Short post today on this holiday. I know there are some people out there who look to online friendships and relationships to get them through this time of year. If you’re a WoW player, perhaps you can finally do something about this! Why not try Datecraft a dating website for those who wish to find others as interested in the game as they are. It’s in beta right now so it will be interesting to see how it evolves from here.
Happiness is spending the day doing card sorting. Why does this make me happy? Well, it is me being able to apply my education as an anthropologist to my job as an information architect. So, I get to do anthropology and web development all rolled into one. It could only be better if I were being paid to do ethnographic studies within Warcraft. Here is a great article on what exactly card sorting is, and here is an interesting site on sorting data in general as it relates to other fields (including anthropology).
In class this week are we talking about Globalization and Arjun Appadurai which sparked some thoughts in me on how I’d like to study globalization through interactions online. What I am interested in is seeing the mashup of ethnoscapes, mediascapes, financescapes, and ideoscapes within and because of the technoscape. It’s amazing the adaptation of people and culture and as Appadurai put it, the indigenization or really the melding of cultures to create new ones that are not based off of any specific existing culture.
Take World of Warcraft for instance – it is an online game that over 9 million people play. These people come from all over the world to mingle online as they cooperate together to complete tasks and forge ahead to new and unexplored frontiers. Within this technoscape there is the ethnoscape of the different races of characters that each have their own history and part they play within the storyline. This is on top of considering the different ethnicities of players who play the game, each contributing their own point of view through play style and idea of what is important to them within and what brings them to this online world.
Due to this game being so extensive it is forced beyond its own pixel borders and into the expanse of the outside world of the Internet (as opposed to the enclosed game world). It does so in the form of external communities, blogs, and even internet movies that have their own storylines completely separate from the game. All of which form the game’s mediascape as well as ideoscape even in it’s political terms.
Add to that the economics that exist within the game in dealing with money, services, and goods and you can easily see it has its own financescape as well. This is especially evident when war efforts effect supply and demand, or rare world drops bring in a very pretty penny at the in-game auction house similar to ebay.
This is just one example. There are all sorts of places like this online, I’ve chosen to illustrate these points Warcraft because it is so expansive both through its player base (being the #1 MMO in the world) and its in-game dealings. It is likely the one online fully interactive game that can be considered ‘global’ at this time. This is, in my opinion, a great example of Appadurai’s imagined worlds.
On the subject I broached last night on parent supervision of adolescents online, here comes a story where even parent supervision failed in the end. First the St. Charles Journal broke the story, then CNN and ABC News reported on the story of 13 year old girl who after being taunted and defamed online, committed suicide. It turns out that the person who everyone thought had taunted her, a 16 year old boy on MySpace, was really the mother of a girl that Megan Meier had once been friends with. This woman had created a fake account in order to befriend Megan just so that in the end she could be hurtful to her.
Megan’s parents knowing their daughter’s history of depression, ADD, and weight problems, kept a watchful eye on Megan while she was online. Only they knew the password to her account and her profile was set to private so that all friend requests had to first be approved before anyone could see it. Her parents allowed her to accept the ‘boy’s’ friend request and kept an eye on their conversation. At first he was friendly to her. Had he not been, her parents would have terminated the friendship immediately. However, it is likely that because this persona was at first a friendly one that Megan gradually trusted it and was even excited by the fact she gained the attention of a ‘hot’ boy online. This is also why it would have hurt so badly to have him turn on her in such a hateful and malicious way and why, for a girl that had already had problems, it drove her to suicide in the end.
It was a matter of chance that Megan’s mother had been pressed for time leaving with Megan’s younger sister for the orthodontist as Megan began reading the horrible things this boy was saying about her. During a phone call Megan made to her mom crying, her mom urged her to log off immediately. Her mother returned to find Megan having said some mean things back to those that were being cruel to her as she ran away from the computer and up to her room. It was there, in her closet, that Megan hung herself.
What may be the worst part of it all, after their daughter’s death, Megan’s parents let the girl with whom Megan had once been friends with know that Megan had really valued their friendship. This family offered their condolences, invited Megan’s parents to their daughter’s birthday, and even had the Meiers store a Christmas present for them. It was only after another neighborhood girl came forward as to having known about the fake account that the Meiers found out who was really the person behind the boy that was so hurtful to their daughter. Now they had not only lost their daughter, but had also been ‘played’ by the family who had instigated their loss in the first place. The county prosecutor is now looking at ways to try to press charges in the case, while others infuriated with news outlets for protecting the name of the family involved decided to search it out and publicly publish it for all to see.
As far as cyber anthropology goes, this incident could have far reaching effects as Megan’s parents are trying to get laws enacted to protect children from harassment online. It will be interesting to see where this goes and what the trickle down affects are. I’m interested to hear other opinions on this and will continue to follow this story as it unfolds in the press and in the law books.
Just who is the most wired nation in the world? Well, Korea boasts this title and it may well be true with over 90% of Korean homes online. For a nation as well wired as Korea it has been suggested that many of its internet users have become compulsive or even addicted to being online. It is generally suggested that such addictions are only looked at as problems once they become disruptive to ever day life, causing behavior that is other abnormal and potentially damaging. Such is the case of people who die at their computers after days of endless online gaming. To combat such a problem, South Korea has instituted a first of its kind real world Boot Camp to help break the addiction.
During a session, participants live at the camp, where they are denied computer use and allowed only one hour of cellphone calls a day, to prevent them from playing online games via the phone. They also follow a rigorous regimen of physical exercise and group activities, like horseback riding, aimed at building emotional connections to the real world and weakening those with the virtual one.
While I agree that disruptive and damaging behavior caused by the internet is unhealthy and something should be done about it, my suggestion is to start from the other side. Instead of trying to correct the problem after it happens, how about prevent it before it occurs, especially when it comes to adolescents?
One participant, Lee Chang-hoon, 15, began using the computer to pass the time while his parents were working and he was home alone. He said he quickly came to prefer the virtual world, where he seemed to enjoy more success and popularity than in the real one.
He spent 17 hours a day online, mostly looking at Japanese comics and playing a combat role-playing game called Sudden Attack. He played all night, and skipped school two or three times a week to catch up on sleep.
I am in no position to place ‘blame’ anywhere, but I do have to question why was there a lack of parent forethought or supervision? I feel the same way about games being rated M or movies being rated R. Nothing should prevent access to the internet, or games being released, or movies being shown just because kids may or may not have access to them. Why should it become the industry’s or government’s burden to bare? Do the parents not hold any responsibility here? I wonder how long before a boot camp opens in the US. One think you can be sure of, unlike in South Korea where the government sponsors the camp, there will be no free help here.
In light of events at Virginia Tech earlier this year several schools are looking for ways to issue alerts to their student body in a way that is quick and efficient. While there is email, not everyone checks theirs on a regular basis a great alternative is that of text messaging. My college in particular has set up a system that allows you to subscribe to their text messaging service in order to receive alerts about things like severe weather, major traffic delays (the may highway into the college town was blocked both ways yesterday due to a tank truck being wrecked and then catching fire), and other emergency events.
“Thank you to those of you that updated your contact telephone numbers and gave permission to send emergency text notifications to your cell phone. If you haven’t updated your information, please take a minute to do so at My.UNT.edu – it will only take you a minute and it will keep you informed of emergencies on campus should they occur.
If you did sign up for Eagle Alert text messaging already, you will be receiving an OPT-In text message to confirm your selection to receive emergency text messages.
To acknowledge your participation in the text messaging program, you must reply to that message with the phrase Y UNT (the text message you receive has these instructions as well) and you should not put any other information in the text of the reply message. “
It is unfortunate that it took the events that occurred to spur this into action, but I see this as a very positive step forward in tapping into the possibilities of the connected culture we’ve become.
Let me preface this post by stating my point of view here is on how a big named company has targeted a specific culture through its online and commercial campaign. Should anyone want to comment, I do not wish to discuss the lifestyle, only how it is being addressed as a culture online.
“Snowboarding fly boys. Gender-bending hipster babes who shred. Après-ski bars brightened by the banter of sass-talking divas. Think you’ve died and gone to Oz? Well, wake up, Dorothy! With Travelocity’s exclusive hotels in top gay and lesbian ski destinations, you’ll get more queer than you can shake a feather boa at–and, honey, that’s a lot of queer–for way less moolah. That means more cash for those darling go-go dancers!
This year, ditch the office digs, grab those designer ski poles, and get ready to go all-out gay with these flaming hot ski getaways. Book now for fabulous savings.”
What you just read is real copy off of Travelocity’s site for Gay-Friendly ski hotels. Not only has the company targeted this specific culture for advertising potential, but where they could have stopped at just creating the deals they took it one step further and crafted and entire ambiance around it that tries not only get the audiences attention but tries to empathize with them as well. To coincide with their travel offers Travelocity has also created a tv campaign alluding to this particular culture as well.
In doing a bit of research it turns out that in May, Travelocity partnered with Travel Alternatives Group (TAG), a group that specializes in making finding travel locations easier for GLBT people. Not only does this group look to see whether these companies offer a GLBT friendly atmosphere, but they in their search for gay friendly companies they have made an “effort to qualify accommodations based not only on their desire for gay travel revenues, but on their employment policies, services, and support returned to the gay community”. I wonder if this partnership alone lends credence to the Travelocity campaigns and without it would they be considered derogatory in any way? I also wonder how other cultures would respond to similar marketing techniques.
For all those interested in studying culture online I suggest that if you aren’t keeping up with current internet law, you are doing yourself and those you hope to study a large disservice. I encourage you to check out savetheinternet.com and familiarize yourself with net neutrality. You can read my story here.
I brought up in my post last Saturday the need for my in-laws to have their Internet connection fixed as they had just switched providers and couldn’t get it working again. My question at the time was, how many in their demographic feel as strongly as they do about the internet? When we think of things that draw people of that age group toward being online, it generally consists of things directly relating to the offline world such as work, and family. While I am sure there are those 60+ year olds out there who have their own MySpace page, I’m fairly certain it’s not as common as those between the ages of 13 and 45. However, this may soon change. A UK site aimed toward the over 50 crowd has created their own community that requires you be half a century or more to join.
Boasting 13,000 to date, the oldest of which being an 87 year old from Ireland, the site aims to provide older netizens with a community of their own. They even provide a space for members to blog now. What I found most interesting what the layout of the site. It is bright, clean, well spaced out with large fonts and headings, and a line of ad space sequestered to the right hand side (most of it centered around saving money or the community itself). It even uses the not as common as it should be ability to make the text even larger if you find it’s too small and it is denoted by the simple phrase, ‘Text too small?’. You can see this is in contrast to the small, tightly compacted MySpace layout littered with blinking ads and member pictures. The difference being a site that is easy to navigate and relevant to it’s users versus a site that tries to play to everyone who’s purpose tends to get lost in the process.
I am excited to see a site like this in place and am eager to find out if there are more (in the US maybe), and how they compare to this one in terms of design and member numbers.
As we communicate and associate with people and businesses more and more online we begin to leave a digital foot print for all to see. This is especially the case if you have been online a long time and have associated your name with your online actions through profiles, instant messengers, and/or social networking sites. It may also be the case that you find your name online in a public forum through no doing of your own. Searching on my own name I’ve come across emails I sent out while doing tech-support for a gaming video card company. My name was attached to my email because that was part of my job and then someone took my email and posted it on a message board for others to see, forever linking my name to Macintosh support for that company.
Where this can become an issue is when you apply for a job and your internet savvy boss decides to Google your name. This can be a problem for several reasons as not only will anything you’ve ever done online will come up, but if you have a common name, other people’s online deeds may show up as well. In that case, even if you have been a good netizen (and your offline slate is clean or has not been made available online) your reputation may be tarnished by others. While you may be able to explain those cases away, be careful that you do not land in the same situation this previous government employee did when his employers decided to research his work history online. While this is old news to many, I am surprised at the amount of people who have never considered this a possibility.
This practice is only going to become more common as our online and offline lives become more integrated and therefor should be something of which more people are aware. So be careful what you put out there, and keep tracks on what others have said about you as well. Your next job may depend on it.
If you have no plans from March 7th – 11th I suggest you head on down to Austin Texas for the SXSW Interactive festival. The keynote speaker is Henry Jenkins who is the head of Comparative Media Studies at MIT. The two books I have by him on my currently reading bookshelf are Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and Fans, Bloggers and Gamers. Neither of which I have finished, but both I have started and so far very much enjoy. Then there are the multitude of panels which on their own should make for one hell of an interactive festival. I only hope I can get the three days off to go!
Well, that and a hotel room…
So, as I am sure happens to most people who are knowledgeable about computers and the internet, we have been called away to work on my in-laws Internet connection for them as they just switched providers and are having problems. In the end this benefits us as much as it benefits them because it allows us to communicate with each other when we are unable to meet face to face to do our very busy schedules. I find it interesting though that they find their connection to the Internet to be of up most importance and wonder how many others within their demographic feel the same way.
You can block ads, you can block commercials, but will you block your friends? Facebook has come out with a new way to promote advertising on their site. Doing their best to leverage your community of friends for their gain, Facebook will now allow your friends to select products they like and then pass that information on to you in the form of what has been declared a ‘social ad’.
Now, I can kind of see the logic behind this. You and your friends likely have similar tastes, likes and dislikes. So, what’s good for your friends is in most cases probably good for you as well. And, who knows you better than your friends right? They are generally someone you trust when seeking product advice allowing you to make informed decisions about products and services based on their experience. However, The key point in this entire process though is that you seek this information out.
If I am buying a new car, I’ll ask my friends what they like and don’t like about their cars. However, I don’t want my friends pushing their car information on me if I didn’t ask for it. This is where I see a likely problem with this part of their new ad idea. I only want information I need, seek out, and can (immediately) use. I have to wonder, depending on how invasive this is, could this actually cause rifts within online friendship circles if this information comes through unwarranted and unsought after? What will this do to the Facebook community? It is likely people will start looking for work arounds and ways to avoid this annoyance as they have with previous advertising attempts. CNET makes a good point, if your community members are looking for work arounds, then it is likely what you’re doing is actually counter productive.
Happy World Usability Day!
World Usability Day is today and there are several events going on all over the world. If you are in the
10:30-11:15AM Donna Flynn (Research Manager, MS Mobile and Embedded Devices)
Impactful Ethnography: Integrating deep insights across company divisions.
In an unprecedented move (to my knowledge), the AAA has created a blog in order to share their latest statement on the U.S. Military’s Human Terrain System (HTS) project. While I think they made a bold statement and I am very interested as an anthropologist to see how this plays out, the most interesting thing to me as a cyber anthropologist is their use of a blog in order to elicit response to their statement.
While I applaud their step forward with a blog, I don’t believe they understand how to truly utilize a blog or what the purpose of a blog is. You can see this by their failure to actually post what they are blogging about. Instead, they provide a link AWAY from their blog in order to read their statement. Not only that, but who ever posted the statement on their website failed to format it properly. I’m not trying to be critical here, only pointing out that organizations making attempts to branch out of their modus operandi should seek advice about doing so if they are unsure how to go about it. Otherwise, these organizations end up doing more of a disservice to their audience than the good they originally intended.
The amount of work I have to go through to get to what I want to get to would seem to me to be a bit of a deterrent for those who are not as cyber-patient as I am. By cyber-patience I mean that I am more willing to go through things to get to what I want before I give up than most others are simply by virtue of spending as much time as I do online and being easily able to filter out the good and bad distractions before I get to frustrated with the process. It takes a lot to frustrate me online, however, with my new job I have to step back into the average users shoes and see it from their point of view.
- First we have to log into our email.
- Then we go through our email deciphering what is spam, what is important, and what is bacn for later.
- We find an email from AAA stating the executive board has made a statement on the HTS project.
- We click on the message to read our email.
- We read the email that tells us about a blog on the statement we’ve been eagerly anticipating. It does not list what the statement is, or the contents of the blog, or responses that have since filtered through. Instead, it just tells us there has been a statement issued and that the AAA launched a blog to solicit member comments and that the blog includes text of the statement
- We click on the link to go to the blog, taking us away from our email and the task we were originally performing.
- We get to the blog to read that the AAA has made a statement and get a bit of an explanation of why they made the statement and what it was about.
- We get to the end of the blog post to see a link to the AAA site where we can actually find the statement we went through this entire process to get to.
It would have been simpler to have included the statement in the email, include it again on the blog with the option to comment, and include a link from the blog to the statement on the website just for posterities sake. This is what I mean by doing a disservice to their audience rather than the good they originally intended. So, while I give the AAA kudos in finally catching up with the 21st century, I suggest they have a little more to learn before it actually becomes useful for them or their members.
There seems to be a few things that are still taboo to do online. There are three that come directly to mind. First, would be admitting you met your loved one online. Second, to admit that most of your time with your friends is online. Third, that you are going to school in an online program. Unfortunately all of these things apply to me!
I have to admit, that though I did meet my now husband (newly weds as of March 17th of this year) in person in passing at a party just over 5 years ago, it was almost a year later that we started talking and really got to know each other online. I spent more time with him online in the first 3 weeks of our friendship than I did with him in person. Due to my hectic life of being a wife, mother (step), full time student, who works full time I actually spend a lot of time with my friends online (computer or phone). This is either via chatting, or through our blogs, or through gaming in World of Warcraft. As far as school goes, I am always amazed how often I feel I have to justify my being in an online program. I have to specify it is an academic rather than technical program, and I have to state it is for my masters, and lastly I have to mention it is at a respectable college who just happens to be one of the leading traditional colleges in online education.
For some reason all of these things seem to be too personal or too important to be handled in an online environment, thus, making anything that happens online second best to things that take place in a face-to-face environment. However, people seem to enjoy the fact that they can do their banking online, or work from home via a vpn connection, or even keep up with far away family members via photos and video shared online. I find it very interesting that there is a cultural line drawn between these things.
I believe people feel this way because they see the ‘online’ part of it and mark it as only being superficial or without any depth. I suppose if I elaborated to show how I meld my online and offline world this would some how make it better. In my world I bring face-to-face and online together as often as I can. Obviously this worked out for my relationship as we are now married (though due to our schedules we do carry out a lot of our daily conversations online either via text messaging or through messengers). I invite my entire local friends list out with me via my livejournal at least once a month. This usually results in 10-20 people meeting and eating Tex-Mex together at our favorite restaurant. I even invited my Canadian guild leader in WoW to my wedding (she couldn’t make it due us moving up our date and her still being pregnant – but she would of if she could have and had planned to for our original date that was 6 months later) and I talk to guild members via phone and text messaging often. Though I am in an online academic program, I live less than 20 miles away from campus (that’s very close in Texas!) and I participate in as many social gatherings as I can. I will even supplement my online curriculum with electives I take on campus there (it is my alma matter for my undergrad as well).
I am curious to see how attitudes change as a generation who has never known a time without internet access begins to make a single world out of the two most try to keep separate. For me there really is no separation. Why make a distinction? What purpose does that serve? I see the value in f2f and in online relationships – even those that never cross the line from one to the other. In the end, I figure if I can trust my bank to handle my money online and my work trusts me to work online then I should be able to marry the man of my dreams I got to know online and trust my university to handle my education there as well.
I am eagerly awaiting the time when the rest of the world catches up with me.
ETA: (This is a posting I did tonight on my Thought and Praxis -aka theory- class discussion boards on postmodernism anthropology. I added it here because I believe it shares some of the reasons why I view things the way I do.)
For me, I am both a fan of philosophy and Nietzsche as well as a fan of questioning everything including my own reality (a bit of solipsism there) so Postmodernism works for me in that light. It’s strength is that it allows everything to be questioned, even those highest of ideals that seem unquestionable (as Nietzsche did with Religion for example).
However, a weakness for me is that in order to be a scientist, while you should have a healthy curiosity, there should be something in yourself to which you question things against. Something you hold to in order to form the foundation of your discovery and point of view. Yes, this makes it subjective, but I feel you can compare objective positions to your own subjectivity in order to come to conclusion that you then share as objectively as possible with the rest of the world. The point of doing this is to allow other people to test these conclusions against their own thus allowing us to question ourselves against ourselves. HOLY BATMAN are we getting circular here! Hopefully you follow, if not just consider me delirious after the first two days at my new job.
Now, Nietzsche would say “Morality is the herd in the individual”, however, I think that culture would fail if there wasn’t some sort of standard of morality people adhered too. Some sort of reality they all subscribed to in order to make it all work. A cultural foundation upon which people are able to question the world around them (ethnocentric perhaps). This reality has to exist both partially inside and outside of them in order for all of them to live and work together. This is where the conflict within myself begins and the weaknesses in postmodernism rear their ugly head for me. As an anthropologist being someone who believes in culture and sees that there are certain glues that hold cultures together, I see the purpose of things like morality, collective/objective realities. However, I understand for myself that this is all within my own subjective context.
Alas, we come back to dualism or what I like to think of as hybridity. The melding of two systems to make my own. I must be in this mode of thought tonight, as this duality was what my cyber-anthro blog post was about as well.
So today was my first day at my new job. This means I’m both wired and exhausted at the same time. I now work for an interactive marketing firm who is just as interested in the social aspects of their work online as they are about their people in-house and the bottom line. I find this wholly fascinating as an anthropologist and as a previous designer/developer turned information architect.
I don’t think I’ve ever come home from a first day of orientation more inspired to make a difference and be great at my job than I did today. Talking about relationship marketing and building communities from an agency standpoint is just amazing to me. The best part is they invite people to be skeptical about it all. I think being skeptical and inspired at the same time drives people to make it all happen. There are so many ways I can see cyber anthropology being applied to different aspects of this company both inside and out that I very excited to get in there and see how I can apply both my education and technical background to my work. Oddly, it’s a company I feel I can help make a difference in and with.
I say oddly because people rarely have that opinion of what is technically referred to as an ad agency.
As I stated in my last entry, I am no authority on this subject. I am just very passionate about it and am eager to find any and all information out there relating to it or correlating it with other media studies being done in association with the internet. What I have found in my search for information on cyber anthropology is that everything is very scattered or has become stagnant. I always find myself disappointed when I find a promising link to information and find that it was last updated over 10 years ago.
I have also found that (please correct me if I am wrong) there is no definitive authority on cyber anthropology, no end all be all source where one can find studies pertaining to it or research completed on it. Even pages with lists of journals and such have several links that are out of date or otherwise dead. The goal of this blog is to stay active and at some point compile a compendium of current and past studies, be an instigator for new studies, gain opinions and insight from those who are also interested in it or have some authority in the field while at the same time serve as a place where I can hash out my own thoughts, ideas and opinions. While I don’t necessarily think of myself as a pioneer here, I do hope this blog becomes a kind of torch to keep the study active and current and perhaps light the way for more cohesive and collective study in the field.
One last goal is that I’d like to present all of this in a way that it is interesting to people both in and outside of academia. I want it to be accessible by everyone and applicable by all who can find ways to apply it. I’d like to find ways to translate the stiff college writing and peer reviewed articles to the gamer, blogger, and social-networker, while at the same time providing academia with a link to their thoughts and opinions on what’s being written about them. In addition to that, I would love to be involved in finding ways both academia and its research subjects can apply the research being carried out.
I suppose these are pretty lofty goals and will take lots of time, patience, and tenacity to carry them all out. What would please me most is for this blog to generate a community of gamers, bloggers, social-networkers, anthropologists, sociologists, ethnographers, students, professors, researchers and the like who are all interested in the study and application of cyber anthropology. At the moment, other than starting my new position tomorrow as an information architect and continuing my studies in grad school in applied anthropology, nothing excites me more than looking for ways to make this happen.
What is cyber anthropology? A short definition I came up with is the study of online culture and culture online. However, I like to take ‘online’ a step further than just computers connecting to the Internet and instead consider any means of communication that is handled over a network. This can mean what we traditionally call the Internet, as well as things like Xbox live, Playstation online, networking between handhelds, and even the ways you connect through your mobile phone. Anyway you can connect with one or more people in a non face-to-face (f2f) way I consider a means of communicating online. I simply refer the term online culture as a way to encompass all of this. Online culture has its own set of learned beliefs, values, and behaviors, which distinguishes itself from ‘offline’ culture and is why I set online culture apart from studying culture online.
When I refer to studying culture online, I mean studying cultures that exist offline in their online context or in relating to things online. Just a smattering of things I can think off the top of my head that I would be interested in: How do different demographics of people use the Internet? How do people from different cultural backgrounds connect to others and with each other online? How does the introduction of the internet effect developing countries? How does government control effect how the Chinese view the Internet? How does Russia and South Korea handle online piracy and why is it so common there? How do cyber laws affect people in the US as well as all over the globe? What is the culture that surrounds Internet cafes is Japan? How does all of this effect online culture in general? I could go on and on.
My Masters studies being in Applied Anthropology, I am also interested in how to apply studies dealing with the Internet to real life problems. A couple of examples here the application of online gaming as a means of education and a teaching tool to students of foreign language or those with reading and comprehension difficulties, as well as how using mouse and eye tracking software we can make web sites more accessible to people with disabilities or different levels of computer knowledge.
What I love most about the study of things in any online context is how dynamic, fast paced, and ever changing everything is. There is always something new and they run the gamut from humor like lolcats or networking like Twitter. Even if these two things persist in the coming months they will not be the same a year from now as they are today. They will have to evolve to keep up with advances in technology, current events, and the ever-present ever-increasing competition to be viable in the future.
This is somewhat of a relatively new field when it comes to anthropology, but it has been a research topic ethnography since the Internet burst onto the scene. So while online ethnography is not new, I believe the concept of cyber anthropology, especially as I have tried to somewhat define it here, is still emerging. It is something I am very passionate about and I hope that comes through in my writing. I am more a student than an authority on anything I publish here and I welcome any and all input on the ideas I set forth in this blog. So please feel free let me know what you think!
Do you like my theme? Feel free to download it and use it on your own WordPress site. By doing so you agree to participate in Recycled Research. Curious yet? I chose this theme for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I like the way you can customize it as it comes with different layouts and skins built in. Secondly, I love the idea behind this research.
By navigating on this site you are sending back data on how you use it via your mouse coordinates. From an anthropological stand point I’m interested in the fact that it shows how users use the tools provided to them. I think it would be fascinating to take different demographics of people, sit them all in front of a site using this software and see how each group differs. By adding participant observation to this utility, we will not only get a real readout of what is happening on the site, but also quantitative data on what else is grabbing the users attention, what their thoughts are, and how they use the physical tools provided to them as they interact with the virtual tools on the screen. All of this put together can assist interaction designers in making a highly valuable user experience.
This information can not only be used to make a well designed site, but also allows designers to design sites to meet the needs for all levels of users. In the future, sites could change over time to better suit your user level and habits allowing you a more customized user experience. The benefit here is especially evident when it comes to accessibility. For example, if someone has a hard time seeing things and thus misses a button each time they go to click on it because it is too small, then the code behind the site can make the button larger or move it a little to one side or the other based on that particular habit.
Imagine a site that allows you to teach it instead of it expecting to have to teach you!