December 1996

Root Page of Article: A Broad Collection of Research on CMC, by Leslie Regan Shade

CMC and Group Interaction

The contributors to the section on CMC and Group Interaction examine a variety of social interactions. Joan Korenman and Nancy Wyatt examine the group dynamics of the popular WMST-L (Women's Studies) mailing list. (List creator Joan Korenman is also the creator of the Women and Gender-Related Electronic Forums list.) Reporting on their descriptive study, Korenman and Wyatt found that "persons often mentioned one of the 'satisfying and useful' aspects of WMST-L to be a 'sense of community'". Other useful aspects cited were access to information, discussion of personal experience, discussion of pedagogy, and access to announcements.

Oren Ziv relates a case study in how workers used e-mail to negotiate technological and organizational change within the workplace. He emphasizes that "neither writing nor workplace change can be adequately considered outside of the social contexts in which they are situated" (p. 259).

And finally, Laura J. Gurak provides a rhetorical study on the use of CMC as an organizational tool for activism and consumer protest. She looks at the case of Lotus Development Corporation's release of a new product called MarketPlace Households, a database containing direct marketing information on 120 million American households. The Net was used effectively by privacy activists and others to protest, and finally lead to the cancellation of the release of Lotus' product. Gurak remarks that, even though CMC be used as an effective tool for political mobilization. (See, for instance Net Action), the widespread diffusion of inaccurate and false information presents risks. Consider the recent incident where Pierre Salinger accused the U.S. Navy of a 'friendly fire' and coverup conspiracy in the case of TWA Flight 800! (See also alt.disasters.aviation). --

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