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December 1996 http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1996/dec/shade.html

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A Broad Collection of Research on CMC

Book Review: Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross-Cultural Perspectives
Edited by Susan C. Herring
John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1996
324 pages
ISBN 1-55619-800-0

by Leslie Regan Shade

The collection of articles that Susan Herring has gathered and edited for presentation in this book stems from a panel, "Cultural and Linguistic Aspects of Computer-Mediated Communication" that she co-organized and chaired at the Fourth International Pragmatics Conference in Kobe, Japan in 1993. The fourteen articles focus on empirical and case studies on computer-mediated interaction, and are organized into four categories: -linguistic perspectives, social and ethical perspectives, cross-cultural perspectives, and CMC and group interactions.

Of particular importance is the emphasis on research ethics that Herring addresses and adheres to in this collection. It is conceivably very easy for CMC researchers to amass great quantities of data through lurking and downloading posts from newsgroups and mailing lists. The broad ethical questions on how to address human subjects guidelines and the privacy of online participants has been the subject of a recent issue of The Information Society. Most of the case studies in this collection are drawn from public or semi-public electronic forums, and, as Herring writes in her introduction:

"The editorial policy followed in citing CMC data in this volume makes a distinction between restricted- and open-access electronic fora, the former of which are considered private, while the latter are public. With data from private or semi-private sources pseudonyms have been used to refer to participants and groups unless permission to use real names was explicitly granted by the participants involved. Messages posted publicly to Usenet and to open- access listervs are exempt from this requirement, although some authors have elected to mask all participants' identities by the use of pseudonyms regardless, as a matter of courtesy" (pp. 5-6).
In sum, the strength of such a collection is that it brings together these diverse research strands, allowing the emergent corpus of CMC to be broadly analyzed. An extensive bibliography is provided which brings together an eclectic array of sources. Many of these case studies, then, are of value for students, researchers, and teachers of CMC. [TOC]

Leslie Regan Shade (shade@well.com) has written several book reviews for CMC Magazine and is in McGill University's Graduate Program in Communications in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


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