Thursday, February 19, 2004

Discussion Questions
  1. In the articles which examined online activities in areas which were attached to a certain demographic to some degree (be it geeks in a MUD or Asians in soc.culture.asian.american), to what extent is identity overproblematized because of the fact that these are largely forums where individuals get to assert/play around with their identity? How does online identity formation play out in other spaces which are not so identity driven (IM, e-mail, surfing)?

  2. A major issue that I felt did not receive enough attention in these readings was trust (although it was arguably an underlying theme). I am curious how trust or suspicion of one's online identity plays into its formation. It brings to mind the encryption technique which builds on trust to validate information from others, sometimes of remote relation. With the mutability of identity online, how can we form trust of those we don't really know?

  3. I liked O'Brien's ideas surrounding "allowable multiplicity" of gender because it seems to allow for a less binary definition of the term. But, in a world which is typically divided in these terms, what happens to the divides? Do they still exist? Are new divides created? Are some of the traditional divides broken down?

Paper Proposals
  • My first paper idea is an exploration of how the architecture of the Internet, and the regulation and laws supporting that architecture, has contributed to the creation of a digital divide. By architecture, I mean the embedded characteristics that make the Internet work 'how it works.' A few relevant examples that I can think of off the top of my head are: a need for technical know-how, expensive equipment needed to interface, and imposing English standard (in addresses). I would like to explore how the technical roots of these "traditions" and their tacit acceptance in regulation have helped create a digital divide.

  • A somewhat related issue would be an analysis of what the Internet might look like if it were conceived of as a universal access utility. The Internet has been created in a structure where people can get online at home only if they can afford a computer and access. Telephone service, to my knowledge, was created with centralized control and an eventual non-commercial assumption that everyone needed a phone. I am wondering how divides played out in the historical case of the telephone, and how the differences in access models affect the creation of the digital divide.

-john t

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