P2 Lecture 2


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Notes of the second lecture in course Theories and Interpretation of Interactive Media

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P2 Lecture 2

  1. 1. Theories and interpretation of interactive media 2 / Vuorovaikutteisen median teoriat ja tulkinta 2 Frans Mäyrä Professor of hypermedia, esp. digital culture and game studies University of Tampere, Hypermedia Laboratory frans.mayra@uta.fi
  2. 2. Lecture 2: “PC / communication”: Theories of computer mediated communication
  3. 3. Expanding the characteristics of IT • The first lecture discussed IT primarily in terms of data: hypermedia was interpreted to be new way of organising, representing and using information • Today, we discuss IT in terms of communication it facilitates • What are the key characteristics of computer- mediated communication? • How it has developed, and how it affects new media when understood as media?
  4. 4. Communication in early computers • In multi-user environments it is possible to write messages into files other people can then access • With timesharing computers it became possible to exchange messages simultaneously, in real time • First chat programs were created in the early 1960s • In 1971 Ray Tomlinson created user@host convention to allow email exchanges between different computers in ARPANET • Both synchronous and asynchronous communications were thus established
  5. 5. Electronic communications • Electronic communication predates computers • When telegraph was launched in 1840s in America and Britain, after initial resistance it gained huge success and even utopian expectations • Transatlantic cable in 1858 led some to predict world peace and end to prejudices • There were stories of relationships built through telegraph, and even one “on-line wedding” has been recorded • Tom Standage has compared telegraph to the Internet (The Victorian Internet, 1998)
  6. 6. Communications and cultural change • Manner of communicating has major significance to how social life and human relationships are organised • Walter Ong’s thesis (Orality and Literacy, 1982) is that our communication systems restructure our consciousness • E.g. introducing writing into an oral culture has meant externalisation of memory, move from aural dominance to visual dominance, objectification of concepts and a general separation of meaning from speaker • Marshall McLuhan claims (The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962) that if new technologies extend our senses outside us (e.g. as in tele-vision), there will be consequences, cognitive and cultural changes • Thus, print is the technology of individualism, but “electronic interdependence” (through digital media) will lead to new tribalism and social organisation as global village (“small world of tribal drums” … and terror…)
  7. 7. Communicational characteristics of new media • IT can be used to deliver traditional mass media (newspapers, radio, television), but its “native media” is interactive new media • Rather than one-to-one (of personal communication) or one- to-many model of broadcast communication, new media emphasises the role of many-to-many communication • New media communication can also be multimodal (utilizing multiple modalities, or rich media: text, image, video, sound, interactive simulation) within the context of media convergence • New media communication can maintain creation of online social networks (“virtual communities”) and • Rather than formally finished or closed, new media communication emphasises casual, informal, personally invested style of communicating
  8. 8. Successes in CMC • Email: the most popular form of computer-mediated communication for personal and group use (estimated 60 billion email messages were sent every business day in 2006; source: http://www.idc.com/) • Usenet news: a group, many-to-many discussion forum tool, later partly superseded by the various message forums in World Wide Web • IRC: Internet Relay Chat (by Jarkko Oikarinen, 1988): a synchronous, group communication tool based on user-defined chat channels • Blog: web log, chronological personal online publishing, typically open for comments and discussions that provide links to other networked media - evolved from online diaries of mid- 1990s Image source: www.wikimedia.org
  9. 9. Theories of CMC • As predominantly text-based communication, CMC relates to reduction of social cues • Weak sense of social presence often translates to uninhibited behaviour - both in positive and negative senses (e.g. flaming to provoke others) • Feeling protected, people can open up more easily, and also socially insecure, or disabled persons can become empowered to communicate and socialize • Related both to increased social interaction, and loneliness (may prove addictive, and does not necessarily translate to social benefits outside Internet) Sources, see: http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1995/feb/berge.html http://www.emoderators.com/papers/flames.html
  10. 10. A personal computer? • Freedom to use computer for personal communication and self-expression has increased as IT has become more affordable and accessible • Hobbyists and companies provided access to first personal computers (Datapoint 2200, Altair 8800, IMSAI 8080) • The second generation home computers were more capable for media use and manufactured & sold in large quantities (e.g. Apple II, TRS-80, Commodore PET, Commodore 64 etc.) • Then the design and release of IBM PC in 1981 provided a standard for personal computers Image source: www.wikimedia.org
  11. 11. Decentralisation of media • An early example of personal computer based media was BBS (bulletin board systems) which were running in PCs and connected with using modems and phone lines • A typical BBS might allow its users to subscribe, read and post messages in message boards, publish articles, play games and download software • Due to long distance phone costs, BBS was mostly a local phenomenon, supporting a sense of community • New media has been associated with fragmentation of audiences, decentralisation and lack of authoritative control • Rather than a unified, mass media environment, the contemporary media environment is hybrid and plural melange of media and messages - even clothing and other consumer products have become involved in close relationships with various forms of media
  12. 12. In-between media • New media cannot be defined as interpersonal communication or mass media - but it can be both • Neither is it completely decentralised, anarchic or free • Generally new media relies more on user participation and choices than traditional media, but not all new media forms are highly interactive • As digital media technologies provide more flexible functionalities than print, radio or television, it is easier to develop hybrid, in-between media formats • New media can also be theorised as a transformative aspect in all media - it is continuously renegotiated and reinvented
  13. 13. Early utopian CMC theories • “In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face.” (J.C.R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, ”The Computer as Communication Device”, 1968) – We can say with genuine and strong conviction that a particular form of digital computer organization, with its programs and its data, constitutes the dynamic, moldable medium that can revolutionize the art of modeling and that in so doing can improve the effectiveness of communication among people so much as perhaps to revolutionize that also. – To appreciate the import ante the new computer-aided communication can have, one must consider the dynamics of “critical mass,” as it applies to cooperation in creative endeavor. Take any problem worthy of the name, and you find only a few people who can contribute effectively to its solution. Those people must be brought into close intellectual partnership so that their ideas can come into contact with one another. Source: Licklider & Taylor: “Computer as Communications Device”: ftp://gatekeeper.research.compaq.com/pub/DEC/SRC/research-reports/SRC-061.pdf
  14. 14. Source: Licklider & Taylor: “Computer as Communications Device”: ftp://gatekeeper.research.compaq.com/pub/DEC/SRC/research-reports/SRC-061.pdf
  15. 15. CMC and community formation • CMC can augment existing social relationships, as well as create new personal relationships, some of which remain totally “online” (no face-to-face contact) • Most “organic communities” have been born out of common location, family, religion, ethnicity, shared school, work, vocation etc. • Most “online communities” are based on shared interests and are voluntary in nature • Online social relationships can be strong and enduring, even if majority of online exchanges remain casual (“weak ties”, rather than strong ones in social network analysis)
  16. 16. Net citizen • The collaborative and democratic potential of online communications was conceptualised by Michael Hauben, who coined ‘Netizen’: – My initial research concerned the origins and development of the global discussion forum Usenet....I wanted to explore the larger Net and what it was and its significance. This is when my research uncovered the remaining details that helped me to recognize the emergence of Netizens. There are people online who actively contribute towards the development of the Net. These people understand the value of collective work and the communal aspects of public communications. – These are the people who discuss and debate topics in a constructive manner, who e-mail answers to people and provide help to new-comers, who maintain FAQ files and other public information repositories, who maintain mailing lists, and so on. These are people who discuss the nature and role of this new communications medium. These are the people who act as citizens of the Net. • However, it is reported that Michael Hauben (1973-2001) himself committed suicide, due to insufficient economical, medical and social support in his “real life” Sources: http://www.columbia.edu/~rh120/, http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/9/9180/1.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hauben
  17. 17. Online social networks • Nancy K. Baym has described how participants in CMC – develop forms of expression that enable them to communicate social information and to create and codify group-specific identities, form relationships that span from the playfully antagonistic the deeply romantic and that move between the network and face-to-face interaction, and create norms that serve to organize interaction and to maintain desirable social climates (Baym 1998, 62). Source: Baym, Nancy K (1998) quot;The Emergence of On-Line Communityquot;. In: Steven Jones (ed.) Cybersociety 2.0. Revisiting Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. London: Sage, 35-68.
  18. 18. Virtual and real communities • In 1990s there was certain “hype” associated with the revolutionary potentials of new & online media • Among key concepts of the period were cyberspace, virtual reality and virtual community • Journalist and author Howard Rheingold popularised the concept in his book The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier (1993) • Rheingold’s definition: “social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on … public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace” • Sociologist Barry Wellman has pointed out that typically online and offline life are integrated and interrelated in many ways Sources: http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/, http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/contexts/contexts-3a.pdf
  19. 19. Social offline, social online • Barry Wellman: – People who frequently use the Internet to contact others also tend to be in frequent contact with people in other ways (even after taking into account differences of age, gender and education). Extroverts especially benefit from its use, as they add another means of communication to their contact repertoire. Thus, a 2001 National Geographic survey reports that North Americans who use email to discuss important matters do so an average of 41 times per month, in addition to 84 face-to-face discussions and 58 phone discussions. Those who do not use email to discuss important matters have about the same number of monthly face-to-face discussions, 83, but only 36 phone discussions. Adding these numbers up, those who use email report 183 discussions per month, 54% more than the 119 discussions for those who do not use email. The result is that the more email, the more overall communication. Source: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/contexts/contexts-3a.pdf
  20. 20. Media and communication join together • Text continues as key mode of CMC, even with increase of broadband connections • However, new services allow text-based communications to integrate with rich media • In addition, social links (social networking, social media, Web 2.0) provide added value to communications around and with media • But using “rich media” does not in itself automatically improve the quality of communication • The real significance is in smarter access and visualisation of social relationships which have so far been “invisible” reality Source: Dennis, and Kinney, “Testing Media Richness Theory in the New Media: the Effects of Cues, Feedback, and Task Equivocality.” Info. Sys. Research 9, no. 3 (1998): 256-274.
  21. 21. A new paradigm emerging?