December 1996

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

Social and Ethical Perspectives

Three articles comprise the section on Social and Ethical Perspectives. How Usenet as a 'virtual commons' is regulated and organized according to group size and boundaries, rules and institutions,and monitoring and sanctioning, is examined by Peter Kollock and Marc Smith of the Center for the Study of Online Community at UCLA. They adapt the template of Elinor Ostrom's book Governing the Commons, in which she studied a variety of communities and the ways they maintained collective goods. Kollock and Smith conclude that studying the social organization of Usenet has a "double edge: monitoring the behavior of others becomes easier while sanctioning undesirable behavior becomes more difficult; the costs of communication between members of a large group are decreased while the effects of free-riding are often amplified; and the existence of several thousand newsgroups makes it easy for individuals to find others who share specific interests and goals, but also makes those who want to disrupt those groups able to find them" (p. 126).

Nancy Deuel ventures into the world of virtual sex on MUDs and MOOs, examining its emerging protocols and behavioral norms. A strong proponent of freedom of expression, she writes that "pursuit of VSex activities constitutes a distinct form of personal expression, and until a new civil order is imposed in society, Americans are guaranteed freedom of expression under their constitutional rights" (p.145). (In a related note, check out the highlights in the recent court ruling on the Communications Decency Act.)

Kira Hall's article, 'Cyberfeminism', was originally presented at the Berkeley Women and Language Conference. Here, she writes about the discursive styles characterizing what she terms liberal cyberfeminism versus radical cyberfeminism, which is characterized by the development of separatist women-only lists and BBSs. Liberal cyberfeminism is characterized by Lisa Palac's magazine Future Sex, while radical cyberfeminism is characterized by SAPPHO, a women-only list dedicated to the discussion of lesbian and bisexual issues.

Linguistic Perspectives | -Cross-cultural Perspectives | CMC and Group Interactions.

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