Thursday, February 19, 2004

Question 1: Smith and Kollock list a number of online "communities" in the first chapter of the book. What has changed from then are the large gaming communities that are graphic-based that started appearing around 2001. These, almost "virtual worlds," represent the participant visually, and they can be based not only on actions and appearances, but levels of involvedness (person at level 30 vs. level 95). How does this affect the sense of online "communities?"

Question 2: The book also mentions the problem of identity issues and "trolls." Recently some states have begun enacting anti-spam laws, moving their jurisdiction into the virtual realm. Is it possible that in the near future, legislatives might begin enacting digital identity "theft" laws, or trying to control how people are representing themselves online? Or is it inevitable that no matter how hard something tries to control identity problems, it will always be a problem? Are there any laws or guidelines out there now that are trying to solve this problem?

Question 3: The book issues a lot of problems based on the identity problem (since that is the section we are reading). One interesting aspect is that people are now able to impersonate other people. Although television has done a lot of the work in blending speech and appearance, written communication was not something easily learned. Are people losing their own identity then because they are learning how to "speak" different online (text appearance, grammar, terminology, language, etc), and are our many diverse cultures melding more and more? Although we are diverse individuals, I wonder if our diversity gets caught up in these online communities (sorry if this last one is very vague/broad, but I am just having a hard time coming up with these questions).


Upon more thought, I think my initial proposal questions were highly influenced on last week's conversation. Although I am very interested in school (primarily post-secondary institutions) use of technology, I am equally (if not more so) interested in why technology is failing them. I believe I have more resources available to look at this, and I am planning on focusing my own career on administration and information architecture. I do hold many reservations about blind love for technology, but I do believe we should try to manipulate it in a useful way. So, I guess the question would be how is technology failing our students and faculty? What needs to be done to make software more approachable and machines more affordable? I did not introduce this idea earlier because I am not sure just how closely related it has to deal with actual digital divides or differences, so please let me know! Thank you.

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