Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Second Essay

The advancements made in communication technology have directly impacted social relationships and networks. With the introduction of the internet, the assumption was that the problems that faced personal interaction would be dissolved. The idea was that communication would be free from discrimination based on social status, race and gender. According to Peter Kollock and Marc Smith, “But as with earlier technologies that promised freedom and power, the central problems of social relationships remain, although in new and possibly more challenging forms.” Through my observations of the Usenet, I have found that these claims are true and that people have found ways to establish stronger social hierarchies, more discriminating and vicious than the ones established through personal interaction.

Developed in 1981, Usenet is one of the largest communication systems in existence. Usenet is comprised of several thousand discussion groups that about two million people all over the world participate in (Kollock & Smith, pg. 111). Kollock & Smith describe Usenet as a conferencing system that is often described as a Bulletin Board System. The Usenet group that I have chosen to study and observe is called Political Forum. This group is for discussion of American & international politics, political issues, politicians, presidential & other elections, news, humor, current events, opinions, and debates. This particular group shows a high activity rate with seventy five recent authors and 3,369 members. This group like most other groups had a set of rules that governs the discussion. Some of the rules in this group are as follows: members must be over 18, prohibits insulting behavior, and no spam, solicitations, pornography or posts.

The all time top people that post in this forum are Gaar and Hollywood (user names). After observing them I looked at there personal information and was able to obtain their gender and occupation. Gaar has no name, is a male, and has a technology background for an occupation. Hollywood’s real name is Jimmy, obviously a male and is a retired business man.

While studying this channel of communication I observed many different ways people communicated. The people in this forum mostly discussed recent news and politics. One of the topics that came up was oil production and alternative energy sources. Hollywood and Gaar expressed their individual opinions and refuted what the other person had to say. They went about it in a very antagonistic way. Gaar said that Hollywood had poor reading comprehension and a little brain. Hollywood insulted Gaar by belittling him by calling him a boy and an idiot. This sort of behavior is the opposite of the idea of cooperation that the Usenet was originally thought to foster. Here it is evident that the bloggers are discriminating on the basis of intellect and opinions. The discussion in this session was cluttered. This is due to the fact that Gaar and Hollywood filled it up with insults and the putting down of others who expressed their individual views. This shows that there was no equality in the forum and that Gaar and Hollywood were able to monopolize on the discussion by submitting lengthy responses that attacked other users for their views and attacking each other for supremacy of the forum. This supports the claim that new and more complex social hierarchies are formed from new communication technology. Most importantly, the purpose of the forum was defeated. Instead of people communicating on an equal playing field, two users made the rest feel inferior and discouraged them from articulating their ideas.

Another discussion involving the republicans came up while I was observing this channel. A person named Frank made a negative comment towards Republicans and was immediately attacked by Gaar. Gaar called him a rambling idiot and told him to get back in his cell. Soon after Gaar’s post was put up Hollywood responded with a post of his own. Hollywood asks Gaar what was the point of his post then goes on and compares the republicans to a simple minded six year old.

The idea of cooperation is that “the larger the group, the less it will further its common interests” (Olson 1965:36). This idea basically means that the larger the group the more likely a person will not contribute if no one listens to their ideas. This idea is a prime example of what happened in the Usenet group I chose to study. Someone would post there idea or stance on an issue and they were immediately attacked by Gaar or Hollywood. The discussions I observed were filled with Gaar and Hollywood’s ideas and views. There was little input by everyone else in the group.

The main difference that I observed between the Usenet and personal interaction was that there was much more vulgarity and personal attacks incorporated into the responses on Usenet. This is most likely attributed to the power of anonymity. Because the users are not face to face, they feel empowered and have no restrictions with the things they say and the manner in which they communicate their ideas. For the most part, people having a face to face discussion about politics would not use vulgarity towards each other to win the argument. However, on the Usenet it seems as though there are no societal restrictions and that people will stoop to any level to dominate the discussion.

Through my observation of the Usenet, it was clear that the original purpose of the new communication technology had not been fulfilled. The idea that online communication would break down social hierarchies was proved to be false. Instead, this new form of communication developed stronger social hierarchies and fostered a type of communication lacking societal restriction.


Kollock, Peter & Smith, Marc. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Whitaker Chapter 3

The article for class New Media and Web Production was quite interesting. This chapter was about new media and web production. According to Jason Whitaker, new media is a term applied to the various components that constitute digital production, whether for the web or other formats such as digital video. There are differences between old media and new media. It is a step toward digital formats opposed to old analog formats.

Hypertext is a fundamental component of the World Wide Web. Without a formal protocol for transmitting documents using the HTTP, the Web would not exist, and without a standard format for creating pages, including the ability to link between them (hyperlinks), web pages would loose a great deal of there usability(Whitaker). Whittaker also states an easy way to understand what hypertext is, is to think of hypertext as text composed of blocks of text. Hyperlinks may work with other components such as images or videos, creating hypermedia that link from page to page, image to image, video to video, or any combination of these.

In this article Whitaker says how with the new innovation of digital imagining seeing may not be believing. We are now beginning to treat the image with the same suspicion once reserved for the printed word.

I believe that the internet is its own developing city. It works hand to hand with technology. As we become more technological advanced I feel that the web will continue to grow and become a greater medium for information. Hypertext and new innovations such as audio and video help the internet flow more smoothly. It is easier to get around and access information with these inventions

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Picture It

Picture it, you are walking down the street and someone suddenly asks you a question. What is the internet? What would you say? The internet is a channel that allows access to numerous different kinds of information and enables communication between humans. It is a form of communication and technology that has greatly impacted the world. According to Adam’s and Clark, the internet is a worldwide network of computer networks and all the supporting structure. The internet is made up of methods for delivering messages which are: File Transfer Protocol (FTP), email, chat, and a host of others.

The internet was originally created to develop a way of communication if there was an atomic bomb dropped on United States soil. After a nuclear bomb is detonated it sends out Electro Magnetic Pulses which disrupt all types of electronics. When the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki EMP’S reached as far as Hawaii, over 800 miles away. (Adams & Clark) The EMPS knocked out electronic devices used for communication. The government then asked themselves if a bomb was dropped on United States soil and knocked out communication, what would we do? A group of scientists were put to this task and developed a network. Adams and Clark explain, they designed the network with the assumption that no single computer or communication line would be needed for total system survival. If one of the computers went down, they would look for any other computers that would still be up. They would be able to communicate directly, instead of going through a centralized computer system.

To understand the internet more clearly Chris Edwards has a very easy definition to understand. He says that the internet is short for international network. Now a household name, the Internet (or World Wide Web) consists of millions of computers linked together to provide people with access to information from anywhere in the world. The way the internet works is that all of these computers are linked together and are able to receive and deliver messages and information.

When scientists first came up with this network they didn’t perfected how information would travel through this system. (Adams & Clark) This led to the development of FTP, File Transfer Protocol. This is a network protocol used to transfer data from one computer to another through a network such as the Internet. When you download any file from the internet most of the time you use this process. Basically, when you download something you are transferring one file to another computer.

Electronic mail known short for email has helped shaped the internet into what it is today. Email enables one to store, forward, and send messages all over the world. Any one can come in contact with each other as long as there is access to a computer. One is able to create an email address over the internet. This is like having an address to someone that vacates a piece of property. Email can be sent almost instantly all over the world opposed to the United States mail system which can take days for someone to get a letter. With email it is electronic and almost instant.

Chat rooms are electronic rooms that work over the internet. They enable a certain number of people to communicate with text messages. New technology has enabled chat rooms to use webcams. Webcams are cameras that are connected to your computer that can broadcast someone all over the internet. The idea of these chat rooms is quite interesting. It lets you communicate with other people that can not see you. You can pretend to be anyone you want. There are some downfalls to these chat rooms. The numbers of minors that are able to enter into these chat rooms are growing. Certain sick and twisted individuals look to seek out children in these rooms. This is why when you enter the chat room you have to abide by the rules of the chat room or you will get kicked out of it. There are monitors in most chat rooms that monitor the chat and are able to remove someone from the room.

As you can see, the internet is a channel that allows access to numerous different kinds of information and enables communication between humans. It is a form of communication and technology that has greatly impacted the world. From its beginning to where the internet is today is truly remarkable. Things like FTP, email, and chat have helped shape the internet and the world we live in today. The internet is one of man’s greatest inventions of all time.