Steve begins by reminding us of his first experience with computing – PDP 8e – 64K memory, $100,000 to buy another 64K; also reminisces on PLATO (programmed logic for autoatic teaching operations) – PLATO, Steve says, contained the kind of affordances that we use now – chat, group and personal notes and “a lot of talk about music”. PLATO is 50 years old. Why did PLATO have chat? Because people used it in a large room and users didn’t want to walk across the room to say something to each other. It had games!
Personal memory: I first used computers aged 17 at Grace Bros – a department store – in their massive mainframe installation (lots of IBMs); I recall playing adventure, Star Trek, and just being utterly fascinated with what these ‘thinking’ machines did
One of the main drivers of research into CMC in the 1980s was commercial – businesses looking to see what the use of computers for email, messaging, groupware might do for organisational and business improvement – eg Sproull and Kiesler (. “It was taken for granted that computers were being used for interpersonal communication”. By the mid 1980s, there was more awareness of social uses – e.g. did it replace ‘around the watercooler talk’. Business were, still, interested in productivity increases. CMC / f2f communication comparisons were essential. A critical question related to the inherent properties of CMC influencing the choice of this medium over others.
Now turns to Pew survey from 1995: only 32% of users (a small number) in this year as surveyed said thet would miss the net ‘a lot’ if it was not there; “few see online activities as essential”. Steve says that 15 years later, online activities are “inescapable” – not just essential. The Pew Internet Life Project commence some years later – 1999. This research actually missed the adoption curve through the late 1990s. Data – 2000 – 46% adults used; now 75% adults use. Critical change? – MOBILE.
I like Steve’s comment re ‘inescapable’ – this really demonstrates the social adoption and diffusion of the Internet because it is no longer a choice, for many people, whether they engage online. Rather, society creates the expectation for them and therefore produces a socio-technological imperative for access
Steve now moves on: what is Internet research? Based on submissions to New Media and Society and what is seen elsewhere, it is primarily sociology and psychology in its basis, with desire to quantify and use empirics to explore who is online, what do they say, what do they do. Asserts that this is an effect, in part, of tenure system, grant system, ethics systems and how the media likes to report on simple ‘what is happening’ data. Yet it is also an effect of the technology – Internet developments drive our research focus “who is studying IRC? who is studying Twitter?”.
In Australia, curiously, there is probably a lot more theoretical work in Internet Studies because there is so little money available for research, there is less emphasis on sociology as a discipline – and more on cultural studies, media and communications is based in pragmatics or cultural studies and not psychology. I would argue that Australia lacks the research which Steve says dominates in the USA. However, I completely agree that Internet scholars often move too quickly to adopt a perspective on the latest development, rather than to continue on with the still-legitimate and important older forms. Web 2.0 is a good example; and, for me, the shift to Web 2.0 is driven by the same imperatives for institutional success and, for us at Curtin, the need to link our research into updating our teaching program.
Steve Jones wants to move beyond text and word: discusses Electronic Visualisation Laboratory, which has run since 1973. What happenes if we think further into the future around the question of visualisations? He discusses CAVE and 3-D interactive dimensionality. One critical outcome: these EV environments give users control over perspective – unlike the art gallery, magazine etc. First major change in our visuality of perspective since Renaissance.
Steve is doing an interesting thing: he’s reminding us that the crunchy heart of early Internet research was all that great stuff on CMC and CSCW from the 1980s-e1990s. Then, as I read it, he is implying that the differential world of communication and media now is about rich, immersive visualisation (and least it is coming and can be glimpsed – rather like CMC in the 1980s) and perhaps we need to be thinking about the communicative modalities of these environments
So what are the challenges for Internet research (these are the challenges emerging from advanced speed/data/display/visualisation technologies)
they are about the extraordinary challenges of differently augmented reality – eg very large displays; immersive displays and so on. How to interface with (say) a 12 foot long video wall? Think about changes in the rest of society – a decade ago, universities were seen as exciting for giving ethernet-based broadband in the dorms; now that is nothing new. if we are now going to teach in interactive environments, in these conditions: interaction is different; time difference cannot be overcome like space; sound works oddly through these interactions
So, in Internet studies: we need to look ahead using qualitative approaches focusing on our research objects using a notion of product, place and commentary; Steve skips over some interesting stuff to emphasise, again, the importance of ‘human’ kinds of immersive enviornments – e.g. interacting with avatars online where the avatars are informational beings. Also shows Photosynch application to show how photos can be computationally stitched together to create ‘overall’ images. (See the Ted Talk)
Visualisation, Interaction, Collaboration, Immersion (from Costigan,2000) – Steve Jones says it is about us being immersed in the data landscape as much as being immersed in VR – eg, like we become part of the net.
Question about videoconferencing. Steve replies that younger users, by anecdote, are happy or unselfconscious about being on camera; yet he also notes that older users (the grandparents on skype) are equally disinhibited once motivated by the desire to connect with grandchildren. Notes too – the students he refers to – game design students using technology across UIC and Moscow State U – are motivated to ‘show’ because of the very visual nature of their collaboration.
Question about social use / research vs commercial. Difficult for the base researchers at EVL to ‘get’ the applications which this work might lead to – it’s like we can imagine the future, but not quite how to ‘productise’ it?