[Air-l] "lurking"

Åsa Rosenberg asa.rosenberg at sociology.gu.se
Fri May 11 14:27:14 PDT 2007

I think what Becker underlines in Outsiders is that we are all moral
entrepreneurs, and the question then becomes wether we want to enforce
or challenge the connotations of the word "lurker", or the social rules
that enforce that label. I wouldn´t say though that creating a (nicer
sounding) academic synonym would necessarily be a "challenge" in itself.
The challenge would be studying how lurkers become lurkers in social
interaction. Or how lurkers become silent participants on researchers
mailing lists. ;)

"The deviant [lurker] is one to whom that label has sucessfully been
applied; deviant [lurker] behavior is behavior that people so label"


-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
Från: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] För Casey O'Donnell
Skickat: den 11 maj 2007 21:33
Till: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Ämne: Re: [Air-l] "lurking"

On 5/11/07, James Whyte <whyte.james at yahoo.com> wrote:
> The greater implication of this thread is about "labeling" and the 
> inherent potential for negative impact.
>   IMHO, labeling is neither scholarly or useful.
>   Howard Becker, in the book "Outsiders" clearly spells out the impact

> that this variety of stereotypeing has particular  impact on social 
> research.

Hmmm...we seem to be careening off course. But...

I would like to note that you cannot do otherwise when it comes to
labeling. It's how we (humans) work. Now, labels in and of themselves do
work beyond what we intend, but presuming that somehow you're above it
or beyond it is terribly faulty. And actually many would say that
labeling is necessary for academics and scholars, and extremely useful.

"That behavior" is a label.
"Deviant behavior" is also a label.
"Abnormal behavior" is also a label.

Each does different work. This, not that. What if instead I said:

"Playful behavior" (also a label)

Suddenly it has a different connotation.

I think the discussion is useful. We do need other terms, because
sometimes those we've already been using become problematic given
surrounding (contextual) sets of meanings. So we revise them. This is
where the healthy discussion is.

Having read Becker I think he's talking more about those contextual sets
of meanings and what it means for those that become labeled. Not that
labeling is undesirable.

Take my work with video game developers as an example. That's a label.
There are insiders and outsiders. I can question and pressure those
insides and outsides. But to say that no label is necessary leaves me
talking about... ?

So now let's talk about the scholarly part. A good friend of mine looks
at "technological recesses" a label that has already gotten him cited
several times. You even reference Becker's "outsiders" because he's
given it a label, and one rooted in literature. Becker is exceedingly
good at doing this, leveraging contextual meaning systems. It is

It is not useful and unscholarly to not interrogate these categories.
True. I thought that was what was happening.

I like Lane's label of "auditing", but he and I are both labeled
RPI/STS, and as such, I'm biased.

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