'This is Elsewhere.org': Users and machines making literacy work on blogs
By: Gillian "Gus" Andrews
Published: 10/15/2010
Uploaded: 11/15/2010
Uploaded by: Gillian Gus Andrews
Tags: Blogs, Castells, CMC, computer mediated communicatio, Conversation analysis, corrections, errors, Ethnography, ethnomethodology, formal features, garfinkel, grounded theory, HCI, human-computer interaction, latour, lessig, mistakes, suchman, turn-taking, visualizations

Description/Abstract: This is the dissertation published by Gillian Brooke Andrews in October of 2010.

There is an argument, embodied in the founding documents of free software development projects and in popular discourse about technology, that the Internet is inherently democratizing and resistant to control. Certainly, it was designed to rely on decentralized, distributed servers in order to survive catastrophic attacks. In practice, however, everyday Internet users have always worked to establish certain online communications as more valuable than others (say, spam, flaming, and trolling). Users who align themselves with powerful institutions such as ICANN and Google are best able to claim authority online; their ways of writing make it easier for them to vouch for their own identities, correctly identify other users and institutions, and find the websites they seek. This dissertation focuses on a specific pattern of conversational disruptions and repairs in 3,572 comments on 39 blog posts. In many of these, users mistakenly arrive from search engines to seek celebrities on unrelated blogs. In these exchanges, bloggers and visitors negotiate the "correct" ways to write online. This dissertation seeks to understand at simple levels -- sociolinguistic function and turn-taking management in conversations -- how participants maintain communicational order despite asynchronicity and a lack of common context. Conversation analysis, grounded theoretical analysis, and affordance analysis were undertaken to elicit a phenomenological understanding of these disruptions. This research suggests revisions to Sacks et al.'s (1974) systematics for turn- taking. Computer-mediated conversation appears to change rules for selection of the next speaker. Rather than following a “current-speaker-selects-next” rule, these conversations appear to follow a “current-speaker-selects-previous” rule. It remains to be seen whether this is true for all conversations, including face-to-face ones. This research also identifies a digital divide between groups of Internet users. Certain regions of the web, such as AOL, are devalued. Accomplished users see mistaken commenters as using URLs, email addresses, and search engines inappropriately, and try to discourage or block their comments from blogs. Beyond these accomplished users’ opinions, the Internet's disempowered consistently misunderstand how the Internet works, endangering their security and privacy. A troubling trend (needing study beyond this snowball sample) is an apparent gender divide between empowered and disempowered Internet users.