[Air-L] a fourth age of Internet Studies? what glues Internet Studies together?

Heinz, Lisa ls144009 at ohio.edu
Wed May 20 06:32:17 PDT 2015

Thank you, Professor Ess, for posting this great summary and question. I am not sure I can add to the discussion other than to say that this post proved very timely for me. I am currently preparing for my comprehensive exams to complete my masters and one major component to the exams is my focus on defining Internet Studies and my future role in that.  Two of the four texts mentioned have been central to that preparation (Consalvo and Ess, and Tsatsou) and now I will locate the other two. 

This discussion list in general has been a direct way to build my reading list and I am very thankful for it. I will mention that I inadvertently stumbled into what Professor Ess defined as the "Fourth Age" of Internet Studies as I began my new career in it through gender and  critical approaches.  If there is anything else folks want to add to this discussion that focuses on this Fourth Age, I would appreciate the pointers. 


Lisa M. Heinz
Masters Student, Media Arts & Studies
Fall 2015: PhD Student in Mass Communication - Journalism
Ohio University

From: Air-L <air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org> on behalf of Charles Ess <charles.ess at gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, May 15, 2015 1:36 PM
To: Air list
Subject: [Air-L] a fourth age of Internet Studies? what glues Internet  Studies together?

Dear AoIRists,
Partly for the sake of a recent lecture at the University Institute of
Lisbon, (ISCTE-IUL), kindly hosted by Gustavo Cordoso and colleagues, I
reviewed some work on Internet Studies including:

Mia Consalvo & C. Ess, *The Handbook of Internet Studies*, Blackwell, 2011.

C. Ess & W. Dutton, *new media and society *15(5: 2013) 633–643

Panayiota Tsatsou, *Internet Studies: Past,  Present, and Future
Directions. *Ashgate, 2014.

Håkan Selg, *Researching the Use of the Internet — A Beginner’s Guide. *Uppsala
Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology 109, 2014.

What I found (in part):

Internet studies in what Barry Wellman and Bernie Hogan identify as “the
third age” of Internet Studies – and what Heidi Campbell and Mia Lövheim
identify as “the third wave” of work in Digital Religion (as a subdomain of
Internet Studies) – continues from the earliest work in CMC a focus on
community, along with more interdisciplinary / longitudinal studies.

From the overview Bill Dutton and I took away from our special issue of new
media and society – from among several patterns we described, I further
highlighted the increasing prominence of critical studies as grounded,
e.g., in political economy approaches, including a thread of attention to
how far autonomy, empowerment (of citizens, not simply consumers), gender
equality, etc. are indeed fostered via Internet-facilitated communications,
where these communications take place in almost entirely commercialized
spaces aimed at commodification and self-commodification.

A good part of this is extended and developed by Panayiota Tsatsou, who
argues for a research agenda focusing on:

*1. *the concept of *agency* (versus structure) and the question of whether
agency in relation to the Internet derives from social or
systemic/structural actors and factors;

*2. *the concept of *power* and the question of *who owns power and the
implications of power relationships and dynamics *for Internet development
and effects;

*3. *the concept of *identity* and the question of *whether the Internet
has an identity and, accordingly, the Internet’s implications for user
identity*. (2014, 216)

I then suggested that Campbell and Lövheim’s account of an emerging “fourth
wave” of work in Digital Religion might be a suggestive analogue for how
Internet Studies will continue to unfold, as including:

1. further refinement and development of *methodological – and, I [Ess -
but also Tsatsou] would add, ethical -* approaches, as well as the creation
of *typologies* for *categorization* and *interpretation* purposes.

2. *longitudinal* studies on *the / relationship between the online–offline

3. reflection on the *social and institutional implication*s of practicing
religion online

4. what impact, if any, this will have on the *construction of identity,
community, authority and authenticity* in wider culture.

Again, matters of identity, agency, relationship, community, and power come
to the fore here.

All of this inspired an effort to try to encapsulate these various insights
into something of a heuristic for Internet Studies - a first response to
the question of "What is it"? and/or the question, as nicely put by Tiago
Lapa (ISCTE-IUL), "What glues Internet Studies together?".  I offer the
following as something of a draft - not intended to be exhaustive or
complete, but something of a starting point, for the sake of asking
AoIRists: what would you add and/or correct?


Drawing on disciplines throughout the natural sciences, social sciences,
and the humanities, Internet Studies explores Internet-facilitated human
(and machine) communication with characteristic (but not exclusive) focus
on how identity, agency, relationship, community, and power interact with
the affordances of Internet-based communication technologies, often with a
careful view towards larger ethical, social, political, cultural, economic,
legal, and other human contexts. Internet Studies further includes
meta-theoretical development and refinement of various research
methodologies; specific attention to the ethical challenges and possible
resolutions to these challenges that arise in the course of such research;
and the histories of the Internet, including web history as a domain in its
own right.


Many thanks in advance,

- charles ess

Professor in Media Studies
Department of Media and Communication
University of Oslo

Director, Centre for Research in Media Innovations (CeRMI)
Editor, The Journal of Media Innovations
President, INSEIT <www.inseit.net>

Postboks 1093
Blindern 0317
Oslo, Norway
c.m.ess at media.uio.no
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