[Air-L] a fourth age of Internet Studies? what glues Internet Studies together?
charles.ess at gmail.com
Fri May 15 10:36:14 PDT 2015
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
*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
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
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>
c.m.ess at media.uio.no
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