[Air-l] Listserv Research

Charles Ess cmess at drury.edu
Thu Sep 14 13:43:12 PDT 2006

Hi Kevin,

I'd strongly echo Lori Kendall's pointers to Susan Herring's work, starting
in the early 1990s (to my knowledge), as an excellent starting point for
analysis and orientation to the literature.

Herring, S., Johnson, D., and DiBenedetto, T. 1995. 'This discussion is
going too far! Male resistance to female participation on the Internet'.  In
_Gender Articulated_, eds. K. Hall and M. Buchholtz.  Great Britain:

Herring, S. 1996. "Posting in a Different Voice: Gender and Ethics in
Computer-Mediated Communication."  In C. Ess (ed.), _Philosophical
Perspectives on Computer-Mediated Communication_, pp. 115-145.  Albany, NY:
SUNY Press.  (this chapter has been anthologized several times.)

Herring, S. 2000. "Gender Differences in CMC. Findings and Implications."
_The CPRS Newsletter_, Vol. 18, No. 1.

In addition: I'm not sure if she's still on-list - but Janne Bromseth
completed her PhD this summer at the Norwegian University of Science and
Technology, "Genre trouble and the body that mattered: Negotiations of
gender, sexuality and identity in a Scandinavian mailing list community for
lesbian and bisexual women."
Full disclosure: I was the first opponent for the thesis, I'm a part-time
employee at NTNU, and I think Janne's work is terrific (as do many people in
AoIR, I know).
I can't recommend this thesis enough - first of all, if you're interested in
an up-to-date literature review on the kind of phenomena you've mentioned.
Moreover, the second opponent, Nina Wakeford (Surrey), said it perfectly:
this is the only dissertation she's read that she immediately wanted to pick
up and re-read.  Following its participant-observation methodology, the
dissertation unfolds the story of this list - including its ultimate demise
- in a way that often reads with the excitement of a mystery novel.
I don't want to spoil the mystery for you (believe me - it is _amazing_!
Janne hit researcher's _gold_ on this one) - but you will find, if you are
able to delve into it, not only the excellent literature review, but also a
very compelling story and analysis of how listservs can be (unintentionally
or otherwise) destroyed.
(It is, sadly, pertinent and prescient with regard to some of the behaviors
we've seen here lately. Indeed, given what I know about this literature and
the various listservs whose deaths have been well-documented (almost certain
to happen, as we knew by the early 1990s, if they are unmoderated) - if only
from a researcher's perspective, I'm not sure we've seen anything really

If Janne is not onlist, and if you'd like to get a copy of her dissertation
for reading, please contact me privately.

Good luck!  Let us know what you find out -

- charles 

>    I'm fairly new to the list and I'm trying to place the recent
> metadiscussion about the listserv itself and participation in context
> with what I know about typical and historical behavior on and
> characteristics of listservs and listserv participants.
>    I am not interested in (publicly) discussing this listserv and its
> recent and ongoing events.  What I am interesting in is expanding my
> own knowledge of relevant research which may inform the discussion and
> aid me in placing this into context.  I am aware of some resources
> specifically related to this topic, particularly Brian Butler's 1999
> dissertation "The Dynamics of Cyberspace: Examining and Modelling
> Online Social Structure" and the works referenced therein.  However, I
> am having some difficulty locating additional and more recent relevant
> research as much of what I am finding is research performed *using*
> listservs but not *about* listservs.  I suspect that I may not be
> using the correct terminology or jargon to perform a sufficiently
> narrow search.  I also suspect that my topic may simply be too broad
> or undefined.  Can some kind soul please point me in the right
> direction or towards specific resources that may be useful?
>    I also have to wonder if my difficulty in finding more recent
> resources may be attributed to a dying off of listservs as they are
> replaced by wikis, blogs, bulletin boards, and other resources.  But
> that does not match my experience at all.  It may indeed happen over
> time but it seems that although younger persons are often dismissive
> of e-mail it many older persons, particularly in the professional
> worlds in which I have worked, still hold onto e-mail and thus
> perpetuate listservs as a viable, useful medium.
> Kevin Guidry
> Information Technology Fellow
> Sewanee: The University of the South
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Distinguished Research Professor,
Interdisciplinary Studies <http://www.drury.edu/gp21>
Drury University
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Information Ethics Fellow, 2006-07, Center for Information Policy Research,
School of Information Studies, UW-Milwaukee
Co-chair, CATaC conferences <www.catacconference.org>
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Professor II, Globalization and Applied Ethics Programmes

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23

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