[Air-l] Message board usage - and a reflection on changing research themes

Jenny Stromer-Galley jstromer at albany.edu
Tue Dec 27 18:00:58 PST 2005

I suspect that teenagers and young adults are not using message boards to much
extent. I conducted interviews in 2001 with people who participated on
political Usenet discussions, on Yahoo! current events message boards, and on
Yahoo! politics chat. The average age of my Usenet interviewees was 41,
message board interviewees 34, and chat 31. There's a referrence to this
finding in the methods section in a JCMC article from awhile back:
http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol8/issue3/stromergalley.html. The topic may affect
the average age, though. If I had done interviews in popular culture-oriented
discussion spaces, it's possible the average age may have been lower (but
that's an open question).

As someone who was recently on a panel at AoIR in which I was talking about
chat and the other three presenters were talking about blogs, I have some
concern that the advent of new channels for interaction lead researchers to
jump to studying that new channel when we still don't have a full
understanding of the old channels. I must confess to feeling a little
fuddy-duddy talking about that "old" channel of chat when blogging is now the

And, I suspect, researchers of Internet-channeled phenomena are likely fairly
taken with new technologies as they emerge; we are early adopters, which might
incline us to study the latest, hottest new thing rather than continuing to
study older channels.

~Jenny Stromer-Galley
jstromer at albany.edu

> I've been asked to find out among other things what kinds of Internet
> bulletin boards are most used by young people and what proportion of
> young people visit them. I thought this kind of thing would be fairly
> easy to find out - after all bulletin boards/message boards/usenet
> were among the most studied forms of Internet use in the early days.
> But I am finding it surprisingly difficult to get this information as
> current surveys like the Pew and OxIS ones don't seem to track
> bulletin board use or virtual community participation at all (except
> insofar as it might be included in uses like "seeking sport
> information"). Is it because kids these days are all just using IM
> and writing Xanga blogs or do we only think this because we don't ask
> them about this kind of use any more?
> Can anyone help with my statistical questions? And more generally
> does anyone else agree that as we keep chasing each new phenomenon
> (file sharing, IM, blogging, social network software) we risk losing
> track altogether of still extant and important practices (affinity
> group message board or mailing list use for example - or MUD use?) If
> these uses are indeed being displaced by other uses shouldn't we at
> least have a crack at measuring them so we can be sure they are gone
> so we can chart their decline as well as their rise?
> ---
> David Brake, Doctoral Student in Media and Communications, London

More information about the Air-L mailing list