kwoff_id = 9106;
In this week of heightened Internet! Moral! Panic!, it’s worth a peek at whether the internet really is the creeping civil cancer that some believe it to be.
The JCMC (Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication) is available in fulltext online. It can be a fount of wanky sociology-speak, of course, but it also comes up with some useful talking points and snippets of data.
The latest issue explores social networking, with an emphasis on a critical examination of the mass-media panic of Internet use = civic disengagement. Popular predictions of all of us turning into vampirically-pale atrophied illiterate SuperPokers and WoW players living in our parents’ basements and eating nothing but pizza and data – just doesn’t seem to be panning out. Instead, the JCMC paints a picture of online social life as rich, authentic, active, and engaged. Language isn’t dying, people aren’t withdrawing from political and social life, and teens aren’t degenerating into hunks of mute, withdrawn, rotting flesh.
This should all go without saying to those of us engaged in the world of political and activist blogging, but sometimes it’s nice to have the data to back up your hunches.
I’ve extracted a few bits of abstracts, with links to fulltext. Enjoy.
Past research has reported that females use exclamation points more frequently than do males. Such research often characterizes exclamation points as “markers of excitability,” […] The results indicate that exclamation points rarely function as markers of excitability in these professional forums, but may function as markers of friendly interaction
The results of the present study bring to mind Coates’ (1998) study of gossip, in which she points out that women’s uses of tag questions and other devices “had been interpreted as signs of weakness” (1998, p. 250). When considered in context, however, tag questions were found to “serve the function of asserting joint activity and of consolidating friendship” (Coates, 1998, p. 250). By considering the context in which exclamations were used, and by adopting a more nuanced methodology than has been adopted in the past, the present study has demonstrated that exclamation points do more than function as markers of excitability; they can also function as markers of friendliness.
There is a growing concern that modern democracy is in danger because citizens lack interest in politics and are little informed of political affairs and important policy issues (Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1996; Kinder, 2002; Putnam, 2000). Scholars emphasize informed public discussion or “political deliberation” as one cure to address this malaise of modern democracy (e.g., Barber, 1984; Fishkin, 1991; Gutmann & Thompson, 1996). Deliberation or, more broadly, “deliberative democracy,” refers to the concept that democratic practice and rule making should depend on informed discussion of citizens.
With the rise of new communication technologies, new deliberative potentials are being explored. Online interactions may enhance the scope of political deliberation while maintaining deliberation’s beneficial effects. This study reviews theories of deliberative democracy and computer-mediated communication (CMC) in an attempt to understand those new deliberative possibilities. An experiment was conducted to compare the relative outcomes of a deliberation performed in face-to-face and computer-mediated settings. The results suggest that both online and face-to-face deliberation can increase participants’ issue knowledge, political efficacy, and willingness to participate in politics.
The aim of this study was to contrast the validity of two opposing explanatory hypotheses about the effect of online communication on adolescents’ well-being. The displacement hypothesis predicts that online communication reduces adolescents’ well-being because it displaces time spent with existing friends, thereby reducing the quality of these friendships. In contrast, the stimulation hypothesis states that online communication stimulates well-being via its positive effect on time spent with existing friends and the quality of these friendships. We conducted an online survey among 1,210 Dutch teenagers between 10 and 17 years of age. Using mediation analyses, we found support for the stimulation hypothesis but not for the displacement hypothesis. We also found a moderating effect of type of online communication on adolescents’ well-being: Instant messaging, which was mostly used to communicate with existing friends, positively predicted well-being via the mediating variables (a) time spent with existing friends and (b) the quality of these friendships. Chat in a public chatroom, which was relatively often used to talk with strangers, had no effect on adolescents’ well-being via the mediating variables.
This study examines the relationship between use of Facebook, a popular online social network site, and the formation and maintenance of social capital. In addition to assessing bonding and bridging social capital, we explore a dimension of social capital that assesses one’s ability to stay connected with members of a previously inhabited community, which we call maintained social capital. Regression analyses conducted on results from a survey of undergraduate students (N = 286) suggest a strong association between use of Facebook and the three types of social capital, with the strongest relationship being to bridging social capital. In addition, Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.
We also found an interaction between bridging social capital and subjective well-being measures. For less intense Facebook users, students who reported low satisfaction with MSU life also reported having much lower bridging social capital than those who used Facebook more intensely. The same was true for self-esteem. Conversely, there was little difference in bridging social capital among those who reported high satisfaction with life at MSU and high self-esteem relative to Facebook use intensity. One explanation consistent with these interaction effects is that Facebook use may be helping to overcome barriers faced by students who have low satisfaction and low self-esteem. Because bridging social capital provides benefits such as increased information and opportunities, we suspect that participants who use Facebook in this way are able to get more out of their college experience. The suggestion that Facebook use supports a “poor get richer” hypothesis, as opposed to the “rich get richer” findings reported in other contexts (Kraut, Kiesler, Boneva, Cummings, Helgeson, & Crawford, 2002), may be of special interest to Internet researchers.
It seems from the current survey that media reports about computer-mediated discourse [CMD] are seldom about CMD per se. Rather, CMD offers itself as the focal point—an idée fixe—for a range of public discourses about other issues, most notably here technology, language, and literacy. In fact, it appears that language and technology are (once again) not only being poorly represented, but also scapegoated for a range of adult anxieties about newness, change, and perceived threats to the status quo. In the process, the caricaturing of instant messaging invariably overstates the difference between online and offline communication, while the fetishization of texting unfairly underestimates the pragmatic subtlety and stylistic diversity of actual practice.