The online disinhibition effect

On a quest to find out how the technologies we use change and shape our character and values, I stumbled across an interesting theory. It is known as the online disinhibition effect and it involves the social restrictions we have in a normal face-to-face environment and how they can tend to get thrown out the window online. It is a known cause of many problems with the internet such as cyber bullying and trolling, but I believe it also relates deeply to other aspects such as piracy and fraud. I was looking into whether or not people able to compartmentalize and become “different people” when working in a digital rather than physical space and I believe the online disinhibition effect gave me exactly what I was looking for. The idea that we have a form of  dissociative anonymity on the web means that people don’t feel threatened with the consequences of their actions . This points mainly to trolling on message boards but also can be applied to our more questionable decisions. Can I really be punished if nobody knows I did it? This question applies to real life as well as the internet and my thought is no. An unnoticed crime wouldn’t be punished in real life unless you turned yourself in from guilt and many believe this attributes to why people feel comfortable doing illegal things online. Apparently a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to track you down over the internet thus they feel comfortable behind their screens saying and doing whatever they please. John Suler speaks to this in his article “The Online Disinhibition Effect” where he goes into great detail about the many aspects of what being anonymous does to people from a psychological standpoint. In fact his article does a great job of linking my two inquiry questions: Are people able to compartmentalize and become “different people” when working in a digital rather than physical space, and in what ways does being anonymous make us feel safe about making ethically questionable decisions that I feel I need to search for a new question. For the time being however I want to delve deeper into how anonymity affects us.

It doesn’t seem to be a topic of debate that being anonymous changes the way we behave. The psychology community appears to unanimously agree that something changes when we get the freedom to not be ourselves. Popular theories relating to group dynamics such as Group Polarization relate partly to our ability to de-individualize ourselves in large groups. When you apply this to the internet and see groups as message boards or communities it makes sense that people are able to say things beyond normal logic. Add to that the fact that many feel completely anonymous and its no wonder there is such a trolling problem online. Trolling, for those who do not know, is making a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them. As it so happens trolls are prime examples of decent people compartmentalizing themselves in an online space. Maria Konnikova addresses anonymous commenting in her article for the Newyorker “The Psychology of Online Comments” where she notes that the internet isn’t the first time we see these actions but it increased the rate of them alarmingly. I think there is a lot to be said about the “freedom” the internet offers and with that freedom come great responsibility and it will take a lot more scientific studies before a definite conclusion is reached. In the mean time I will collect the current information we have and try to make sense of what is happening in the society that is the internet.

Ron is a Swell Guy

Harris and company refer to the way we write in a manner which can be summarized by our experiences. They state that our writing style comes not from our “discourse community” or our selves, as they see it we can neither write wholly in one manner or the other. Thus our writing must be a combination of all of our communities and ourselves, to say that we create our individual styles because we cannot separate ourselves entirely from our other communities. I agree with them on this point and think that logically it makes sense that we would bring our personality to our community writings, even if it may not be the most appropriate way of writing. Harris makes a good point that there should not be this expectation in academic discourse communities that the way “we” do things is proper and “they” are wrong, instead he thinks we should consider other pedagogues as equally valuable.

I really liked Ron’s excerpt about how other disciplines may not value the freedom offered by his writing course. In my academic experiences freedom is not only impossible, it is downright irrelevant. I have a decent amount of experience in Mathematics and less experience in Computer Science but in both discourse communities the idea of writing “freely’ isn’t possible. I suppose at the highest level of theoretical mathematics this sort of writing might exist but as a student I am not at liege to propose radical papers in an attempt to add to the community. Instead I am expected only to learn what has been discovered through thousands of years of hard work. As such I don’t value the idea of an academic discourse community at all. Honestly, I think this could only ever apply to liberal arts and has no real place in the worlds of Math or Computer Science. The reason I like Math and Computer Science is because there isn’t this sort of grey area of right/wrong, there is a very straight forward right and wrong and only the highest level of experts are allowed to argue otherwise. I do see value in what Harris writes about in other academic communities but I’d like to keep myself distanced from the notions exhibited. Like Ron said “I won’t break out because I have this bad habit, it’s called eating”. I have to say I like Ron, much more so than Harris or Swales, he seems like a swell guy.

As far as the relation between Harris’ ideas and Swales’ I noticed that while Harris does not disagree with Swales neither does he wholly agree. Instead I’d like to think Harris liked Swales’ idea but saw the flaws in it as well. Harris points out that by Swales’ definition leads us to fall back onto a warmly persuasive stance on communities. I think Harris’ main ideas line up with Swales’ but the way Swales addresses them is too unopposed. Without a counter to community the term loses significant meaning and Harris knows that. Overall I think Harris and Swales both make good points about discourse communities and I see no reason why both can’t be right.

Discourse Cultures

Discourse communities have direct implications on literacy because there are different expectations of literate people in different communities. In a science community there would probably be an expectation for members to know how to understand lap report style writing and have knowledge over basic scientific concepts. However these expectations would not qualify somebody as literate in a programming community, just as how knowing programming languages wouldn’t make you literate in the science community. Discourse communities are like small cultures that have their own needs and practices, many which would not apply to other communities so the meaning of literacy can change from group to group. As such the definition of literacy where as applied to an English community is completely different from the literacy of a Math community.

Higher Education Communities and You

At current, I am an apprentice of the academic community for Computer Science as well as a member of this Writing and Inquiry community. I lay no claim to be an important member in either community as it is my goal to blend into the environments I am presented as to not draw excessive attention to myself. However I do consider myself an authority amongst both communities and will henceforth share my experiences thus.

As for the Computer Science Society, aka CSS, we share a common goal of learning the ways of programming and understanding how to interact with technology in a progressive manner. The main form of intercommunication appears in emails and moodle announcements for those enrolled in an ITCS class. As such there is not a significant amount of intercommunication however it is present. This participatory mechanism of communication is used as a teaching method most often and grants access to a plethora of resources related to Computer Science and programming in general. The CSS has a large number of genre-specific conventions because there are many coding languages that explored in it such as Java, C++, and Python. As a member of this community I view its practices and values as necessary for the community to thrive, without common coding languages it would be impossible for communication between recipients. As such I believe that the practices and values of the CSS do not only reflect their writing practices, they in fact define them. And it needs to since we bolster over 100 active members in just my class alone.

On the other hand this Writing and Inquiry community that I am a part of consist of mostly verbal communication for its daily communication. It provokes conversational debate over topics that relate to writing practices and inquiries as well as communicating through inquiries and blogs. So far the majority of our intercommunication has been verbal or through blog post. This community is split into relatively small groups of 30 or fewer person classes that interact biweekly in order to further their understanding of writing and inquiries. I personally enjoy this method over larger communities because it engages a sense of camaraderie not felt by larger groups. I don’t believe there are any genre-specific conventions used in this community however the style of writing inquiries could be a convention since we all share a similar method in order to fulfill the requirements of the course. In this community the practices and values are used as methods to enhance writing practices among members, it is a community with the goal of improving its members through enrichment and inquiry.

There are many similarities in CSS and Writing & Inquiry community since they both share a common goal of educating students, however the methods used vary vastly. As such there are many different experiences a lucky college student such as myself can feel while they journey through higher education and I believe that to be immensely important for future success.

Higher Education Communities

At current, I am an apprentice of the academic community for Computer Science as well as a member of this Writing and Inquiry community. I lay no claim to be an important member in either community as it is my goal to blend into the environments I am presented as to not draw excessive attention to myself. However I do consider myself an authority amongst both communities and will henceforth share my experiences thus.

As for the Computer Science Society, aka CSS, we share a common goal of learning the ways of programming and understanding how to interact with technology in a progressive manner. The main form of intercommunication appears in emails and moodle announcements for those enrolled in an ITCS class. As such there is not a significant amount of intercommunication however it is present. This participatory mechanism of communication is used as a teaching method most often and grants access to a plethora of resources related to Computer Science and programming in general. The CSS has a large number of genre-specific conventions because there are many coding languages that explored in it such as Java, C++, and Python. As a member of this community I view its practices and values as necessary for the community to thrive, without common coding languages it would be impossible for communication between recipients. As such I believe that the practices and values of the CSS do not only reflect their writing practices, they in fact define them. And it needs to since we bolster over 100 active members in just my class alone.

On the other hand this Writing and Inquiry community that I am a part of consist of mostly verbal communication for its daily communication. It provokes conversational debate over topics that relate to writing practices and inquiries as well as communicating through inquiries and blogs. So far the majority of our intercommunication has been verbal or through blog post. This community is split into relatively small groups of 30 or fewer person classes that interact biweekly in order to further their understanding of writing and inquiries. I personally enjoy this method over larger communities because it engages a sense of camaraderie not felt by larger groups. I don’t believe there are any genre-specific conventions used in this community however the style of writing inquiries could be a convention since we all share a similar method in order to fulfill the requirements of the course. In this community the practices and values are used as methods to enhance writing practices among members, it is a community with the goal of improving its members through enrichment and inquiry.

There are many similarities in CSS and Writing & Inquiry community since they both share a common goal of educating students, however the methods used vary vastly. As such there are many different experiences a lucky college student such as myself can feel while they journey through higher education and I believe that to be immensely important for future success.

Internet Morality

Over the past few decades the internet has risen in popularity. In this modern era of constant internet availability it isn’t uncommon for young people to do things via the internet that they would never do in person. I’d like to address some issues involving internet piracy. In a study done by University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers, 200 college students were asked to respond to scenarios involving shoplifting a music record or pirating the record online. A majority of the students were against shoplifting and questioned why legal means weren’t pursued, yet almost nobody had an issue with pirating the CD. This raises concerns to me about how we view internet laws. To the eyes of the music producer there isn’t a difference between stealing a physical or digital copy, but to a large amount of people digital theft isn’t even a crime. I believe this is an issue of great importance considering how prevalent the internet is in our daily lives.

Intrinsic value is a key factor in how I believe people see piracy. The value of a file of music is technically only the value of the amount of data it takes to store it, which has no set price. Many consider data space to have no intrinsic value, this would mean that the pirated file wouldn’t have any value and basically wouldn’t be stealing right? I suppose that is one argument for why we see piracy differently but the effects of piracy on the media industry are the same if not worse than shoplifting. I say worse because when it isn’t seen as a problem it will happen more frequently and have a greater impact than a socially unacceptable action like shoplifting would have. The action of piracy hurts the people who produce media, which in turn means they will produce less media which will hurt consumers who enjoy their products. A reason why I’m so interested in this is that I spend a lot of my time reading Manga online, which is a form of piracy, and my favorite manga got axed early because the piracy rate in its native country was too high for the author to continue writing it. I admit I am guilty of a form of piracy, however I do not have access to what I read since most of it isn’t in English so it gets translated online then posted for non-native speakers to read. The fact that I do not think that is wrong is proof of the seriousness of piracy in our society.

I’d like to focus my inquiry in three main directions. The first being what would it take for us as a society to see the internet as an extension of reality and not an alternate realm. Followed by why do we see piracy and shoplifting as different things altogether. And finally why we feel safe breaking laws online compared to in reality.  Another possible topic since the overall goal is to improve internet morality would be why we tolerate cyber-bullying more so than physical bullying. There are many problems with ethics on the internet that need to be addressed before it reaches its full potential and I believe these are the most visible issues.

Multiple Literaces

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence – 6 forms of intelligence that added together to make a g-factor.

Literacy can be split into different sections similar to Gardner’s theory.

Contextual situations can completely change the dynamic and intrinsic value of something.

Context in a situation –  Literacy means different things in different context like how texts are inform and the expectation isn’t the same with a research paper for college or a report for your job.

Symbolism – Depending on life circumstances simple things like water being a symbol for cleanliness could instead be a fearful notion to somebody who has almost drowned.

There is a basic understanding in psychology that you can’t gauge intelligence based on standard tests. Some people are just not good at some things but could be insanely amazing at others. For me this split is painfully obvious in that I just can’t art. Art isn’t normally a verb but in this case I think it suffices to say that I really just can’t art. That doesn’t make me stupid, in fact in our current culture many would say my math and reading comprehension skills would qualify me as a near genius. There are people that are the opposite of me who are amazing at artistic things but struggle with basic math. Does that make me smarter than them? Yes it does. By our current social standards I would be smarter than that person, but so what? Being “smarter” doesn’t mean jack squat if they can make a living off of what they love while I have to conform to society’s standards since I’m good at testing I’m expected to follow through with education and then get a job with math. I think people with artistic talents should be given the same opportunities even though they might not be able to test well.