Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 11, Issue 8, December 2008
Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X
HOW WELL DO VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS PERFORM ON THE WEB AS DEMOCRATIC ACTORS?
Towards an evaluative framework (p1047-1067)
Eleanor Burt (School of Management, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, UK); John Taylor
Voluntary organizations are key actors within contemporary democratic polities. To be so raises crucial questions about their performance along three dimensions of democratic behaviour - their citizen engagement, their legitimacy, and their public accountability. These questions of performance are made sharper as the World Wide Web brings forward new imperatives and opportunities for these organizations to perform along each of these three dimensions. This article develops and sets out an analytical framework through which an evaluation can begin of whether and how voluntary organizations are using the Web to support and enhance their engagement along these three democratic dimensions.
Keywords: voluntary; online; democratic; legitimacy; accountability
Producing community and technology (p1068-1088)
Alison Powell (Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford, UK)
Drawing on community expertise, open-source software and non-hierarchical organizational strategies, community wireless networks (CWN) engage volunteers in building networks for public internet access and community media. Volunteers intend these networks to be used to reinvigorate local community. Together the following two purposes create two distinct mediated publics: to engage volunteers in discussing and undertaking technical innovations, and to provide internet access and local community media to urban citizens. To better address the potential of CWN as a form of local innovation and democratic rationalization, the relationship between the two publics must be better understood. Using a case study of a Canadian CWN, this article advances the category of 'public' as alternative and complementary to 'community' as it is used to describe the social and technical structures of these projects. By addressing the tensions between the geek-public of WiFi developers, and the community-public of local people using community WiFi networks, this article revisits questions about the democratic impact of community networking projects. The article concludes that CWN projects create new potential for local community engagement, but that they also have a tendency to reinforce geek-publics more than community-publics, challenging the assumption that community networks using technology development as a vector for social action necessarily promote greater democracy.
Keywords: community networks; internet access; socio-technical; wireless networking; new media; democracy
NONVERBAL CUES IN E-MAIL SUPPORTIVE COMMUNICATION
Associations with sender sex, recipient sex, and support satisfaction (p1089-1110)
Andrew M. Ledbetter (Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA); Kiley A. Larson (University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA)
In face-to-face contexts, the use of emotional nonverbal cues tends to increase support satisfaction. However, it is not known whether emotional nonverbal cues function in the same manner in supportive interactions conducted across e-mail. This article reports the findings of two empirical studies examining the association between nonverbal cues, support satisfaction, and communicator sex. Results indicate that female senders use more emotional nonverbal cues than do male senders, yet nonverbal cue usage is not associated with the recipient's support satisfaction. This suggests that emotional nonverbal cues expressed online may lose potency relative to such cues in offline contexts.
Keywords: sex differences; computer-mediated communication; nonverbal communication; e-mail; social support; supportive communication
THE FORMATION OF SOCIAL RULES FOR DIGITAL INTERACTIONS (p1111-1131)
Mariann Hardey (University of York, Sociology, Wentworth College, Heslington, York, UK)
The increasing use of Internet-based 'dating' services as a means to meet strangers online to potentially form intimate relationships offline, raises concerns about trust and identity. The established social practices of introductions or meeting with stranger's offline are supported by a set of social rules and rituals that have been described as 'courtship'. There is an absence of such courting rules or guidelines for interaction in mediated dating environments. This means that individuals have to understand for themselves the rules that shape how they should behave. On the basis of the analysis of Internet newsgroups discussions this article puts forward an ideal type continuum about 'eDating' expectations and experiences. The continuum leads discussion about how men and women eDaters are seeking to comprehend the rules for interaction that establish a reciprocated communication with other online 'strangers'.
Keywords: eDating; gender; identity; interaction; newsgroup; rules
STRUCTURING HIERARCHICAL DEFERENCE AND SOLIDARITY IN THE CONTEXT OF CHANGING COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA (p1132-1154)
Celeste M. Brotheridge (Dept. d'organisation et ressources humaines, Ecole des sciences de la gestion, Universite du Qeubec a Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
This research examined the extent to which the introduction of communications media triggered shifts in broader structural arrangements as enacted in the distribution of power and as signalled by patterns of language use. It sampled the ongoing communications between the North American managers of an international aid and peace organization and their direct reports located in Africa, as the medium changed from couriered letters to facsimiles to electronic mail over a 12-year period. Differences in hierarchical position and communication medium influenced linguistic choices, which, in turn, formed a complex pattern characterized by a dialectic of control in which there was ongoing tension between autonomy and dependency.
Keywords: electronic communication; structuration; power; language; politeness
'STORMFRONT IS LIKE A SECOND HOME TO ME'
On virtual community formation by right-wing extremists (p1155-1176)
Willem De Koster and Dick Houtman (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Sociology, Rotterdam, DR, Netherlands)
Although the subject of extreme right virtual community formation is often discussed, an online 'sense of community' among right-wing extremists has not been systematically analysed. It is argued that to study this phenomenon and to understand its backgrounds and function, the offline and online experiences and actions of those involved need to be taken into account. For this purpose, qualitative data has been collected on the web forum 'Stormfront', supplemented by extensive online interviews with eleven of its members. It is demonstrated that those experiencing stigmatization in offline social life regard the forum as a virtual community that functions as an online refuge, whereas those who - because of special circumstances - do not experience offline stigmatization do not display an online sense of community. It is concluded that offline stigmatization underlies virtual community formation by Dutch right-wing extremists. Because this mechanism may have broader significance, additional hypotheses for future research are formulated.
Keywords: internet research; virtual community; online-offline; stigmatization; extreme right
(This journal is available online: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/1369118x.html)
Posted with permission from the publisher.