This blog is part of an assignment for a Graduate Class in Mass Media and new technologies; However, I am certain that there will be interesting posts on technology, culture, and politic.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

The Internet and Society
By James Slevin

Book information
Slevin, J. (2000). The Internet and Society. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. ISBN: 0745620876

Author information
James Slevin (James.Slevin@jslevin.com) is Associate Professor at the Amsterdam School of communications research, University of Amsterdam. He researches on social and political theory; philosophical problems in the social sciences; social aspects of communication and modern culture, with particular reference to the development and the impact of the Internet and related networks.

URL for this Author and this Book

The Target Audiences of this Book
This accessible and non-technical book will be of particular interest to students of media, communications and cultural studies, and of interest to anyone concerned with the effect of new technologies on modern culture and society.

Main Issue and Areas of Interest
1. The rise of the internet
a. The emergence of the internet as a global constellation of computer networks
1969 – ARPA (the Advanced Research Projects Agency) Net
1990 – NSF (National Science Foundation) NET
1995 – NSFNET was shut down completely

Most Internet traffic is now carried over networks and backbones provided by commercial enterprise.

b. Applications across the internet
Ø FTP, TALK, telnet, e-mail, messages, newsgroups, MUDS (multi-user dungeons), IRC (internet relay chat)
Ø WWW, introduced by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau

c. A brief analysis of internet users
Ø Total number of internet users world wide by 1999 --- between 150 and 180 million
Ø Almost 99% of all internet connections were North America, Western Europe and Japan
Ø Finland was the most ‘wired’ country in the world (over 35 % of its population online) by 1999 *USA --- over 30%

d. The characteristics of internet users
Ø In South America, Internet growth remained severely hampered by the poor telephone infrastructure.
Ø In India, the government has held a monopoly over Internet access.
Ø In Vietnam, the cost of Internet access was calculated to be a third of the average yearly salary.
Ø In China and Singapore, Internet users had to register with the police.
Ø In Russia, the high price of IT equipment and PCs also hindered growth in the numbers of Internet users.
Ø Being a competent user of the English language is still a prerequisite to be able to navigate the web.
Ø The proportion of women using the internet in industrialized countries --- 40% Japan – 17.2% Brazil – 25%
Ø More than 75% of Internet users had attended college.
Ø Over 30% of internet users world wide – computer-related work
Ø 24% - occupations in education (including being students)
Ø 24% - in management and other professional positions

2. The Internet, the self and experience in everyday life
a. Life strategies and the internet
*Z. Bauman, Life in Fragments (Blackwell, Oxford, 1995), p.91. *
1) ‘Do not spend too much time surfing the WWW or enterprise-wide web. The shorter the time spent online, the greater the chance of completing what you set out to do.’
2) ‘Do not get too fond of people you meet on IRC – the less you care about them, the easier it will be for you to move on.’
3) ‘Do not commit yourself too strongly to particular web pages or IRC channels – you cannot know for how long they will remain available or whether they will continue to justify your commitment in the future.’
4) ‘Do not invest too much time building a homepage – once it has been seen by others it will lose its value fast and become a liability.’
5) ‘Do not delay gratification. If you can download a file or print a web page, do it now; you cannot know for sure whether it will still be there tomorrow or whether that what you want now will be what you will want in the future’

b. The internet paradox: loneliness and depression versus friendship and happiness
The HomeNet project
A two-year study, began in March 1995 and involved 169 individuals in 73 households

The research findings
Ø Greater use of the Internet was associated with subsequent declines in family communication
Ø Greater use of the Internet to communicate was also associated with declines in the size of both the local and the distant social circle.
Ø Individuals who made greater use of the Internet also reported larger increases in loneliness
Ø Greater use of the Internet was associated with increased depression and disengagement from real life

A Comparison of the Internet with earlier communication technologies
Ø TV caused a reduction in social involvement and psychological well-being

The Internet, when used for obtaining information via the World Wide Web, is similar to TV
Ø The telephone turned out to be far more social than TV

The Internet may be more like that of the telephone when it is used for interpersonal communication

Positive experiences
Ø Parents keeping in contact with distant children
Ø Friends rediscovering each other
Ø Individuals consoling each other during times of tragedy
Ø Friendships between classmates being continued after school

James Slevin examines of the connections between the rise of the Internet and new issues concerning the state, political and economic organization, the process of self-formation, globalization, publicness, regulation, and above all the management of risk and uncertainty in this book. He critics the study of the Internet and its related networks such as intranet and extranets. In this book, the author introduced many theories in cultural study and explained his thesis with their ideas. Also, he explained his analysis of the Internet to use variety of examples of Internet use from around the world.
Some writers concerned with the Internet have ‘tended to collapse the consequences of these new technologies directly into the fears that are thought to describe our modern age.’ However, Dr. Slevin focused on the new ways of relationships that the Internet affords and how they might be placed in our modern experience and helped us, rather than thinking anxiety and fear. The impact of the Internet on our culture involves a complex set of processes. When we are online, we have a foot in both worlds; real world and ‘virtual communities’. Without real people and real organizations, “virtual communities’ would not exit. Thus the use of the Internet is changing what we do and how we relate to others, both online and offline, and reordering the way in which we interpret and respond to our social world. Dr. Slevin said the most pressing challenge we all face is how to cope with risk and uncertainty. The author offers that our culture not towards one in which ‘anything goes’ but towards one in which technologies such as ‘the Internet are used to reflect on our complex world to gain a better understanding of it’.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Best practices for Web Site Reviews from Forrester Research

Forrester - Best Practices For Web Site Reviews - Quick View
Shneiderman (2000) defines "universal usability" as "having more than 90% of all households as successful users of information and communications services at least once a week." Shneiderman suggests that usability consists of three challenges: Technology variety: Supporting a broad range of hardware, software, and network access; User diversity: Accommodating users with different skills, knowledge, age, gender, disabilities, disabling conditions (mobility, sunlight, noise), literacy, culture, income, etc.; and Gaps in user knowledge: Bridging the gap between what users know and what they need to know.

Shneiderman argues that usability is important because services such as e-commerce, communication, education, healthcare, finance, and travel are expanding and users are becoming more dependent on them. As information professionals, we should focus on ensuring that the widest possible audience can access, use and understand online presentations of information.

According to Forrester Research (2003), poor usability results mainly from flawed design features that hide value or content and make navigation difficult for users. Forrester suggests that the value of a Website can only be determined by looking at how well the site helps users get things done. Forrester defines three key criteria for enhancing usability... 1. Identify the target audience. 2. Identify users specific objectives or goals (i.e., browse headlines, locate coupons, compare prices, B2B, etc.). 3. Design sites with multiple paths that help users accomplish their goals.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

So here is basic design and flow of my project, paper, and presentation...

I. What is online usability? In other words, how do you design content for online audiences?

II. Once content is developed, how do you evaluate online media?

III. Research question: In evaluating online media, how have major online information resources modified and adjusted their content and presentation to better meet the needs of their online users?

IV. Case Study: Evaluation of NYTimes from 1996, the first year New York Times began offering online content.

V. Case Study 2: Evaluation of NYTimes from 2003.

VI. Analysis and Synthesis of how NYTimes has adapted for usability.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I think I will evaluate an old copy of the NYTimes Online (from waybackwhen.com) and then evaluate a current edition to assess what NYTimes, Inc. has changed to make their site more user friendly. I may use the criteria listed in this article to compare and contrast the two versions of the online paper.

Testing the Surf: Criteria for Evaluating Internet Information Resources
Issues in Multimedia Evaluation
Criteria for evaluation of Internet Information Resources: "This is a 'toolbox' of criteria that enable Internet information sources to be evaluated for use in libraries, e.g. for inclusion in resource guides, and helping users evaluate information found. "

Thursday, October 16, 2003

When I first started looking at convergence as a concept, I was thinking that I would find primarily information on how newspapers are becoming more like web sites and vice versa; however, I'm quickly learning that media convergence is more about different media coming together as an information source... For example, different media outlets are coming together to form alliances. In Dallas, WFAA TV and The Dallas Morning News collaborate to share information and to cross market each other. Interesting concept that has several implications that one should consider. For example, do media alliances lead to media bias? If a media alliance is the primary news and information outlet for a metropolitan area, then do the consumers in that area get access to full, fair, and unbiased information? I don't have an answer, but I think it is interesting.
Research conducted by Minnesota Opinion Research for the Newspaper Association of America determined the following:

- Online newspapers are the No. 1 source of local news and information online

- Online newspaper readers are power users — they spend more time and money online, are more likely to have broadband access, have been online longer and are more interested in nearly every category of content and advertising tested

- Aside from e-mail, the top three reasons people use the Internet are local news, national news and entertainment information

- Online newspaper readers consider their online newspaper to be a more useful source of advertising than TV, radio, shopping freebies or yellow pages

But it's not all good news. In many ways, online newspapers have tapped only a portion of the online audience and are embattled by competitors that continue to gain on their local franchises almost as quickly as newspapers trim staff from their online divisions. Some of the most critical challenges:

- Half of all online users NEVER seek out local news or entertainment information online; half have NEVER been to an online newspaper

- Yahoo! and AOL are a close second to online newspapers as a source for local news and AHEAD of online newspapers as a source of local entertainment

- A critical gap exists between online newspaper readers and online users in general: Most users say they go online most during the evening hours, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. — a time when online newspaper traffic is softest

- Nearly half of online newspaper readers say it's a substitute for reading printed newspapers at all
This is a fascinating article on revenue generation with online ads. Considering I am looking at online usability and trying to tie in media convergence this article was interesting.

Particularly interesting was online revenue, total revenue, and percentages of online revenue for newspapers that also provide online versions.

Online Newspaper Revenue: Puny AND Persuasive (to broadcasters)? - American Press Institute

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

For Techies, School Bells Mean 'Let the Games Begin'
Cell phones, PDA's and other gadgets have become magnets for
in-class mischief and distraction, but teachers don't seem
to realize it.

~From Chance... I have definitely noticed this... When I was an undergrad - no one had cell phones. When I returned to start my doctorate program, I notices that every other student had a cell phone up to his or her ear.
For Techies, School Bells Mean 'Let the Games Begin'
Thunderbird Effect: Seductive Electronic Gadgets Are Soon Forgotten

Seductive Electronic Gadgets Are Soon Forgotten

Monday, October 13, 2003

Microsoft, in Middle Age, Hurries to Go Beyond the PC
Interesting article on how Tribune Corporation is attempting to draw in younger audiences in hopes of re-establishing a reader base for a declining newspaper audience. One of the interesting points in the article is the paper is condensed... headlines and short stories that get to the point. This seems to be reflective of the Internet trend.

New Papers Hope Free and Brief Will Attract Younger Readers

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