Week 5 Reflection: Situating the Field

I found the section of Chapter Five interesting how Johnson-Eilola and Selber discuss theory as a conceptual framework, using theory as a filter with which to view the world. Johnson-Eilola and Selber discuss how the internet is described, the filter with which we choose to view it with: is it a place, or is it a space?  “You can see how different theoretical frameworks also influence perceptions of the Internet. Some see the Internet primarily as a space, as a communication medium or a publishing space akin to a library. Others see the Internet as a place, a community or home or culture, an environment in which people live and move and interact,” (p. 129). This is a concept that I’ve thought of before. We don’t exactly know “what” the internet is, it can be either somewhere we go or something we use to look at pictures or read articles. We say, “I’ll be online at 4,” like it’s a place, but then we also say, “You can find that information on the website,” like it’s a bulletin board.

Johnson-Eilola and Selber go on to say, “That metaphoric distinction—a theory distinction—matters in terms of issues such as privacy, research ethics, and intellectual property. If we view the Internet as a space for storing published work, like a library or a vast database, then we might suppose we have the right to treat whatever is posted there as publicly available for research purposes,” (p. 129). I was just taking a course the other day that was a brief overview of basic copyright law and it talked about how with attempting to use videos on our websites and photos to aid in communicating our points, we can potentially get into trouble mistaking items for fair use, when in actuality they are not fair use at all. I think privacy and intellectual property use is a smart and responsible item for the authors to address.

Johnson-Eilola and Selber then make a really interesting point: “If, however, we see the Internet as a place where people interact socially—more like a street café (which is public in one sense, but where people could be having a private conversation at a table)—then we might be inclined toward a different ethic, viewing some material on the Internet as “private” even if it is possible to access it and download it,” (p. 129). To further drive Johnson-Eilola and Selber’s street café analogy further, I will say this: While I do not care to have super-private discussions out in public, how many times have you been somewhere and a person is having a phone conversation in which they are clearly not worried about being overheard? That is so much like the internet. With privacy such a sensitive topic, I find some of the things people choose to share online pretty amazing. I understand people wanting to post pictures of their lives, it’s great, but it is possible to overshare.

I find this fascinating, as these differing ways of looking at our presence on the internet is something that seems so obvious, but this discussion of theory as a conceptual framework has made me think twice about the way I view the internet as an entity.

2 thoughts on “Week 5 Reflection: Situating the Field

  1. Seize the day says:

    Tisha, I am glad you took away the privacy issue out of this week’s reading. Indeed, privacy has become a big concern in our networked, digital world nowadays, which is why many tech comm courses teach legal and ethical dimensions of the Internet. I think relevant laws and regulations regarding Internet and/or social media use are still underdeveloped compared to hat we already have in the material/real world (if we don’t count Internet as part of the materiality/reality).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. christijwilliams says:

    Hi Tisha,
    I must confess that prior to this week’s reading I had not given much thought to the different ways the internet can be defined/used and those implications but it makes complete sense. I appreciate the different views the authors described. As a digital immigrant and not a native, I find myself most often in the role of an observer. It is interesting to me how technologies grow and change over time. I find boundaries are blurred at times and much less rigid and fixed online than they are in the “real world,” but your example of the cell phone oversharing public conversation reminds me that the real world boundaries are much more in flux now as well.

    Liked by 2 people

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