45

Spertus, Ellen. (1996) "Social and Technical Means for Fighting On-Line Harassment". Available:

Gender bending:

Bruckman, Amy. (1993) "Gender Swapping on the Internet". Available:

Campbell, K. (1994) "Attack of the Cyber-Weenies". Available:

La Pin, J. and Bharadwaj, L. (1998) "'Pick a Gender and Get Back to Us':How Cyberspace Affects Who We Are". Available:

Maranda, Michael. (1994) "Faking it in Cyberspace: Boys will be Girls will be Boys." Available:

Jaffe, J.; Lee, Y.; Huang, L.; and Oshagan, H. (1995) "Gender, Pseudonyms, and CMC: Masking Identities and Baring Souls". Available:

Rodino, Michelle (1997) "Breaking out of Binaries: Reconceptualizing Gender and its Relationship to Language in Computer-Mediated Communication," Journal of Computer Mediated Communication

Friday, November 16, 2001

Journal 3: CMC Journal Article

For this assignment, I will respond to Lincoln Dahlberg's 2001 article, "Computer mediated communication and the public sphere: A critical analysis". I enjoyed this article, as I felt that the author rightly resisted the temptation to make of CMC something it isn't, either mankind's salvation or the downfall of civilization as we know it. He identified things accomplished very effectively by virtual communication, outlined the major problems, and pointed out the many areas where it's consequences have been mixed.

In this article, Dahlberg evaluates the utopian predictions surrounding the potential of the internet over the last decade, particularly the notion of internet-as-global-forum. To accomplish this, he analyzes computer mediated communication according to Jurgen Habermas's theory of rational communication and six qualities of a public forum. These are:
i. Autonomy from state and economic power.
ii. Exchange and critique of criticizable moral-practical validity claims.
iii. Reflexivity.
iv. Ideal role-taking.
v. Sincerity.
vi. Discursive inclusion and equality.
Not surprisingly, since Habermas's public forum is itself a utopian vision, when judging the real-world practice of computer mediated communication against it, Dahlberg's findings were mixed. Much of internet communication is under corporate control, so the first condition does not apply perfectly. However, there are also many free methods of CMC, so the entire discipline can hardly be said to be under authoritarian control. The discursive rhythm of most CMC encourages reflexive dialogue much more than exchanging papers does, but reflexivity is discouraged by the inherent pressures of the medium to give "snap" responses rather than taking time to give a more thoughtful one. On the whole, Dahlberg's paper suggests that the best quality of CMC is that the fact that it does, however imperfectly, allow dialogue between people that would never encounter each other otherwise. The least favorable characteristics are the tendencies of people freed from RL constraints to either be very rude to others or very misleading.

These last two problems reminded me strongly of Sherry Turkle's discussion of identity while "being digital". On page 179 of her book, Life on the Screen, she quotes a woman who is worried that an online friend won't like her when they meet offline because, "I didn't exactly lie to him about anything specific, but I feel very different online. I am a lot more outgoing, less inhibited...I feel more like who I wish I was." When you never actually have to see the person with whom you conversing, it is much easier to say exactly what you are thinking--and while this may be an attractive change in a very shy person, there are many thoughts that are better not expressed. However, unlike in real life, there is little incentive to practice self-control in this matter because any consequences for being rude or hurtful would be specific to a particular listserv/chatroom/discussion board, and so relatively easy to avoid. The same principle applies to people who radically misrepresent their identities. There is very little opportunity for virtual communication partners to obtain information about you that you do not choose to present, and if you are "found out", the consequences are specific to that forum. You can even, if you like, take on a new user name and come back to the same forum for a "fresh start". All of this, however, begs the question: Why does it matter? If you are in a virtual group discussing, say, the merits of a flat tax rate, why does it matter if participant X is really a twenty year old male from Texas, rather than a forty year old housewife from South Dakota? Or if participant Y is more outspoken than she is offline? Well, aside from the fact that it is easier to converse on any topic if everyone is polite and consistent, trust seems to be an essential element in the formation of community, online as well as off. In order for people to speak candidly, they need to feel that they are being dealt with honestly by those to whom they are speaking.


Dahlberg, Lincoln (2001). Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 7(1). "Computer mediated communication and the public sphere: A critical analysis". Available: 11/16/01

Turkle, Sherry (1995). Life on the Screen. Simon & Schuster, New York.

Friday, October 12, 2001

Journal 2: Online Communication Experience

Most of my online communication, like many people's, has been with email. Unlike many of my friends, I never used it before college. Now, it is the most typical way for me to keep in touch with people. I doubt I could even do my job without email--I work in event planning, which often reguires me to be in touch with people who aren't available at the time when I'm at work, either because they're students in classes or because they work in a different part of the country. Email allows me to get in touch with people in the most efficient way. It is not my preferred way, however, to stay in touch with friends and family. I use it when I need to, because I haven't been able to catch someone on the phone. But usually I prefer to be able to hear my friends' voices--it feels more personal to me. I also sometimes use AIM, but that's less common--I signed up for the program when I was out of state for a summer--it allowed me to talk to my boyfriend and other friends for several hours a night withot racking up huge phone bills. when I'm near my friends, however, I might use AIM once a month---there's no real incentive to do so, since my family doesn't use it. I'm not a big user of chat rooms, though if I read a really interesting discussion, sometimes I'll get drawn in. Typically though, I use online/virtual communication primarily for work and school, and prefer face-to-face or telephonic conversations--or even letters--to talk to my friends and family.