CATaC 2010 Proceedings

Page 1

seventh international conference on

cultural attitudes towards technology and communication 2010 edited by

fay sudweeks herbert hrachovec charles ess

Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication 2010 Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication Vancouver, Canada, 15-18 June 2010

edited by

Fay Sudweeks Murdoch University, Australia

Herbert Hrachovec University of Vienna, Austria

Charles Ess Aarhus University, Denmark Drury University, USA

Seventh International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication 2010 Vancouver, Canada, 15-18 June 2010 International Organisers Co-Chairs Charles Ess, Aarhus University, Denmark and Drury University, USA Fay Sudweeks, Murdoch University, Australia Program Chair Herbert Hrachovec, University of Vienna, Austria Vice Chairs Ken Reeder, University of British Columbia, Canada Leah Macfadyen, University of British Columbia, Canada Executive Committee Maja van der Velden, University of Oslo, Norway Lorna Heaton, University of Montreal, Canada

Sponsors Department of Language and Literacy Education, The University of British Columbia, Canada Faculty of Education, The University of British Columbia, Canada Centre for Intercultural Language Studies, The University of British Columbia, Canada Office of Graduate Programs and Research, The University of British Columbia, Canada Department of Information and Media Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark Drury University, Missouri, USA School of Information Technology, Murdoch University, Australia

Cover photo: Martin Dee, UBC Public Affairs

ISBN 978-0-86905-966-1 PUBLISHED 2010 School of Information Technology Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150 Australia,


Preface Indigenous Knowledge Design for the contact zone: Knowledge management software and the structures of indigenous knowledges


M. van der Velden

Recognizing aboriginal oral tradition through blended learning: A success story


M. N. Chase, K. Charnley, S. J. Mclean

Research notes on the emerging concepts of digital heritage in Brazil


C. G. Dantas, V. Dodebei

eGranary as a digital resource in Uganda: Preliminary findings


B. Norton, M. Early, J. Tembe

Online outsiders within: A critical cultural approach to digital inclusion


P. H. Cheong, J. Martin

Designing a semantically rich visual interface for cultural digital libraries using the UNESCO multilingual thesaurus


A. Shiri, S. Ruecker, C. Fiorentino, A. Stafford, M. Bouchard, M. Bieber

Mobile Technologies Mobile phone-based healthcare delivery in a Sami area: Rreflections on technology and culture


S. T. Andersen, M. Van Der Velden

A comparative study of mobile technology adoption in remote Australia


F. Brady, L. E. Dyson

Beyond “appropriate� technology: Mobilizing education for development


A. Hewling, B. Sesnan

Discursive mobile phone practices and informal rules


C. Lloyd

Understanding Cultural and Ethical Gaps in ICT Design Exploring sociotechnical gaps in an intercultural multidisciplinary design project


J. L. Abdelnour Nocera, S. Camara

Researching intercultural participatory design


J. Bolmsten

Undesigning culture: A brief reflection on design as ethical practice


M. van der Velden

Culture and Website Design Impacts of culture on web usability


L. Lim

Website design and trust across cultures


D. Cyr

Reflecting on the usability of research on culture in designing interaction J. L. Abdelnour Nocera, S. Camara




Exploring key determinants of virtual worlds business success based on user‟s experience and perception


X. Xu

Ones of a kind Transformation of audience commodities towards user commodities: Free labor in Web 2.0 technologies


D. Y. Jin

The elusive question for revolution: What about the „next generation‟?


A. Hofheinz

Photobombing: Mobility, humour and culture


G. Fletcher, A. Greenhill

Foucault, exhibitionism and voyeurism on chatroulette


D. Kreps

Empowerment The role of ICT in women‟s empowerment in rural Bangladesh


Z. Laizu, J. Armarego, F. Sudweeks

Negotiating conflict and negativity in an online community for recovering heart patients


L. Uridge, D. Rodan, L. Green

Freedom of expression on the Saudi Internet


Y. Al-Saggaf, J. Weckert

Media Spaces Articulation(s) of culture(s): Mobilizing knowledge, ecological justice and media convergence


D. Krug, J. Arntzen

Promoting international cultural and academic collaborative communication through technologies of open course ware


S. Carey

Covering your face on Facebook: Managing identity through untagging and deletion


M. Strano, J. Wattai

Ethics, Politics and Media Different discussions on roboethics and information ethics based on different cultural contexts (BA): Discussions on robots, informatics and life in the information era in Japanese bulletin board forums and mass media 300 M. Nakada

Obama‟s election campaign and the integrated use of social media


T. McQueen, L. Green

Validating cultural and contextual traits of a collectivist community


S. Camara, J. Abdelnour Nocera

“What‟s so special about studying old people?” The ethical, methodological and sampling issues surrounding the study of older adults and ICTs 341 J. L. Birkland, M. L. Kaarst-Brown


Cultural/Media Spaces Open source, collectivism and Japanese society



T. Iitaka

Social media and academic spaces


J. Miller

Computer-mediated collaboration and the transitioning of intercultural spaces


W. McMichael

Labeling during repeated shared reading of print and digital storybook


J. E. Kim, J. Anderson

Culture and Learning The role of unit evaluation, learning and culture dimensions related to student cognitive style in hypermedia learning


C. H. M. Lee, F. Sudweeks, Y. W. Cheng, F. E. Tang

The effect of culture on online learning


O. Kinasevych

From intersubjectivity to interculturalism in digital learning environments


A. L贸pez-Varela Azc谩rate

The role of cultural diversity in e-based language learning


J. Roche, D. Todorova

Culture and Teaching Using professional learning communities to improve online instruction


D. L. Elder, W. Padover

ICT, cultural knowledge and teacher education in Africa


S. Andema, M. Kendrick, B. Norton

Managing educational leadership and online teaching in a diverse technological society


D. Cunniff

Author Index


PREFACE The papers in this volume represent the Seventh International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology and Communication (CATaC), held in June 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. Building upon the precedents and foundations established through the first decade of CATaC conferences (London, UK, 1998; Perth, Australia, 2000; Montréal, Canada, 2002; Karlstad, Sweden, 2004; Tartu, Estonia, 2006; Nîmes, 2008), CATaC‟10 again provides an exceptional forum for current research on the complex intersections between „culture,‟ communication, and diverse information and communication technologies (ICTs). While much has changed over the twelve years that have elapsed between CATaC‟98 in London and this year‟s meeting in Vancouver – certainly with regard to the technologies in play and, with equal certainty, with regard to the range of theoretical approaches and empirical evidence that we can now draw upon – our primary goals remain the same: to bring together scholars from around the globe who provide diverse perspectives, both in terms of the specific culture(s) they highlight in their presentations and discussions, and in terms of the discipline(s) through which they approach the conference theme. We believe it fair to say that the papers collected in this Proceedings constitute our success – as a shared, collaborative project – in achieving those goals. First of all, our contributors represent one or more peoples and cultural traditions from Africa, the Arabic world, Asia, Australia, Europe, Scandinavia, and North and South America. Secondly, disciplines from across the spectrum of design, communication (and even philosophy) are intermixed here with development practitioners, online educators, and healthcare providers. Broadly, CATaC‟10 continues our thematic focus on the intersections of culture, technology and communication. This includes an on-going critique of the assumptions, categories, methodologies, and theories frequently used to analyze these basic concepts and categories. CATaC‟10 likewise continues and extends attention to such important “nodal points” among these intersections as: the ethical and cultural dimensions of ICT design (Session 3); culture and website design (Session 4A); the potentials of – and realworld limitations on – ICTs for empowerment in diverse manifestations and countries (Session 5A); specific attention to ethical issues evoked by developing ICTs (Session 6A); culture and learning (Session 7A); and culture and teaching (Session 7B). At the same time, of course, CATaC‟10 is distinctive in several important ways. To begin with, while every CATaC conference has included significant attention to ICTs among and (ideally) for indigenous peoples - CATaC‟10 brings that attention to the foreground with our opening keynote address by Dr Linc Kessler, Director of the First Nations Studies Program (University of British Columbia) and the first plenary session on Indigenous Knowledge. In total, CATaC‟10 includes research and reflection in the distinctive cultural contexts of indigenous peoples in North and South America, Africa and Scandinavia. Secondly, mobile technologies are widely acknowledged as especially important for exploiting the best potentials of ICTs in the developing world, as they provide internet access at a fraction of the cost of “traditional” desktop and laptop computers, and this in regions often lacking the infrastructures required to sustain “traditional” computer systems and networks. Again, while earlier CATaC conferences



have included important attention to mobile technologies – CATaC‟10 foregrounds these (including their use for development and among indigenous peoples) as the thematic of Session 2. Other sessions highlight new categories for CATaC – including attention to media spaces (Sessions 5B and 6B). As well, there are the papers that are literally “one of a kind” contributions that defy easy categorization (Session 4B). As befits the study of technological/media/ethical/political/cultural “landscapes” that are in states of constant change at breathtaking speed, each of these contributions constitutes and occupies a distinctive conceptual space that has yet to be incorporated in a convenient, especially discipline-specific taxonomy. In these ways, the contributions constituting this Proceedings exemplify the importance of interdisciplinary and international perspectives if we are to approach the complex of “culture/technology/communication” with any hope of success in more academic research and/or in the praxis of making the best possible uses of ICTs in diverse cultural settings. To state the obvious: attempting such work, whether as an individual or as a member of small group or team, is difficult enough. Even more challenging is the project of attempting to gain an overview of these contributions from a more holistic perspective. As we now know from a decade‟s worth of practice, the good news is that we can get there – but only, precisely, as a shared and collaborative project. As a conference, CATaC is structured and known for its conviviality and informal but highly productive networking among participants. This is not solely because it‟s a great pleasure to have the (unfortunately, rare) opportunity to exchange ideas, insights, and experiences with colleagues from around the globe who share our common interest in culture, technology, and communication. It is also because our informal conversations, along with our more formal exchanges in our presentations and discussions, are the communicative atmosphere necessary to foster the difficult work of gaining a broader, hopefully more comprehensive view. In these ways, then, CATaC‟10 both sustains and expands upon our hallmark goals, characteristics and approaches as a conference and community of scholars and researchers. Once again, we meet to explore together some of the best and most current work at the intersections of „culture‟, technology, and communication; once again, we will enjoy a conviviality and informality that are a distinctive feature and, let us be frank, refreshing change from many academic conferences. In these several ways, CATaC‟10 continues and builds upon the foundational work of the past twelve years – and with a critical eye that further promises to radically revise and extend those foundations, thereby offering new insights and frameworks for future research. We wish to acknowledge the extraordinary work and enthusiasm of our local organizers, Leah Macfadyen and Ken Reeder. We are also very grateful to our Program Review Committee (listed below). Those who were available to review contributed their valuable labor to ensure a program of high quality papers. Fay Sudweeks, Murdoch University, Australia Herbert Hrachovec, University of Vienna, Austria Charles Ess, Drury University, USA



International Program Review Committee Abdul-Jalil Abdallah, National Union of Ghana Students, Egypt Jose Abdelnour-Nocera, Thames Valley University, England Cynthia Alexander, Acadia University, Canada Miguel Alvarez, Universidad del Claustro de Sor, Mexico Magdy Aly, Ain Shams University, Egypt Josu Amezaga, University of the Basque Country, Basque Country Peng Hwa Ang, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Sian Bayne, University of Edinburgh, Scotland Bev Bickel, University of Maryland, USA Albert Borgmann, University of Montana, USA Bradley Bowers, Barry University, USA Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology, Australia Ron Burnett, Emily Carr University, Canada Nadia Caidi, University of Toronto, Canada Maria Campo-Redondo, University of Zulia, Venezuela Rafael Capurro, Stuttgart Media University, Germany Yi-Fan Chen, Old Dominion University, USA Arul Chib, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Michael Dahan, Sapir College, Israel Elke Duncker, Middlesex University, England Laurel Dyson, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia Suely Fragoso, Unisinos, Brazil Christian Fuchs, University of Salzburg, Austria Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University, USA Jokin Garatea, GAIA, Basque Country Lelia Green, Edith Cowan University, Australia Wen Gong, Howard University, USA Lani Gunawardena, University of New Mexico, USA Indira Guzman, TUI University, USA Tracy Harwood, De Montford University, England Gy Hashim, UiTM, Malaysia Robert Hauser, University of Karlsruhe, Germany Lorna Heaton, University of Montreal, Canada Sherry Hisham, University of York, England Susan Herring, Indiana University, USA Anne Hewling, Open University, England Soraj Hongladarom, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand Herbert Hrachovec, University of Vienna, Austria Lawrie Hunter, Kochi University of Technology, Japan Connie Kampf, University of Aarhus, Denmark Christine Kanyengo, University of Zambia, Zambia Lori Kendall, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaigne, USA Orest Kinasevych, Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology, Canada Charalampos Kokkinos, Hellenic Open University, Greece David Kolb, Bates University, USA Eileen L端bcke, University of Bremen, Germany Christopher Lueg, University of Tasmania, Australia



Nakada Makoto, University of Tsukuba, Japan Marcienne Martin, Université de l‟île de la Réunion, France Victor Owhotu, University of Lagos, Nigeria David Palfreyman, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates Jerneja Rebernak, Asia-Europe Foundation, Singapore Shirley Reushle , University of Southern Queensland, Australia Thomas Richter, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany Duncan Sanderson, University of Quebec, Canada Patrizia Schettino, University of Lugano, Switzerland Simeon Simoff, University of Western Sydney, Australia Greg Simons, Uppsala University, Sweden Gail Slye, Drury University, USA Takanori Tamura, Tsukuba University, Japan Leslie Tkach-Kawasaki, University of Tsukuba Bland Tomkinson, University of Manchester, England Phillip Tsang, Open University of Hong Kong Maja van der Velden, University of Bergen, Norway Paul Wallace, Appalachian State University, USA Carolyn Wei, Google, USA Jack Yang, St John‟s University, USA Norhayati Zakaria, University of Wollongong in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 1-18.

DESIGN FOR THE CONTACT ZONE Knowledge management software and the structures of indigenous knowledges MAJA VAN DER VELDEN University of Oslo, Norway

Abstract. This article examines the design of digital indigenous knowledge archives. In a discussion of the distinction between indigenous knowledge and western science, a decentred perspective is developed, in which the relationship between different local knowledges is explored. The particular characteristics of indigenous knowledges raise questions about if and how these knowledges can be managed. The role of technology in managing indigenous knowledges is explored with examples from fieldwork in India and Kenya and from web-based databases and digital archives. The concept of contact zone is introduced to explore the space in which different knowledges meet and are performed, such as indigenous knowledge and the technoscientific knowledge of the database. Design for the contact zone, this article proposes, is an intra-active and adaptive process for in creating databases that are meaningful for indigenous knowers. The meta-design approach is introduced as a methodology, which may provide indigenous knowers tools for self-representation and self-organisation through design.

1. Introduction When I began writing this text1, my word processing programme notified me that there was something wrong with the spelling of the title of my paper. I tried another wordprocessing software, but I was told the same thing: There is no such thing as knowledges. Can we not write about knowledges? I found the following question on WikiAnswers2: ― What is the plural form of knowledge?‖ The answer was: ― This is a silly question. There is no plural to knowledge. Knowledge in and of itself contains multiple information.‖ This is an example of how technology, in the form of word-processing software, is involved in creating a reality in which we can only speak of knowledge, not knowledges. However, I instructed my word-processing software to add the term knowledges to its dictionary. I reconfigured the dictionary and produced a new iteration of reality. I propose to take this anecdotal evidence as inspiration for this article. 1

This article is based on the text of a public lecture given on February 18, 2009 at the University of Bergen, Norway. 2 See



I will explore three themes, which are inspired by this anecdote. In section two I will look at the visibility of other ways of knowing the world and focus on the distinction between indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge. Section three addresses the theme of managing indigenous knowledges and will focus on some of the challenges of building indigenous knowledge databases. Section four focuses on the relationship between the western technoscience knowledge of database software and indigenous knowledges. I will look closer at the role of technology in protecting and sharing indigenous knowledge and explore a conceptual framework that may contribute to the design of knowledge management software that matters to indigenous communities.

2. Knowledges? There are scholars who maintain that there is only one form of knowledge that counts and that is modern western science. Only knowledge that can be taken out of its local place of production, to become global, universal, objective and true, can be called science. Some proponents of this perspective present western modern science as superior knowledge (Gross and Levitt 1994; Koertge 1998; Nanda 2003). Local, traditional or indigenous knowledge – knowledge that is bound by its place and its relations, such as culture, religion and community - is considered mere belief. On the other hand, there is a growing community of people who maintain that all knowledge, including modern western science, is local. David Turnbull calls this the ‗localist position‘. In ― Reframing science and other local knowledge traditions‖, Turnbull (1997) describes two different perspectives in which this localist position can be expressed. In the first perspective it is argued that also science is value-laden – science should therefore let go of its value-free and universalist stance and adopt a set of quasi-universal values. In the second perspective it is argued that all knowledges are situated within a particular set of values. Turnbull refers to this perspective as the decentring of science, the recognition that there are other ways of knowing the world besides our Eurocentric and egocentric way (see Cunningham and Williams 1993). 2.1. DE-CENTRING SCIENCE An important role in the de-centring of science is played by feminist theory, which addresses this issue by questioning the frameworks in which science is produced. One central theme in feminist theory is the notion of objectivity. Sandra Harding (1995) proposed the notion of ‗strong objectivity‘ to counter understandings of objectivity based on the subject/object dichotomy, detachment, and value-neutrality. Harding argued that knowledge that includes experiences of those who have been traditionally left out of the production of knowledge may in effect be more objective as women and other subordinate groups are motivated to understanding the views of the people and institutions that are more powerful. A second example can be found in the work of Donna Haraway. In particular Haraway's essay ― Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective‖ (1988) played an important role in understanding how we can talk about knowledges in science. Haraway presents her understanding of



objectivity as situated knowledges. Located between the ‗God-trick‘ of objectivity-fromnowhere found in Science and the ‗God-trick‘ of the objectivity-from-nowhere found in relativism, situated knowledges present embodied objectivity through partial perspectives (Haraway 1988; 1991). Such partial perspective is not based on identity but on a partial connection with the ‗other‘. It is partiality, not universality - a view from somewhere, not a view from nowhere - that offers, according to Haraway, the preferred position for making rational knowledge claims. The de-centring of science is also supported by postcolonial theory, which queried questions of knowledge and power in wider social and economic terms by locating it in former colonised societies. For example, Shiv Visvanathan (2003; 2007) and Vandana Shiva discuss how indigenous sciences and technologies were made invisible by the practices and discourses of colonial and global powers. In ― Monocultures of the Mind”, Shiva (1993) shows how scientific forestry and scientific agriculture split the plant world in two separate, non-overlapping domains. In an ecological perspective, the plant world connects forest and agriculture, providing food, fodder, and fertilizer. The categories of science, following the global commodity markets, see only timber as a product of the forest, while food is confined to the category agriculture. In a later publication, Biopiracy and the plunder of nature and knowledge, Shiva (1997) argues that only through the cultivation of diversity, both in terms of biodiversity and knowledge diversity, will we be able to recover the possibility of self-organisation through decentralisation and local democratic control. Feminist and postcolonial theory have inspired the study of science and technology since the 1980s. Their cross-fertilisations have resulted in science studies that include the discussion of indigenous knowledge traditions, see for example the work by Hess (1995), Turnbull (2000), Verran (2002), Visvanathan (2000), and Figueroa and Harding (2003). In Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Watson-Verran and Turnbull (1995) describe a variety of indigenous knowledge systems. In their analysis they propose a symmetric treatment of all knowledge systems, which enables them to describe these systems on the one hand as very different from Science, but on the other hand as knowledges that are systematic and innovative. They discuss how local innovation is the implicit basis of all knowledge systems. In recognition of the localness of modern western science, they argue that all knowledges can be understood as indigenous knowledges. 2.2. DEALING WITH DIFFERENCE If we take the de-centring of science position, we are faced with an important question: ‗How to deal with the relations between these different, local, situated knowledges‘? Informed by Turnbull (1997), we can generalise two positions. The first one argues for incommensurability between these knowledges and stresses the uniqueness of a particular local knowledge, a position found for example in radical feminism, e.g. Mary Daly (1984; 1998), indigenous peoples activism, for example Sydney Possuelo and the no-contact policy (Söderström 2010; Wikipedia 2010; Angelo 2007); and maybe also in neo-luddite positions, such as taken by anti-civilisation theorist John Zerzan (1994; 2005). The second position argues that despite the differences between knowledges, it is



important to find ways in which these knowledges can co-exist. This perspective is not based on a relativist stand, calling for automatic justification of situated knowledges. Such relativism, based on the equality of positioning, is, a denial of responsibility and critical inquiry (Haraway 1988). It is a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere. The second position is a responsible, mobile and split position, always partial, never whole. The proponents of this position refer to concepts such as ‗symmetry‘ (Watson-Verran and Turnbull 1995), ‗cognitive justice‘ (Visvanathan 2000; Santos 2007) or ‗postcolonial moment‘ (Verran 2002), to explore how these knowledges can co-exist. Distinguishing indigenous from non-indigenous knowledge The recognition of the localness and situatedness of all knowledges brings up a second question: ‗Can we and should we distinguish between indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge‘? Scholars who have looked into this issue argue that there are no simple or universal criteria that can be deployed to separate indigenous knowledge from western scientific knowledge (Agrawal 2002; Ellen, Parkes, and Bicker 2000). But if we can't formulate strong distinctions between indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge, should we make separate categories of knowledge? The increased use of the term indigenous knowledge since the 1960s has both romantic and practical reasons (Ellen and Harris 2000). The re-discovery of indigenous knowledge in the ― 1960s counter culture‖ was based on the romantic notion of ― primitive people living in harmony with nature‖. Practically, the increased use of the term is connected with socio-economic development and environmental conservation (Agrawal 2002). Anthropologist Paul Sillitoe (1998) describes how there was no explicit mentioning of the role of indigenous knowledge in international development projects of the British Department for International Development before 1990. In fact, traditional knowledge and practices were often seen as obstructing development. In the 1990s, analysies of development discourse and practices, for example in the work of James Ferguson (1990) and Arturo Escobar (1995), created space for questioning whose knowledge and what kind of knowledge should inform development practices. These questions opened up the development sector for insights developed with feminist theory and postcolonial theory, in which the question of knowledge and power had been critically addressed. Nevertheless, the dominant perspective in development thinking is the inclusion of indigenous knowledge on the level of artefacts and particular practices. This perspective builds forth on the dichotomy between indigenous and western-scientific knowledge. The category indigenous knowledge is added to the development discourse as a resource that can be mined to improve development efforts. This approach does not challenge the development practice or engage the ontologies underlying these indigenous artefacts and practices. This perspective is found among a wide variety of international organisations such as the Word Bank, the United Nations Development Agency, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, development agencies, and conservation organisations. Protecting indigenous people On the other hand, the focus on indigenous knowledges is used as a lobbying strategy by and for indigenous peoples. Indigenous knowledge has become an important concept in



legitimating local practices. Babidge et all (2007) describe, for example, how indigenous knowledge provides a management process for engaging with state agencies in Australia. Also non-indigenous awareness of indigenous land issues and biopiracy (Shiva 1997) has resulted in a variety of initiatives to conserve and protect indigenous knowledge as a way to protect indigenous peoples and cultures. This has resulted in a growing number of indigenous knowledge management initiatives that propose to do this work of conservation and protection. 2.3. STRUCTURES OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGES Arun Agrawal (1995) argues that we should not bother advocating a distinction between indigenous and non-indigenous knowledge as long as western science is the ultimate arbiter of knowledge. It is more productive, he maintains, to examine specific forms of investigation and knowledge creation in different countries and different groups of people. This way we can make the existence of diversity visible within what is commonly seen as western or indigenous. At the same time we can find common links when we concentrate on the ways in which 'indigenous' or 'western' scientists create knowledge: ― Instead of trying to conflate all non-Western knowledge into a category termed 'Indigenous', and all Western knowledge into another category, it may be more sensible to accept differences within these categories and perhaps find similarities across them‖ (ibid). A similar perspective is proposed by Christie (2004a), Verran (2005), and WatsonVerran and Turnbull (1995). They are able to describe overlapping processes and practices, as they situate their work as both within the social sciences and within the Yolngu Aboriginal community in Australia. Their descriptions are strictly symmetric, ― as neither side is privileged in producing true or good knowledge‖. Their work shows that instead of focusing on indigenous knowledge as a resource frozen in time and place, we may prefer to look at the structures of indigenous knowledges. We can investigate the frameworks and manners in which knowledge is produced; where knowledge is located, i.e. who can have knowledge about what, and where it is stored or archived; how knowledge is shared and how knowledge evolves over time. A definition that incorporates both the content, context, and structures of indigenous knowledge is formulated by Onwu and Mosimege (2008): An all inclusive knowledge that covers technologies and practices that have been and are still used by indigenous and local people for existence, survival and adaptation in a variety of environments. Such knowledge is not static but evolves and changes as it develops, influences and is influenced by both internal and external circumstances and interaction with other knowledge systems. Such knowledge covers contents and contexts such as agriculture, architecture, engineering, mathematics, governance and other social systems and activities, medicinal and indigenous plant varieties, etc.

Overwhelmingly, scholars of indigenous knowledges describe the structures of indigenous knowledges as based on connectedness with the land and on the performance of knowledge. For example, Paul Richards (1993) develops a theory of performance based on studies of agricultural practices among indigenous peoples in



Africa. He argues that farmer practices are not based on a static body of indigenous knowledge but rather on ― a set of improvisational capacities called forth by the needs of the moment‖ (ibid, p. 62). A question we thus need to address is: Can we manage something that is connected, evolving, heterogeneous, and social?

3. Managing indigenous knowledges The description of indigenous knowledges as dynamic, heterogeneous, social, and distributed; experimental, collective, and in the process of continuous adaptation and negotiation (Grenier 1998; Onwu and Mosimege 2008), introduces the second theme of this article, namely the management of indigenous knowledge. The management of knowledge, expressed in approaches such as Knowledge Management (KM) and Knowledge Management for Development (KM4D), includes a range of practices to identify, create, represent, distribute and enable adoption of insights and experiences in an organisation. Such insights and experiences comprise of knowledge, either knowledge embodied in individuals or knowledge embedded in organisational processes and practices. The idea that we can manage knowledge can be traced to the early 1990s and was initially closely connected with the new information and communication technologies that supported the archiving, organising, and sharing of information in an organisation. Two main approaches can be distinguished in organisational ICT-based Knowledge Management: a knowledge-centred approach and a knower-centred approach (van der Velden 2002). The knowledge-centred approach focuses on the collection and codification of knowledge and depends heavily on information systems such as expert systems, portals, digital directories, and best practices databases. The knower-centre approach perceives knowledge as a human resource and focuses more on creating enabling situations in which knowledge can be shared in more informal ways, such as in communities of practice, story-telling, tagging etc. The technologies used in this second approach offer tools for collaboration and knowledge sharing, such as discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and social networking sites. One key motivation that underlies all these knowledge management practices is the understanding that knowledge has tacit dimensions (Polanyi 1966). Facilitating the transformation of tacit knowledge3 into explicit knowledge is perceived as an important role of knowledge management in organisations. 3.1. INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT ‗Indigenous Knowledge Management‘ can be understood as the combined result of the introduction of Knowledge Management in the international development sector and the digitalisation of efforts to turn non-codified, tacit traditional environmental knowledge into codified, explicit knowledge. The rationale for the ex situ conservation of indigenous knowledge, with the use of digital technologies, is expressed in terms of the protection of indigenous knowledge and the benefit of the indigenous community (e.g. Ngulube 2002; Hunter, Koopman, and Sledge 2003; TKDL 2009; Department of the 3

Polanyi doesn‘t use the term tacit knowledge, but rather argues that all knowledge has tacit dimensions (Polanyi 1966).



Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Australia) 2009). Expectations of what digital tools such as database software can do for indigenous knowledge are often high. This is clear, for example, in this mission statement of the Indigenous Knowledge Management Project4, a joint initiative of Australian and North American research centres. The software under development in this initiative has to: preserve indigenous knowledge protect indigenous knowledge support cultural protocols, for example to restrict access to photos of deceased persons and facilitate and improve cross-cultural communication Thus while conventional knowledge management practices are supposed to support archiving, organising, and sharing knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge Management, activities also need to contribute to the protection of indigenous knowledges against knowledge loss and external exploitation. The question of ‗How can we manage something that is messy, evolving, heterogeneous, and social‘ is thus entangled with issues such as ownership, intellectual property rights legislation, cultural protocols, technical issues in the form of choice of media and access; and more mundane issues such as system maintenance, project financing, location of the project, etc. How does knowledge management software deal with this entanglement and high expectations? A knowledge-centred approach If we look at early indigenous knowledge management practices, such as the World Bank's Initiative on Indigenous Knowledge5, the UNESCO database of best practices on indigenous knowledge6, theNative American Ethnobotany Database7, and the Tanzania Indigenous Knowledge database8, we can see that they take a knowledge-centred approach. These databases are not different from corporate sector knowledge management initiatives. The technical, social, and legal entanglements were ignored in favour of providing abstracted statements about artefacts or practices. Shiv Visvanathan (2002) calls this the museumisation of local knowledges. Agrawal (2002) argues that is the instrumental logic of development that informs the design of these databases. The scientisation of indigenous knowledge strips away the detailed, contextual, applied aspects of knowledge that might be crucial in the positive effects claimed for a particular piece of indigenous knowledge. From a system development perspective, we can argue that in the process of ― abstracting away‖ (Blackwell, Church, and Green 2008) the inconvenient complexity of indigenous knowledge, we end up with systems that are not very useful for indigenous communities. I experienced this process of scientisation and abstraction during field visits to a local knowledge management project in India. The knowledge of traditional healers was 4

See See 6 See 7 See 8 See 5



translated from practices to texts written down in a paper notebook. The local names of the plants and their medicinal characteristics where then translated to the language of botany and medicine. The people working at the research organisation that was responsible for the project mentioned that the knowledge of the healers could only be added to the organisation's database when the validity of the healers knowledge claims was established in a ‗proper‘ laboratory. A knower-centred approach There is another, more recent, body of practices in indigenous knowledge management, which is not initiated by development agencies or research institutions, but by the indigenous communities themselves. The main motivation for these initiatives is to archive, protect and preserve indigenous knowledge. These initiatives actively involve the community and often employ interactive and participatory multimedia tools based on Web 2.0 applications, which can be used in a web browser. One such initiative is Ara Irititja9: The Ara Irititja approach is community-based and designed at the request of Anangu communities. The communities own Ara Irititja and the Project has conscientiously followed its Anangu brief — ‗preserve and give us access to our cultural history‘. Unlike many contemporary knowledge bases, the design of Ara Irititja was media driven. At the beginning of the project, we had many thousand of photographs of various formats, hundreds of hours of film and sound, documents, books, magazines, diaries and artworks (both 2D and 3D). The software engineer‘s instructions were complex: develop a database that handles different media, incorporates cultural restrictions, and is easy to use for an audience with limited literacy and often, failing eyesight.

Websites of similar projects express a similar commitment to enabling the recording and presentation of indigenous knowledges and in ways that allow some of the connections and relations and performances to be visible and audible.

4. The role of technology in archiving and protecting indigenous knowledges How can we keep the relational, performative, and dynamic character of indigenous knowledges ‗alive‘ in the design of knowledge management software? Before addressing the issue of design, we need to look at the role of technology. The discussion in the previous sections may have given the impression that we can create database software that can archive and protect indigenous knowledges, even if there are some problematic incompatibilities between knowledge management perspectives, databases, and indigenous knowledges. For example, by quoting Arun Agrawal, who argues that the instrumental logic of western science informs database designs, I may have contributed to the idea that design processes and technology designs are determinist practices: that there are linear causal relations between method, design and use. The notion of script is often used to describe this phenomenon in which technology 9




is perceived as a kind of film scenario in which both the story, the way the technology is supposed to be used, and the actors, the users of the technology, seem to be given by the design: Designers [thus] define actors within specific tastes, competences, motives, aspirations, political prejudices, and the rest, and they assume that morality, technology, science, and economy will evolve in particular ways. A large part of the work of innovators is that of ― inscribing‖ the vision of (or prediction about) the world in the technical content of a new object (Akrich 1992, 208).

Script has proven to be a productive figure to inscribe and analyse users and uses in design. Van der Velden et al. (2008) looked in particular at the inscriptions of gender and knowledge diversity in design and they identified a tension between the desire to design for gender and diversity and the risk of 'freezing' particular conceptualisations of gender and knowledge in design. They located the discussion of this tension in the dichotomy of ‗design-from-nowhere‘ and ‗design-from-somewhere‘. Lucy Suchman (2002) describes the ‗design-from-nowhere‘ as closely tied to the goal of designing technical systems as commodities that can be stabilised and cut loose from the sites of their production long enough to be exported en masse to the sites of their use. Connected with this perspective is the ‗view-from-nowhere‘ of the designers, who see their technologies as objects and themselves as neutral designers, denying the possibility for locating responsibility for the design. In contrast, the ‗design-from-somewhere‘ is based on the ‗view-from-somewhere‘, a partial and embodied knowledge or situated knowledge. As Haraway writes: We become answerable for how we learn to see. Suchman adds that as designers we become answerable for what we learn how to build. Such situated location, design-fromsomewhere, is intrinsically connected with our personal responsibility for the design. An example of a script in a ‗design-from-somewhere‘ context is the Mukurtu digital archive10, which has developed a so-called Aboriginal Digital Rights Management to inscribe cultural protocols into the database design. The personal information, that a first time user provides to create an account, forms the input for the login-script, which is based on cultural protocols. Depending on the nature of the input, access to parts of the content may be restricted. These protocols are linked to gender, status in the community, but also a person‘s personal status. If a person is deceased, the users of the system may not be able to access photos of this person. Although this script is part of the ‗design-from-somewhere‘, we can also see the possible risk of scripting cultural protocols in database software. We have created a ‗scenario‘: by setting the boundaries of a knowledge space, we define practices, roles, and responsibilities. Another example of a script in a ‗design-from-somewhere‘ context is taken from observations during a field trip to Kenya. Here I looked at the classification work of Jonathan, a Maasai knowledge worker from Enkirgirri in southern Kenya. Jonathan's organisation was part of a global network in which local knowledge for local development was shared in a distributed database system. There was no central system to which items are uploaded and shared; the global network consisted of smaller databases, which were able to communicate with each other. The database software also 10




enabled local classification work. Since the software was supposed to be used in different cultural settings, each with their own local way of knowing the world, the software had a default classification system, which could be adapted to the particular needs of the local communities and organisations. The software was developed by software engineers in New Delhi in India, but was perceived as neutral global technology in order to allow for local cultural inscriptions. The global classification did not contain categories such as Maasai or pastoralist and it was up to Jonathan to add those sub-categories to his local version of the classification. Jonathan did not create these sub-categories and therefore he found it difficult to classify his items. When I asked him about it, he responded that he did not see it as his task or responsibility to change something in the software (van der Velden 2008). A scenario was thus scripted in the software, in which it was considered the role of the knowledge worker to localise the classification system – to create a ‗design-fromsomewhere‘ out of a ‗design-from-nowhere‘. Jonathan did not see it as his role to add local categories to the classification system. In fact, none of the knowledge workers I met in India and Kenya considered it their role to localise the classification system. Since none of them had been part in the design of the software and its default classification system, they felt it was the responsibility of the designers, and the people higher up in the project hierarchy, to adapt the classification system. Donna Haraway (1997) discusses the risk of inscription, both in the design-fromnowhere and the design-from-somewhere, with the example of geographical mapmaking, in which ― material, contingent, human and nonhuman liveliness is transmuted into maps of life itself‖ (p.135). The mistake is, according to Haraway, that these maps are then perceived as metaphor-free representations of the real world (ibid.). They become containers in which materialised social practices are frozen in terms of place and fixed identity. In the example of Aboriginal digital rights management we saw the possible freezing of the identity and location of the people who use the archive through a login-script. One question that needs to be addressed here is: How to design when both the ‗design-from-nowhere‘ and the ‗design-from-somewhere‘ may carry the risk of working with inscripted or ‗frozen‘ notions of place and identity? Haraway (1997) and Suchman (2007) propose an understanding of technology as a materialisation of social relations in a particular cultural setting; an assemblage of stuff and meaning into a more or less stable arrangement, which imply particular ways of associating humans and non-humans such as nature and technology. This understanding of technology suggests that we cannot expect the same effects when we transfer the technology to another cultural setting. As Margot Brereton (2009) argues, when people encounter a designed artefact, such as database software, they do not meet the artefact as it was designed – and they don't meet it as 'users‘. In other words, they don't exist before their encounter. When people incorporate a designed artefact in their lifeworld, they meet an ‗object-as-used‘ (ibid.). They give their own meaning to the artefact. We saw that in the example of Jonathan, who gave a different meaning to his role as knowledge worker than the designers of the software had intended. 4.1. CONTACT ZONES Before the indigenous database becomes a more or less stable arrangement of stuff and



meaning and begins it life as an ‗object-in-use‘, we have to look closer to the meeting of knowledges, in this case the indigenous knowledge of the community and the technoscientific knowledge of database technology. Mary Louise Pratt's (1998) notion of contact zone is a figure which can help us think about designing spaces in which knowledges can meet on the basis of cognitive justice. Anthropologist James Clifford (1997) discussed museums as contact zones between indigenous peoples and nonindigenous museum people. Clifford described a contact zone as a space where knowledge systems not meet as ― sociocultural wholes‖, but as ― systems already constituted relationally, entering new relations through historical processes of displacement‖ (p.7). Clifford's notion of relating knowledge systems can also be described as assemblages (Latour 2005; Watson-Verran and Turnbull 1995), as webs of interdependence (Tsing 2005), and as high risk zones (Star 1991). In a recent book, When Species Meet, Donna Haraway (2008), uses the notion of contact zones to discuss overlapping ontologies, the interdependencies of species, and companion species. Haraway warns us that such a space such as the contact zone is not about method, but about communication across irreducible differences (Haraway 2003, 49). Robin Boast, in his work on digital museums and indigenous knowledge, argues that in the ‗contact zone‘: ― indigenous communities have ultimate control over not only what they say and how they say it, but over its performance for an 'outside' community. It is this that is critical, the recognition that the presentation, the performance, of knowledge is as much a part of knowledge as is its content, and that symmetry must be extended to performance as much as to content‖ (Boast 2008). Intra-action The contact zone seems an appropriate metaphor for the meeting between indigenous knowledges and the technoscientific knowledges of knowledge management software. While the determinist notion of script assumes a particular scenario of events, in which two autonomous entities come together and interact, the notion of contact zone implies a more open-ended perspective than script. As we discussed above, ‗design‘, ‗user‘, and ‗indigenous knowledge‘ do not pre-exist their ‗meeting as ‗sociocultural wholes‘. The contact zone is a space in which subjects become in and through their relations (Pratt 1998; Clifford 1997; Haraway 2008). Physicist Karen Barad‘s (1996; 2003) concept of intra-action is useful for understanding how two things can already relate before they meet. Barad calls these relations ― phenomena‖, which are ontologically primitive relations (2007, 333-334). In specific intra-actions between phenomena, the characteristics and boundaries of the components of phenomena become determinate. For example, the design process of an indigenous knowledge database is a series of iterations, which Barad would call ‗iterative cuts‘. In each cut11, the ontological inseparability of ‗subject‘ and ‗object‘ becomes de-entangled and their characteristics and boundaries become determinate. In such an iteration or cut, some possibilities are opened up and others are closed off12. 11

Barad stresses that this cut is not an Cartesian cut, based on an inherently distinctive ‗subject‘ and ‗object‘, but an Bohrian cut, effecting a separation between ‗subject‘ and ‗object‘. 12 Such becoming is not an unfolding in time, argues Barad, ― rather the past and future are enfolded participants in matter‘s iterative becoming‖ ((2007, 234)



Thus a database design does not determine use (nothing else is possible), nor does the database gets meaning through use (everything is possible): Intra-actions always entail particular exclusions, and exclusions foreclose the possibility of determinism, providing the condition of an open future. But neither are anything and everything possible any given moment. Indeed, intra-actions iteratively reconfigure what is possible at a given moment and what is impossible – possibilities do not sit still. One way to mark this might be to say that intra-actions are constraining but not determining. But this way of putting it doesn‘t do justice to the nature of ― constraints‖ or the dynamics of possibility. Possibilities aren‘t narrowed in their realization; new possibilities open up as others that might have been possible are now excluded: possibilities are reconfigured and reconfiguring. There is vitality to intra-activity, a liveliness, not in the sense of a new form vitalism, but rather in terms of a new sense of aliveness (Barad 2007, 234).

I propose the notion of intra-action, a more open-ended perspective than script, to inspire a not-yet (Bloch 1986) ‗somewhere‘ or ‗nowhere‘, in which we understand notyet as having meaning, as possibility, but no direction (Santos 2004). Intra-action thus refers to the dynamically reconfiguring of subject and object. Indigenous knowledge and database software are entangled in the design process. In each iteration of the design, new agencies in terms of possibilities and constraints emerge. Possibilities for action are not inscribed in a software programme, as we saw in the example of Jonathan, nor restricted to humans; but are enacted in the contact zone where Jonathan and the software meet. Intra-actions create new realities in which new and different possibilities open up (Barad 2007, 235). 4.2. INDIGENOUS DATABASE REQUIREMENTS With the understanding of a technology as a design from not-yet ‗nowhere‘ or ‗somewhere‘, we can have a closer look at the requirements of indigenous knowledge management software. Here is a concrete list of requirements written up by Laurel Dyson and Mike Leggett (2006): 1. Appropriate to Indigenous culture, particularly its oral and graphical strengths; 2. Robust enough to withstand the harsh environments where many remote communities live; 3. Acknowledging Indigenous knowledge protocols, security concerns over who has access to secret or sacred knowledge, and intellectual property issues; 4. Easy to use and navigate (given low computer literacy levels in many communities); 5. Cost-effective (given the poverty of many communities); 6. Allowing for diversity of communities and cultural evolution over time; 7. Able to be placed outdoors at the locus of creative practice; 8. Providing community control over contents and over design, development, implementation and maintenance. The first requirement, ‗Appropriate to Indigenous culture, particularly its oral and graphical strengths‘, is crucial, as it connects directly with the structures of indigenous



knowledges. Here is how the people involved in TAMI13, an Aboriginal database developed in Northern Australia, dealt with this requirement (Christie 2004b, 10): start with a limited data set, and with the processes of uploading data and creating metadata use the educational uses of digital artefacts as the framework for system development. Who will use it, how, and where? focuse on the retrieval and use of digital objects from the database as informing the logic of data structures, search engines and interfaces. minimise the structuration of metadata to facilitate the preparation and upload of data and metadata and to foster the peculiar connectivities of indigenous knowledge practices. explore the database and its development as politically and culturally invested and thus itself in need of a discursive reading. Whose world does its structure and function reflect? Whose practices does it support? How could it be modified to suit our purposes? We can now begin to explore a design approach for the contact zone, an approach which is concerned with context and connections as well as with content; a design that is infinite flexible, and a set of tools that enable the ongoing communication and negotiation of differences. Meta-design approach If we look at two ‗knower-friendly‘ design approaches, participatory design and interaction design, we can see that they offer particular roles for user/practitioners in the design process and that they focus on user needs. Designers and user/practitioners work together towards a design that in the end best expresses the visions, needs, capacities, and intentions of both designers and user/practitioners. These design approaches offer important methods for involving indigenous knowers and indigenous knowledge practices in the design process. However, at a certain point the inscriptions, in the form of specifications and abstractions, are made and the design process comes to an end. Meta-design is an emergent approach, building forth on these design approaches. It is a conceptual framework aimed at defining and creating sociotechnical infrastructures in which new forms of collaborative design can take place (Fischer et al. 2004; Giaccardi 2005). Meta-design creates new demands for participatory design processes by requiring (Fischer 2009): the creation of systems that do not consists of a set of predetermined possibilities and functions but are designed for evolution that is being carried out by the users a shift of focus from designing a complete system to designing a seed and mechanism for evolutionary growth and reseeding by providing content and a context for transcending the initial content. In the meta-design framework, sociomaterial assemblages or technologies are understood as living entities. This framework proposes environments and applications that enable ongoing emergent processes of communication, collaboration, and creation within the assemblage. In their meta-design approach for building indigenous cultural 13



archives, Dyson and Leggett (2006) argue that the authoring system will remain open to participation, evolution and emergence, recognizing that indigenous cultures and needs are not immutable, and that indigenous expectations of what the system can do may well change over time. Meta-design thus proposes to centre on the design of authoring software that enables indigenous practitioners to design their own systems for archiving and preserving their knowledge, creating an open-ended and infinite flexible design process. 4.3. META-DESIGN FOR KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE AND THE STRUCTURES OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGES The majority of the second-generation indigenous databases is based on conventional systems development, in which the outcome of a design process is an end-product such as an archive. The exception is the already mentioned TAMI database. Although the documentation written around the TAMI database does not mention meta-design, I would argue that both on the level of intentions and on the level of design, it exemplify the meta-design approach. TAMI, the Aboriginal database developed by Michael Christie and Helen Verran and their colleagues in Northern Australia, is a database design based on a perception of reality as not-yet described in categories. In contrast with more conventional database designs such as the distributed database software Jonathan worked with, there is no metadata set to structure a representation of reality in the database. The so-called flat ontology of the database enables practitioners to author community-based and cultural ontologies (Srinivasan, Pepe, and Rodriguez 2009), also called fluid ontologies (Srinivasan and Huang 2005), based on the connections they made with the items they upload and organise with the database software. A second example is StoryWeaver14, a project by Wade Chambers and David Turnbull. Storyweaver works with a similar flat ontology as TAMI and allows practitioners to weave stories together by combining different objects in a frame. Both TAMI and Storyweaver enable dynamic platforms for the ongoing organisation and creation of connections and interrelations between knowledge items. The practitioners can create media-rich representations of objects and their relations and so tell stories. In Michael Christie's words: ― Discussions as to which connections are productive and which are to be ignored need to be made as the databases are used, not as they are constructed‖ (Christie 2004b, 6).

5. Concluding remarks In this article I have taken a de-centred and localist position in which concerns for dealing with difference differently inspired a discussion of the design of knowledge management software that matters for indigenous peoples. I presented a view in which the structures of indigenous knowledges, and the need for cultivating the diversity of knowledge and cognitive justice, were contrasted with ICT-based knowledge management practices and designs. In a particular understanding of technology, based on the work of Haraway, Barad, 14




and Suchman, I discussed the risk of scripting particular scenarios in database software. I proposed to understand such inscriptions as not-yet from ‗somewhere‘ for the practitioner. Out of the intra-action between software and practitioner emerges a new iteration of the software, which gives new meaning and new possibilities. A database can therefore be understood as a kind of living system, which evolves over time and which can become an authoring tool that provides the practitioners the possibility for self-representation and self-organisation. Such a database becomes a contact zone for different ways of knowing the world and different ways of making the world. Lastly, design for the contact zone brings the politics and ethics of database design to the foreground. Each decision in the design process is an iterative cut, creating new inclusions and exclusions, thus extending the accountable of designers from the design process towards the realities they co-create.

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RECOGNIZING ABORIGINAL ORAL TRADITION THROUGH BLENDED LEARNING: A SUCCESS STORY MACKIE NAFE CHASE Centre for Intercultural Communication Continuing Studies, University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada KERRIE CHARNLEY Institute for Aboriginal Health College of Health Disciplines, University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada AND SALLY J. MCLEAN Centre for Intercultural Communication Continuing Studies, University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada

Abstract. The Aboriginal Health and Community Administration Program (AHCAP) is a certificate program developed through the partnership of the Institute for Aboriginal Health and Continuing Studies at the University of British Columbia. This paper examines factors in the program’s blended design and development which have contributed to the exceptionally high completion rate and the strongly positive responses and outcomes for widely diverse learner cohorts. Factors which appear to contribute to the program success include: 1) a holistic approach compatible with traditional Aboriginal oral traditions of teaching and learning; 2) a university partnership that taps into unique networks and capacities; 3) incorporating the 4 R’s of Aboriginal education: relevance, reciprocity, respect and responsibility generated throughout the learning and teaching, both online and face-to-face; and 4) making the program accessible to geographically and technologically diverse communities of learners.


Blended Program Design for Aboriginal Students: A Holistic Approach

Joanne Archibald, Sto:lo First Nation, currently Dean of Indigenous Education, University of British Columbia, observed: With the technological advances of video, television and film, our world has become a combined oral/ literate/ visual one. This combination has exciting possibilities for First



Nations because it is nearing the traditional holistic approach to teaching and learning which is needed to heal our people who have been adversely affected by history. (Archibald, 1990)

The Aboriginal Health and Community Administration Program (AHCAP) is a certificate program designed to increase the capacity of Aboriginal people in British Columbia to deliver health care services, coordinate clinical care, and improve health promotion activities inclusive of Aboriginal medical and community perspectives. In this paper we will examine factors in the program’s blended design and development (incorporating face-to-face and online learning) which have contributed to the exceptionally high completion rate and the strongly positive responses and outcomes from each cohort. Students are geographically, academically and culturally diverse. Some have not formally completed Grade 12; some have Master’s degrees. Students are also diverse in age, language, work experience, work and community demands, literacy levels, financial resources, objectives in participating, online access, and experience with online work. Started in 2003 with input from Aboriginal communities throughout British Columbia, the program has been developed and implemented through the partnership of the Institute for Aboriginal Health (IAH) with Continuing Studies (CS) at the University of British Columbia. To date there have been 112 adult students with a completion rate of over 80%. (Some students who have been unable to complete in one year have been able to complete a missing course in the following year). The program includes five courses, each starting with a 3-day residency followed by eight weeks of weekly online assignments and discussions. The majority of students (90%) come from outside the metropolitan area of Vancouver and 36% come from small communities in Northern British Columbia. Some have access to high-speed Internet and some rely on dial-up connections. Distances are significant as British Columbia has an area of 944,735 square kilometres, almost equivalent to the area of California, Oregon and Washington states combined. Enrolment is open to students with very different levels of high-school and post-secondary education, thus acknowledging the value of a wide scope of real life experience. Those who have more formal education benefit from the stories provided by those whose experience is more connected to communities.


Background on Aboriginal Communities and Aboriginal Learners in Canada

Aboriginal peoples is a collective name for all of the original peoples of Canada and their descendants. The Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 describes the Aboriginal Peoples in Canada as three distinct peoples: Indians [commonly referred to as First Nations], Inuit and MĂŠtis. These three distinct peoples have unique histories, languages, social systems. More than one million of the 33 million people in Canada identify themselves as Aboriginal, according to the 2006 Census, and many other Aboriginal Canadians are not counted as Aboriginal in the official census. Aboriginal communities may be in areas hundreds of kilometres from the nearest city; however, half of the Aboriginal population reside in urban centres. Children growing up in remote communities or in urban areas face a number of barriers to



participation in post-secondary education: funding and transportation costs, the legacy of residential schools 1, institutions which do not reflect Aboriginal culture and values, huge geographical and cultural distances from health care services, and educational systems which are incompatible with Aboriginal values, knowledge, experience and communication approaches. Increasingly Aboriginal peoples have found ways to bridge these barriers to access post-secondary education (10 Aboriginal people participated in higher education programs in 1952 compared with over 30,000 in 2006). Although Aboriginal people make up approximately 5% of the Canadian population, their representation in post-secondary institutions is far from equitable as less than 1% of post-secondary students are Aboriginal (Statistics Canada 2009). Less than 56% of Aboriginal youth complete high school and of those who do, few have the grade point average or course prerequisites required for university admission. Aboriginal educators and Aboriginal organizations have been researching this situation for more than thirty years. Feedback from the communities indicates that students have higher success rates when there are Aboriginal instructors teaching Aboriginal-derived curricula. Aboriginal-derived curriculum reflects learners’ distinct cultures and contributions in history and incorporates teaching methodology that places a higher value on community achievement and equality in the learning process than is generally encountered in traditional western systems of education, tend to feature competition and individual achievement.


Significant Factors in Program Design, Development and Implementation

Factors which appear to contribute to the program success include: 1) a holistic approach compatible with traditional Aboriginal oral traditions of teaching and learning; 2) a university partnership that taps into unique networks and capacities; 3) incorporating the 4 R’s of aboriginal education: relevance, reciprocity, respect and responsibility generated throughout the learning and teaching, both online and face-toface; and 4) making the program accessible to geographically and technologically diverse communities of learners. 3.1 HOLISTIC APPROACH COMPATIBLE WITH ORAL TRADITIONS OF EDUCATION AND LEARNING The format of the five courses within the certificate program, both the face-to-face segments, including the talking circles, and the online segments, is compatible with oral traditions. Assignments and discussions involve presenting and sharing stories, drawing 1

Starting in the 19th century Canadian Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families to attend residential schools with the intention of forcing Aboriginal assimilation into European-Canadian society. Children were forbidden to speak their mother tongue or to follow their cultural beliefs and frequently endured physical or sexual abuse. Some of the schools continued to exist as late as the 1990s. Since the mid 2000s the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has strived to address the multigenerational effects of Canadian residential schools.



upon each student’s experience and insight. Beyond the academic, careful attention is paid to transitions of beginnings and endings of the face-to-face seminar days. For example at the start of each seminar morning and the end of each seminar day there is time for checking in with each participant. This involves hearing without interruption from each person around the circle whatever is important for him or her to present to the group. The program demands a rigorous weekly schedule of readings, assignments and discussion postings. Students support and encourage each other through this process. There is a linking of the academic content from one course to another, and opportunities during each new residency to revisit and receive feedback from students on the previous course. Social networking is provided (through Facebook) for graduates to continue to share stories and issues, achievements and concerns when their online course time together is finished. The online support is crucial for keeping students and instructors on track. It is also an effective forum for building a strong network of supportive colleagues. Student comments reflect their comfort with the discussion forum: Examples of messages posted to the online ‘Café’ I am sending this note to say a huge thanks for your encouraging support! Fortunately, I am tough! I am going to hang in here "one course at a time" besides that my own band is going through an election process and the next council may not approve the funding for this program for the next person…Besides that, I cannot look people in the eye knowing that I bailed out (pride) and finally I don't want to ruin it for the next student coming after me.

Examples of posted reflections on the online interaction: What an awesome course, when I first started this course I was terrified, but everyone made me feel so comfortable and welcomed, sometimes I would be thinking a question and before you knew it someone answered it. [The instructor’s] enthusiasm and her quickness in responding on-line, you knew right away if your answer was way off base, so you could go back over material and correct your perception. I gleaned a lot of knowledge from my classmates. Hearing about their communities, the problems encountered, the solutions applied and the similarities in values and traditions was very enlightening. I loved the challenge the course put before me. I learned more about my classmates from the feedbacks and café and greeting comments. Good to read everyone’s posts and responses. Lots of different interpretations of what was read each week so lots of things to think about....All put together it has given me much more knowledge, understanding, courage to make changes and confidence in some of the work we do.

The program has developed a particular culture in the format of the residency days and the online informality (Chase, M., Macfadyen, L., Reeder, K., and Roche, J. 2002 ). Each cohort develops particular patterns and roles; different individuals take on the role



of keeping the communication going and providing support and encouragement to those who have encountered community or personal difficulties that make it challenging to complete an assignment on schedule. Many of the AHCAP students are familiar with web-based interfaces like Facebook and chat functions like Messenger, and they model this skill for others who are less familiar or who are without constant Internet access. 3.2 A UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIP THAT TAPS INTO UNIQUE NETWORKS AND CAPACITIES The partnership between the Institute for Aboriginal Health and Continuing Studies in the creation and implementation of the AHCAP program has provided information, skills, technical systems, and community networks critical to the program success. Over the years of offering the AHCAP program, the roles and responsibilities of the partner units, instructors and administrators have become more clearly defined. The Institute for Aboriginal Health has expertise regarding Aboriginal research and community protocols, Aboriginal health care, pedagogy and curriculum development. The Institute maintains and nurtures essential relationships with Aboriginal communities, potential students, organizations and instructors. Continuing Studies Centre for Intercultural Communication has well-developed systems for course implementation, blended program design, and ongoing student and instructor support for diverse groups. The design is flexible with attention paid to developing interests of the cohort, through adding a site visit, a speaker, or a hands-on activity to the three-day seminar sessions Instructor selection and support is a joint process with IAH recruiting and identifying candidates, and IAH and CS staff interviewing jointly and coming to an agreement on the final selection. Instructor competencies required include: subject matter expertise, knowledge of adult education and Aboriginal pedagogy, values and world view as well as previous teaching experience and computer skills. IAH and CS coach instructors in matching the content and their teaching style to the particular needs of the group, both face-to-face and online. Instructors need to be embedded in Aboriginal community; they play a role in connecting the university to community members. Instructors are encouraged to facilitate online conversation, balancing support and challenge in responses to each student, and encouraging a critical approach to the subject. The course structure permits flexibility when necessary which requires collaboration with the two partner units at the university. Students generally have very demanding and complex community responsibilities and unexpected events make it necessary to develop new program policies and adjustments to accommodate individual difficulties which arise. This process involves input from both the Institute for Aboriginal Health and Continuing Studies. In several instances emergencies have prevented a student from attending the face-to-face session (fog, blizzard, mudslides) or a student has fallen behind online (deaths in the community, health emergencies). In these cases we have been able to provide alternative completion schedules that enabled them to complete all course requirements and graduate with their cohort.



3.3 INCORPORATING THE 4 R’S OF ABORIGINAL EDUCATION The development of AHCAP has been guided by the values of the 4 R’s of Aboriginal Education (Kirkness and Barnhardt 1991): respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility. Each of these elements has been addressed in the implementation and ongoing modification of the AHCAP program. Admission is based on experience as much as levels of formal education. Courses are taught by Aboriginal instructors with personal knowledge and values honed by growing up, living and working in Aboriginal communities. Communities have been consulted from the inception of the program and in the ongoing development. Urban and rural communities throughout British Columbia are consulted and are involved in the implementation of the AHCAP program by providing input, financial support and in some cases technical support, as well as by attending and participating in graduation celebrations. Students bring knowledge of their communities and the realities of community health care services to the program. Throughout the course they demonstrate a sense of responsibility to contribute to each discussion and are motivated to exchange shared or unique experiences, difficulties and solutions, often inspired by finding common challenges and exploring potential resources and services and policy development together. The blended design provides ongoing opportunities for students to establish confidence and trust with each other when meeting face to face during the three-day residency seminars. Aboriginal teaching styles (featuring story-telling and the sharing of personal experience) and the talking circle format are critical to the success of these residencies. The online work makes it possible to do the certificate without leaving families or communities for long periods. It also creates a new community of support removed from the learners’ immediate communities. One Student’s Story: Anna (protected identity), a healthcare leader from a rural community, arrived at the first residency of the program and felt comfortable enough after the first day to share her story with the group. She said, “I hate reading. The words on the page are small and hard to see and the process makes me feel like running away.” She described being admitted to a university in British Columbia a number of years ago, arriving the first week, being handed her economics text, opening the text, taking a look at the first pages, struggling with the amount of dense text on each page, closing the book, and leaving the campus never to return until arriving for the first AHCAP residency. Anna explained that she was feeling very uneasy about stepping onto the UBC campus, starting the program, and facing a volume of required readings. At the end of the residency Anna had spent three days connecting with her cohort and said that her comfort and confidence had increased. From the outset of the admissions process, based on her required letter of intent, there had been concern that Anna might not have the literacy levels necessary to succeed,. However, once the online discussions and assignments began, she contributed her extensive experience and insights clearly and forcefully, effectively engaging with the interactive format of sharing experience and insights. As the Assignments are designed to draw directly upon their community work and insights, Anna completed her written assignments very successfully with increasing confidence. The activities of the first residency provided many opportunities for her to exchange with other students, to get to know instructors, to practice with the online platform, and to participate in interactive



sessions including “reading without reading” (how to tap into your previous knowledge and read selectively). Anna said the best parts of the residency were being able to meet in a circle and get to know each other and discovering “that it isn’t cheating or being lazy not to read the whole article.” She also discovered that she already knew much of what was included in the articles.

3.4 TECHNOLOGY CHOICES 3.4.1 Making the Program Accessible to Geographically and Technologically Diverse Communities of Learners In designing and developing the AHCAP program a conscious decision was made, based on input from communities and the two partner units, to use only the discussion board function of the online learning management system. All of the course content is delivered through the three-day residency seminars followed up by readings provided in hard copy, along with the discussion questions, also provided in hard copy. The learners may have basic dial-up connections and therefore might not be able to access applications requiring a higher bandwidth. Limiting the online tools to the discussion board has been a factor in making the program accessible to the geographically and technologically diverse community of learners. Learners with a wide range of experience in using the Internet, with or without consistent access to Internet, adapt quickly to the discussion forum and are assisted by those who are familiar with web-based interfaces. Time is allotted during the first residency for computer practice in the online learning management system. Throughout the online course, a ‘practice’ discussion room is available for experimenting and playing with postings. 3.4.2 The Essential Role of the Course Moderator When working with the first student cohort and first group of instructors in 2003, it became clear that students found it unsettling when different instructors for different courses required very different patterns of assignments and had very different ideas of how to be present online. Some instructors had extensive experience with online instruction and some were new to the process. As a result a position was created for a senior instructor / administrator / course moderator to have the ongoing role of communicating with students throughout each eight-week online course component, and working closely with instructors before each course, as well as online, to ensure a consistent pattern and rhythm throughout the five courses. The moderator checks in with students and instructors regularly and is available to address questions, technical problems or challenges in scheduling, assignment feedback, etc. for individual learners. Hey S, I think we all miss the group it was such an uplifting time to be with such great company, and we can still keep chatting thanks to [moderator]. Take care J Working on-line works well for me and having the patient and understanding from my instructor as I had a very rough 2 months. I barely made it through, but managed because of the understanding of my situation.



3.4.3 AHCAP and Critical Success Factors Identified by First Nations ICT Capacity Building Think Tank In 2007, a First Nations ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) Capacity Building Think Tank, held in Vancouver, brought together a group of educators, technicians and former students to review results and lessons learned from a recently completed pilot project for training Network technicians for Aboriginal communities and to share findings from other Aboriginal training initiatives. The aim of the think tank was to achieve consensus on a preferred model to be recommended to the First Nations Technology Council. One of the models they examined was the AHCAP model. Critical success factors they identified parallel elements incorporated in the AHCAP program: • community involvement in the planning and implementation of capacity building with community leaders participating as advocates and active supporters of capacity building in the community. • building on what’s already in the community -- community skills, existing infrastructure, existing learning methodologies, other service and support initiatives, etc. • planning, scheduling and delivering the program in a community-relevant and culturally sensitive manner. • maintaining community feedback loops at each stage of planning and implementation - listening carefully and responding to feedback.


In Conclusion

The AHCAP program model makes it possible to recognize and develop the knowledge and leadership skills of students with widely diverse levels of formal education and experience. The design of the online and face-to-face components resonates with the oral traditions of Aboriginal students and instructors. The partnership of the Institute for Aboriginal Health and Continuing Studies combines Aboriginal networks and community input with course design and implementation experience. Incorporating the 4 R’s of Aboriginal education and learning systems makes the program relevant, respectful and accessible to Aboriginal participants from diverse backgrounds. The outcome of a very high completion rate of over 80% in the six years of the program indicates that the combination of paper-based texts and face-to-face residencies with discussion platforms works well for program participants. The authors believe AHCAP is a model with potential for wider applications in the development of educational programs for other Aboriginal learners and other diverse communities of learners. The spirit of the course is described in the following note posted on the discussion board by one of our first graduates, to welcome the second cohort: Welcome to the 2004-2005 AHCAP students. Many of you are probably looking around at each other; some people you may know or you may not know a soul. Look at the person beside you and smile, introduce yourself, …Well done, you have just met one of the many people who will be a part of your support team for this school year. I encourage you to take the time to get to know each



other, as you will rely on each other for wisdom and encouragement for academics or private reasons, inside or outside of the classroom. Do not feel overwhelmed by the homework load and your regular day-to-day work activities. You have a great team of educators who are very flexible and understanding, their role may seem simple as giving you homework but really it is more than that. They will take you to higher level of education by drawing out your inner thoughts and ideas and encouraging you to put this into your work. Do not feel afraid to approach your teacher or S (moderator) for further support or clarification of the homework pieces. As I have learned that the only stupid question you could ask, is the one that you did not ask. I will leave on this note, "Go, learn, laugh, enjoy and be proud of yourselves, as you have taken the first step of this journey. This journey may feel hard but the rewards at the end are the best. If you get nothing out of this course, just remember the new friends that you have made here at UBC. Wyai,



Archibald, J. (1990). Coyote's Story About Orality and Literacy. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 17(2), 66-81. Assembly of First Nations, 2010 Barnhardt, R. and Kawagley, A. O. (2005). Indigenous knowledge systems and Alaska Native ways of knowing. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(1), p 8-23. Chase, M., Macfadyen, L., Reeder, K., and Roche, J. (2002). Intercultural challenges in networked learning: hard technologies meet soft skills. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from First Nations Technology Council (2006). First Nations ICT Capacity Building Think Tank, Gordon, J. (2007) Building an ICT Network: A Guide for Small and Remote First Nations Communities, First National Technology Council, Network B.C., Kirkness, V. J. and R. Barnhardt. (2001). First Nations and Higher Education: The Four R's Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity, Responsibility. In R. Hayhoe and J. Pan (Eds), Knowledge Across Cultures: A Contribution to Dialogue Among Civilizations. Hong Kong, Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong. Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. (1981). Narrative Literacy and Face in Interethnic Communication. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Smith, Linda Tuhiwai (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies, Zed Books Statistics Canada: 2006 Census: Aboriginal Peoples Younging, G., Dewar, J., DeGagne, M. (2009) editors. Response, Responsibility and Renewal, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey. Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Ottawa.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 28-34.


Abstract. This paper presents the first results in our investigation of the emerging Digital Heritage concepts in Brazil. It focuses on the analysis of a government experience with social media intended to prepare an official report on digital culture. We found that this report follows the Unesco guidelines in general, but falls short in the discussion of so-called born-digital heritage. Our hypothesis is that this omission is due to the lack of relevant web-archiving initiatives in Brazil.

1. Introduction

“The Long Now Foundation uses five digit dates, the extra zero is to solve the deca-millennium bug which will come into effect in about 8,000 years.” (The Long Now Foundation, 2010) Essays, software, and other text produced by the Long Now Foundation in the United States already use a five-digit system, as the line on the foundation’s website that is the epigraph of this article mentions. This may hint at far-fetched science fiction, but it is really a contemporary practice meant to preserve and protect information. Dany Hillis proposes bringing the frontier of the future within the horizon of everyday life, something that seems to have slipped from our sights ever since the momentous turn of the millennium. However, when encountering this inscription on the screen it is hard not to feel a tinge of living in a present that already sees itself as the past of a faraway future. What is the meaning of this zero, or, more to the point, of the intention contained in the inclusion of this digit? What are the present day discussions and ideas concerning the preservation of digital content? Furthermore: to what extent is the international debate spearheaded by the UNESCO and professional entities such as ICOM being reflected in Brazil? Recent studies in the field of social memory have shown an increasing appetite for the consumption of the past (Huyssen, 2001). Web-archiving is the focus of huge digital archive projects around the world, such as Internet Archive, the largest born-digital archive in the planet. It was created in 1996, based on data from, and its goal today is to be an archive of the entire web. Another example is Archipol, an archive



created in 2000 by the Documentation Centre for Dutch Political Parties and Groningen University in order to preserve the content of Dutch political party websites. In the United States of America there have been several experiences involving post-trauma archives, such as the September 11th Digital Archive which was created to electronically preserve the memory of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. This archive contains approximately 150,000 digital items and in 2003 was incorporated by the Library of Congress. In England, BBC People’s War, a digital archive that was created in 2005 to celebrate the end of the Second World War, received a lot of attention - 48,000 online testimonies and 15,000 pictures have been uploaded. And there are even more examples. In April 2009, for example, New Zealand launched the National Digital Heritage Archive, considered “the core to addressing the collection, preservation and access of digital-born content”(NDHA,2010). It is also important to mention the broad variety in scope of all these aforementioned initiatives. Some archives covers a wide range of subjects while others are theme-oriented, signaling that the configuration of this field is still undefined. The worldwide network of computers has become at the same time a tool to collect information and an object of study and as a result different kinds of web archives have started to flourish. According to Dougherty and van den Heuvel, “given this shift in attention toward online culture – both studying it and incorporating it into research practices – digital cultural heritage resources, such as web archives, are becoming fundamental assets to humanities and social sciences researches. Web archive is growing in its own right, and this growth and the value it can offer to the humanities depends on steady development of tools, standards, policies, and services upon which researches using digital cultural heritage in their research can rely”(2009, p.3). In order to understand this scenario, scholars are focusing on many issues related to the spread of social remembrance practices through new information technologies, such as the mediation of the medias (van Dijck, 2007) and the elaboration of theoretical frameworks in order to approach contemporary interfaces between memory and media (Olick, 2007).They also plea for the investigation of the main theoretical problems related to specific empirical cases (Zierold, 2008). This brings us to the exact purpose of this short paper: to map the emerging concepts of digital heritage in Brazil in a government-sponsored social network created to debate the so-called “digital culture.” To this end, we will first explain the context in which the discussion about digital heritage emerged. We will then describe the project and explain why we think it is an interesting object of study. Next, we will present our analysis of the proposed “digital memory” document, and compare it to the guidelines set forth by Unesco. Finally, we point out some problems and try to understand why, intriguingly, there is a lack of interest in born-digital heritage in Brazil, and conclude by presenting a few possibilities for further research on this topic.

2. Digital Heritage: uses of the concept Studies on the concept of heritage (patrimônio, in Portuguese) have shown its historical construction and situate it as an invention of modernity which developed and became institutionalized in nineteenth-century France. During the twentieth century the concept



expanded to embrace and include other cultural objects in a trajectory which culminates with Unesco defining certain practices and knowledge as immaterial heritage worthy of being preserved. In the Western world, concern for heritage expanded remarkably and was often connected to national and identity-formation projects (Choay, 2001). Modern calls for heritage preservation are usually accompanied by a “rhetoric of loss,” that is, an appeal to the alarming prospect of the disappearance of certain assets deemed historically relevant, and has led many international and national organizations to assume an activist role (Gonçalves, 2003). The selection of the assets which deserve to be considered heritage is disputed territory; there is a complex political, cultural and technological dynamic underpinning the definition of what should remembered or forgotten. Mentioning this ongoing debate on the subject of heritage implies indicating its main points of reference. Within the broad universe of digital records we can classify as heritage, not only those whose production was intended for the worldwide computer web but digitalized ones as well, as, for example, manuscripts and other medias which are stored more effectively in digital format rather than in cd-roms. The greatest challenges, however, lie in the definition of born-digital heritage, given the technical specificities of the content flowing through the web and the speed at which new support technologies become available (Dodebei, 2009). In 2003, UNESCO launched a charter for the preservation of digital heritage. The charter advances a well-founded defense of heritage preservation based on the central assumption that this legacy indeed exists. Article 7 defines what falls under the definition of heritage to be preserved: As with all documentary heritage, selection principles may vary between countries, although the main criteria for deciding what digital materials to keep would be their significance and lasting cultural, scientific, evidential or other value. “Born digital” materials should clearly be given priority. Selection decisions and any subsequent reviews need to be carried out in an accountable manner, and be based on defined principles, policies, procedures and standards. (UNESCO, 2003). The text evidently champions the development of international policies that foster the preservation of digital heritage, stressing the importance of born-digital content (which is created in binary code). In Brazil, the National Council for Archives (Conselho Nacional de Arquivos) launched a similar document calling for the preservation of digital heritage. The text emphasizes the risk of loss given the rapid transformation of technological support and proposes possible lines of action for preservation, although it does not place great emphasis on born-digital content (CARTA, 2004). This is the context in which we should analyze the discussions being carried out at the Brazilian Digital Culture Forum (Fórum da Cultura Digital Brasileira).



3. Brazilian digital forum: a snapshot The Brazilian Digital Culture Forum was created in September 2009 with the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture (Minc) and the National Research Network (Rede Nacional de Pesquisa - RNP). The social network’s mission was to gather in the course of one year a variety of opinions related to “digital culture” in order to guide future public policies. The Forum itself is not an interface whose aim is to propose any legal changes, but the documents it drafted can potentially be discussed in future governmental policies.

Figure 1. Visualization of the geographic distribution of the forum users. Retrieved March 2, 2010 from The map above shows that the distribution of participants in this digital interface is geographically uneven. On January 15, 2010 there were 3,692 users of which 1,045 were located in the state of São Paulo State, the most industrialized area in Brazil. Despite this discrepancy, we notice that people from all over the country are involved in the Forum. As our main goal here is simply to provide a snapshot of the Forum, there is no need to further discuss its composition. In January 2010, a total of 191 groups discussing subjects such as music on the web, the digitalization of documents or the spread of knowledge through Information and Communication Technologies. Each group engaged in discussion and had its own networks, which could be created by any Brazilian citizen. At the same time, the proponents of the Forum created five working groups, each one with headed by coordinator in charge of elaborating a final report. These groups were: Digital Memory, Digital Communication, Digital Culture Infrastructure, Digital Art and the Economy in Digital Culture. In addition to this virtual network, the Forum organized a Conference in November 2009 to promote further discussions and debate the ongoing works. By January 2010 the Digital Memory Work Group had 197 members. There were several debates on the themes related to the preservation of information on the web. It is important to mention, though, that important institutions in field of information technology in Brazil were not engaged in this initiative (Lourenço, 2010). This was a source of complaints among cyberactivists who tried to use the Forum as an opportunity to make their statements on the subject of memory preservation. It is important to explain that although in 2004 the National Council of Archives (CONARC) drafted a



national version of the Unesco Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003), there had been no prior initiatives related to this topic. In order to try to map the concepts of “digital memory” circulating in the Forum, we researched the comment files and the final report. Our purpose was to answer this question: what is exactly being named “digital memory” (memória digital)? First of all, the category seems to be very broadly defined, resembling the definition of anthropological approaches to culture (Geertz, 1973). Basically, anything on the web could be made to fit under this large umbrella category. In the document on digital heritage there is a description of the state of the art in Brazil. It is shown that the country is involved in important international movements such as the Free Software Movement and heritage projects such as the World Digital Library. However, there is a lack of coordination on the part of the institutions committed to these projects and there is no specific national protocols related to the preservation and access of digital data (i.e. infrastructures and metadata).

4. Final notes: an open concept of digital heritage In the Digital Memory Work Group no mention was made to born-digital content or to initiatives related to it around the world. More than a concept, the term “digital memory” was used as a broad category, as we have mentioned, but it seems not to include born-digital heritage. And what could be the reason for this omission? More important than pointing out this absence or trying to understand it, perhaps it is more fruitful to indicate the broad scope of the discussion and, above all, to mention the connection to the main issues indicated in UNESCO official documents. The Forum’s final document defends the creation of a protocol for the preservation of “digital memory” by using open source software. At the same time, it posits that without a minimum level of communication among the country’s institutions on the topic there is the risk of inefficiency: the same manuscripts might get digitalized twice, resources might be spent on the data processing of the same archive into binary code. Thus, as unlikely or even undesirable is the possibility the preservation of digital preservation might be centralized it is interesting to reflect upon the possible means of regulation and how to assure efficient use of resources. The document, as the discussions in the Forum, is for the most part related to the current state of the issue in Brazil. Taking this into account the absence of any explicit mention of the preservation of born-digital heritage becomes more understandable. We have realized that if, on one hand, Brazil was quick to incorporate social networking tools (such as Orkut and Facebook) or micro-blogging tools such as Twitter, on the other one, with respect to the sharing of “digital memory” tool such as Omeka or Archive-it there are few relevant experiences. There are many online archives rendering digitalized material available however there are no relevant experiences in Brazil concerning born-digital heritage. We thus arrive at an important juncture, namely the relation between technological artifacts and social categories and concepts. This is not an issue requiring an immediate solution, rather it opens vast new territory to be chartered. The case we are reporting provides important information towards the elaboration of broader questions. How to understand the creation of categories related to a newly-created technology?



Investigating cases such as this one, from a micro perspective, allows us to corroborate the hypothesis of Briggs and Burke (2006) on the non-linear character of the social history of media. The constancies and continuities in the appropriation and practices of new information technologies have also been detected by Pierre Lévy in his works (1993). Thus, although the Forum’s discussion was guided by the use of new technologies, the assumptions at stake belong to a dated an analogical paradigm in which the heritage assets correspond to a static object and not to a webpage or a collection of “tweets” on politics. We cannot affirm that the final Document or even the discussion among the group’s 197 members fully depict the Brazilian picture. This has not been the intention of these research notes. Our interest is to reflect upon this small universe and based on it reflect on the intertwining of concepts and technologies, and the continuities and changes in this process.

Acknowledgements We especially thank Rogério Santana Lourenço, the coordinator of the “Digital Memory” Work Group, who was kind enough to sit down with us for a lengthy interview about the Forum.

References Briggs, A. & Burke, P. (2006). Uma história social da mídia – de Gutenbergh à Internet. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar. Choay, F. (2001). A Alegoria do Patrimônio. São Paulo: Estação Liberdade; UNESP. Conselho Nacional de Arquivos (2004). Carta para a preservação do patrimônio arquivístico digital [Electronic version]. Retrieved January 10, 2010 from id=64&sid=5. Dodebei, V. (2009). Digital virtual: o patrimônio no século XXI. In: V. Dodebei and R. Abreu (Eds), E o patrimônio? Rio de Janeiro: Contracapa. Dougherty, M & van den Heuvel, C. (2009). Historical Infrastructures for web-archiving: annotation of ephemeral collections for researchers and cultural heritage institutions. Retrieved February 10, 2010 from Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books. Gonçalves, J. R. S.(2003). O patrimônio como categoria de pensamento. In: Abreu, R.; Chagas, M. (Eds.) Memória e Patrimônio. Rio de Janeiro: DP&A. Huyssen, A. (2001). Seduzidos pela memória. Rio de Janeiro: Aeroplano. Lévy, P. (1993). As tecnologias da inteligência – o futuro do pensamento na era da informática. São Paulo: 34. Lourenço, R. S. Documento do Eixo Memória Digital. Retrieved January 10, 2010 from National Digital Heritage Archive (NDHA) Launch (2010). Retrieved April 09, 2010 from



Olick, J. K. (2008). From Collective memory to the Sociology of Mnemonic Practices and Products. In: A. Erll and A Nunning (Eds) Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook (pp 151-162). Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter. The Long Now Foundation. (2010). Retrieved April 09, 2010 from UNESCO (2003). Unesco’s basic texts on the information society [Electronic version]. J. G. Mastrangelo and M. Loncarevic (Eds). UNESCO, Paris. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from van Dijck, J. (2007). Mediated memories in the digital age. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Zierold, M. (2008). Memory and media cultures. In: A. Erll and A Nunning (Eds) Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook (pp 399-408). Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 35-41.


BONNY NORTON, MARGARET EARLY Department of Language and Literacy Education The University of British Columbia 
 British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada AND JULIET TEMBE Department of Languages, Literature and Linguistics Islamic University in Uganda Mbale, Uganda

Abstract. In this paper, we address preliminary findings from a digital literacy study on the use the portable digital library, eGranary, currently being conducted in a rural Ugandan school. The eGranary system is an intranet that comprises a 750Gb harddrive with specialized browsing software, which can be attached to a PC or a local area network. It contains approximately 10 million educational documents, including Wikipedia, which can be searched like the internet (see Drawing on theories of new literacies and identities, the two research questions we are addressing in our current project are as follows: (i) how does eGranary function as a placed resource in Ugandan society? (ii) to what extent do identities shift as teachers learn from and contribute to global knowledge production? These research questions are centrally concerned with the innovative use of educational resources to promote social inclusion in poorly resourced regions of the world.

1. Introduction One of the greatest challenges to secondary education in Uganda are the limited resources, such as textbooks, in Ugandan schooling. (Businge, 2010a, 2010b). To address this problem, along with other educational challenges in Uganda, our larger UBC research team has begun to research the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address the acute shortage of textbooks and other material resources in the country. Drawing on research conducted in marginal communities internationally (see Snyder and Prinsloo, 2007), Mutonyi and Norton (2007) identified 5 “lessons” that are relevant to ICT research in Uganda: Collect empirical data that can be used by policy makers and curriculum planners; recognize



local differences between rural and urban areas; promote professional development of teachers and teacher educators; integrate in-school and out-of-school digital literacy practices; and provide opportunities for Ugandans to both access and contribute to global knowledge production. Notwithstanding the excitement about the potential of ICT to transform learning and teaching in Africa, and to address the shortage of material resources, two welldocumented problems are connectivity and bandwidth (Castells, 1996; de Roy, 1997; Warschauer, 2003). Our team has learnt that conventional uses of ICT, apart from mobile phones, are beyond the reach of most Ugandan teachers and students, particularly in rural areas. In our search for more creative approaches to ICT, we identified the new “internet in a box” eGranary Digital Library system, developed by the University of Iowa, as a particularly powerful resource ( The eGranary system is an intranet that comprises a 750Gb harddrive with specialized browsing software, which can be attached to a PC or a local area network. It contains approximately 10 million educational documents, including Wikipedia, which can be searched like the internet. While electric or solar power is needed to run the system, there is no need for connection to the wider internet, and the costs are not prohibitive. Not only does eGranary provide a wealth of information for users, but users can also develop digital skills like browsing and searching, without connectivity. In June 2008, we contacted Cliff Missen, the Director of the eGranary project, to order the product, and to invite him to meet our research team at UBC. We learnt that if eGranary is to achieve its potential in Ugandan education, teachers need to be able to adapt the system to local needs.

2. Research Questions To this end, the two research questions we are addressing in our current project at Sibatya Secondary School are as follows: (i) how does eGranary function as a placed resource in Ugandan society? (ii) to what extent do identities shift as teachers learn from and contribute to global knowledge production? These research questions are centrally concerned with the innovative use of educational resources to promote social inclusion (Warschauer, 2003) in the global community. As Mutonyi and Norton argued in 2007, the questions address the need for teachers to contribute to, and not only learn from global knowledge production. Our hope is that eGranary can serve as both a tool and a new social space that restructures inequitable social relations. It is being conducted in the spirit of capacity-building advocated by the indigenous scholar, Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Smith, 1999).

3. Theoretical Framework The theoretical framework for the research project is drawn from work in two related areas, each broadly corresponding to the two research questions, respectively: (i) “the new literacies”; (ii) language and identity. Research on new literacies that is relevant to our project is associated with the work of Hornberger (2003), Prinsloo (2005), and



Street (2001). These researchers take the position that literacy practices cannot be isolated from other social practices, and that literacy must be understood with reference to larger historical, social, and economic processes. Thus, while earlier psychological perspectives conceived of reading and writing as the acquisition of particular behaviors and cognitive strategies, more recent insights from ethnography, cultural studies, and critical theory have led to the recognition that literacy is not only a skill to be learned but a practice that is socially constructed and locally negotiated. Associated with new literacies is the increasing research on digital literacy, multiliteracy, and multimodality (see Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, and Leu, 2008). The central tenet of this research is that developments in ICT profoundly affect literacy practices across different sites of learning, and that a “text” is not only printed material, but includes visual, oral, and multimodal products. The complex ways in which schools, families, and communities engage in digital literacy practices have become an important site for literacy research and theory, and provide significant insights into the ways in which people learn, teach, negotiate, and access literacy both inside and outside school settings. However, as scholars such as Snyder and Prinsloo (2007) and Warschauer (2003) note, much of the research in this area has focused on research in wealthier regions of the world, and there is a great need for research in poorly-resourced communities to impact global debates on digital literacy. Further, as Prinsloo (2005) notes, digital innovations need to be studied as “placed resources”, suggesting that any given technology, when transplanted, takes on new meanings, particularly in socially distinctive African contexts. The extent to which the resource offers opportunities for users, and the ways in which it is used, needs to be established by research, rather than simply assumed. With reference to language and identity, the research project seeks to investigate the extent to which teachers’ engagement with eGranary can be understood with respect to research on identity, investment, and imagined communities (Norton , 2000; Kanno and Norton, 2003).This research makes the case that the conditions under which language learners speak, read, or write is best explained with reference to the multiple identities they negotiate in different sites of learning, sites, which are often characterized by unequal relations of power.

4. Methodology The research project is taking place at Sibatya Secondary School, a co-educational day school in rural eastern Uganda, which has 700 students and a staff of 35. In September 2008, the UBC team was invited by the principal to help promote digital literacy amongst teachers and students. Of particular interest was the eGranary digital library as well as digital cameras, both of which can be used with limited electrical power and no connectivity. The initial communication was followed up by a research visit to the school in August, 2009, in which Early and Norton met with the principal, teachers and students, and conducted a two-day workshop on the use of eGranary. Tembe joined the project in January 2010, and is maintaining regular communication with the school. Nine teachers are participating in the research process, two of whom, as subject English teachers, are serving as focal participants. The remaining seven teachers



represent instruction in both the humanities and sciences. The teachers have shared their insights about eGranary in diverse data forms, including face-to-face interviews, questionnaires, email exchanges, professional conversations, photographs, videofootage, and written and audio-taped reflections. The questionnaires required short, open-ended responses and included items related to the teachers’ previous experience with computers, with email, and with other digital devices. Question regarding eGranary’s perceived strengths and limitations and how it might be adapted for pedagogical purposes in the teachers’ subject areas were also addressed. The semistructured interviews followed up on the themes of the questionnaire. The two focal teachers were interviewed together, and the other teachers were interviewed in two small groups organized by disciplines (humanities and sciences). In all, then, three semi-structured interviews were conducted, each approximately 25 mins to 45mins in length. In addition to following up on the questionnaire information, additional information was gathered in the following areas: 1) the challenges the participants faced in attempting to improve the teaching of their subject area within the limited resources of their local context; 2) how the teachers innovatively made use of local resources to support their students’ learning; and 3) how eGranary as a placed resource may (or may not) be useful in their work. The interview data was transcribed in full. Norton and Early have collaboratively undertaken an initial data analysis and the preliminary findings are reported here. We each read the interview transcripts, questionnaire responses and audio and written reflections. Each made notes about what themes and issues emerged and discussed our preliminary understandings. We are presently engaged in a systematic re-analysis of this data and the additional data that is being collected in the school in Eastern Uganda by Tembe on an on-going basis. The analysis is proceeding through three (3) phases. In Phase 1, initial coding and category identification, we independently read the transcripts and responses and establish emerging themes and categories. In Phase 2, we exchange and share our category systems and, through discussion, modify the existing set of categories and identify emerging clusters as themes. In Phase 3, as an interactive process, we re-analyze the data in more depth according to the established themes and categories as a test for robustness. Thus, the data is analyzed inductively and recursively to find major themes on an on-going basis. The data will be triangulated for ‘trustworthiness’ and findings reported back to the participants for member checks.

5. Preliminary Findings and Analysis Although we are still in the process of data collection, we have some preliminary findings to share with regard to our two research questions. With regard to the first question, on the ways in which eGranary functions as a placed resource in Ugandan society, we have found that there is great interest in the information available on the system, and in exploring innovative ways to adapt the resource to local needs. As one participant noted in an interview, many teachers struggle to access information relevant for their teaching:



The main challenge has been the accessing information - actually the books - the books are not there. (Or) those ones which are - that may be donated to us are not relevant to what we are teaching … Not relevant to the syllabus - So it gives the teacher a lot more time - you have to hunt - for rele- related information - before you can give it to the students.

The participants noted that the eGranary has a wealth of information. As one noted in a questionnaire, “in the absence of textbooks, as it has been in most schools in Uganda, the eGranary is very resourcefull”. Other advantages, recorded in questionnaires, are as follows: • “easy to store and access information” • “Easily portable and usable where there is no internet service” • “It’s cheaper” • “More reliable than internet” The central challenge for teachers is to determine what information on eGranary is in fact relevant to their needs. As one teacher noted, [the eGranary] has too much information, some of which we might not need… right? For our purposes. So we’re looking at the possibility of looking for those sensitive topical issues which we need for our own particular (course work). And we try to download them onto our… uh… computers here.

Further, there is recognition that users of eGranary need to work collaboratively to maximize the effectiveness of the system. As one teacher noted, So our coming together like this is a way of putting out heads together to know what you can grasp- you can grasp a small part, he grasps another one, she gets another one. Now tomorrow the part which defeats you to get is the one you run to the friend and say ‘now how do we do this?’ so that together we can access that information for our own good.

In their questionnaires, the teachers also recognized the limitations of eGranary, as the following three questionnaire extracts demonstrate: • “Can’t operate without a laptop” • “Works only on electric power” • eGranary “‘useless without electricity” With regard to the second research question on the extent to which identities shift as teachers interact with eGranary, the following preliminary findings are relevant. In the following extract, the teachers define themselves as the sole source of information for students in the school. This is captured in the reference to the teacher being “the Bible” in the school. With the introduction of the eGranary, we anticipate that this identity will shift. Teacher 1: In fact the teacher is just the (whole) BibleTeacher 2: The teacher is just the Bible in the school. [laughs] Teacher 1: There is no other [laughs] Norton: Is that right, the teacher is the person who has the knowledge. Teacher 2: Yes. Teacher 1: Yeah Norton: There is nobody else. Teacher 1: Yeah. Teacher 2: Because the studentsEarly: The “e-Granary.”



Norton: You’re the e-Granary. Teacher 1: [laughs] It addition, teachers are centrally concerned with the opportunities eGranary will provide for their students, particularly with reference to self-directed study and ownership of meaning. As the following questionnaire data indicates: • “It’s important when the student is allowed to search information on his or her own, will be able to discover and internalize information easily” • “Learners can access information without necessarily having to move out of their setting” Our ongoing research will expand on these preliminary findings, focusing on the central role of communalism in African social practices (Kanu, 2006), as well as shifts of identity for both teachers and students.

6. Conclusions As previously stated, these findings are preliminary and so any conclusions should be deemed tentative. That being said, it would be fair to say that in a poorly resourced school, such as our research site, eGranary holds tremendous potential as a ‘placed resource’ in accessing and providing information for teachers to use with their students. At a minimum, in the absences of textbooks, the teachers, who have classes of between 60 and 120 students, are downloading texts and making copies for students to share. Additionally, an LCD projector has been donated to the school and teachers are able to project relevant subject related information from eGranary for large classes, when electricity is available. However, as has been noted, there are limitations, including frequent electrical power outages and only one laptop and one eGranary for 35 teachers and 700 students. It will be interesting to see how the teachers’ remarkable resourcefulness and sense of community plays out in this context. With respect to changing teacher identities, we anticipate a shift from the teacher as sole “bible’/ ‘eGranary’, to mentor/facilitator, with eGranary as a resource. Moreover, as teachers become more at ease with use of the laptop, eGranary, and email communication, we will be examining how this changes their teacher identities from digital ‘apprentices’ to ‘natives’. Finally, we hope that teachers will soon be creating and uploading locally developed materials, in both English and local languages, to the eGranary. We will be carefully investigating the extent to which our participants’ sense of self shifts as they contribute to global knowledge production, becoming digital producers as well as digital consumers.

References Businge, C. (2010a). Secondary enrolment to drop – World Bank. New Vision Online, January 19th. Businge, C. (2010b). Poor performance recorded in O level. New Vision, February 8th. Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society. Malden, MA: Blackwell.



Coiro, J., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D. (2008). Handbook of research on new literacies. New York & London: Lawrence Erlbaum. De Roy, O. C. (1997). The African challenge: Internet, networking, and connectivity activities in a developing environment. Third World Quarterly, 18(5), 883-1000. Hornberger, N. (Ed.). (2003). Continua of biliteracy. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Kanno, Y., & Norton, B. (Guest Eds.). (2003). Imagined communities and educational possibilities [Special issue]. Journal of Language Identity, and Education, 2(4). Kanu, Y. (Ed.) (2006). Curriculum as cultural practice: Postcolonial imaginations. University of Toronto Press. Mutonyi, H., & Norton, B. (2007). ICT on the margins: Lessons for Ugandan education. In I. Snyder & M. Prinsloo (Guest Eds.), The digital literacy practices of young people in marginal contexts. Language and Education, 21(3), 2007. Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning. London: Longman/Pearson Education. Prinsloo, M. (2005). New literacies as placed resources. Perspectives in Education, 23(4), 87-98. Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies. London & New York: Zed Books. Snyder, I., & Prinsloo, M. (Guest Eds). (2007). The digital literacy practices of young people in marginal contexts. Language and Education, 21(3). Street, B. (2001) (Ed.). Literacy and development: Ethnographic perspectives. New York: Routledge. Warschauer, M. (2003). Technology and social inclusion: Rethinking the digital divide. Boston: MIT.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 42-44.

ONLINE OUTSIDERS WITHIN A critical cultural approach to digital inclusion PAULINE HOPE CHEONG AND JUDITH MARTIN Hugh Downs School of Human Communication Arizona State University, USA

Heightened attention to technological diffusion and informational inequalities is of particular societal concern, given the increasing mediation of everyday life whereby web-based initiatives abound and an increasing amount of information on critical human services including education and healthcare are online or only available online. As Cheong & Martin (2009) note, the digital divide is a significant, multi-layered access challenge for institutions of higher education worldwide as they embark on e or distance learning programs, including the incorporation of virtual course management systems. Kreps (2006) also notes that the digital divide is an important health communication problem as new technologies can help underserved populations retrieve relevant health information, yet exacerbate disparities by reducing access to those most at risk for poor health outcomes. Multiple commentators have highlighted how the Internet is the “new normal”, particularly for citizens in the developed and industrialized world. Yet technological adoption and use despite its increased technical availability in highly wired contexts, is not without its challenges. In light of the “social and technological interdependencies of new media” which “forces us to collaborate with people and systems not rewarded or designed to do so with us”, developing, embedded and pervasive “tensions among interdependence, collaboration and dysfunctional sociotechnical interactions” has been proposed as an important area for further research (Rice, 2009). But beyond initial adoption, there is relative lack of critical research that examines secondary digital divides, including the consequences of Internet use like how users perceive and incorporate online information as well as interact with socio-technical systems in their everyday information practices. Furthermore, the notions of “patient empowerment”, and “lifelong learning” as popularly associated with Internet access requires critical reexamination, given the emerging emphasis placed on facilitating “client or consumer” decision-making. For example, the editor of the Journal of Health Communication observed that the “informed patient” may be an “oxymoron in an information restricted society” (Ratzan, 2007). Prevailing assumptions in the biomedical approach governing health policy (Whalen, 2003) is that greater availability of online health information will create better informed patients, who will in turn be able to better evaluate their condition and treatments. Similar assumptions persist in the education arena where



access to e-learning tools assists wired students to achieve pedagogical goals (Lim, Kim, Chen & Ryder, 2008). To contribute to a broadened understanding of understanding of secondary digital divides, this article develops a dialectical approach to conceptualize digital participatory inclusion. Drawing upon recent studies in mediated healthcare and education, this article provides a critical cultural framework to assess the tensions in technological appropriation as disparities in informational access, knowledge, and outcomes may be dynamically shrinking, widening, and deepening in different embedded life contexts. Post Internet adoption divides exist and intensify as they are enfolded in historical social stratification patterns (Van Dijk, 2005). From a critical perspective, this article argues that what appears to be the shrinking digital divide may oversimplify understandings of digital health and educational inclusion since conflicting and contradictory, online and offline needs and experiences engender a need for a dialectical, rather than a dichotomous conception of Internet use. Theoretically, we draw from intercultural communication and critical studies including Black feminist epistemology and the theorization of the “outsider within” standpoint (Collins, 1986) to recognize the “interlocking nature of oppression” to present challenging insights into the negotiation and appropriation of e-health and elearning. Specifically, we explicate four dialectics (Martin & Nakayama, 1999) that are operant in technological diffusion and use, namely the history-present, culturalindividual, differences-similarities, and privilege-disadvantage dialectics. For instance for health communication, we illustrate and highlight how African American women as minority ethnic females may experience both empowerment and enervation in their use of the internet to seek health information, and face proportionately greater challenges in navigating the internet for what they perceive to be helpful health information. In elearning we discuss how online pedagogical practices both facilitate cultural similarities and highlight cultural differences. As most research on the digital divide tends to utilize the functionalist approach to analyze between group differences, attention to online cultural dynamics and conceptualization of the contradictory pressures experienced by online users help highlight differences experienced within groups and individuals, without essentializing any individual’s online behavior to group membership. As such, the notion of “internet use” may be broadened to include the management of conflicting tensions, uneven gains, multiple opportunities and challenges that people face in their contemporary mediated experiences.

References Cheong, P. H. & Martin, J. N. (2009). Cultural implications of E-learning access (& divides): Teaching an Intercultural Communication course online. In B. A. Olaniran (Ed.). Cases on Successful E-Learning Practices in the Developed and Developing World: Methods for Global information Economy. IGI: Global. Collins, C.F. (2006). Introduction. In African American women’s health and social issues. (2nd Ed). (pp.1-11). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. Kreps, G.L. (2006). Communication and racial inequities in health care. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(6), 1-15



Lim, J., Kim, M., Chen, S. S. & Ryder, C. E. (2008). An empirical investigation of student achievement and satisfaction in different learning environments. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 35(2), 113-119. Martin, J. N. & Nakayama, T. K. (1999). Thinking dialectically about culture and communication, Communication Theory, 9, 1-25. Ratzan, S.C. (2007). An informed patient - an oxymoron in an information restricted society. Journal of Health Communication, 12(8), 705-6. Rice, R. (2009) Sociological and Technological Interdependencies of New Media. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14: 714–719 van Dijk, J.(2005).The Deepening Divide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 45-52.

DESIGNING A SEMANTICALLY RICH VISUAL INTERFACE FOR CULTURAL DIGITAL LIBRARIES USING THE UNESCO MULTILINGUAL THESAURUS ALI SHIRI1, STAN RUECKER2, CARLOS FIORENTINO3, AMY STAFFORD4, MATTHEW BOUCHARD2 AND MARK BIEBER5 1 School of Library and Information Studies 2 Humanities Computing Program and Department of English and Film 3 Department of Art and Design 4 Department of English and Film Studies 5 Department of Computing Science University of Alberta, Canada

Abstract. This paper reports on the design of a visual user interface for the UNESCO digital portal. The interface makes use of the UNESCO multilingual thesaurus to provide visualized views of terms and their relationships and the way in which spaces associated with the thesaurus, the query and the results can be integrated into a single user interface.

1. Introduction The purpose of this project was to develop and study thesaurus-enhanced multilingual visual interfaces for cultural digital libraries. The specific aim was to design a series of visual interfaces utilizing the UNESCO thesaurus, a multilingual thesaurus in English, French and Spanish. The UNESCO thesaurus covers such areas as education, science, culture, social and human sciences, information and communication, and politics, law and economics; making it a perfect candidate for developing a multilingual visual interface for the humanities and social sciences. Our experimental interface is intended to support humanities and social science scholars in effectively and efficiently exploring the information space of digital libraries. This project built on a series of small projects started in 2006 that studied the feasibility of designing thesaurus-based visual interfaces (Shiri et al., 2006a, 2006b, 2007; Ruecker et al., 2007a; Stafford et al., 2008). Our previous studies have focused on bilingual interfaces using a general purpose thesaurus. The goal of the current project is to extend this work by developing and evaluating visual interfaces for multilingual cultural digital libraries containing multimedia digital information in a variety of formats, such as text, images and audiovisual.



2. Previous Research Jorna and Davis (2001) point out the importance of tools to support multilingual information retrieval. They note that in order to facilitate cross-cultural communication in an increasingly global information society multilingual thesauri can play a significant role. Thesauri have played an important role in modern information storage and retrieval systems. While initial proposals to utilize thesauri focused on their ability to ensure consistent analysis of documents during input to information retrieval systems, they have increasingly become vital as aids to effective retrieval (Shiri, 2000). As Aitchison et al. (1997) have stated, the role of the thesaurus is changing, but it is likely to remain an important retrieval tool. This refocusing of the use of thesauri within information retrieval systems means that it is imperative that professionals are cognizant of the potential of thesauri as essential components of the largest information retrieval environment, namely the World Wide Web (Shiri, 2000). Digital libraries are multifaceted and complex information structures that offer a wide range and variety of information bearing objects. They vary in their content, subject matter, cultural characteristics, language etc. Arms (2000) notes that “a digital library is only as good as the interface it provides to its users.” The variety of digital objects and materials in a digital library poses challenges to the design of usable and easy to understand user interfaces. Visual interfaces to digital libraries have recently found widespread attention. This development is mainly due to the fact that information visualization techniques allow for rich representation of information bearing objects within digital libraries. Borner and Chen (2001) suggest that visual interfaces for digital libraries shift users’ mental load from slow reading to faster perceptual processes such as visual pattern recognition. Zaphiris, et al. (2004) explore the application of information visualization in digital libraries and identify three key tasks in digital libraries, namely searching, browsing and navigation to which information visualization can make contribution. Over the last decade, a number of digital libraries and online initiatives have incorporated knowledge organization systems such as thesauri and classification systems into their user interfaces to provide support for query formulation, collection browsing and other search tasks (Hodge, 2000; Hudon and Hjartarson, 2002;Shiri and Molberg, 2005). A few prototype interfaces have utilized graphical as well as two- or threedimensional category hierarchies using the MeSH Thesaurus. TraverseNet (McMath et al., 1989), MeSHBrowse (Korn& Shneiderman, 1995), Cat-a-cone (Hearst &Karadi, 1997), Visual MeSH (Lin, 1999), and the Integrated Thesaurus-Results Browser (Sutcliffe et al., 2000) are among the prototype thesaurus-enhanced interfaces. There are also some studies that have found that thesaurus-enhanced search interfaces can support users’ query formulation and expansion (Beaulieu, 1997; Shiri, 2006c). Jorna and Davis (2001) note that in order to facilitate cross-cultural communication in an increasingly global information society multilingual thesauri can play a significant role. A number of reports cite the general usefulness of the UNESCO Thesaurus. For example, Williamson (2007) highlights the UNESCO Thesaurus as one of many online knowledge organization systems in her analysis of the development of online finding aids. She notes that thesauri are powerful navigational aids for Internet users because of the hierarchical and relational nature typical to these information organization systems.



With regard to UNESCO in particular, Williamson notes that the Thesaurus is “simple and effective to use” and has clear instructions, but that the two presentation modes – as a hierarchy or as an alphabetical list – may pose browsing problems because the user cannot view or browse both modes at once. With regard to the usefulness of UNESCO in relation to specific projects or resources, an oft-cited example comes from Garrod (2000), who describes the relatively early adoption of the Thesaurus for a digital archive of the UK’s National Digital Archive of Datasets (UK NDAD) as the finding aid of choice for the datasets. Garrod (2002) writes that, in the context of the UK’s National Archives Network, numerous archival projects have adopted the Thesaurus because of its broad subject reach, availability in electronic format, adherence to both British and ISO standards for thesauri, and the fact that UNESCO itself is willing to share the Thesaurus for non-profit use. Our goal to present the design of a visual user interface developed to support users of the UNESCO digital libraries in searching, browsing, navigating and exploring the content. One of the core components of the interface will be the UNESCO multilingual thesaurus, which will assist humanities scholars to formulate, and expand their queries in a semantically rich visual environment where users search terms can be enhanced through interaction with the thesaurus.

3. Methodology 3.1. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK The theoretical framework for the design of the interface will be based on two key concepts. The first is the idea of rich-prospect interfaces, in which individual representations of every item in a collection are combined with emergent tools (Ruecker and Chow, 2003). Using this conceptual framework, Ruecker et al. have subsequently developed a number of metadata enhanced visual interfaces to support users’ information search and exploration activities (Ruecker et al., 2006, 2007b). The second set of principles draws on the design ideas for thesaurus-based search interfaces suggested by Shiri et al. (2002), including: • • • • • • •

Providing hierarchical and alphabetical lists to support different strategies. Allowing flexible ways of choosing terms. Facilitating movement between a descriptor and its hierarchical structure. Catering for the selection of alternative Boolean operators. Providing a term pool option for saving the descriptors. Integrating thesaurus and retrieved documents displays. Making thesaurus options available in all stages of the search process.

4. User Interface Design In the proposed interface, the aim was to provide the user with the following spaces within the interface:


A. SHIRI ET AL. • • •

Query space: for formulating search statements Thesaurus space: for browsing and navigating the thesaurus Document space: for viewing document representations

Figure 1. The Thesaurus and Query spaces The Query space is located across the top and on the right side of the screen while the Thesaurus space is located on the left and in the centre. Users can search for a single term in the thesaurus by entering it in the query box at the top of the page and clicking the Find button. If the term exists in the thesaurus it will appear in the centre of the screen with a number in parentheses beside it, which indicates the number of documents in the collection that include the selected term. Users can also browse all the terms in the thesaurus using the panel on the left, which can be sorted either alphabetically or hierarchically by category. Again, each term has a number beside it in parentheses indicating how many documents in the collection contain the term. When a term in the list is clicked, it will appear in the centre of the screen. When a term is selected by either method it is represented by a square in the central Thesaurus space. By utilizing the checkboxes in the bottom of the right-hand panel, users can choose to view the thesaurus terms that are related, narrower (more specific), broader (more general), and preferred or non-preferred (synonyms) compared with the selected term. These associated terms are also represented in the Thesaurus



space by squares or diamonds and their relationship to the selected term is represented by their relative proximity and opacity. In figure 1, for example, Hydrometrics is a more specific term than the selected term, Hydrography. Therefore, the square for Hydrometrics is much darker and completely overlaps the square for Hydrography. Hydrology, on the other hand, is a more general term than Hydrography, so it is further away and more transparent. Furthermore, the size of each shape represents the number of documents in the collection that contain the represented term. Thus, the square for Hydrology, which appears 204 times in the document collection, is smaller than the square for Hydrography, which appears 543 times. Users can also use the checkboxes in the right-hand panel to show the terms in more than one language at once and to view scope notes for selected terms (Figure 2). When users decide to add a term to their query, they do so by clicking on its square in the centre of the screen, at which time it is added to the Summary of Terms list, or term pool, at the top of the right-hand panel. Users can add as many terms as they like, delete them at any time, choose to keep them in only one language rather than multiple languages, and combine them using the Boolean operators below the list. When they have finished formulating their query they click Retrieve Documents to view the results.

Figure 2. The user is working in Spanish.



The Document space now replaces both the Thesaurus space in the centre and part of the Query space on the bottom right-hand side of the screen. In the centre of the screen the document results are represented visually by red squares. Again, a document's proximity to the selected term is significant as it represents the document's degree of relevance. The document results are also displayed in the right panel as a sortable list of titles. Both the title in the list and the representative square can be clicked to open a PDF version of the document.

5. Conclusion The main idea behind the above user interfaces is to make use of the power of semantics in thesauri and current visualization techniques to facilitate searching and browsing in digital information environments. There are a number of novel features and functionalities that were incorporated into the these interfaces. The first novel aspect of these interfaces lies in their approach to visualize semantic relationships held in standard thesauri, namely broader, narrower, related and synonymous terms. The second novel aspect is the use of such visual cues as location, size, colour, font type and the use of space on the interface along with visualization techniques such as word clouds and the notion of terms as visual objects. In addition, these interfaces are developed based on the idea of combining three different spaces into one single user interface, namely, thesaurus space, query space and document space. The next step is to develop the operational prototype for these interfaces and to conduct user-centred evaluation studies to establish their usability, learnability and usefulness.

Acknowledgements This research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Strategic Research Grant.

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Abstract. This paper analyses the redesign of psychiatric services for children and adolescents in a Sami area in the county of Finnmark in Norway. The project included the introduction of a new technology in support of a decentralized model for healthcare service delivery. We focus specifically on the role of culture in the development and implementation of a mobile phone application during the pilot phase of the project. In our analysis we draw on information infrastructure theory. We are in particular interested in the concept of generativity and critically assess its role of in the analysis of technology in a culturally diverse context.

1. Introduction User-driven innovation has been playing a significant role in many sectors (von Hippel, 2005). An important factor for this shift is the increased demand for personalized products, reflecting more heterogeneous needs. So called user innovation communities are often formed on the basis of users who share similar needs and interests. Members of these communities present their innovations and assist one another with the innovation development (Hienerth, 2006; Tietz et al., 2005). In the health care sector there is a growing interest in user-centered innovations, which can replace manufacturer-centered innovations. Many health care workers wish to understand the user’s needs accurately and in detail. Von Hippel (2001) claims that this results in outsourcing important needs-related innovation tasks to the users, after equipping them with appropriate “user toolkits for innovation” (p. 247). Users are perceived to hold better knowledge about their own contexts, needs and wishes. Although this knowledge is ‘sticky’ and costly to transfer – it results in a more active role of patients, as they take more responsibility their own treatment and decisions. This paper reports from a reorganization within in psychiatric health care for children and youth in Norway. In this pilot project the users formed a rather diverse group, with different roles and responsibilities and from different cultural backgrounds: Sami and Norwegian. Some of the users were significantly involved in developing a web-based solution, based on mobile phones, which would support the work of the



health care providers as a well as support the patients in their communication and information handling routines in support of the treatment. To secure access to new technology is of a great significance for participation in society, as well as for the development of culture and language. With this contribution, we wish to amplify what happens during the development of a mobile application when cultural aspects are not taken into consideration. Among the participants in the pilot project we discuss, was a group of families with Sami background. We have problematized the use of technology in the context of these Sami families. The aim of this paper is to contribute to the understanding the role of culture in a project in which technology plays a central role. By ‘following’ culture, in this case in a particular language, we can see how culture is both visible and invisible in the pilot project. The project will be continued, this time with user interfaces in both the Norwegian and Sami language. This is an important development in the project, but we argue that the effects of the particular configurations of technology and culture found in the pilot project may only become visible in the next iteration of the technology design.

2. Health Service Context Finnmark County lies in the extreme northeast of Norway 1. The county has two official names: Finnmark (Norwegian) and Finnmárku (Sami language) and is the largest county of Norway. With its 73,000 inhabitants it is a very sparsely populated area. Approximately 20,000 persons are under the age of 20, and in 2007, there were 950 children under the age of 18 receiving daily treatment in clinics for Children- and Youth Psychiatry (CYP). Approximately 40% of the inhabitants in the county are Sami people 2. There are long distances between the different communities and most inhabitants need to travel long distances to the nearest hospital or medical expert. The provision of health care services in rural, sparsely populated, and culturally diverse area raises a number of challenges. In the last 15-20 years, substantial efforts have been implemented to build an information, communication and technology (ICT) infrastructure for telemedicine in the north of Norway. The infrastructure is to a large extent based on broadband networks, and are mainly used for traditional computer applications, which not necessarily support all type of decentralized health services. The broadband and mobile infrastructure in Finnmark county is unevenly distributed: some areas well covered by both broadband networks and telephone networks, other areas are almost without any coverage at all. A new trend in the provision of health care is the mobilization of the patients’ own resources, as well as family and community resources, as significant contributions to the healing process (Brennan and Safran, 2003; Ball and Lillis, 2001). In particular, patients should be provided with care and support in order to self-manage their health problems as much as possible. Health workers in the county are aware of the challenges in working with both the Norwegian and Sami culture, and try to handle the mobilization 1 Finnmark is larger than Denmark. Vardø, the easternmost municipality in Finnmark and Norway as a whole, is located further east than both St. Petersburg and Istanbul. 2 The Sámi language has official status in the Sami Administrative Areas.



trend by including the Sami language and culture in their daily work. Employees in the health sector speak Norwegian, and some speak both Sami and Norwegian. If some of the Sami speaking health workers and/or patients specifically ask for an interpreter, the regional Health Services Provider will provide this. In their daily work, health care workers now use video conferencing, personal computers, and mobile phones. Video conferencing is generally used between health workers to arrange meetings, give counseling, and receive training. Norwegian is the language used in video conferencing. All employees in the child- and youth psychiatry have access to computers, stationary and/or portable. The system used is called Clinic for Children and Youth Data. This system is only available in Norwegian. All information about the patients is stored electronically in this system and can be accessed by those who are authorized. Data from video conferencing and medical data from the Children and Youth Psychiatry (CYP) is archived and communicated within the Norwegian Healthnet 3. Healthnet is a platform for electronic interaction and contains a communication network and services for electronic interaction in the Norwegian health care sector. Through secure information processing, health workers are able to exchange important patient information, while requirements for confidentiality, integrity and accessibility are secured. Use of the home telephone and mobile phone takes place over the ordinary telecommunication network, and is not considered secure. Health workers use telephone between each other, but also as a communication channel with the patients. To a large degree, telephone communication deals with the agreement of time of meetings for treatment, as well as the cancellation of these meetings or treatments. This paper reports on the introduction of one health program in Finnmark called Kom hIT 4 Ambulant Teams and Technology (Kom hIT). The new program is a project of the ‘Clinic for Psychiatric Health Care and Intoxication’ 5, and was approved as a result of the shut down of Seidajok Child Psychiatric Home. The project involves the introduction of mobile teams, who use and adapt acknowledged treatment methods, including new methods of treatment that include technology. Children will get the help they need, as early as possible and as close to their families and home community as possible. The target group is the 6-12 years age group. This paper reports on the development and implementation of a pilot project that ran from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2008. This pilot project had the following objectives: • •

Establish methods for interaction to quality assure the kinds of treatment within psychiatric health care for children, independent of language, culture, patterns of settlement and geography. Strengthen the interdisciplinary cooperation between the support services in the municipalities and the specialist health service, between different levels, agencies and organizations through documentation and altered working methods. Increase the efficiency with the help of technology.

3 The enterprise Norwegian Healthnet AS (Norsk Helsenett AS) was established in the fall of 2004, with the foundation in national health authorities’ aim for a secured network for electronic interaction in the healthand caresector in Norway, with appurtenant relevant services ( 4 The Norwegian title: ”Kom hIT – ambulante team og teknologi” includes a pun thorugh capitalising IT in ”hit” (meaning “here”). 5



The performance measurement goals in project were as follows: • • •

The mobile teams will make sure that the child is getting help where he/she lives. The mobile teams will make sure that the child and its family/relative get satisfactory qualitative and testable treatment methods. The mobile teams will contribute to strengthen the cooperation and interaction between children, their family/relative, the school, and the health – and social services in their home community, which consolidates good quality on the overall offer.

With the help of the mobile teams, technology, interaction and client participation, children- and youth psychiatric policlinics will give professionally coordinated, continuous, and decentralized forms of treatment within psychiatric health care for children and their family/caretakers. The treatment method used in the project Kom hIT is based on a variant of the Parent Management Training-Oregon (PMT-O), which is a treatment and prevention program for families with children with antisocial behavior. 6 Another important part of this project was the development and implementation of appropriate technical solution, based on mobile phones, that can help the health care providers as a well as the patients in their communication and information handling routines supporting the treatment. This innovation process is described more detailed in Andersen and Jansen (2009).

3. Theory and Methodology In the previous section we sketched some of the complex set of practices, relations, roles, accountabilities in which the Kom hIT project is embedded. We will now present a conceptual framework that we will use to gain better understanding of such complexity. We will begin with a brief discussion of information infrastructure theory, which may offer better understanding of large infrastructures and how they evolve and change (Star and Ruhleder 1996; Hanseth and Monteiro, 1998). Information infrastructure theory can provide us with insights in how we can develop and maintain a new infrastructure (Jansen and Nilsen, 2002), for example, how to successfully create an architecture for electronic coordination, or how to develop a global electronic patient record (Hanseth and Braa, 1998). We will look closer at the concept of generativity (Zittrain, 2006), which is gaining interest in information infrastructure research. We have selected generativity as our conceptual lens for the discussion and analysis of the mobile technology underlying the Kom hIT project to analyze whether this enables the users to aqcuire the technology for their own use (Church and Whitten, 2009). A generative technology may have a considerably greater capacity to be adapted and modified by a culturally diverse audience than a non-generative technology.

6 PMT-O is based on ”social interaction learning theory”, developed by Patterson and co-workers at Oregon Social Learning Center. PMT-O is a detailed program designed to improve parenting practices, and indirectly reduce antisocial behaviour in the children



3.1. INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURES A variety of concepts and properties can be used to describe information infrastructures (Star and Ruhleder 1996; Hanseth and Monteiro, 1998; Ciborra et al., 2000). Information infrastructures can be conceptualised and understood as formed by independent and interconnected collections of socio-technical components (Hanseth 2000; Hanseth and Monteiro 1998; Hanseth et al. 1996; McGarty 1992; Star and Ruhleder 1996). Together these components form a platform that can offer services and applications for other actors, such as an intranet in a global organisation or the Internet. Information infrastructures are large, open, and heterogeneous sociotechnical networks of different types of users, stakeholders, application areas, and technological components. The different actors in an information infrastructure have different perspectives and have only partial control over the information infrastructure (Neumann and Star 1996, Star and Ruhleder 1996). An information infrastructure is not just the result of design activities and choices. It grows from the existing installed base of technologies, design practices and use (Hanseth and Monteiro, 1998). Installed base is defined as the already existing infrastructure with its technology and users, and information infrastructures are developed only through the expansion and improvement of such a pre-existing installed base (Ciborra et al., 2000). Information infrastructures are developed over time through gradual expansion, improvement and replacement of its parts. Total control over the information infrastructure is impossible, but the different parts or components will be under the control of specific actors (Ciborra et al. 2000; Lyytinen and Yoo 2002). For example, users are made to use a new information infrastructure through the cultivation and bootstrapping (Hanseth and Aanestad 2003; Rolland and Monteiro 2002), while lock-ins are prevented through flexible standards (Hanseth et al. 1996). There are two basic types of integration or linking of information infrastructures: • •

Vertical integration, in which applications are linked to a specific infrastructure; this is typically for telecommunication networks, for example SMS as an integral part of the mobile network. Horizontal integration, in which cooperation between networks is established at particular network layers; this is typical for networks such as the Internet, LAN – WLAN communication, etc. Also convergence is partly related to the integration of different levels.

In our case, we want to examine the information infrastructure of the Kom hIT project in order to understand how the users’ potential for innovation can be realized through the project. Thus we also draw on literature that analyses how different technologies and different development models facilitate such innovation. Relevant studies in this context are that of Janet Abbate (1994, 1999) who draws parallels between the Internet network model and the common conceptualizations within telecom networks. Her studies showed that different configurations allowed for different usages and different paths of evolution where the Internet turned out to be an outstanding flexible platform for innovation based on its simple network protocols, end-to-end intelligence and open development processes. In describing the unprecedented growth and innovation of the Internet, Jonathan Zittrain (2006) employs the concept of generativity: “Generativity



denotes a technology’s overall capacity to produce unprompted change driven by large, varied, and uncoordinated audiences”. In the next section we will discuss the suitability of the concept of generativity in our analysis of the mobile technology in the Kom hIT project. 3.2. GENERATIVITY Jonathan Zittrain (2006) argues that instead of using the terms open versus proprietary technologies, one should use the terms generative versus closed configurations of technologies. The Internet is an example of the type of technologies that are open to third-party (user) innovations and are therefore classified as generative technologies. Zittrain (2006) defines generativity in the form of four criteria, which are described as follows: • •

• •

Leverage describes the extent to which a technology has the capacity to do tasks. Leverage provides generative technologies with the capacity for change: the more leverage, the more it can produce change. Adaptability is associated with the ease with the technology can be modified to broaden its range of uses and tasks. Accessability refers to how quickly people can use and control a technology, including access to the tools and information required to master the technology for greater accessibility. Ease of mastery describes how a technology can be mastered without difficulty, or rather how easy a technology is to master. Zittrain (2006) argues that this criterion is related to the accessibility and adaptability criteria, because it reflects on the ease of adapting and accessing a technology.

Inspired by Zittrain (2006), we will use the concept of generativity and investigate, on the basis of its four criteria, if the mobile technology under investigation encourages generativity, enabling users to appropriate the technology for their own use (Church and Whitten, 2009). As our project is implemented in a culturally diverse population, a generative technology, we speculate, may have a greater capacity to be adapted and to produce change by a culturally diverse audience than a non-generative technology. 3.3. METHODS AND DATA COLLECTION Our study of the mobile technology used in the Kom hIT project follows the interpretative and qualitative tradition in information systems research (Myers, 1997: Myers and Avison, 2002; Walsham, 1993). The empirical data were collected in the form of interviews with employees in the ambulant teams working with Children and Youth Psychiatry, interviews with user representatives, and through written feedback from various stakeholders in the project. All interviews are transcribed. The first author was the project manager for the project from the start in 2006. The researcher was directly involved in project development and implementation, which enabled data collection throughout the project's lifetime. This involvement included participating observation as well as active participation, with a relatively high degree of engagement. This dual role challenged the balance between research interests and



practical needs in the project. It was important to be transparent towards the other stakeholders concerning the two related roles of the researcher and the project manager. It can be difficult to be analytical and critical, when one plays a central role in one’s case study. There may be diverging interests between the role as researcher and project manager. Walsham (2006) mentions that there may be a risk when the researcher is becoming “socialized to the views of the people in the field and thus loose the benefit of a fresh outlook on the situation” (op. cit., p. 322). As the project manager, the first author did not met de families participating in the project: all contact with the families has therefore been through therapists in the ambulant teams. This means that this research is based observation and interviews with the CYP employees and ambulant team members and thus focuses on their challenges related to the use of mobile technologies in child and youth psychiatry (CYP) in the Sami language area.

4. Generative technology? In our analysis of the mobile phone application will we draw on information infrastructure theory and use the concept of generativity as our analytical lens. We begin with examining the use of the mobile technology in the Sami area, followed by a discussion of the generative aspects of this technology. 4.1. USE OF MOBILE TECHNOLOGY IN THE “SAMI AREA” The area in which one of the participating communities is located is a Sami Administrative Area. This means that both the Sami and Norwegian language have official status as an administrative language. The Sami pilot community with its 9704 km2 is the largest community in Norway in terms of its areal. There are 0,3 inhabitant pr. km2, and there are ca. 3000 inhabitants in the community. Approximately 85-90% of the inhabitants in the community speak Sami. A Sami-speaking therapist would be available if one of the children or their families asked for one. The administrative health care workers in the community experienced the use of Sami language and mobile phone as necessary to get the job done, and one of them describes this as follows: For the most part, we speak and carry out our administrative work in Sami. Most of the health employees are either Sami or can speak Sami. We use mobile phones on a daily basis for SMS and other messages, and all of the messages are written in Sami language. I think mobile phones have been used in Sámi areas since the mobile was introduced. It is natural to use it as a tool because of the long distances. A lot of the citizens in the community are spread all over the large community area, in the mountains, in the small villages. We must therefore organize for our citizens! We always use mobile phones to confirm the appointment. We do this even if there is an appointment in the office or clinic, because we have experienced that there is often need for a new appointment concerning time and date. The most important is to be available, and this is necessary because of both long distances and weather. The mobile is both a tool, and a resource in our work.



The average distance between a Children and Youth Psychiatry clinic and the families in this pilot community is about 670 kilometers. The ambulant team experienced also the necessariness to contact the families by mobile phone before they visit. One therapist describes this as follows: If the family is not able to meet us as planned, they will have to give us feedback on this, and in this way make themselves responsible. However, we do make exceptions. If we have to travel for 3- 6 hour to visit one family, we contact the family in advance to make sure that they remember the appointment and are able to meet us. It is sad to spend one whole day travelling without getting to do our job. The team meets the children and families in their own home. One of the therapists describes a home visit as follows: We have experienced that there may be other relatives in the home, like grandparents, uncles, aunts etc. The families live in small communities where everybody knows everybody. We especially meet more than just the family if the families are related to the primary industries like reindeering, fishing, and agriculture. Maybe these families are able to be more flexible in their use of time? Or know how important it is to participate? But we also meet neighbours who want to meet us, because they are curious to know who we are. The goals to be reached with the treatment are discussed and prioritized during meetings between the child / youth, parents, family and the ambulant team in the initial phase of treatment. The team talks with the family and takes into account the wishes, individual differences and any needs the family has, as this is the premise for the families to take part in their treatment and receive treatment where they live. Behavior to be corrected or changed by the treatment (such as change of behavior in relation to meals) need to clarified. The child receives rewards associated with a change in behavior. As one of the therapists explained: The demand towards the child, in relation to the points that can be earned, must be realistic and achievable. This is very important. The child shall have a reward when it has achieved 70% of the total possible score. For example, if the total score is 5 points - then the child must have achieved 70% of this in order to earn a reward. A form is filled out on the mobile phone based on this information. The parents work together with the child/youth in filling out the form by linking behavior to points, providing the number of gained points (usually between zero and five). These forms form the basis for interaction between the families and the ambulant team. Between each home visit by the ambulant team, the parents must register the child's/youth's behavior. The introduction of the mobile technology and the new mobile application allowed the parents to send the forms immediately, so that the ambulant team can respond when necessary to this ongoing treatment process. The ambulant team emphasizes that this process of discussing behavior and linking it to points written down on a form on the mobile phone is more important than the points itself. The therapists also mention that they have the impression that the child/youth and parents participate actively in the treatment and that everyone seems happy with the



arrangements. The Kom hIT project resulted in daily contact with families, but that the mobile solution has not resulted in less travel for the ambulant teams: You have to spend time getting to know them, to establish a good contact between the family and team. Once this is in place, we will be able to use the mobile phone much. In the long run this will result in less travel where there are families who will need guidance for a long time. Before this decentralized management model of the Kom hIT project was introduced to the families, they would either send the forms by mail or fax to the ambulant team - or keep the forms for the next time the team came on home visits. Users in the Kom hIT project felt that it was now easier to cooperate because of ease of reporting and more regular interaction. Several representatives in the teams have expressed that user focus has been important in the engagement, interaction and participation. It resulted in early help and treatment for the families in their own community, and at the same time the families had the possibility to participate and cooperate with the ambulant team in their own treatment. 4.2. GENERATIVE TECHNOLOGY? The users of the mobile phone technology, the members of the ambulant teams as well as the participating families, were very positive about using the mobile phone for reporting on behavior and for communication in general. In this section we will analyse the technology through the lens of generativity (Zittrain, 2006), which focuses on possible future adaptation and use. The concept of generativity provides us with four characteristics, analysing how ordinary users have the opportunity to appropriate and use technology for their own use. Zittrain (2006) claims that a generative technology increases the possibility that users can generate new and valuable usage patterns that become sources for further innovations (p.6). We will present each of the four characteristics of generativity in a discussion of the Kom-hIT project. We are especially interested in the relationship between culture and the generativity of technology. We will begin to address this topic in this section, but the main discussion can be found in section five. Accessibility refers to how quickly people are able to use and control a technology and here we see a high level of generativity for the Kom hIT technology. The teams report that all families were quickly able to use the Kom hIT application, because everyone was already familiar with using a mobile phone. Secondly, the mobile phone technology is easily for families are active in the primary industries, such as in fishing, reindeering, and agriculture. They can bring the mobile phone to places and situations in which there is no access to other information and communication technologies. Adaptability applies to the ease with which a technology can be modified to broaden its range of uses. In the Kom hIT project, the mobile technology was easily modified for new purposes. Through the development of the new application for the forms, and the discussions around filling in those forms, the technology played an important role in the treatment. Secondly, the mobile phone enabled daily support for the families receiving treatment through structured and unstructured communication and practical communications between ambulant teams and the families. The ambulant teams were very positive of the user-friendly technology and how the data sent in from



the mobile phone could be represented in web-based applications. They mentioned that the same technologies could be used in other treatments and by other user groups with just little adaptation. The ease of mastery of a technology reflects the amount of skills necessary to use a technology. The ease of use of the mobile phone technology in the project was high. There were no technical problems. All the participating families were able to use the specially design application to fill in the form with the points for behavior. In terms of leverage, the extent to which a technology has the capacity to implement tasks, we can see that the mobile phone technology was used to implement several tasks, communication between teams and families, the filling out of the form, and maybe most importantly, the mobile phone became an object in the treatment as it facilitated discussion on behavior between the child/youth and the parents. From the point of view of the healthcare workers, however, the leverage of the mobile phone technology is limited by the centralised model of HealthNet. The Kom-hIT mobile solution stands outside the existing infrastructure and has worked well during the test period. In terms of leverage, however, the Kom hIT project needs to be integrated in the existing infrastructures, including HealthNet, if healthcare workers and their organisations want to develop and implement new tasks with this technology. Although the mobile phone and its particular Kom hIT application seem to have all the characteristics of a generative technology, the generativity of a piece of technology depends on the larger infrastructure in which it is embedded. The HealthNet network, the information infrastructure for secure data storage and communication within and between organisations in the health sector, does not accommodate communication between healthcare organisations and private homes. The decentralised treatment model of the Kom hIT project was incompatible with the centralized communication network of HealthNet and was therefore developed and implemented outside HealthNet. This affects the adaptability, accessibility, and leverage of the Kom hIT technology in a major way, as new uses, new tasks, and new purposes can only become possible in new configurations of the Kom hIT technology and the HealthNet infrastructure. The generativity of the Kom hIT technology may also affected by the fact that the interface was only available in the Norwegian language. One team reported that a Sami family in the Sami community was not able to participate in the project because the interface was not available in the Sami language. Several Sami families did participate using the Norwegian language interface. We have however no data that can give us an indication that the lack of a Sami interface affected the interactions of the Sami families with the mobile phone. The generativity of technology can be analyzed with the use of four characteristics: accessibility, adaptability, ease of mastery, and leverage. The generativity of the Kom hIT technology seems promising, but is very low as it is not connected with the information infrastructure (HealthNet) that is needed to function in a secure and sustainable fashion in a healthcare setting. The four characteristics of a generative technology do not, as we begin to see, ask specific questions about the ‘cultural infrastructure’ and how this affects the accessibility, adaptability, ease of mastery, and leverage of a technology. We could discuss the generativity of the Kom hIT technology without taking language in consideration. In the next section we will



look closer at this observation by asking how culture can become invisible in a culturally diverse project setting.

5. Technology and Culture Our analysis of the mobile phone technology in the Kom hIT project illustrates how technology moved to the centre of the project, while culture, once it was decided that the mobile solution would be in the Norwegian language, moved to the background. The concept of generativity seemed to strengthen this process, as it directly linked to the new organizational solution of decentralized healthcare delivery through an alternative technical platform within an existing information infrastructure. In this section we will reflect more on the relationship between technology and culture in the project. We will look at the interactions between technology and culture and discuss what these interactions mean for our understanding of the concept of generativity. 5.1. ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE PROJECT The aim of the Kom hIT project was to replace the centralized treatment model by a decentralized model. In the new model children and families would receive support and treatment independent from where they lived or their cultural background. The technological solution was crucial for the implementation of this new decentralized care model. In that sense technology moved to the centre of the project, performing different roles and presenting different aspects in the project. 5.1.1. Neutral technology? When the project started in 2006, two important decisions had to be made. One was about the professional approach (treatment), which resulted in the adoption of the PMTO model. The other decision was about the choice of technology. At the start of the project, future users participated in the discussion on a technological solution. These users had different cultural backgrounds, which influenced the discussion on the technological solution. For example, some of the Sami families live in small communities with long distances in between. They have to travel many kilometers to reach the nearest school, medical expert, offices, shops etc. The users, both the health care workers and the families, felt there was a need for technology that could use the existing broadband networks and telephone networks. This initial phase is described more detailed by Andersen and Aanestad (2008). The arguments in favor of mobile technologies were multiple: • • • •

A technical solution based on videoconferencing would be expensive. The cost of purchasing mobile phones would be moderate as compared to purchase of PCs, web cameras, document cameras and possibly a required upgrading of the different studios of the out-patient clinics. The ambulant teams were travelling a lot - mobile phones would therefore be more practical communication equipment than portable PCs. The coverage of the mobile network was better than the coverage of the broadband network in the northern part of Norway.



Thus, when a decision was made about the technical solution, the needs of the ambulant teams, the Norwegian families, and the Sami families seemed to align: there was no distinction between Sami and Norwegian people in the selection of a mobile solution. There seemed to be no specific cultural needs, at this stage of the project. The families chose a technological solution they were familiar with. In policy terms, the technical solution seemed to provide universal access in accordance with the government’s requirements of universal design 7. 5.1.2. Installed base After the technological platform was selected, an application that supports the PMT-O model was developed and implemented on the mobile phones. The application is a digital replication of a paper form used to register the results on specific action points regarding the child’s problems. This paper form was written in Norwegian. Around the same time that the decision for a mobile solution was taken, a questionnaire was sent to families in four communities in order to solicit their participation in the pilot project. The questionnaire was in Norwegian only. There had been a discussion in the project group about translating the questionnaire into Sami, but this did not happen because of the lack of budget and capacity. We can see, in hindsight, how the Norwegian paper form, which stood model for the application, in combination with the Norwegian language questionnaire, resulted in a default language for the project. All the families returning the Norwegian questionnaire were perceived as being able to use a Norwegian language application. At least one Sami family could not participate in the project because the user interface was in Norwegian. They were thus not able to have the same access to healthcare as the Norwegian-speaking participants. The steering group and the project group as well as the different professional users of the ambulant teams were aware that a Norwegian-only pilot project would lead to different health services for the Sami community, which is not allowed under Norwegian law. The national Coordination Reform 8 states that everyone has the right to receive the same health services, independent from where you live in the country. Although aware of this imbalance, the project’s steering group and project group argued that given the project constraints, both in time and budget, a Norwegian-only pilot could go ahead. We see how the installed base, the Norwegian-language paper form, continued to play its role in the mobile solution. . Despite of the explicit demand of addressing both language groups, the decision to use only Norwegian language was made on the backgrounds of translation costs. This discussion will be further explained in the following section. Even though it is technically quite simple to develop a Samilanguage interface, the interface is connected with a Norwegian-language installed base in the form of a web-based application for the ambulant team members and all kinds of other practices and forms that were connected with the paper form. Thus, even if it was technically simple to have a Sami interface, on the level of project implementation it was rather complicated. It would require the translation and digitisation of other 7

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applications and forms, as well as the integration of the Kom hIT technology into HealthNet. 5.2. IN/VISIBLE CULTURE? The Kom hIT project was based on the perspective that a healing process can be advanced by mobilizing the patients’ own resources, as well as those of the family and community (Brennan and Safran, 2003; Ball and Lillis, 2001). The aim of the project was to provide both Sami and Norwegian patients with care and support in order to selfmanage their health problems as much as possible. The health care workers were aware of the challenges posed by the Norwegian and Sami culture. As the majority of the health workers have a Norwegian cultural background, they tried to include the Sami language and culture in their daily work. There was a long discussion in both the steering and the project group about the fact that the pilot project would only be implemented in Norwegian. In that sense the issue of culture was very visible in the development part of the project. It was clear that the new project was embedded in already established practices and technologies, which were all in Norwegian. Changing the language of one aspect of the project, the mobile phone application, would result in expensive translation work. At the same time we can see how the focus on technology, the mobile solution which was selected as the most practical, both by the Sami as non-Sami families, directed the project. Even though there are laws and regulations in place that argue that everyone in Norway has the right to access to health care services, they were ignored in favor of the implementation of the pilot project. The important role of technology as a facilitator of decentralised healthcare delivery in the Kom hIT project did not only resulted in a project in which only a Norwegian interface was available. The marginalization of the Sami language had consequences, which may affect the overall success of the project in the future. There are important differences between the Norwegian and Sami population when it comes to the understanding, experience, and treatment of mental health issues. Language plays a central role in expressing ourselves. Our emotional language – how and in what language we express our feelings and personal experiences - is of crucial importance in mental healthcare (Sørlie and Nerdgård, 2005). However, Sami-speaking families, even though they were competent in the Norwegian language and participating in the pilot project, were not given the opportunity to express themselves in Sami, if Sami was their emotional language. Secondly, the lack of experience in using the Sami language in the pilot project resulted in the lack of data on text-based mobile phone use. For example, the average word length in Sami is 7,68 characters, while the average word length in Norwegian is 4,9 characters. Does this difference affect the way Sami speakers can express themselves using a text-based application on a mobile phone? In October 2009, the Health Services Provider decided to continue to project, with the mobile phone application and the web-based solution in both the Norwegian and Sami language. The experiences from the pilot will inform the new Kom hIT project. Since there are no experiences with the Sami-language in the pilot, the continuation of the project is now based on project results in the Norwegian language only.



5.3. THE CULTURE OF NO CULTURE When we revisit Zittrain’s definition of generativity, as expressed in the characteristics accessibility, adaptability, ease of mastery, and leverage, we can now see how this concept may contribute to keeping culture invisible. It became clear in the beginning of the pilot project that there was no difference between the Sami and Norwegian families when we looked at the acceptance and use of the mobile phone. Even though the issue of culture, in the form of language, was discussed at the beginning of the project, it became invisible in the implementation of the pilot. The cross-cultural acceptance of the mobile phone solution became a kind of cultural standard, a kind of “culture of no culture” (Traweek, 1992; Haraway, 1994), in which other concerns, such as the role of language in communication and in technology use, moved to the background. Once culture becomes more or less invisible, we can continue analysing the generativity of a technology without mentioning culture (see e.g. Andersen and Aanestad, 2008). If our aim is to contribute to the understanding of the role culture played in this project, we need to keep culture visible even if there are seemingly no cultural differences in the acceptance of a technology. Analyzing the accessibility, adaptability, ease of mastery, and leverage of the Kom hIT technology, without embedding this analysis in both the culture of the technology design and the culture of the users, results in strengthening the ‘culture of no culture’ perspective on technology. When we do keep culture visible, we can include culture in the analyzis of the generativity of a technology.

6. Conclusion In this paper we described an alternative platform for health care delivery in a culturally diverse population. We used the concept of generativity as our analytical lens, as generative technology has a greater capacity to produce change by varied audiences. Innovations in health care delivery, we argue, are enabled or constrained by the generativity of the new technology. Our analysis illustrates that the generative capacity of the mobile phone technology was limited by the project’s installed base, the existing HealthNet infrastructure and the existing forms and practices. Secondly, we described how culture, in the form of language, moved to the background, after both Norwegian as Sami families had identified the mobile phone as their preferred technology in the project. The generativity of the mobile technology, we argue, is not only affected by the invisibility of culture in the current technology design. The effects of that invisibility continue in the new iteration of the technology design. In the case of the Kom hIT project, we observed how particular choices, in this case the lack of Sami language interface, may have effects that will continue to influence the generativity of the new version of the mobile technology, even when the interface will now be available in both Norwegian and Sami.



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Abstract. The paper presents a comparative study of mobile technology adoption and use by two communities – one Aboriginal and the other non-Aboriginal – both located in a remote region of Australia, the Bloomfield River Valley of Cape York. Both communities have high levels of ownership of mobile phones relative to, on the one hand, the low uptake of other ICT such as fixed-line phones by the Aboriginal community at Wujal Wujal and, on the other hand, the poor mobile coverage in the non-Aboriginal community at Bloomfield. For both groups communication is of paramount importance, followed by listening to music. In addition, the Aboriginal community make extensive use of other multimedia and Internet features of their devices. Key factors in the motivation to acquire mobile phones, in comparison to other ICT, are the superior cost management that mobiles offer for Aboriginal people and the convenience of being able to communicate while away from home for Bloomfield residents. The authors conclude that mobile technology needs to be taken seriously, even in areas of limited coverage such as the Bloomfield River Valley.

1. Introduction There have been many studies of mobile technology adoption and use focused on a single community or social grouping, as well as many comparative studies between one nationality and another, but few comparing distinct groups within the same locality. By contrast, the research reported in this paper concerns two communities living side by side within the remote and beautiful Bloomfield River Valley of Far North Queensland, one Aboriginal, the other non-Aboriginal. The triangulation of evidence from the two community cases provides for potentially more robust explanation of this complex social phenomenon than can be expected from a single case study (Trimarchi, 1998). By examining the differences between the two groups’ uptake of mobile technology a better insight may be gained into the powerful motivations which have fuelled the exponential growth in adoption of mobiles both in regions where there is already a rich and diverse



communications ecology (first-world urban situations) as well as in the poorest regions of the world (Castells, Fernandez-Ardievol, Qiu and Sey, 2007 ). The focus of the study is the mobile phone. However, we also comment on other mobile technologies – mainly MP3 players – that have been adopted in the Bloomfield Valley, as well as noting other available Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) such as fixed-line phones, public telephones and access to computers and the Internet. This is necessary as a new technology cannot be seen in isolation but interacts with and is supported by other technologies in use at the same time. Our paper begins by situating our study within the literature of mobile phone adoption with an emphasis on non-mainstream contexts and developing countries. This is followed by a description of our research methods and the locality in which the study was conducted. We present an overview of the ICT available in the valley before we set forth our findings on mobile ownership, uses and issues.

2. Mobile Technology Adoption in and outside the Mainstream We found a number of studies useful in providing insight to the overwhelming desire for mobile phones evidenced across the globe both within the economically developed, urban context and outside it. Katz and Aakhus (2002) posit an enduring human need for communication as the driving force for mobile phone adoption, with perpetual contact the goal. The studies collected in their book focus on social usage of mobile phones in different nations across the developed world and suggest that times are changing owing to mobile technology. Building this focus on communication, Geser (2004) proposes a sociology of the mobile phone linking mobility and communication from an evolutionary perspective. He draws a fundamental tension between the need of organisms for proximity in order to co-operate and form complex societies and their need for mobility, and suggests that mobile phones can resolve this tension. Within the context of experiences common to our project – low income, poor infrastructure, minority Indigenous status, remoteness, rural-urban divide – there are a number of case studies which argue that the mobile phone does not change society, but that its attraction lies in its ability to extend existing forms of communication. Horst and Miller (2006), in their seminal study of low-income Jamaicans, found that the mobile phone had become essential as a communication device for maintaining and extending personal networks vital for day-to-day survival and leveraging monetary and other resources. Hahn and Kibora (2008) explored the boom in mobile phones in a poor African country and noted the “domestication” of the mobile through selective usage of its technical possibilities. The phone had become an important tool of communication between the village and the city, binding the two together and reinforcing cultural obligations. Portus’ (2006) study of mobile phone culture amongst Indigenous people in remote villages in the Philippines showed how, despite poverty, mobiles had become highly valued for communication with relatives, friends and government entities in town. Calling saved travel money, and people who could not afford one could get access for a fee. The phones enhanced their sense of security and became a status symbol. In the Australian context, Sinanan (2008) found that mobiles were important tools for solidifying existing social ties in a rural Aboriginal community. Calls and text messages



to friends and family were highly normalized, although there was a reluctance to use mobile phones for business matters. Through these cases, the literature reveals an extraordinary variety of methodologies for studying mobile phenomena. Ito (2005) proposes socio-cultural history of technology, cultural studies, the sociology of communication, and ethnography as appropriate disciplinary frameworks. Donner (2008a), in his review of the literature about mobile use in the developing world, notes a variety of perspectives including those with a strong economic development focus and design approaches. He proposes an increased integration between ICT for development studies and other approaches; the need to understand linkages between richer and poorer communities, and between rural and urban users; and the desirability of considering the various functions of mobile devices, regulatory and coverage aspects of mobile networks, and the communication ecosystem in which they operate. In our Bloomfield River Valley study, we have tried to incorporate some of these suggestions, for example, by comparing two groups of people, their access and use, the diverse functionality of the 3G phones used in the valley, and the ICT environment in which mobile technology operates.

3. Methodology This study is based on: 1. Interviews with people living or working in Wujal Wujal 2. Surveys and interviews with residents of Bloomfield 3. Observations by the researchers, which were tested against the perceptions of local residents and publicly available documentation. All interviews and surveys were conducted in November 2008 and handwritten notes of the interviewees’ responses made. The qualitative research methods employed were good for uncovering attitudes and issues surrounding technology uptake and use, and provided rich description and explanations (Trimarchi, 1998). Any quantitative results presented can be taken only as indicative for several reasons: the number of respondents was low; our sampling of Wujal Wujal managers and high-end users was purposive, not random; there was an under-representation of children as the study took place in term time when most high-school age children would have been away at boarding school; and an under-representation of young working adults, since job opportunities in the valley are few and some move to other localities to find work. Interviews were unstructured and lasted about half an hour (although some were longer) and began with the questions “Do you have a mobile phone?” and “What do you use it for?/Why don’t you have one?”. Open questions allowed the interviewees to choose their own words and they were given plenty of leeway to comment on whatever aspects of mobile technology were important to them. Surveys were short, beginning with the two questions above, but also asking respondents if they carried their phone with them all the time and if they owned an MP3 player, with opportunity to make other comments if they wished. The Wujal Wujal interviews numbered 27 and included 7 managers or supervisors, 9 high-end users of mobile technology and 11 short interviews with low-end users. All



were Aboriginal people, apart from 6 of the managers/supervisors. The latter were asked about issues concerning mobile technology connected with their role rather than their personal use and ownership. Excluding the managers, there were 9 females and 13 males. Only 3 children were included, all primary school boys. The Bloomfield respondents numbered 20 and consisted of 7 interviewees and 13 people who completed survey forms. All of these were non-Aboriginal. There was a gender imbalance, with only 5 males included, possibly because the data was collected at a local market, to which women may have been attracted more than men. Again there were only 3 children, in this case all girls.

4. The Bloomfield River Valley This study takes place in a small locality in Far North Queensland (Figure 1). It is a coastal river valley with approximately 450 inhabitants (ABS, 2006). The valley is relatively isolated as the road from the regional centre Cairns in the south (180km away) contains 30km of 4WD track and is impassable during the wet season. The small town of Cooktown in the north (80km) has a better road although it is still subject to flooding. Within the valley there are two distinct populations with services provided by separate councils although some services, such as the clinic in Wujal Wujal and the primary school and airstrip in Bloomfield, are shared. 2 km

Great Barrier Reef

Bloomfield Bloomfield River

Wujal Wujal Township

Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire

Figure 1. Location of Wujal Wujal and Bloomfield communities. The Aboriginal people were never removed from the area in large numbers and, following first European contact in the 1800s, continued with many aspects of precontact culture and economy, gradually adopting aspects of mainstream culture and involving themselves in non-Indigenous enterprises over time (Anderson, 1989). From traditional land owners, they became part of a Lutheran mission and are now self-



governing. Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire covers 11.2 sq km and comprises an urban community with a population of 324, 95% of whom identify as Indigenous (ABS, 2006). Since 1870 the valley has also had a non-Indigenous population involved in sporadic development such as sugar cane, tin mining, pastoralism, forestry, market gardening, and more recently fruit crops, crafts, tourism and service provision. The Bloomfield census collection district is 85.2 sq km and has a more dispersed population of 127 in a small village surrounded by rural residential and general farm holdings. Of this population, 80% identify as non-Indigenous (ABS, 2006). Differences in the two populations include age, education and economic status (ABS, 2006). In Wujal Wujal only 29% of people are over 40 years old compared to 63% in Bloomfield. Bloomfield has a higher level of educational attainment and much higher home ownership. Income levels show both groups earn substantially less than the Australian average weekly wage, although in Wujal Wujal 92% of workers receive below the average while in Bloomfield this figure is 63%.

5. ICT Ecology When we talk of ICT ecology we reflect changes in the study of technology prompted in part by the history of ICT implementation failures in developing nations (Villanueva, 2007). The biological metaphor promotes an understanding of ICT as a dynamic process that cannot be studied in isolation from its surroundings, animate or inanimate. At its most comprehensive it can be a study of “the complete range of communication media and information flows within a community” (Slater and Tacchi, 2004, quoted in Horst and Miller, 2006, p. 12). However, we are not making such claims in this description. The Bloomfield River Valley is well supplied with ICT, considering it is in a remote area with a small population and little industry, although there are marked differences between ICT access in Wujal Wujal and Bloomfield. The council, clinic and school have the normal range of ICT for administrative purposes. Fixed-line phones have been available since 1988, but only 7% of private households in Wujal Wujal are listed as having one (Cook Shire Council 2008/2009). There is a public telephone in each centre. A mobile network service has been available for several years, although since the replacement of the CDMA service with the 3G network in January 2008, coverage has become more restricted and is focused on Wujal Wujal and spots along the River (Brady and Dyson, 2009). This means that most residents of Bloomfield do not have mobile phone coverage although pre-paid mobiles are on sale in both Wujal Wujal and Bloomfield. There are public computers in the Cape York Digital Network Centre at Wujal Wujal, but at the time of research this was not staffed and so not used by residents, apart from two mornings a week when an employment agency opens it for its clients. There is a touchscreen computer located in the clinic at Wujal Wujal with health information adapted for Indigenous people. There are no figures available for private computer ownership in Wujal Wujal, but it is reported to be very low and home Internet connections were only 8.3% in 2006 (ABS, 2006). Therefore, apart from the employment agency’s clients and a minority of people who work for the council most Wujal Wujal residents cannot access a computer. By contrast, Bloomfield has a public access computer in its library which opens three half-days a week, and home Internet



access is higher at 46% (ABS, 2006). Wujal Wujal is supplied with public radio and TV access, compared with Bloomfield where most people have to purchase an expensive satellite dish for these services. Even where people have ICT, there is a major problem with the amount of time they are off the air. The Bloomfield River locality is subject to frequent power and communications black- and brownouts, particularly in the wet season. However, people report that the mobile service is not as susceptible to disruptions as the fixed-line phones.

6. Ownership of Mobile Devices Our research showed that 55% of the respondents at Wujal Wujal owned at least one mobile phone (Table 1). Some people shared a phone, for example, one couple used a phone between them. Most people carried their phones with them all the time and had them turned on. An indication of the level of interest in mobile technology is the sequential ownership pattern, driven both by the changing infrastructure (CDMA to 3G) and by the susceptibility of phones to water damage when fishing or washing clothes. While only 1 person owned more than one phone simultaneously, more than half the owners were on their second phone. It is interesting that mobile phone ownership is about the same as that found by two other studies of Aboriginal mobile phone adoption: 56% in Alice Springs and 58% in Lockhart River (Tangentyere Council and Central Land Council, 2007; Dyson and Brady, 2009). The relatively high rates of adoption of mobile phones contrast with low rates of fixed-line phone and Internet connections. Table 1. Ownership of Mobile Device. Technology Mobile Phone

MP3 Player

Wujal Wujal (Aboriginal) (% of respondents)

Bloomfield (non-Aboriginal) (% of respondents)





In contrast to Wujal Wujal, most Bloomfield residents cannot use their mobiles where they live because of lack of coverage in their part of the valley, and therefore rely on their land-lines at home. Considering this, there is still a surprisingly high rate of ownership of mobile phones: 71% compared to the Australian average of 88% (Tangentyere Council and Central Land Council, 2007). The convenience of being able to communicate when visiting other localities for shopping, business or seeing friends or relatives is sufficient to justify the purchase and ongoing charges associated with mobile phone ownership. Ownership of mobile phones in areas without coverage has also been reported in Africa (Scott, n.d.). Again in Bloomfield sharing of phones occurs, for example children using their parent’s phone.



The most frequent reason given by both Wujal Wujal and Bloomfield residents for not owning a mobile phone was the lack of signal in many places. Other reasons given by multiple respondents included having alternatives available (e.g., a landline or a neighbour’s phone) or no interest in having a mobile. The ownership of MP3 players is lower than mobile phones, but again with a greater percentage of Bloomfield residents owning them (56%) than Wujal Wujal residents (39%) (Table 1). This compares with an ownership rate of 69% given in one study of Australian university students (Kennedy, Judd, Churchward, Gray and Krause, 2008). MP3s have the advantage that they can be played while driving on rough roads where CDs cannot. One Wujal Wujal parent stated that being able to listen to music she liked was important as her taste was not the same as her children’s. Most MP3 owners also had a mobile phone with two exceptions, one man from Wujal Wujal, who had had a mobile phone previously, and another from Bloomfield who owned a landline. Both were music lovers. On the other hand, a reason given by Wujal Wujal residents for not owning an MP3 player was that one could listen to music on one’s mobile phone.

7. Uses of Mobile Phones Reported phone uses are set out in Table 2. It should be noted that, because respondents were not prompted and could choose their own words in replying, some uses may be underreported. For example, only one respondent suggested that keeping a contact list was important, but presumably most mobile phone users would maintain one. In both communities, mobile phones are employed predominantly for communication, with all respondents reporting that they make phone calls or send text messages or do both. Phone calls are more common. Text messaging is much higher in Wujal Wujal, and this represents one of a number of cost-saving strategies for mobile phone use by Aboriginal people. With regard to the lower rate of messaging by Bloomfield residents (who are not a wealthy group either) we can speculate that phone calls are a more convenient mode of communication when visiting other localities. Making use of mobiles when away from the valley is more important than local use for this group as many have landlines when at home and no mobile coverage. Differences in work-related calls probably also reflect the coverage issue. The most frequently reported use is making calls to family and friends. In both communities, mobile phones are essential for parents and children away at boarding school to stay in touch with each other since there is no high school locally: ‘I pretty well talk to them every day’, reported one mother. ‘All the kids have them at school there’, stated another. Almost 30% of Bloomfield and Wujal Wujal phone owners included “emergencies” in their reasons for having a phone despite the limited areas of coverage. The benefit, though unlikely, appears highly valued either directly (to call emergency services) or indirectly by feeling more secure and knowing that they can call for help (Portus, 2006; AMTA, 2007). This reinforces the value of the mobile for its ability to bring some peace of mind, rather than its real contribution to a person’s risk management strategies. A non-mobile phone owner, by contrast, may “carry a tin of



bully beef and some tea” (as one interviewee told us) in order to wait more comfortably until someone came by to help. Table 2. Mobile Phone Uses and Functions. Percentage of Users Reporting this Use Mobile Phone Use or Function

Wujal Wujal (Aboriginal) 100%  82%  82%  27%  64%  73%  9%  27%

Communication  Phone calls  Calls to family and friends  Call children at boarding school  Work-related calls  Text messages  Videocalls  Emergency use  Location of calls  46%  In Bloomfield Valley  27%  When away from valley  Keeping a contact list  9% 73% Entertainment  Listen to music  55%  Play games  36%  Watch movies/TV/sport  27%  Take photos with camera  9% 46% Internet uses  36%  Download music, games, movies  9%  Email  0%  Weather reports  Football scores  0% 55% Personalization 9% GPS * One respondent had a separate GPS handheld device

Bloomfield (non-Aboriginal) 100%  93%  21%  14%  7%  36%  0%  29%  21%  43%  0% 14%  7%  0%  0%  7% 14%  7%  0%  7%  7% 7% 0%*

Work communication was a major reason offered by Wujal Wujal respondents for owning a mobile phone. A small percentage of people use their mobile for their own direct benefit while looking for employment, but more commonly personal mobiles are used to keep in contact while on the job: “I need a phone for three clients. … I need a phone for clinic or the police. … I’m worried about my clients,” said one aged-care worker. Another example is the councilors who choose to be “on-call” to the community they represent. Using personal devices for work is unusual in Australia, although perhaps more common elsewhere (Katz and Aakhus, 2002). A major difference in mobile phone use is the much greater reported utilization of the multimedia features by the residents of Wujal Wujal. Entertainment uses (73% of users) are common and include listening to music, playing games, and watching movies,



TV, music programs or sports from Foxtel. Personalization features such as wallpaper and ringtones are also very popular. Surprisingly, only 1 person reported using their camera and only one said they use the videocall function, but this may represent a case of underreporting. Interviewees obtain their multimedia content from various sources, including from people they know via Bluetooth, downloading content from the Internet using their mobile phones, and downloading from various work computers at Wujal Wujal. Given that the only phones that can be used in Bloomfield River Valley are Internet-enabled, uses of the Internet figure prominently. On the other hand, only two Bloomfield residents reported making use of the 3G features. To some extent this may be because of the greater dependence on short surveys which did not explicitly ask for information about multimedia, although even the detailed interviews failed to highlight many multimedia uses. Further investigation is required to identify ownership of other multimedia devices by both groups (cameras, videos) to show whether this is an access, mobility or cultural issue.

8. Issues with Mobile Technology 8.1. COVERAGE The complaint raised most often by both mobile phone owners and non-owners was the poor coverage through most of the Bloomfield River Valley. For Wujal Wujal residents it chiefly impacts their ability to use their phones when going about their normal daily lives in the valley outside the township. For Bloomfield residents it usually means not being able to use their phones except when visiting regional centres such as Cairns. As one impassioned Bloomfield non-owner stated: ‘I don’t like one. I don’t want one. They’re useless. … I can’t use it where I live.’ Poor coverage limits the potential of service providers to improve services in the valley, for example, to provide diabetes management, to co-ordinate emergency services in a bush fire or boating accident, or to manage work crews. Currently there is little use made of mobile technology by government or service providers. It also limits the usefulness of mobiles as a backup when other telecommunications go down, a frequent occurrence. Currently, managers in Wujal Wujal use their mobile phones in this way but outside the township poor coverage prohibits this. 8.2. COST In the Wujal Wujal community there is generally a high level of awareness of the cost of making phone calls. Interviewees recounted stories of mobile bills in the thousands of dollars before pre-paid phones became available. Community members identified a range of strategies to manage cost. The fundamental methods are buying prepaid phones, a strategy supported by all the shops in the valley, who sell nothing else, and keeping ones phone on one’s person to stop others from using it. Other strategies include using mobiles only when away from a fixed-line or for emergency calls to family or work; minimizing outgoing calls; communicating by text message; or using a “prepaid friends” service involving free calls to nominated contacts.



Cost was raised as an issue with only two respondents in Bloomfield, one a mother with a daughter away at boarding school, the other a non-user, who interestingly noted the cost of petrol to drive to an access point as a disincentive to ownership. This is contrary to perspectives reported in the literature where mobile phones are seen elsewhere as saving costs by reducing the need to travel (Portus, 2006; Overa, 2008). 8.3. MOBILE TECHNOLOGY LITERACY In both communities some middle-aged and elderly people do not have the skills needed to use all the features on their phones and MP3 players. However, they get others to help them when necessary. One woman from Wujal Wujal said that she didn’t know how to ‘Bigpond or Foxtel’ (i.e., access Internet and movie sites) or download music, nor did she know how to videocall but was waiting for her Year 11 daughter to show her: ‘She know how to do it’. An elderly Bloomfield woman was having ‘lessons’ on how to text message so she could text her granddaughter. 8.4. DOWNLOADS One finding of concern to a number of managers at Wujal Wujal is that people are increasingly using work computers to download music or other multimedia content for their mobile phones or MP3 players. This has led to two major issues: firstly, the cost to the place of employment for data downloads, and secondly the inappropriate use of work time for private purposes. One manager spends time blocking sites to music, movies and games to prevent this happening. This has resulted from the interaction of the new mobile technologies with the existing ICT ecology: Wujal Wujal residents now have a need for content to play on their mobile devices but do not have public access or home computers from which to download. Though some people access the Internet from their 3G phones for downloads, the cost of doing this would discourage others. This problem was not reported in Bloomfield, quite likely because the workplaces are owner-operated rather than the government agencies found in Wujal Wujal, there is a lower reported use of the multimedia features of the phones, greater home Internet access for downloads and access to the public computer in the library.

9. Discussion 9.1. THE ADVANTAGE OF THE MOBILE PHONE OVER OTHER ICT It is interesting to examine which specific qualities of the mobile phone give it the advantage over other ICT, such as landlines or the Internet. For the non-Aboriginal population of the valley, the key is probably the mobile’s inherent mobility. Few of our Bloomfield residents have reception at their homes and many expressed frustration over this. Most purchased mobile phones purely to be able to use them when visiting regional towns and cities or when travelling on the road. At home, they are relatively well equipped with landlines, computers and Internet connections. Mobile phones thus represent a very clear complement to existing ICT for Bloomfield owners.



On the other hand, for the Aboriginal people in our study two attributes of the mobile phone stand out as key advantages compared with fixed-line phones, both of which are to do with costs: firstly, that it offers pre-paid cost management and, secondly, that the personal nature of the device allows people to carry their phones with them at all times and decide whether they will share their phone with others. Where extended families living in the one house is the norm and cultural obligations make it difficult for the landline subscriber to refuse phone use to family and friends, large numbers of calls often result for which the subscriber may be unable to pay, leading inevitably to disconnection of the service (DCITA 2002). A prepaid mobile kept in one’s pocket or around one’s neck avoids this problem. Does this mean that mobility is of no interest to the Wujal Wujal residents? Several researchers have downplayed mobility in their studies of poor communities in developing countries. Donner (2008b, p. 32), for example, stresses the fact that mobile phones, in the absence of other communication technologies in Africa, are chiefly notable for providing “affordable, basic, person-to-person connectivity.” Certainly, compared with most other Australians, Aboriginal people are ICT poor. Yet, residents of Wujal Wujal do have some choice, for example, the public phone, which they often continue to use as it provides much cheaper calls than their mobiles. Some interviewees obviously value the ability to keep in contact when away from the valley, too, some use their phones when out camping or down at the beach, and some need their phones for work when away from the office. The ownership of MP3 players also demonstrates the attraction of personal, portable devices. So, while mobility is not the main reason for the popularity of mobile technology with Aboriginal people, it does represent a feature which is highly valued. 9.2. MOBILE TECHNOLOGY SERVING UNIVERSAL HUMAN NEEDS Our study has confirmed, what many other studies of mobile adoption have shown in Australia and across the developed and developing world, that there is a huge motivation for owning mobile devices whoever you are, whatever your cultural background. Certainly the desire to communicate and be contactable is a universal motive. As Douglas and Ney (quoted in Horst and Miller, 2006, p. 173) stated more than a decade ago “a social being has one prime need – to communicate”. Communication is not trivial but recognised as an important end in itself (Castells et al., 2007). It is the means by which networks are strengthened and expanded, and it is the vigour and number of networks that comprise a society’s social capital and underpin its development (World Bank, DEVELOPMENT/EXTTSOCIALCAPITAL/0,,menuPK:401021~pagePK:149018~piP K:149093~theSitePK:401015,00.html). Horst and Miller (2006) evolved the term “linkup” to describe mobile-phone-supported social networks and how they have become integral to how Jamaicans cope with “pressure” and get through daily life. Portus (2006) states that owning a mobile phone may bring “feelings of comfort and confidence, knowing they are connected”, able to share a concern and empowered by the capacity to mobilize resources. Hahn and Kibora (2008) describe the value of the mobile phone in maintaining culture and community in Burkina Faso as families are split by economic necessity between urban and rural areas. We have observed in remote islands in the



Torres Strait the mobile phone camera being used to “show” someone working away from the island what was happening at home, thus maintaining connection, not just with family but with the community. For both populations in the valley, the most strongly expressed responses in our interviews were by mothers of children away at boarding school, no longer reliant on the public phones at school or at Wujal Wujal. It is hoped that this new level of support will increase the retention levels of Aboriginal children at high school, in the past identified as amongst the lowest in the country. The other important human need that is answered by mobile technology is music. The findings show that more than half the people in both populations own MP3 players or use their mobile phones for listening to music. Some reasons given by users for using these devices rather than older music technology such as CD players were purely pragmatic (their superior performance when driving on dirt roads), but others focused on the personalization of music by the listener. We also know from Lockart River that mobile devices were significant in providing Aboriginal people with music and sometimes used in combination with other technologies, e.g., to play the music stored on one’s iPod through the speakers of a stereo system (Dyson and Brady, 2009). More research needs to be done to explore these aspects more thoroughly. 9.3. THE CONTRIBUTION OF CULTURE TO PATTERNS OF MOBILE APPROPRIATION While some uses of mobile technology are similar across both communities in our study, our findings also reveal major differences. Most notably, Wujal Wujal mobile phone owners exploit the multimedia and data features of their devices to a much greater extent than reported by the Bloomfield respondents. Moreover, their usage reflects a similarly high use of multimedia phone features by the Aboriginal people of Lockhart River in Cape York (Dyson and Brady, 2009) while contrasting with the general Australian population, where research has shown that there is limited use of mobile phone features beyond basic voice and text (Kennedy et al., 2008; AMTA, 2007). We must then ask the question, “To what extent does culture play a part in attitudes and patterns of appropriation?” Does adoption reflect a cultural preference (Brady, Dyson and Asela, 2008; Dyson and Brady, 2009; Hahn and Kibora, 2008)? or expanding usage of the device with familiarity (Geser, 2004)? or a function of the relative availability of other ICT? In the Bloomfield River Valley it is hard to separate the various factors as they are often inextricably intertwined. It is more accurate to say that the design of the devices interacts with a range of human characteristics, including culture, socio-economics and lifestyle, and this influences technology appropriation:  There is a fit between the multimedia features of mobile devices and the traditional strengths in Aboriginal culture, namely oral and audio practices (song, music, storytelling and ceremony) and also pictorial expression (painting, sculpture and carving). This would explain the greater uptake of the multimedia functions of mobile phones by Aboriginal people.  The portability of the technology favours its incorporation into the lifestyles of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal users, for example, allowing Bloomfield people, and to a lesser extent Aboriginal people, to make calls when away from the valley, and



allowing Aboriginal people to make calls while they or their relatives are camping, a typical practice in keeping with their culture.  The personal nature of the devices allows the owner to decide whether they will share it with others. This permits Aboriginal people to control costs by circumventing culture, that is by avoiding the norm of reciprocity which typically encourages sharing.  The text messaging function of the phones allows both Aboriginal and nonAboriginal people in the valley to communicate more economically. In the case of the Aboriginal users – since writing is not part of their traditional culture – this again shows that cultural traditions can be overcome if motivation (to communicate cheaply) is strong.  The relative availability of mobiles compared to other ICT influences their popularity. The lower ICT access of Wujal Wujal residents is a function of both socio-economic constraints (e.g., low incomes and overcrowding) and cultural factors (e.g., the difficulty of refusing fixed-lined phone access to family).

9.4. MOBILE TECHNOLOGY FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Our results show very limited use of mobile phones in income-generating businesses for either Wujal Wujal or Bloomfield residents. The patchy nature of the coverage across the area is certainly a factor although there may well be other reasons. Studies of the developing world have found higher status groups benefit most from telephone use (including mobiles) to improve their livelihoods (Souter et al., 2005). Any link, therefore, between mobile phones and economic improvement for low income groups is problematic because it is likely to be indirect and difficult to quantify as it involves the mutual exchange of assistance and support (Hahn and Kibora, 2008).

10. Conclusion Despite the limited coverage in the valley, mobile technology needs to be taken seriously. This study of two very small, remote communities with relatively restricted infrastructure has implications for the provision of services more generally. It shows the importance of a varied communications ecology to support the range of individual and community needs. Mobile phone companies across the world know that people will pay a “healthy price premium [for mobile] over fixed voice services” (Access Economics, 2007, pp. 37-38) but there has been some confusion as to why. We hope that this study has extended our understanding for why people own a mobile phone and the role of mobile technology in the emotional lives of people. Final usage patterns for Bloomfield River Valley residents will be a unique product of cultural mores and practical constraints. As Baron (2008, p. 131) notes: Mobile phones are like cars and rice. The practices through which we encounter these items are only partially determined by the objects themselves, with the rest of their functioning often shaped by the culture norms – or pragmatic necessities – of the society in which they are embedded.



The mobile telephone represents important but different improvements to the communications of each community in the valley. The people in our study were selective about their ICT, choosing between public telephone, fixed-line phone, mobile phone and the Internet which they would own and which they would use, where and for what purpose. People virtually boycotted what did not fit and were prepared to pay more for what did, even though it represented sometimes only a small extension to their existing service. However, given the widespread adoption of mobile phones, and that all phones in this remote region are 3G, this technology has the potential to make significant improvements to the lives of people in remote Australia. There was a huge motivation for owning a mobile, despite the poor coverage for many residents and despite the cost. As one resident stated: ‘If I could, I would use my mobile more – I would!’

Acknowledgements The authors thank the residents of Wujal Wujal and Bloomfield for kindly giving up their time to complete the interviews and surveys. We further thank the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council for allowing us to conduct research at Wujal Wujal.

References ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2006). Census of Population and Housing, Wujal Wujal Shire/SLA (Statistical Local Area). Canberra: ABS. Access Economics (2007). Australian Mobile Telecommunications Industry: Economic significance and state of the industry. Report by Access Economics Pty Ltd for Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. AMTA (2007) The Impact of The Mobile Phone on Work/Life Balance. Preliminary report. Anderson, C. (1989). Aborigines and conservationism: The Daintree Bloomfield Road. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 24(3), 214-227. Baron, N.S. (2008). Always On: Language in an online mobile world. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press. Brady, F. & Dyson, L. E. (2009). Report to Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council on Mobile Technology in the Bloomfield River Valley, June. Brady, F., Dyson, L.E. & Asela, T. (2008). Indigenous adoption of mobile phones and oral culture. Sixth International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication (CATaC), Nîmes, France, 24-27 June, pp. 384-398. Castells, M., Fernandez-Ardievol, M., Qiu, J.L. & Sey, A. (2007). Mobile Communication and Society: A global perspective. Cambridge Mass. MIT Press. Cook Shire Council (2008/2009). Cooktown & District Telephone Directory 2008/2009. Cooktown, Australia. DCITA (Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (2002). Telecommunications Action Plan for Remote Indigenous Communities: Report on the strategic study for improving telecommunications in remote Indigenous communities (TAPRIC). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Donner, J. (2008a). Research approaches to mobile use in the developing world: A review of the literature. The Information Society, 24, 140–159.



Donner, J. (2008b). Shrinking fourth world? Mobiles, development, and inclusion. In J.E. Katz (ed.), Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies (pp. 29-42), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Dyson, L. E. & Brady, F. (2009). Mobile phone adoption and use in Lockhart River Aboriginal community. Eighth IEEE International Conference on Mobile Business, Dalian, China, 2728th June, pp. 170-175. Geser, H. (2004). Towards a Sociological Theory of the Mobile Phone. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from Katz, J.E. & Aakhus, M. (Eds). (2002). Perpetual Contact: mobile communication, private talk, public performance. Cambridge: CUP. Kennedy, G.E., Judd, T.S., Churchward, A., Gray, K. & Krause, K.-L. (2008). First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives? Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 108-122. Hahn, H.P. & Kibora, L. (2008). The domestication of the mobile phone: Oral society and new ICT in Burkina Faso. Journal of Modern African Studies, 46(1), 87-109. Horst, H. & Miller, D. (2006). The Cell Phone: An anthropology of communication, Oxford: Berg. Ito, M. (2005). Introduction: Personal, portable, pedestrian. In M. Ito, D. Okabe and M. Matsuda (Eds), Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile phones in Japanese life (pp. 1-16). Cambridge, USA: MIT Press. Overa, R. (2008). Mobile traders and mobile phones in Ghana. In J. E. Katz (ed.), Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies (pp. 43-54), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Portus, L. M. (2006). Connecting indigenous peoples: Mobile phone culture among selected indigenous peoples in the Philippines. Asia Culture Forum, pp. 1-19. Scott, N. (n.d.), New research findings point to high rates of phone use even in no or low service areas. Balancing Act, No. 203. Accessed April 19, 2010, from Sinanan, J. (2008). Social tools and social capital: Reading mobile phone usage in rural indigenous communities. OzCHI, December 8-12, Cairns, pp. 267-270. Souter, D., Garforth C., Jain, R., Mascarenhas, O., McKemey, K. & Scott, N. (2005). The Economic Impact of Telecommunications on Rural Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction: A study of rural communities in India (Gujarat), Mozambique and Tanzania. Summary report. UK Department of International Development. Retrieved April 19, 2010 from Tangentyere Council & Central Land Council (2007). Ingerrekenhe Antirrkweme: Mobile phone use among low income Aboriginal people, A Central Australian Snapshot. Alice Springs: Tangentyere Council Inc. & Central Land Council. Trimarchi, M. (1998). Theory Building: A Realist methodology for case study driven research. Working Paper 98/2, Faculty of Business Working Paper Series. Maroochydore, Australia: Sunshine Coast University College. Villanueva, E. (2007). Parsing the dream: Considering ICT as a component of developmental policies in the Global South. Communities and Action: Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN) Conference, Prato, Italy.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 84-93.

BEYOND “APPROPRIATE” TECHNOLOGY Mobilizing education for development ANNE HEWLING UK Open University Milton Keynes, UK AND BARRY SESNAN Echo Bravo, Kampala, Uganda

Abstract. Having established that technology mediated instruction of some kind has potential and a valuable role to play in education for on the move and remote area learners the paper looks at practice as documented and suggests that social and cultural barriers are a greater challenge than technological ones. It concludes by suggesting that successful implementation may depend both on use of familiar technology i.e. phones rather than internet, and establishing for users a social and cultural validity for using that technology for the delivery of education.

1. Context Gulati (2008), providing a very comprehensive review of “technology-enhanced learning in developing nations”, poses the question “is e-learning working?” since a previous study of 150 distance education programmes had concluded: ‘…traditional, paper-based means of distance learning continues to be more reliable, sustainable, and widely used than online and Web-based methods of learning (Leary & Berge, 2006).’ (Gulati, 2008)

Gulati adds that there are multiple determinants that may influence the outcomes of any initiative and suggests there is no sure fire model for success, ‘…e-learning does have the potential to meet the educational needs of masses of poor people in developing countries; however, this potential has yet to be recognised. … in many cases where there is limited IT infrastructure, traditional technologies such as printed material, radio, and television remain more effective and accessible for rural and disadvantaged groups.’ (Gulati, 2008)

But, this is not to say that elearning has no value in developing contexts,



‘The implication is quite the opposite. … the need for holistic policies that acknowledge these challenges and focus on basic and primary educational infrastructure to support low-cost, higher quality access in rural and deprived areas. This is important not only for equal access to learning, but also so that different groups may have the opportunity to contribute to the development of global knowledge. (Gulati, 2008)

Indeed use of ‘traditional’ technology in education is still pushing back boundaries and widening access by incorporating new techniques. Radio, for example, which is already well established, well understood and readily available is continually improving interactivity by increasing the amount of user content included and extending reception range using new transmission techniques etc. ‘…the South African Radio Learning Programme has been able to demonstrate the potential of radio as a low-cost ICT when used at scale (Cobbe, 1995). In December 2004, there were 48,000 teachers and 1.6 million learners involved in open and distance learning through the support activities offered by the Radio Learning Programme, at a cost of approximately US$3 per learner per annum.’ (Potter & Naidoo, 2006) ‘…informal rural learning in India …combines radio transmission in rural areas with local face-to-face discussions …programmes include talks, interviews, discussions and songs’ (Berman, 2008)

Certain issues e.g. HIV/AIDS and sector specific needs for education e.g. sex workers, youth etc. are also acting as drivers for change in programme development and resulting in content that goes beyond basic literacy or skills. In some places, e.g. DR Congo, community based radio stations offer local support and may later become the driving force behind new initiatives and programmes. Community radio also has widespread support from donors, probably the most important guide to operating community radio programmes is produced by UNESCO (UNESCO, 2008).

2. Potential The 1980s mantra of ‘appropriate technology’ was a response to earlier misguided attempts to kick start development by having the west export physical technology such as farm or domestic machinery. This was premised on the idea that it was absence of tools that was limiting production and thus economic and social growth and development. “Appropriate”, as a concept, served then to focus minds on issues of context so that, for example, account was taken of sustainability issues, of availability of spare parts, skilled maintenance, consumables etc. in deciding which tools were needed or useful. Presently the pace of change and technical development means that establishing a status quo from which to evaluate the usefulness and appropriateness of any mobile technology for developing countries is a challenge – daily boundaries are shifting and barriers are being lowered. Many frequently cited issues are no longer critical. The availability of electricity, for example is one such, solar power can be harnessed by most of the ICT tools that any education initiative might wish to use. Although not especially attractive to users there is even a wind-up radio, that does not require electricity or batteries at all, made specifically for use in developing countries. The Bee, a portable solar powered



communications hub (developed by UNICEF for use in remote areas or emergency situations) is a perfect example of the sea change underway, its key feature being the ability to adapt to different inputs and thus to connect equally via satellite, wireless or fixed connection. Potentially, there is a huge range of resources that can be used to mobilize education and other development programmes globally. A few specifics, below, indicate the extent of services that could be made available to meet the need identified by Gulati, above, ‘to support low-cost, higher quality access in rural and deprived areas’. 2.1. LAPTOPS AND NETBOOKS The best known initiative is probably One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) ( but there is also the Intel Classmate option too ( Both seek to be appropriate for local conditions without compromising on functionality e.g. they have wireless capability. The critical issue for sustainability is the maintenance and upkeep of machines and servers, a matter of human expertise rather than of physical resources. Some critics have suggested that laptop initiatives are a distraction for students taking them away from more valuable use of their time (ICT4D, 2009). Equally, however, agencies such as UNESCO point out that unless all students have the option not only to access computers and technology but also to have them integrated into their lives they will continue to lack essential 21st century skills and experience. Others suggest that OLPC is a misguided approach since it offers less than a full product, but they do point out that the OLPC and similar initiatives have led to development of netbooks which are serviceable and valued in both developed and developing environments (Project Diaspora blog, 2010) 2.2. MOBILE MULTIMEDIA PLAYERS, MP3 PLAYERS, IPODS, PDAS ETC. Although as yet undocumented in the literature, the UK Open University is presently testing the potential of iPods, MP3 players and similar devices to deliver multimedia content to trainee teachers in both urban and remote rural locations. The devices are loaded centrally with staff development material as well as resources for classroom use with students (usable in classrooms via suitable docking/speaker units). Devices have longlife rechargeable batteries which can be charged either via mains, car battery or solar means. Such multimedia content could also be delivered via standard latest generation mobile phones, although the interface of an iPhone is arguably easier to navigate. Within the context of potential content, podcasts are composite multimedia flies, often of audio content but they may also contain video and fixed image content. These are particularly popular for packaging content from radio broadcasts so that this can be used on demand, generally on subscription, for regular, e.g. daily or weekly, automatic download to phones and MP3 players. Central storage of multimedia content for use on phones or other media players can be effected either locally on a standalone server or locally/regionally/globally, in shared space. Greenstone ( is one open source solution. Purchasing an e-Granary ( is another which is designed



specifically to provide quality resources where there is no, or limited, Internet connectivity. And, potentially the most interesting mobile technology, globally not just in developing countries is the mobile phone. 2.3. MOBILE PHONES AND SMS Mobile phone ownership and use continues to increase rapidly in Africa (Mobile Africa blog, 2009). In some places this involves shared phone ownership or public access options but largely phones are owned and used by individuals. Use for messaging (SMS) is far greater than use for voice calls. Increasingly mobile internet access is also possible. Many view SMS as offering the greatest potential for improving educational access e.g. Traxler & Dearden (2005) suggest that, for Kenya, SMS could not only help deliver quality education it could also help support systems and educational administration, collection of data etc. This point has been documented in other contexts too as a means of offering integrated support to the development of formal educational programmes (Jones, 2009). The in-built support for data collection potentially also addresses the issue of how to monitor control procedures, grades etc. when providing an accredited programme for peripatetic students. Mass dissemination/collection of SMS can be actioned via either a mobile telephone network itself directly, or via computer. It is also possible to create local networks via PC and then have only collected data uploaded and centralized via wireless or satellite connection to the phone network. Experiments with offering educational content via mobile phone have been undertaken by both Athabasca University and the Open University and studies are in preparation. Broadly these suggest that mobile delivery is less suitable for delivery of new content than for reinforcement of content previously studied via other means either print or online, ‘the major focus of m-learning should be more on communication and interaction than on content’ (Brown, 2003)

In this case the phone becomes a connector, as much as an author of new knowledge. In the case of Athabasca, language skills and drills have been delivered effectively this way. In the case of the Open University (using the same shared open source software) information literacy and workplace information seeking and retrieval skills have been delivered (see Although African mobile phone subscribers have favoured text and data use there are wider possibilities, ‘Another benefit of m-learning is mobile devices have certain capabilities that can be delivered with greater ease than other electronic devices. Clark, cited by Shepherd (2001:2of5), points out that: "The mobile phone also has one facility that makes it better than most PCs. It has been designed to deliver audio. You can listen to, or even talk with, a real person. It is this mix of audio and text that makes the delivery of certain types of learning content possible_" It is also important to stress that currently, mobile technologies such as mobile phones allows for synchronous audio communication with much greater ease and at relative lower cost than online technologies, especially in areas that bandwidth is still a limitation.



The latest developments in mobile technologies e.g. GPRS (General Packet Response Service) that allows for multimedia messaging (MMS = Multimedia Messaging Services), in stead of the well-known short messaging (SMS = Short Messaging Services), makes it possible to deliver and receive multimedia content such as audio, images and video sequences.’ (Brown, 2003)

Both audio and other media content can be loaded on to mobile phones in multiple ways, access to the internet or to a phone service provider are not essential, content can be loaded direct from a PC or from a centralized server “on demand” (which in turn could have downloaded the material via a Bee, for example). And, phone owner/subscriber direct access to the internet is also increasingly an option for wifi-enabled and 3G handsets (although for the latter download rates through most providers remain very expensive), ‘There is clearly great promise for the use of mobile phones in education in Africa also. As a DE delivery mode, SMS has already proved to be cost-effective and efficient. Visser and West (2005) noted that the next generation of mobile phones “have started to include full Internet access and introduce an ‘always on’ cellular technology which enables the cellular telephone user to access the Internet directly” (p. 120).’ (Motlik, 2008)

A further development from the UK Open University, of more general interest, consists of providing a mobile phone formatted version of its library web pages and content. This may be of interest to both students and teachers. The open source software driving this is initiative uses the ADR feature – auto-detect and reformat - which allows the mobile device, be it phone or PDA, etc., to receive a personalized, appropriately formatted copy of each web page in response to receipt of the device specifications which are gathered automatically from it by the library servers.

3. Practice Obtaining detailed information about the development and use of mobile technologies in context can be challenging, many of the most recent technical or social or implementational developments are not documented formally. Many never will be simply because of the pace of change. In this respect anecdotal evidence from field practitioners and developers has to be deemed relevant. Blogs, in such a context provide pertinent and useful information, for example Subsaharska or Kiwanja postings on cloud storage and why, contrary to perceived wisdom, this remains unrealistic despite fast internet connections (see: and the follow on ). But, despite the optimism to be found in small local initiatives and despite an apparent resolution of issues of appropriateness and potential which enable all the technologies previously mentioned to work on the ground under even the most difficult of circumstances, the examples cited above are, by and large, the exceptions. Looking at major donor or government funded projects radio is frequently the most radical broadcast option to survive beyond the initial stages of project planning and design. And, as far as storage and distribution of educational content is concerned cassettes are



still widely used by Open Universities around the world, especially the UK and India, although sourcing cassette players is increasingly problematic. Why? Examining a few projects in more detail suggests many of them could be interpreted as both successful and not - depending on how one views success. Physical or resource appropriateness are of little importance, social and cultural issues are much more significant. 3.1. PERCEPTION AND VALUES To a large extent, as Dyer (2001) has pointed out, determining success depends on understanding the world from where the programme recipients are standing, Rabari pastoralists (in India), for example, were more than content with the skills they acquired on the move - from Dyer and a colleague travelling with them for a season - “reading bus destination boards, bus tickets and ration cards” (Dyer, 2001) - but had no interest in continuing learning for a second season because that simply was not what they saw as valuable and worthy of their resources, ‘These [literacy issues] were constructed as a series of discrete problems which if solved would provide independence from others who otherwise had to be requested to perform literacy tasks for them. Rabaris did not regard literacy as a means by which to gain information … Nomadic pastoralism, as practised by this group, is not amenable to modernisation because it cannot be reduced to issues of productivity and economics: it is a holistic way of life, not simply a mode of production.’ (Dyer, 2001)

Nigeria has experimented widely with educational programming for nomads using “traditional” distance options of radio and television. This has been less than successful and they are now proceeding to implement novel options. The “bottom line” for these programmes is to offer at least functionally useful skills: One major problems usually faced by Nigeria’s nomads in their wandering activities, is that they lack ‘interactional’ and ‘transactional’ skills with the people they come across during their travels. The acquisition of literacy skills through the mobile learning system will, to a large extent, equip them with valuable interactional and transactional skills needed to enhance their relationships with the people they meet. (Aderinoye et al. 2007)

In this (specific and rural) Nigerian context the suggestion is that wide understanding of, and familiarity with, mobile phones and their daily life value will assist take up and success rates – Aderinoye et al. (2007) note that an advertisement has already set the scene culturally and will promote the mobile learning initiative, In a recent Mobile Telecommunication Nigeria (MTN) advertisement, a Fulani pastoralist is depicted making a call and telling other Fulani friends that MTN network was now available, even in the remotest regions. This advertisement portrays the fact that pastoralists – like other Nigerians – can also use mobile telephones wherever and for whatever reason. (Aderinoye et al., 2007)

Of course, the case of the Fulani is a very specific geographic and cultural context; the particularities of other contexts will be different although the advert is not the first such, a similar photograph featuring a Samburu (Kenya) tribesman (Weiner Grotta), 2000) appeared more than 10 years ago. However, the principle remains, the form that any



education intervention takes, technology based or not, needs also to be recognized as valid and valuable by the community and culture for which it is proposed. This may be a bigger stumbling block than the introduction of new technology itself. Nomad communities, for example, as lifestyles are fading into a new 21st century socioeconomic reality, will have members who have left pastoralism for other sectors of the economy but who will return to visit and report back on urban developments, bringing samples of new technologies, such as the mobile phone, with them. The value of these technologies may be recognized for day-to-day endeavours, using sms for determining market prices for livestock, for example, but this will not necessarily extend to them being used, or perceived as useful for, the delivery of education. There remains the challenge of non-recognition of education happening by mobile delivery when there is no commonly recognized pre-existing model for that happening. Equally, the existence of a potential for delivery that way is no substitute. 3.2. EXPECTATIONS AND ASSUMPTIONS Not unrelated to these questions is the issue of how recipients of these initiatives expect to receive education and how they perceive its ultimate purpose. The Rabari, (Dyer, 2001) for example, like the vast majority of people, still expected education to happen in buildings called schools. The difference for the Rabari being that although they themselves were learning on the move under canvas and acquiring immediately useable skills, they did not expect school to be of much long term benefit. On a project proposed for nomadic communities in East Africa on which the authors advised recently delivery of, either adapted or new, content via new technology was rejected on the basis that the only curriculum that could be recognized nationally would be that already in place for face-to-face learners. Equally that it would need to be delivered in an identical format to on the move learners in order to be deemed equivalent to that offered in ordinary (i.e. fixed site) primary and secondary schools. It would otherwise run the risk of not being recognized by higher education or by employers. There was no option for an alternative equivalent system despite the long term education needs of the nomadic community being different to those of students not on the move. The impetus for change will need to come from within and there is abundant evidence in Africa (Sesnan, 2007) that, eschewing distant debates about the digital divide, a new young Google and Facebook generation, more urban but not universally so, has attitudes and a can-do youth culture which favours innovation and inventiveness. Highly motivated to achieve, this is a generation already used to finding what they need on line, wedded to their mobiles and innovating in their own ways. They are from all levels of society, including the unemployed. There is no system to help them and so they make do for themselves. They see no obstacle which cannot be removed or circumvented - it is no coincidence that money transfer by phone, innovative sites like the internationally award winning - and not a few scams – originated in this generation in Africa. In this culture the desire to learn will have to be the key. They will, in all senses, appropriate and adapt any of the new technologies, web-based or mobile, as long as they see it fulfilling a need. They have already ensured that pirated music, games, software



and videos are available across the African continent. As was the case with the Rabari, the challenge is to tap into this new culture and provide what they need while recognising that they themselves have great potential to develop the system from their end. [Look at] … how important information gets around already. Football results, fashions, new music get around very fast. When Michael Jackson died it seemed everyone knew it in a few hours even in remote parts of Chad. The World Cup result will be known instantly everywhere. … When looking beyond technology at the flow of information like this what can we learn? It is a system which works by itself. driven by demand. Similarly, when we work in HIV and reproductive health there is always the question of why cigarettes, Omo, beer and Coca Cola are found everywhere but NGOs feel a need to distribute condoms. The need to push indicates that there is not a natural pull. ( Barry Sesnan, personal communication, with thanks to ‘Education for nomads’)

It can surely only be a matter of time before a need for information becomes conflated with what could be construed as educational content. At that point how much of that content is then pirated will become an effectiveness indicator for education!

4. Conclusion Technology for education in developing countries is changing faster than the many systems (Government, management etc.) with which it must associate can themselves change. This means that appropriate technological responses to evolving local needs may occur almost as new needs arise but, ironically, they are unlikely to be adopted until well after technology and need have evolved yet further; attitudes and culture are more significant barriers to the adoption of mobile education delivery technology greater than are technical, resource or sustainability issues. Project success will depend on more than availability of hardware, and will require not only familiarity with any particular devices but also necessitate implementers demonstrating that this is a valid way and means for delivery of education. Globally, wider technical assessments suggest that a focus on mobile technology rather than on web-mediated solutions is to be advocated, “It would be a serious disservice to both learners and instructors if Asian and African DE were to cast their lot with Web-based learning. It is an educational medium that is a poor match for all involved. Mobile phone technology is widespread, easy-to-use, and is familiar to both learners and instructors;” (Motlik, 2008)

In short, “appropriate” must centre on fulfilling actual needs and enhance real life The mobile phone in Africa does something that the OLPC will never do, it integrates itself into the rhythm of life in Africa. Its use flows with the pace of life: it augments ones life experience when it needs to; it plays rescuer when the need arises, it creates incomes where none were possible previously; it makes the world smaller where previously distances were vast. Most importantly, it educates everyone. (Project Diaspora, 2010)



References Aderinoye, R.A. et al., (2007) Integrating Mobile Learning into Nomadic Education Programmes in Nigeria: Issues and perspectives, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning [Online], 8 Available from: Berman, S.D. (2008) ICT-based Distance Education in South Asia, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning [Online], 9 Available from: Brown, T. H. (2003) The role of m-learning in the future of e-learning in Africa? Presentation at the 21st ICDE World Conference, June 2003, Hong Kong Dyer, C. (2001) Nomads and Education for All: Education for Development or Domestication? Comparative Education, 37(3) e-Granary Digital Library, Gulati, S. (2008) Technology-Enhanced Learning in Developing Nations: A review, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning [Online], 9 Available from: Information and Communication Technologies for Development Collective (ICT4D) blog. Available from: Jones, G. et al., (2009) How can mobile SMS communication support and enhance a first year undergraduate learning environment? ALT-J Research in Learning Technology 17(3) blog (2009) “Inappropriate” appropriate technology? Available from: Mobile Africa blog (2009) Mobile Web usage in Africa grows nearly 170% Available from: Motlik, S. (2008) Mobile Learning in Developing Nations, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning [Online], 9 Available from: Potter, C. & Naidoo, G. (2006) Using Interactive Radio to Enhance Classroom Learning and Reach Schools, Classrooms, Teachers, and Learners, Distance Education, 27(1) Practical Action Blog (2008) To BEE solar powered or not to BEE? Available from: Project Diaspora blog (2010) Why OLPC is “…dead in the water”…still. Available from: Rajasekharan K.; Nafala, K.M. Digital archiving of audio content using WINISIS and Greenstone software: a manual for community radio managers, UNESCO, 2009 Sesnan, B, blog (200) And the chicken played the chorale (27/9/07). Available from Subsaharska blog (2009) The sun is shining in Africa (8/10/09) Available from: Sutton-Brady, C. et al., (2009) The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching, ALT-J Research in Learning Technology 17(3) The Drum Beat 459 - Solar-Powered Communication Hub: The BEE The UNICEF BEE and Digital Doorway – on You Tube


93 Traxler, J., & Dearden, P. (2005) The Potential for Using SMS to Support Learning and Organization in sub-Saharan Africa. UNESCO, 2009 Use of radio in a nomadic education programme. Available from: and UNESCO, 2008 Community Radio: A user’s guide to the technology available from: Visser, L., & West, P. (2005). The Promise of m-learning for Distance Education in South Africa and Other Developing Nations. in Y. Visser, L. Visser, M. Simonson, & R. Amirault (Eds.) Trends and Issues in Distance Education: International perspectives (pp. 117-129). Greenwich, CT.: Information Age Publishing. Wiener Grotta,S., (2000) Photograph of Samburu warrior with cellphone, in T. Allen and A. Thomas (Eds.) Poverty and Development into the 21st Century (pp. 355). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 94-103.

DISCURSIVE MOBILE PHONE PRACTICES AND INFORMAL RULES CLARE LLOYD University of Newcastle University Drive, Callaghan NSW, Australia

Abstract. This paper uses Discourse Analysis (DA) to investigate the socially constructed discursive practices of mobile phone use; specifically it examines the informal rules of mobile phone use. It qualitatively investigates mobile phone use within an Australian cultural context. „Discourse theory begins with the assumption that all objects and actions are meaningful, and that their meaning is a product of historically specific systems of rulesâ€&#x; (Howarth 2000, p. 8). Evidence of socially constructed textual meanings related to mobile phone use is found in the informal rules created (and practiced); those that in some way govern the use of mobile phones. The research reveals that there are divergences and inconsistencies within the discourse of mobile phone use, and illustrates that individuals make differing personal choices in similar social contexts.



This paper investigates how informal rules within the discourse of mobile phone use are being normalised into a code or etiquette, through social negotiation. Mobile phones have only been present in Australia for approximately 20 years (AAP 2007a para. 4); with the first mobile phone call being made February 23, 1987. From 1987, the proportion of Australians using mobile telephony in Australia went from only 1.1% in 1990 (International Telecommunications Union (2003) in Madden, Coble-Neal, Schipp & Dalzell 2004, p1), to 81% in 2004-05 (Allen Consulting Group (ACG) 2005, p. vii). Evidently the use of mobile phones in the past 20 years has expanded to the point where they are now used by the majority of Australians. Hence it is only relatively recently that informal rules have appeared for mobile phone use in Australia. Who is making the decisions that create and implement these informally recognised rules? In many cases the formation of informal rules is still in progress, they are being worked out via everyday negotiations.

2. Relevant Literature The past decade has seen a number of researchers publish on mobile phones and their uses across a wide range of disciplines. Research is now available from Business Studies



(Yusuf & Naseri, 2003), Information Systems (Carroll, Howard, Vetere, Peck & Murphy, 2001), Psychology (Cumiskey, 2005; Walsh, White & Young, 2007), and Media, Cultural, and Communication Studies (Gillard, Wale & Bow 1994; Goggin, 2006; Hjorth, 2005; Horstmanshof & Power, 2005; Lloyd, 2006, 2007a, 2007b). Nevertheless there is only a small number of this work that has used a discursive theoretical or methodological approach. Of particular interest to this article is work that has examined the discursive formation of informal rules. One such publication is Caron and Caronia‟s (2007) book Moving Cultures: Mobile communication in everyday life. In this text the researchers investigate the social and cultural aspects of mobile technology in everyday life. The authors examine questions of identity in ordinary activities; they consider how the positioning and understanding of mobile phone use is discursive. Caron and Caronia maintain that „communication and information technologies are not merely material objects but also discursive objects‟ (Caron & Caronia 2007, p. 46), and argue that, our encounter with technology, the experience that we construct with a techno-object, is no different from any other experience: it is mediated by language, by the subtle framework of discourse that determines the meaning of things, by the words (said and heard) that confer value on objects and that link them to us and to our daily practices (Caron & Caronia 2007, p. 47).

The book is the result of a group of empirical studies undertaken by Caron and Caronia over an eight-year period. Although the authors have predominantly focused on youth and teenagers their work complements and informs this research. For example, in chapter ten, „Mobile Communication as social performance: New Ethics, Now Politeness, New Aesthetics‟ they provide a brief analyses of mobile phone politeness rules. They reveal that the adolescents are „theorizing about the need for shared norms for a collectively regulated practice‟ (2007, p. 229). However, Caron and Caronia are not explicit in defining what they mean by the term „discourse‟, nor do they claim to be conducting „Discourse Analysis‟, instead, the authors discuss mobile technology and social discourses in general. They argue in non-specific terms how the „social discourse surrounding technologies‟ (Caron & Caronia 2007, p. 48) forms a part of the technology use and the meanings attributed to it. Subsequently, the authors claim that „it is through a subtle weave of everyday practices and discourses, of activities and words, that individuals confer meaning, value, roles, and functions on technologies‟ (Caron & Caronia 2007, p. 46). The empirical work is used to provide an understanding of the complex processes by which meanings are formed by young Canadians. It is interesting because it reveals that the teenagers perceive that „the most criticized form of behaviour is trying to “look cool”‟ (2007, p. 230). Furthermore, the researchers argue „the skills needed to communicate using a mobile phone are not limited to mastery of a particular grammar or lexicon. They also cover social aspects and norms that govern use of phones in public spaces‟ (2007, p. 230). Another four articles that are of significance to this research make up Part Three of the book Wireless world: social and interactional aspects of the mobile age (Brown, Green & Harper 2002). These are early pieces of research that illustrate the broad and complex range of mobile phone communication practices. The authors used an ethnomethodological approach to study mobile telecommunication use on trains



(Murtagh 2002); the use of mobiles by teenagers in public spaces (Weilenmann & Larsson 2002); the micro-coordination uses of mobile technology in mobile work (Sherry & Salvador 2002); and the affects of mobile technologies on the boundary line between personal and professional life (Gant & Kiesler 2002). Although it is not explicitly stated in the articles these studies deal with discursive elements of mobile communication, such as the rules that govern mobile phone use on train carriages, or the sharing of mobile phones by teenagers, as well as the blurring of lines between work and personal life. Because none of these articles use Discourse Analysis they remain at a descriptive level.

3. Method and Material This paper draws on a larger study in which a central idea examined was that there is a newly forming discourse of mobile phone use and that mobile phone communication is having an impact on the formation of identity for young Australians. Using Discourse Analysis (DA) a broad theoretical framework, both the design of the research and the specific methods used were informed by DA. Multiple sources of evidence were triangulated, the three distinct methods of data collection employed were: semistructured interviews, a Research Journal (RJ) of observations, informal talk and experience of mobile phone use kept by the researcher for over two years (Lloyd 2009), and the collection of cultural artefacts referencing mobile phones (advertisements, radio broadcasts, Podcasts, laws, online forums etc.). Pseudonyms have been used for participants in the analysis. Participants in this study were aged 18 to 35 year olds and lived in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. DA was used to analyse the social processes of the construction of meaning (Phillips & Hardy, 2002) around mobile phones and their use. It was applied in the „search for meaning behind the social construction of words, sounds and images that remains at the heart of modern discourse analysis‟ (Smith & Bell 2008, p. 80). Discourse may be used to explain the dynamic processes of social construction that involve communicative activities (Phillips and Hardy 2002, Yell 2005). For Foucault, discourse is a system of meaning making that concerns both language and practice, accordingly „all social practices entail meaning, and meaning shapes and influences what we do – our conduct – all practices have a discursive aspect‟ (Hall & Gieben 1992, p. 291). Discourses shape practices. Practices include language terms, behaviours, rules, power structures, expectations, values, and the ways particular objects, signs and texts are used, reappropriated and understood (Gee 2005; Phillips & Hardy 2002; Renkema 2004). Discourses offer ways to understand the processes in which structures influence individuals within their daily lives. They are „concerned with understanding and interpreting socially produced meanings‟ (Howarth 2000, p. 128). In this research discourse is used as a way to understand how specific cultural and historical perceptions structure and affect daily communication practices and influence the collection of utterances that are performed within a specific context (Mills 1997, p. 11). Discourse theory is therefore utilised as a means to discover the ways in which ideas and objects are constructed and produced socially, and to ascertain how they continue to be



formulated and circulated (Phillips & Hardy 2002, p. 6). As Phillips and Hardy clearly indicate Discourse Analysis is a useful research tool to „unpack the production of social reality‟ (Phillips & Hardy 2002, p. 82) because, it provides a sympathetic epistemology and a set of methods which are useful for empirically exploring social construction. Introducing the idea of a discourse, in addition to text and context, provides the critical dimension that allows social construction to be understood. It is not individual texts that produce reality, but structured bodies of texts of various kinds – discourses – that constitute social phenomena. By examining the nature of discourse, including the methods of textual production, dissemination, and reception that surround it, we can understand how the concepts that make social reality meaningful are created (Phillips & Hardy 2002, p. 82).

4. Analysis and Findings 4.1. INFORMAL RULES There are many informal constraints operating within the discourse of mobile phone use, which this research identifies. Informal rules are the rules that have not been put into an official form but are still well known and are often adhered to. Informal rules tend to be less pervasive but more fluid than a formal rule, and they are usually practised in a less formalised way. An obvious example of informal rules within the discourse of mobile phone use would be the social rules which are broadly considered as mobile phone etiquette. There is a view that having a clear and consistent consensus on what is and is not appropriate behaviour and use with a mobile phone is important for both social and discursive cohesion. Books such as In a Cell Phone Minute (Reiser 2005), Letticia Cellbridge's Official Guide To Cell Phone Etiquette (Fitzpatrick 2001), The Jerk with the Cell Phone: A Survival Guide for the Rest of Us (Pachter & Magee 2004), The Joy of Text: Mating, Dating, and Techno-Relating (Grish 2006) or the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) (AMTA 2007) „mobile manners‟ webpage, all demonstrate this. Informal rules may also include the conditions of use that individuals impose on themselves such as, who can call and when, and when to (or not to) use the silent function of the phone. These conditions of use are personal choices that become regular practice. Informal rules are a form of regulation within a discourse. Although not often formally recorded or written down, they are practices which through time and repetitive enactment have become known and normalised (Mills 1997). Or in Foucault‟s words, a discourse is „a regulated practice that accounts for a number of statements‟ (Foucault 1972, p. 80). Just as other elements in a discourse are dependent on and change with contexts (), so too are informal rules within a discourse. That is, an informal rule will be influenced by both the social and physical context of the mobile phone owner. 4.2. CONTROLLING INTERRUPTIONS IN CINEMAS AND FAMILY SETTINGS One possible physical context is the movie theatre. However, even within a cinema, individual understandings of what constitutes acceptable mobile phone use are different.



When in the context of attending a movie there is already a discursive framework that movie goers are assumed to be maintaining and are constrained by. For example, those attending are expected to be quiet, to not interrupt and to be attentive to the film being shown. However, this research demonstrates that that there are very different perceptions as to what constitutes an „interruption‟. Some individuals do not appreciate or tolerate any mobile phone use within a cinema. This is illustrated in the newspaper article by Maddox, „Yeah, I‟m at the movies‟ (2006). In this article he describes an online forum that was conducted after the proposal was announced to trial electronic jamming of mobile phones in movie theatres was suggested. He states, „Alex fired back that he'd been interrupted by phone calls or texting three or four times during every recent movie and found the bright light from active mobiles as distracting in a darkened cinema, as a ring or message beep‟ (Maddox 2006, p. 12). Richard, a participant in this study, felt likewise; the [movie] theatre, I remember I turned it off then because I didn‟t want to be, like even on silent, I didn‟t want to be disturbed by someone texting me while we were watching the show (Richard).

Although, Richard‟s comment suggests that he is more concerned about interrupting his viewing experience rather than that of others. Melissa who has worked „behind the scenes‟ in a cinema said she would also turn her phone off; in fact she said that the „only time‟ she would turn off her mobile phone was when in a cinema or theatre. Only in the theatre and cinema, because … I‟ve worked in theatre behind the scenes, so I know that incoming mobile phone signals can interfere with, make that stupid noise over the [audio system], even if it‟s on silent. So I‟m very aware of that. But that‟s usually the only time I turn it off (Melissa).

However, another participant, Alison, was willing to be available to all possible connections „all the time‟. When asked whether she would answer her mobile in the movies, she responded by saying that it depended on the circumstances of who was calling but that she would still not answer it in the theatre. If it‟s someone that doesn‟t usually call me, and it‟s obviously urgent, then yes I would pick it up, or if they call me more than once. If I let it ring out, then I‟ll go outside and answer it. But I wouldn‟t answer it in the theatre; it pisses me off no end when people do that… you don‟t use it in the middle of the movies (Alison).

Alison was willing to negotiate other discursive rules (professional and entertainment discourses) to ensure that she is available anywhere, anytime. However, in contrast to these comments some participants said they did use their mobile phone in the cinema. Melinda said she „probably would‟ answer her ringing mobile phone and tell the caller, „look I‟m in a movie session, can I call you back?‟ (Melinda). Melinda would also text; If it was on silent yeah I would text and I‟d receive a text yeah, „cause it‟s on silent I have no problem with doing that and if someone was in the movie theatre with me and they had a message and it was on silent and they were texting back I wouldn‟t have a [problem] with that either (Melinda).



Warwick said it was acceptable to have his mobile phone switched to silent even if it would possibly interrupt other viewing experiences, I‟ve put it on silent when I‟ve been in like a theatre, watching theatre; I haven‟t turned it off I‟ve just put it on silent, if it interrupts with their gear, well I‟m [not] sorry (Warwick).

During the fieldwork for this project the researcher also noted such interruptions, Two rows back from me and twenty or thirty minutes into the show a young woman had her phone ring (RJ, 01 September 2006).

However, over the course of the research a note in the RJ identified that this rule was possibly changing from an informal rule to a more formalised limitation. It was observed that in some cinemas in the Hunter region there were instructions on a pre-screening message to „turn your mobile phone off‟ whilst in the cinema in consideration of fellow moviegoers. I was at the movies to see Happyfeet and before the film there was a new song with singing frog to announce not to use mobile phones and other social etiquettes (RJ, 26 December 2006).

This short film instructing the audience on the expected social etiquette in a movie theatre suggests that the management had considered that they needed to formalise this otherwise informal understanding of appropriate and inappropriate use of the mobile phone in a cinema. The research data revealed that there were other times that individuals were aware that it is possible (if not likely), that their mobile phone may interrupt them and others. Commonly, when participants were asked „How often do you turn your mobile phone off? Where would you turn your mobile phone off? Where wouldn‟t you? And when was the last time that you did? And why?‟ Their responses indicated that both the physical and the social context affected their behaviour. That is, certain contexts naturalised the choice to turn their phones off (or on to silent mode). When asked where she felt she shouldn‟t use her mobile phone, Kathy answered, At uni and at work, and when you‟re out at dinner and things like that, shouldn‟t use it, it‟s impolite (Kathy).

Another participant, Melinda said that she felt the need to put her phone on silent during mealtimes because it was necessary for social courtesy. If I was eating dinner I would put it on silent (Melinda).

And likewise for Amy, who clearly articulates the reasons for her mobile phone use and the behaviour of others which she found offensive; Not to use them in restaurants, not to use them in church, not to use them if you‟ve got offensive ringtones, and I find anything that‟s too loud offensive, but yeah I think it‟s just in a public place where it disturbs the peace… I get really annoyed if I‟m having a nice meal or something in a restaurant and it goes off, also in a test at uni. Some people will have their phones go off and they don‟t care and it just really breaks your train of thought (Amy).



Amy described the way that the conventions of her family life shape her mobile phone use. In the presence of her family, specifically her „Nan‟, she would not use her mobile phone because she has been asked not to; I‟m on a strict no mobile rule at Nan‟s and if I do go to church which I haven‟t been for a while, I won‟t use it there… my Mum‟s asked me not to at Nannas‟. „Cause Nana doesn‟t understand mobile. Oh she does but, she doesn‟t understand like she gets scared if a ringtone comes, she freaks out. So I won‟t use it at Nan‟s just „cause I think it might be a bit rude, she normally has the whole cup-o-tea sit around and chat thing and it might just interrupt it (Amy).

In the RJ the researcher recorded a similar experience with her own family, My parents requested that I don‟t use my mobile phone as much when at their house (the family home), wanting my attention to be with them when I am visiting (RJ, 09 April 2006).

In this instance the researcher‟s mother said it would be nice for her not to have her phone on (or at least switch it to silent) when she visited them for lunch; „we don‟t have that much time with you and we would prefer it if you gave us your full attention‟. At a later stage her family commented that her phone had not rung, and the researcher replied „well I have turned it to silent‟. However for some, use within the family home is allowed, but not during mealtimes. At home the rule is, you don‟t bring mobile phones to the table, you do not bring it to the kitchen table, and you don‟t bring it to the dining room table. That‟s just what my family has always done, they usually prefer it that we don‟t answer mobile phone calls during dinner (Alison).

Alison commented further that she might answer her phone during a mealtime under some circumstances; if it was a business call maybe, or if it was someone calling from overseas maybe, but someone calling from down the street saying can I call over for dinner, as we have had done before, when we were half way though a meal. Then no I am sorry, I am not answering that phone call… Sometimes yes and sometimes no, it sort of depends…if it was a friend that I don‟t usually hear from via mobile or someone that I haven‟t heard from in a long time yes I‟ll answer it. Quite often I will also say „I am in the middle of dinner, can I call you back later?‟ And they are usually fine with that (Alison).

In social situations another solution was to leave mobile phones on silent with the vibrate mode on; I have it on silent because it doesn‟t spoil the mood or what‟s going on, the noise of getting a text, and so if you don‟t want to check it and just leave it and continue with the moment until it‟s gone, and then you can check it (Richard).

Kathy construed her own choices to be for reasons of politeness; I leave my messages on silent, I kind of think it‟s more, it‟s polite. „Cause then it‟s not going off really loud all the time when I get messages, „cause I do get quite a few messages (laughs)… „cause I still know when I get a message cause it‟s on vibrate, but everybody else doesn‟t, (Kathy).



5. Discussion and Conclusion These examples illustrate the ways in which mobile phones are defined socially; these informal rules constitute a major component of the discourse (Foucault 1972, 1979; Macdonnell 1986; Mills 1997). These examples collectively illuminate that the discourse of mobile phone use manifests in society‟s perceptions and practices. By discursively analysing the material collected via three different methods, this discussion has drawn together the informal rules with other research and original empirical evidence to illustrate the divergences and inconsistencies in the discourse of mobile phone use. This paper has elucidated some of the ambiguities and contradictions that currently exist within this discourse in the Hunter region of Australia. It reveals that an individual‟s understanding of their mobile communication practices is influenced by different physical and social contexts and that this in turn effects the socially constructed expectations of mobile phone use. The analysis exposes the underlying tensions between the autonomy individuals may have and the discursive framework they work within when communicating with a mobile phone, and demonstrates how informal rules are often seen as flexible when a person makes choices and constructs meaning in their daily lives. It reveals how these meaning-making processes are culturally and contextually embedded but also variable.

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F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 104-108.


Abstract. This paper highlights the need for the creation of artefacts that make visible the gap between social requirements and the technical affordances of technology. Augmenting the visibility of this gap can lead to a better integration of the process and product of interaction design in intercultural and multidisciplinary projects. Sociotechnical matrices are presented as artefacts that can help to explore this gap. This is illustrated with a case study of the design of interactive systems for farmers in rural Kenya. We discuss experiences in the use of these matrices and new challenges that have emerged in using them

1. Introduction This paper highlights the need for the creation of artefacts that make visible the gap between social requirements and the technical affordances of technology. This sociotechnical gap is defined not only as a problem of matching technology to local user requirements, but also as one of managing assumptions, knowledge and expectations across different disciplinary and cultural boundaries. In line with ideas from Ackerman (Ackerman, 2000), we argue that augmenting the visibility of this gap can lead to a better integration of the process and product of interaction design in intercultural and multidisciplinary projects. In this paper we discuss the rationale behind the creation of artefacts to support the sociotechnical design of interactive systems for farmers in rural Kenya: the ‘Village eScience for Life’ (VeSeL) project1.

2. Exploring the gaps with sociotechnical matrices In a culturally and disciplinary diverse setting, it can be very challenging to capture effectively actors’ assumptions, knowledge and expectations. Many techniques and frameworks offer different solutions for successful participation in design, e.g. exploratory design games (Brandt, 2006); multidisciplinary annotation and collaboration styles (Adamczyk & Twidale, 2007). These methodologies have the merit of viably 1

For more details on VeSel visit

UNDERSTANDING DIVERSITY IN SYSTEMS PRODUCTION AND USE 105 exploring the problem domain. However, making visible and integrating actors’ views for exploring sociotechnical gaps in the design process remains a challenge. The VeSel team has addressed these gaps by designing artefacts for collaboration, to which we refer to as sociotechnical matrices (STM) – for more details on how these have been implemented see (Camara, Abdelnour-Nocera, & Dunckley, 2008). STM highlight the intercultural and multidisciplinary characters of the design process and support the different actors in evaluating the social and technical implications of the scenarios driving design. A sample excerpt showing the key structure of STM, but not all dimensions, can be seen in Table 1. 2

Table 1. Excerpt from Sociotechnical Matrix


Fitness for purpose


Device or Activity

Issues/ Implications Issues/ for users and Implications for context of use technology

Requirements Improve knowledge of Why would they water resource want this? Is there management and water evidence for this? usage leading to improved agricultural practice, food security and income.

Key technology needed to achieve this is…

Trustworthiness Confidentiality Farming Knowledge (for all management system stakeholders)

What aspects of the How to achieve this communities’ technologically? life/practices should be kept confidential? Competitive advantage?


What are farmers’ How malleable is perceptions of the technology? VESEL solution? Are social hierarchies and values being clearly violated with current VESEL design?

Cultural fitness Farming Knowledge ( issues about management system cultural resistance not addressed elsewhere)

In the following lines, we briefly illustrate and explain the rationale for creating STM as tools to deal with the challenges posed by interculturality and multidisciplinarity.


A full STM can be seen in



2.1. THE DESIGN SETTING AS INTERCULTURAL Research on the consumption of technology has found evidence of the integration of artefacts into the everyday life of consumers in ways that differ from those intended by its producers (Honold, 2000; Miller & Slater, 2000). Supposed global products go through a creative process of use and interpretation that will differ to some extent with its built-in meanings and uses. This is a phenomenon highlighted by Suchman (Suchman, 2002) and other authors (e.g. Abdelnour-Nocera, Dunckley, & Sharp, 2007; Mackay & Gillespie, 1992) who see computers and systems as interpretatively flexible. Interactive systems are subject to interpretations grounded in the cultural spaces of their producers and users (Shen, Woolley, & Prior, 2006). STM expose these intercultural gaps by allowing the different actors to explicate their own interpretive frames and reflect on their own cultural positions. In VeSeL, STM are accessed online by members of the team who can give their comments and represent their views, including those of users, about particular scenarios and associated prototypes. In this case, the structure of STM in VeSeL has been adapted from the work of Sommerville and Dewsbury (Sommerville & Dewsbury, 2007) who created matrices around dimensions of systems dependability. Our objective is to design systems that are dependable in supporting knowledge exchange and communication for farmers in sociotechnical configurations rural Kenya. 2.2. THE DESIGN SETTING AS MULTIDISCIPLINARY The importance of a sociotechnical perspective for interaction design also lies in recognising the issues involved in translating knowledge from users into different types of technical knowledge. In this sense, the design setting is a sociotechnical system in which different ‘boundary zones’ can be found. Each of these zones is ‘a transformation zone where representations [of users/actors and technology of the system] are negotiated and handed over between different professions. A boundary zone is also a way of addressing the multidisciplinary challenge’ (Hansen, 2006). STM have been used and iterated in VeSeL as artefacts to represent these zones and their evolution: field studies from farming communities have been fed into STM to inform the creation and evaluation of the first sociotechnical scenarios with technical input from users, interaction designers, educators, sensor network and software engineers; these scenarios in turn have been fed into a second iteration of STM to define an evaluate use cases as they are developed into prototypes, which will become the focus of a third round of STM and so on until post-deployment activities.

3. Have STM bridged the gap in VeSeL? In VeSeL, the use of STM has been positive but it has also faced a number new of challenges. On the positive side, using STM has highlighted the different cultural positions of the members of team, which in turn has clarified which key metaphors and cultural practices should be recognised and included in the user interfaces for Kenya; matrices have exposed differences across the expectations of the different stakeholder

UNDERSTANDING DIVERSITY IN SYSTEMS PRODUCTION AND USE 107 groups in the project, e.g. engineers, users, designers, educators, agricultural experts, helping to overcome the multidisciplinary challenge. Without matching the sociocultural factors to the technological factors in one frame of understanding, the solutions would very likely have been abandoned as soon as we left the sites. In terms of new challenges, we have not been able to reach an even level of participation in the use of STM for two reasons. Firstly, local users and champions have not had continuous direct access to the online STM due to technical problems and, more importantly, to difficulties in explaining the role of this artefact in the design process. The workaround for this has been to bring the ‘voice’ of the users into the STM by arranging the information users provide in field studies and other communications in relevant sections of the matrix. We acknowledge this is not ideal and is open to bias and misrepresentation. The VeSeL team is now finding new ways of expressing the role of the different concepts present in STM so users are able to provide information directly in them. Secondly, it has been difficult for all partners to fully engage with the filling of STM online. So far we have found two main reasons for this: the need to further clarify why they are instrumental to the design process, e.g. while for the work of interaction designers the value of STM is immediate, engineers need further elabora-tion on how decisions made at implementation level have a direct impact on technology acceptance and perceived usefulness; the need to improve their usability, e.g. avoiding text heavy screens and facilitating the visual recognition of whether arguments are in support or against aspects of the scenarios or design decisions being proposed. At the time of writing, we are trying new versions of STM and strategies for their use in VeSeL. While STM have not been used to record every single aspect of the sociotechnical gaps we face, they have helped the VeSeL team to be more aware of them. STM have ‘augmented’, in Ackerman’s terms (2000), the nature of these gaps so we can deal with these more effectively.

References Abdelnour-Nocera, J., Dunckley, L., & Sharp, H. (2007). An approach to the evaluation of usefulness as a social construct using technological frames. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 22(1-2), 153–172. Ackerman, M. (2000). The intellectual challenge of CSCW: the gap between social requirements and technical feasibility. Hum.-Comput. Interact., 15(2), 179-203. Adamczyk, P. D., & Twidale, M. B. (2007). Supporting multidisciplinary collaboration: requirements from novel HCI education. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. Brandt, E. (2006). Designing exploratory design games: a framework for participation in Participatory Design? Paper presented at the Proceedings of the ninth conference on Participatory design: Expanding boundaries in design - Volume 1. Camara, S., Abdelnour-Nocera, J., & Dunckley, L. (2008). Exploring the Problem Domain: A Socio-Technical ICT Design for the Developing World. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the tenth conference on Participatory design: Expanding boundaries in design.



Hansen, T. R. (2006). Strings of experiments: looking at the design process as a set of sociotechnical experiments. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the ninth conference on Participatory design: Expanding boundaries in design - Volume 1. Honold, P. (2000). Culture and Context: An empirical study for the development of a framework for the elicitation of cultural influence in product Usage. International Journal of HumanComputer Interaction, 12(3), 327-345. Mackay, H., & Gillespie, G. (1992). Extending the social shaping of technology approach: ideology and appropriation. Social Studies of Science, 22(4), 685-716. Miller, D., & Slater, D. (2000). The Internet : an ethnographic approach. Oxford ; New York: New York University Press. Shen, S.-T., Woolley, M., & Prior, S. (2006). Towards culture-centred design. Interacting with Computers, 18(4), 820-852. Sommerville, I., & Dewsbury, G. (2007). Dependable domestic systems design: A socio-technical approach. Interacting with Computers, 19(4), 438-456. Suchman, L. (2002). Practice-based design of information systems: notes from the hyperdeveloped world. The Information Society, 18(2), 139-144.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 109-116.

RESEARCHING INTERCULTURAL PARTICIPATORY DESIGN JOHAN BOLMSTEN IT-University of Copenhagen and World Maritime University, Denmark

Abstract. What impact does culture have on tools and techniques that are used to facilitate cooperation amongst stakeholders in Information Communication Technology (ICT) design projects? This is a question facing the ICT development activities at the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden. At the university around 300 staff and students from 90 different countries come together every year. Continuously finding ways to improve how they can actively participate in design activities of useful and usable ICT support to benefit their everyday work is a prioritized area. This short paper presents a case that illustrates the intertwined and negotiated characteristics of culture when working with tools and techniques for cooperation in a student ICT design project. Using the case, an ethnographically based research cycle is explored to make sense of and ultimately further improve the interactions between the actors in an intercultural application domain.

1 Introduction “Culture is a mess”…”Culture is so basic, so fundamental, so important, and no one can’t quite figure out what it is” (Agar, 1994). Both these statements can be used to frame a discussion of the importance of intercultural considerations and the challenges and opportunities of conducting research within this domain at the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmö, Sweden. At the university around 300 staffs and students from 90 different countries come together every year. In this sense, WMU presents an environment where intercultural encounters are part of the very core of organizational activities, including ICT development work. The impact that culture has on tools and techniques that are used to facilitate cooperation amongst stakeholders in ICT design project is thereby a question facing the in-house development department on a daily basis. With its focus on 1) bringing heterogeneous stakeholders together in local development projects and 2) domain-expert driven development processes, Participatory Design (PD) is explored as an organizational implementation strategy both in staff and student related ICT development projects. To this end, continuously finding ways to improve how domain-experts can actively participate in design activities of useful and usable ICT support to benefit their everyday work is a prioritized area. Intercultural considerations are an active area within Information Systems (IS) research. However, the predominate way put forward of relating to culture through



nationally derived value dimensions is increasingly receiving critique as not sufficient to guide improvement endeavors such as the ones at WMU. This short paper puts forward an alternative methodological approach based on an ethnographic research cycle that is currently explored at WMU to understand culture in relation to ICT design. Using a case involving students designing ICT application in a project oriented course preliminary results of applying the research cycle is presented. The research is conducted from within and is part of a PhD study where the author complements his daily work with “embedded research”. The daily interactions with stakeholders constitute the main empirical base in the research process.

2 Participatory Design and Intercultural Research 2.1. PARTICIPATORY DESIGN RESEARCH A focal point in PD is the acceptance of bounded rationality and a pluralistic view of organizational actors and their interactions. According to the interpretation used here, PD provides a set of tools, methods and techniques that focus on the cooperation between domain experts and software engineers around the development of IT support. This is reflected in PD tools and techniques through viewing the development of software as a continuous and cooperative learning process; a process involving both the design in it-self as well as the unfolding of a problem and its corresponding solution (Floyd, 1992). Contemporary PD research approaches commonly targets how end-users in the capacity of domain-experts can influence situated innovation in the local project (Y Dittrich, Eriksén, & Wessels, 2003; Greenbaum, 2008). One recent development to this end is the Cooperative Method Development (CMD) framework, which is used as a foundational methodological framework within this research study (Y. Dittrich, Rönkkö, Eriksson, Hansson, & Lindeberg, 2008). The CMD framework is based on an action research cycle consisting of three phases: understanding, deliberating change, implementation, and evaluation of improvements. Using an ethnographic research perspective, focus is put on the domain experts’ perspective when evaluating empirical research, deliberating improvements and also designing the research process in-itself. 2.2. RESEARCHING INTERCULTURAL PARTICIPATORY DESIGN This research study joins a growing argumentation within IS research claiming that the to date dominate approach of using nationally derived value dimensions (for example (Hofstede, 2005)) when studying intercultural encounters, alone, give a to simplistic view of the notion of culture and inquiry into intercultural encounters. A more dynamic view of culture is called for; one that sees culture as contested, temporal and emergent (Myers & Tan, 2002). Culture is not merely set in pre-defined structures and concepts but in “rules and behavior and the ability to deploy resources which exists in the human mind itself” (Walsham, 2002). In this regard, the dynamics of culture can be understood from a negotiated perspective where national culture together with other cultural traits as a professional identity or social style serve as a point of



departure when forming or entering a relationship in a multicultural environment. Factors like organizational structure, relations of power, but also specific issues and upcoming circumstances, then, help to shape or trigger a negotiation process towards a new and emerging cultural landscape (Brannen & Salk, 2000; Friedman, 2005). To relate to culture in this way, this research study explores an ethnographically inspired research process framework that coincides with the sentiment of the CMD action research cycle used in PD research. The framework, which is originally developed, by (Pfeiffer, 1998), has been practically applied by (Nystrรถm, 2001) in an intercultural environment.

Figure 2. Free translation of (Pfeiffer, 1998) learning cycle.

As the CMD approach, the framework takes its stance in action (1). In this case in relation to the design of ICT in an application domain that is interesting from an intercultural perspective. It involves individual (2) as well as collective reflection (3) where people are in charge of their own learning process. In this sense, in the same way as the CMD framework it goes beyond mere involvement of actors in the design of a product and includes an appropriation of the design process itself (Winschiers, 2006). It is therefore structured enough to give practical guidance but flexible enough to enable situated tailoring in the specific research project. The goal is to come up with a new frame of understanding involving new theories and principles (4) on two different levels a) On an individual level a new frame may improve your own communication. b) For the purposes of research, generalizations beyond the individual are called for. The frames have to be anchored with reference to some group or community. Reflections concerning how to improve PD techniques and tools including intercultural considerations constitute an input for future action (5). This means that the research focus is to influence or change some aspect of the targeted research domain. The



challenge for both PD and intercultural considerations is to prove itself viable in a new cycle of organizational application.

3. The WMU research setting At WMU, a nationally diverse staff body consisting of 20 academic1 and 30 administrative and assisting staff members from 15 different countries works with academic and professional delivery of courses, research, and administration. The core mandate of the university is to serve the international maritime community - under the flag of the international maritime organization (IMO) - by providing master programs to maritime professionals predominately from developing countries. 250 students from about 70 different countries graduated as part of the 2009 class. At the university the author is employed as an “IT Program Officer”, where I complement my daily work with PhD studies as an “embedded” researcher. In this way, my own work as a software designer and lecturer and my interactions with user stakeholders comes to constitute the main empirical base in the research process. Through an active collaboration between me - as the primary researcher -and those participating in the research, the aim is to understand and improve whatever is the focus of the investigation.

4. A project-oriented course regarding ICT development For the purposes of this paper, intercultural encounters are illustrated through the interactions taking place in and around a project-oriented course regarding ICT development. The students attending the course are themselves professors and lectures at different Maritime Education Training (MET) institutes around the world. To them the course is of relevance, as ICT increasingly is an important component for MET. To this end, the learning goals are twofold: (1) for the students to develop a basic understanding of ICT support to support the MET work area and (2) to achieve a fundamental understanding of how to work with issues of implementation and design in an organizational setting. The course takes advantage of the fact that due to the development and deployment of configurable half-products, e.g. contents management systems, how to work with design, development and maintenance of organizational ICT support has changed character. Users, today, may not only participate in design phases of tailor-made programs, they also select, configure, and maintain configurations. With no requirement on prior technical expertise, the students in their capacity of domain experts are confidently put in the role of local designers that can take the lead in the (Participatory) Design, procurement, development and configuration of an organization’s infrastructure. To mirror a real world implementation project, the main part of the one-week course consists of developing a technical prototype for a realistic application. The 1

The academic staffs are complemented by around 100 visiting professors from governments, international organizations in industry and in the higher education sector.



prototype should contain basic functionality of an ICT portal to support staff and student communication. The project group receives coaching like supervision and have a purposefully arranged and equipped classroom to their disposal. During the course, the students work with a technical platform that allows for rapid application development without necessarily requiring programming skills. A complete technical product can be produced through administration and configuration of an existing framework and existing software modules. Learning to handle its possibilities and constraints enable maritime professionals and MET professionals to cope with similar complex customization and configuration tools in their home organizations. Today, there are a wide variety of such technical products available both in the open source community and in the commercial market. To enable an understanding of how relevant MET work practices can be supported by the capabilities of the technical platform in a new ICT design an agile development approach is used together with PD inspired techniques and tools. A number of best practices are put forward to practically guide the project work. These include: a project centered style of work is for example upheld by collective ownership of the solution designed by all involved project members, and all development is done through pair programming. A project is guided by an overarching metaphor that is broken down into concrete requirements through a planning game, where individual pieces functionality are specified from the customers own descriptions on story cards. An evolutionary mode of development is promoted through developing functionality in small releases with, at any given time, the most simple design possible that is continuously integrated into an operational product. In addition, different types of representation techniques such as paper-based mock-ups are used. During the three years the course have been taught, all groups have succeed to create a working prototype together with a meaningful discussion of how it integrates into organizational activities. To date, two of the prototypes are continued to be developed by students in their home organization.

5. Intercultural considerations unfolded A hotchpotch of different intercultural considerations and implications are present both in and around the course. Such considerations start even before the course. Each year before the course begins, a task facing a course professor and me is to divide the students in appropriate teams. The goal of our exercise is to achieve a suitable team composition that is able to give the students a taste of the dynamics of ICT design work in a real implementation setting. This information that we have to base our selection on is quite limited. For the class of 2010 the following information were available to us: name, gender – three women and six men, age – ranging from 27 to 43, professional and educational background – most of them with experience within maritime engineering, and country of origin – Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chile, Japan, Myanmar, Viet Nam, Malaysia, and Malawi. What is apparent is how our discussion often circles around simple and common stereotypes such as that women are less technically capable than men; someone from



Japan will be more technology savvy than someone from Malawi and will therefore be more likely to perform better in the project work; in the same way, a woman from Viet Nam will be less likely to play an outspoken and prominent role in a project group compared to a guy from Saudi Arabia or Chile etc. However, having been involved in this course a number of times, what is also apparent is how these stereotypes often are broken once the course commences. Using the above assumptions as a base for discussions, an account follows of how the course unfolds. The account given is based on both individual as well as collective reflections. The Malawi student, FS, was the second participant from his MET institution attending the course. Both he and his colleague showed a profound interest in how ICT potentially could support staff and student communication in the future. However, they had limited technical experience in general and regarding ICT in particular. At their institution computers were currently a novelty and networks non-existent. When coming to WMU as a student was the first time that he had experienced staff and student communication using ICT. And when he sat down in front of the computers in the classroom during the first day of the course, he expressed that the idea of him being able to hands-on contribute to the work of a technical prototype seemed far-fetched. However, as it turned out - much to his own but also to our surprise - he became one of the most influential members of his group. Reflecting after the course had ended, he believed that the paper-based mock-ups had in particular worked in his favor both to understand the technical platform and to communicate with his group members. The technical platform that is used during the course essentially works like a canvas divided into different panes in which different pieces of functionality are placed such as document management, announcements, forums etc. Every morning his group began their day in front of an A2 sheet of paper with a printed browser window. Using printouts of the different pieces of functionality available to them, coloring pens, scissors, tape, and glue they together mapped out the design of the web pages that they were going to work with during the day and discussed their purpose. They then divided the work into story and task cards and worked in pairs during the reminder of the day to practically implement the functionality into the technical prototype. This became a way for FS not only to understand how a vision for ICT support could be realistically translated into a certain piece of technical functionality, but also how to practically engage in the work with the technical implementation himself. Contrary, to FS, the Vietnamese student, TL, turned out to be technical capable. She had worked with technical programming in a number of projects in her home organization before. As predicted, she was, however, comparably silent. Also to her though, the project tools and techniques worked in her favor, but from the other way around. The risk she was running in the project work was to end up in a dedicated technical role and being told by the other project members what functionality to implement. However, in line with the PD foundation of the course, collective ownership is one of the cornerstones that denote the project work. This means that she was, on the one side, not allowed to work only or alone with technical programming. In the same way, all major design decisions of what functionality to implement have to be collectively made by the group. This is practically supported through how the planning game, story cards, small releases (evolutionary design), pair programming etc works. Even the idea that everybody works in the same room (which is also the case in a real



implementation setting) supports this practice. In this way, she was naturally put in the centre of the project work together. After the course had finished, she expressed that this had helped her to “take place” in the project work and voice her opinion. The Japanese student, MS, was probably the most technically capable person taking the course. However, as opposed to his colleagues in the group he did not appreciate the “kinder garden” style of the paper-based mock-ups. In addition, the egalitarian project model to him came across as messy, ineffective, and unrealistic in comparison to the work approach he was used to from his home organization. In his experience a clearer division of roles and tasks were preferable, where a project manager would assign each project member tasks. To this end, he also argued for the benefits of using a project management tool that he was accustomed to where tasks and roles clearly could be specified and assigned. In his mind, this would have allowed for a more effective and fair work division and systematic follow-up of how the work proceeded. In this sense, the tools and techniques used during the course for him in essence became an obstacle. And accordingly, this had negative implication for his motivation and participation in the project work.

6. Concluding Remarks It could seem like a straightforward exercise to derive differences, surprises, or departures from what we know2 that is related to different cultural dimensions in an environment like WMU. However, as is shown through the above discussion, this is not necessary the case. In this sense, the negotiated perspective of culture is illustrated where many types of cultural values may be interrelated in an intricate web of connections. For the specialization professor and I, the experiences around the Vietnamese student became an example of how national culture is mixed up with professional experience and culture. The same could also very well be the case in regard to the Japanese student where traditional Japanese national culture traits such as high power distance might be accentuated by his professional occupation as an onboard vessel trainer of young marine cadets – probably in-itself a quite hierarchical and “clear commands type of” environment. To this end, we are only in the starting phases of exploring how the proposed research framework can be put into action and how it can bring value in terms of change. To reach a – for our purposes - coherent understanding of how different cultural dimensions break down or hold together that can lead to generalizations of new theories and principles additional collective reflection is needed. In relation to the course, we have experimented with conducting follow-up workshops (after all course related matters are completed) where the students can volunteer to continue to reflect on the course work and outcomes. In our case, an external professor co-organized the workshop and tools such as freehand drawings, collages, communication models, timelines, and design sketches presented were used to support reflection. Following the workshops revisions of the course material and also teaching approach has been 2

This is what Agar refers to as a rich point that forms the very basics of intercultural learning.



undertaken. Something that we, for example, continuously work with and that is constantly up for discussion is the egalitarian project model. This was the first time someone from Japan attended the course which again resulted in new reflections of what working in this way meant, how is it transformed into action, and what tools and techniques this collaboration style implicate?

References Agar, M. (1994). Language Shock: Understanding The Culture Of Conversation (1 ed.): Harper Paperbacks. Brannen, M., & Salk, J. (2000). Partnering across borders: Negotiating organizational culture in a German-Japanese joint venture. Human Relations, 53(4), 451. Dittrich, Y., Eriksén, S., & Wessels, B. (2003). From Knowledge Transfer to Situated Innovation. Cultivating spaces for co-operation in innovation and design between academics, user groups and ICT providers. Paper presented at the Presented at the international conference 'Innovations in Europe: Dynamics, Institutions, and Values'. from Plus& Dittrich, Y., Rönkkö, K., Eriksson, J., Hansson, C., & Lindeberg, O. (2008). Cooperative method development. Empir Software Eng, 13(3), 231-260. Floyd, C. (1992). Software Development as Reality Construction. Software Development and Reality Construction. Friedman, V. (2005). Negotiating Reality: A Theory of Action Approach to Intercultural Competence. Management learning, 36(1), 69-86. Greenbaum, J. (2008). Participatory Problem Solving through Interactive Environments. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference. Hofstede, G. (2005). Cultures and organizations: Software for the mind: McGraw-Hill Professional. Myers, M. D., & Tan, F. B. (2002). Beyond Models of Natoinal Culture in Information Systems Research. Journal of Global Information Management, 10(1), 24-32. Nyström, J. (2001). Att mötas och utvecklas : ABC i att bygga interkulturella utbyten: Stockholm Centrum för internationellt ungdomsutbyte. Pfeiffer, J. W. (1998). Using structured experiences in human resource development: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Walsham, G. (2002). Cross-cultural software production and use: a structurational analysis. Mis Quarterly, 359-380. Winschiers, H. (2006). The challenges of Participatory Design in an intercultural context: Designing for Usability in Namibia. Paper presented at the Participatory Design Conference, Trento, Italy

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 117-123.

UNDESIGNING1 CULTURE A brief reflection on design as ethical practice MAJA VAN DER VELDEN Department of Informatics University of Oslo, Norway

Abstract. This essay furthers the understanding of design as ethical practice. Based on a perspective on the relationship between humans and technology as a material-discursive practice, an argument is developed in which the meaning and matter of a technology is not perceived as the effect of use only. Matter and meaning emerge in each iteration in the design process of a technology. A design strategy is presented in which ethics becomes an integral part of the design process.

1. Do artifacts have culture? In 1980, Langdon Winner asked, “Do artifacts have politics?� This was a provoking question, which resulted in much debate. Since then we have asked similar questions: Do artifacts have gender (Berg & Lie, 1995)? Do artifacts have ethics (Ensmenger, 2007)? Do artifacts have culture? At the CATaC conferences this question is asked differently: What are the cultural attitudes towards artifacts? This formulation of the question may suggest to some that artifacts, such as information and communication technologies, have no culture, only people or nations have culture. There are different ways we can discuss the relationship between culture and technology design. We can, for example, talk about the differences in culture between the designers and developers on the one hand, and the users on the other. When there is too much discrepancy between the perspectives of the designers and users, a technology design may fail. Oudshoorn et al (2004) showed how designers projected their interests and needs on the future users and then scripted those users into the design. We see this also happening in well-willing ICT projects for use in developing countries or in design projects in which a particular type of use and user are inscribed in the technology (e.g. vignette 2).


With a nod to no. 1 Undesigner, the late Tibor Kalman (see The essay continues an exploration started in a yet unpublished article in which we looked at strategies for gendering design (see van der Velden et al., 2010 under review).



A common understanding of the relationship between culture and technology is found in social constructivism. In this perspective it is argued that a piece of technology gets “meaning through use” (e.g. Rundle & Conley, 2007). The cultural appropriateness of a technology is the explained by the social context. In this perspective, information and communication technologies are tools for human activities. This perspective is shared by software engineers, computer and information scientists, and designers alike, even when they disagree on many other issues when working on the design, development, and implementation of a piece of technology. It is also shared with the users, who, from a consumer perspective, may decide to buy and use one piece of technology, but not another, because of the meaning they subscribe to such technology. There are many different ways to theorise and investigate the relationship between humans and technology. In this essay I will work with another perspective, which can be found in feminist science and technology studies. In this approach, the interactions between humans and technologies are understood as a material-discursive practice, in which materiality and meaning come into being when humans and technologies not interact, but intra-act (Barad, 2007). Lucy Suchman (2007, p. 267) describes the notion of intra-action as follows: “Whereas the construct of interaction suggests two entities, given in advance, that come together and engage in some kind of exchange, intra-action underscores the sense in which subjects and objects emerge through their encounters with each other”.

In this perspective, the characteristics, properties, and meanings of technologies emerge from the intra-actions with other artifacts and with humans. The culture of an artifact is the effect of a particular configuration of humans and things. Artifacts do have culture, but not as an intrinsic characteristic, neither as something given by its users. I am interested in a particular question about the relationships between technology and culture, namely: Can we design networks and databases that allow people to archive and share their knowledge in a manner that is appropriate to their knowledge and to their way of knowing the world? Will our designs be more culturally appropriate when we take culture into consideration in the design process? If I follow the feminist tradition of Barad and Suchman, we can say that a technology gets its power, agency, and meaning in a configuration of humans and things. In other words, cultural meaning is not given in the design, but the property of an assemblage, which include the design. This perspective presents us with a serious problem: How can we do justice to culture in design if we cannot specify culture in a design? In the next sections I will explore this question with the help of two vignettes taken from my research on knowledge sharing for development. The vignettes bring the different roles of technology design to the foreground and confront us with the need for technology designs that do justice to culture. I will continue my exploration with a brief discussion of some of the insights of the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Brigham and Introna‟s understanding of Levinas‟ perspective on the relationship between the Self and the Other gives a possible answer on my question about the relationship between culture and technology: we have to undesign the design!



2. Knowledge sharing for development The following vignettes are based on my fieldwork in India and Kenya in 2006 and 2007. I investigated a global distributed computer network for the sharing of „local knowledge for local development‟. In my research I followed the notion of knowledge, mapping out the people, organizations, technologies, laws, and practices, which played a role in establishing the different meanings of „local knowledge for local development‟ in this particular project. VIGNETTE 1 The healer shows me two red seeds. They are used, she says, to draw out the poison from snakebite. Another healer shows me how she draws out the healing oil before she picks the leaves. While we discuss the medicinal characteristics of the different plants, I notice that the community volunteer follows our conversation by moving her finger along the words in a large notebook. When we later sit down in her house to eat some lunch, I asked her what she was doing. She shows me the notebook in which she has written down what the community healers told her about how to prepare treatments for all kinds of illnesses and wounds. She tells me how she has copied the treatments into files on the computer and how she sent such files via a local computer network to the local research centre. When I later visit the local research centre, the knowledge sharing coordinator shows me how the local names for local herbs, plants, and trees, and their medicinal characteristics, are taken from the file and transferred to another file. Here the Latin names, based on the Linnaeus nomenclature, are added. The file is then sent to the main Research Centre. Some time later I attend at the Research Centre a presentation on the design and development of the databases that will contain local knowledge for local development. I asked if I could find the healers’ knowledge about plants and treatments in one of these databases. The answer was that such knowledge could only be added to their database when the validity of the knowledge claim is established in a proper laboratory. Following knowledge, from the embodied and situated knowledge of a traditional healer in a small Indian village, to the verified and codified knowledge of a database in a large research centre in the city, brings out the role of the technology. Technology, in terms of a notebook, computers, software programmes, networks, and a laboratory, played an important role in making the translation and transportation of local knowledge possible. The result, however, is a kind of knowledge that is not very useful for local healers, as information about when, where, and how to pick the leaves, bark, or seeds, and how, when and where to apply the treatment, has disappeared. In the next vignette, I describe how Jonathan, one of the volunteer knowledge workers in the global network, uses the software programme. The design of the software was flexible and open in order to address the cultural diversity found among the users 2. The default settings could be adapted to the particular needs of the local community, 2

At the time of my research, the Network connected organisations and communities in thirteen countries in Asia and Africa.



such as the language of the user interface and the categories for organising the articles on local knowledge in the local and global network. VIGNETTE 2 I sat next to Jonathan in his office at a Maasai training centre while he used his satellite radio to establish an automated Internet connection with the global knowledge-sharing Network. He downloaded new articles and uploaded the articles he had written himself. Afterwards we looked at the articles he had written the past year. He showed me how he used the Network’s software to write an article. He then chose the categories that indicated the article’s ‘type’ (news, knowledge, event, etc.), ‘subject’ (agriculture, health, etc.), and ‘intended audience’ (housewives, farmers, fishermen, etc.). We looked at all the possible categories. Jonathan showed me that there were no categories for the audience for which he usually writes his stories: Maasai communities and other pastoralist peoples in eastern Africa. I show Jonathan the option to create local categories. This option was however located outside the screen he normally uses to write, classify, and upload his stories. Jonathan responded that he did not see it as his task or responsibility to use that option to localise the classification system. He had not been part of the team that decided on the categories in the default classification system and he did not feel that his mandate to work with the software extended to other screens then the ones he uses to read and write articles. The global network for local knowledge sharing was established to bring out the role of local knowledge for local development. What we see in these vignettes is that local knowledge became both visible and invisible when mediated through technology. What happened? If we would apply Heeks‟ (2002) „design-actuality gaps‟ model, we could bring out some of the design failures. The vignettes point, however, to the need of a more complex analysis, based on a different understanding of human-technology relations. The vignettes give us insight into the emergent effect of the outcomes of a particular design. These effects are the result of particular configurations of people and things, in which new possibilities and constraints emerge. In vignette 1 we can read how knowledge is shared in ways that radically alter the meaning and ownership of the knowledge (van der Velden, 2006). In vignette 2 we can read how knowledge becomes invisible in the default classification system of the global network. Jonathan was not able to add the categories „Maasai‟ and „pastoralist‟ to the classification system in his iteration of the design of the software, which made these categories also invisible for future iterations of the design by the volunteers who will take over from Jonathan. The vignettes show the need for technology designs that allow people to archive and share their knowledge in a manner that is appropriate to their knowledge and to their way of knowing the world. The challenge is to find a design strategy, which addresses both the need to do justice to culture in design, as well as the understanding that design, culture, use, and their relations, are emergent.



3. Undesigning the design In “Invoking politics and ethics in the design of information technology: undesigning the design”, Martin Brigham and Lucas Introna (2007) argue for a radical understanding of the division between humans and technology. Maintaining the ontological division between humans and technology, they argue, prevent us from having an understanding of the role of politics and ethics in design. The authors argue that technologies are relational effects, transforming as “they „travel‟ between places and over time and refashion the context into which they are introduced in ways that surpass intentions and that cannot be predicted completely in advance” (p.5). Brigham and Introna (2007) tell us that we need to look at ethics, not politics, when we want to address the ethics of design and use, in particular in situations in which we are concerned with „others‟, such as users from other cultures than those of the designers, or users who were not specified during the design process. They call upon the ethical philosophy of Levinas, whose ethics of the Other addresses our responsibility for the Other and the relationship between our Self and the unique, unknowable Other (van der Velden 2008, 2009). Brigham and Introna emphasise two aspects from Levinas‟ ethical philosophy, which are important for our discussion. The first one is the difference between need and desire, the second one the difference between saying and said. Need, according to Levinas, is an instrumentalist assumption, as in „we need to do justice to culture in technology design‟. Such is a need is a self-centred need, an expression of our “attempts to control, categorise and order” (p.6). Need is thus the fulfillment of one‟s own wants and is about the love for the Self (ibid.). Need is contrasted with desire, an a-satiable need, which is about the love for the Other. A desire cannot be fulfilled because one can never know the Other and his or her desired (the need of the Other). Related to need and desire are the notions of saying and said. The saying refers to the meaningful communication between the Self and the Other, which is reduced by the Self to the said. The said is what remains of the meaningful communication after it has been ordered and classified by the Self. Both need and said are based on violence against the unknowable Other and belong to the domain of politics. Levinas proposed an unsaying the said, in which the saying is revealed again. In a similar manner, Brigham and Introna propose an undesigning the design. If the design represents need and the said, undesigning the design will make it possible to reveal what is made invisible in the design. If we go back to our original concern, how to design for culture, we can now see how every attempt to design for culture will result in violence. As became clear in the vignettes, the design did not only create new possibilities, also new constraints. Based on the ethical philosophy of Levinas we can now look for a non-violent and respectful way of designing technology. The undesigning the design strategy should be based on respect for the Other. Trying to understand the Other on the basis of our own being, our own needs, and our own representations of the Other, will only harm the Other (van der Velden, 2009).



4. Design as ethical practice This essay concerns the need and desire to do justice to culture in technology designs. Based on a discussion of the ethical philosophy of Levinas, every design can be understood as a new ordering „from above‟, which need to be questioned and undesigned. What does this mean for our design practices? Can we do justice to culture in design, when every design will result in some form of violence to existing or not yet known future users? I have proposed to understand the interactions between humans and technology as material-discursive practices in which materiality, in the form of technologies, designs, and bodies, and meaning emerge. An undesigning the design strategy would intervene in the ongoing practices. Each iteration in a design process is the enactment of what Barad (2003, 2007) calls “agential cuts”. An agential cut is a particular step in the intra-active becoming of matter and meaning; a moment in the design process in which people and things, such as culture, technology, and users, get determinate matter and meaning. Undesigning the design can thus be seen as a design strategy, which enables us to make responsible cuts. Each iteration, each agential cut in the design process, is based on decisions on who and what matters. Each cut creates new possibilities and new constraints, resulting in emergent new inclusions and exclusions. Undesigning the design does not simplify the design practice and it will not per definition result in better designs. It rather involves us in a design practice that is ongoing, never finished. It complicates our work, as it confronts us with our infinite responsibility towards the Other as well as with the unknowable effects our design decisions. Maybe that is exactly the strength of undesigning the design. It slows us down. It makes us think and rethink. It makes us postpone certain design decisions in order to keep certain possibilities open as long as possible. It makes us aware that design is a thoroughly ethical and political practice, and that we, as designers and as ethical subjects, are fully interconnected with this practice.

Acknowledgement My colleague Christina Mörtberg has been my inspiring guide in feminist science and technology studies, in particular in my understanding of the work by Karen Barad.

References Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs 28, no. 3: 801-831. Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press. Berg, A & Lie, M. (1995). Feminism and Constructivism: Do Artifacts have gender? Science, Technology, & Human Values, 20, 3, pp. 332-351 Brigham, M. & Introna, L. (2007). Invoking politics and ethics in the design of information technology: undesigning the design. In Ethics and Information Technology, 9, pp.1-10.



Ensmenger, N. (2007). Computers as Ethical Artifacts. In IEEEAnnals of the History of Computing, 88, pp. 85-86. Heeks, R. (2002). Failure, Success and Improvisation of Information Systems Projects in Developing Countries. Development Informatics Working Paper. Manchester: University of Manchester Oudshoorn, M., Rommes, E. & Stinstra, M. (2004). Configuring the User as Everybody: Gender and Design Cultures in Information and Communication Technologies. Science Technology Human Values 29, 1, pp.30-63. Rundle, M. & Conley, C. (2007). Ethical implications of emergent technologies: A survey. Paris: UNESCO. Suchman, L. (2007). Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. van der Velden, M. (2006). A license to know: Regulatory tactics of a global network. In F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication 2006, Murdoch University, Australia, pp. 555-563. van der Velden, M. (2008). Whatâ€&#x;s love got to do with IT? On ethics and accountability in telling technology stories. In F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication 2008, Murdoch University, Australia, pp. 26-39. van der Velden, M. (2009). Another design is Possible: Looking for ethical agency in global information and communication technology. PhD thesis. Bergen: University of Bergen. van der Velden, M., MĂśrtberg, C. & Elovaara, P. (2010, under review). Between Need and Desire: Exploring Strategies for Gendering Design.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 124-134.

IMPACTS OF CULTURE ON WEB USABILITY LINDA LIM School of Information Technology Murdoch University Murdoch WA 6150 Australia

Abstract. This paper describes an experimental study examining the impacts of culture on web site design and usability, in terms of localisation and internationalisation. A pilot study has been undertaken to determine the effectiveness of the research design, methodology and the following enhancements for a much larger study, addressing the cultural differences among people and issues in relation to the localisation/internationlisation of web sites. The rationale is to investigate whether web sites are useful for specific cultural groups or for a general population of users. This paper presents an overview of the experimental study and reports on the results of a main study phase.

1. Introduction This experimental study aims to examine the role of cultural differences in the usability of web sites. The impacts of culture on web site usability are investigated to determine how web sites can be designed to suit various cultures, by addressing specific factors that affect localisation and internationalisation of web sites and user preferences. A pilot study has been carried out to test the effectiveness of the research methodology and design. The results have showed that the materials and protocols were appropriate for the main study, following specific modifications. Although the results are only indicative due to the small number of participants in each group, the mainly insignificant statistical results confirm that a larger number of participants were necessary for the main study. The pilot study was very effective in improving materials and protocols for the main study. The constructs of interest in an earlier research were culture and the individual attributes of gender, age, computer experience and disabilities (Lim, 1999). Those constructs were examined to explore how they could impact on people’s preferences for different aspects of interaction design. Evers and Day (1997) examined the role of culture in interface acceptance. Evers (2001) examined the cultural aspects of interface understanding, using international user groups to carry out an empirical assessment of an e-learning web site. Researches from countries such as Australia, China/Japan, South Africa, North America, Netherlands and Venezuela were involved in this international collaboration. Other relevant work have also been taken on by Murrell (1998), Stander (1998), Yeo (2003) who highlighted that language translation is inadequate for the



course of localisation, and Kralisch, Yeo & Nurfauza (2006) who emphasised that linguistic and cultural differences are present in the grouping of information, with the impact of such differences pertaining to web sites. According to Hongladarom (1998), although the Internet is basically a Western product, there is possible conflict between non-Western cultures and Internet technologies. However, due to the availability of the web to a global audience, culture plays a vital role on the web to explain this potential difference. Another possibility that could arise is a community culture which is independent of each individual culture’s historical background, when individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds interact on the web. Therefore, the issue of usability of web sites in terms of localisation (the individual user’s cultural background) and internationalisation (the web culture formed among online communities) of web sites, and which one dominates preference on the web is important. It was theorised by Turk (2000) that a “world wide web culture” may be appearing from web users that would strengthen the notion of internationalisation of web sites rather than a “world wide web of cultures” designed specifically for individual cultures in the localisation of web sites. Hence, the research problem for this experimental study consists of the impact of culture in terms of user preferences, and localisation and internationalisation of web sites. In this experimental study, a web culture comprises individuals despite their cultural origins, forming a culture due to having considerable exposure to the web, motivating the design of web sites for all web users.

2. Overview of Experimental Study 2.1. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN This experimental study involved an experiment that required participants to visit two versions of a web site (one localised and one internationalised), to collect and analyse user preferences for aspects of local and international versions of a virtual restaurant web site. The main study employed the same experimental design as the pilot study, where participants were asked to provide responses to demographic questions, to engage in various usability tasks, and to respond to questions concerning the usability tasks (Table 1.), with improved materials and protocols. Distinctions among the Australian, Chinese and International web site versions were made more obvious in terms of theme, navigation bar, hypertext links, search tool, language, icons, colours and symbols. Other improvements not specific to differentiating the web site versions were also made. The instructions provided on each web site version in the main study were improved to include a link directing participants to a separate set of instructions to reduce the chance of “missing out” the second web site version and to guide participants through the sequence of tasks.


L. LIM Table 1. Experimental groups and web site versions.

2.2. NATURE OF PARTICIPANTS The participants recruited for the pilot study were not used again in the main study in order to ensure independent observations. A total of 301 participants (99 Australians; 98 Chinese; 104 International) were recruited from within and outside Australia for the main study. Due to the recruitment method, it was not possible to achieve a gender balance, without extending the period of recruitment to an unreasonable length of time. All were aged between 18 and 70 years (mean of 36.4 years), with 197 males and 104 females. The objective of this experimental study is to obtain a better understanding of an internationalised web culture. In the past two decades, due to job and educational opportunities in other countries, many people have moved from their place of birth. As the progress of the web also took place when relocation was increasing during the last twenty years, the influence of the English language was also rising. The widespread use of the English language is the outcome of the web coming from the U.S. and web sites using English as the principal means of distributing information online. This partially explains the likelihood of people who came from non-English speaking countries being able to understand English, especially among the younger generation who grew up using computers and the web, even though some may be living in their birth countries. In the main study, there was a greater opportunity of getting a multicultural sample, due to the interchange of people within the region and the recruitment method. 2.3. DATA COLLECTION The main study utilised an Australian (Localised) version, a Chinese (Localised) version and an Internationalised version of the web site. Data was collected from demographic questions, web site usability tasks and questions concerning the tasks. Unlike the pilot study, the main study was conducted over a period of five months. During this period of time, data was collected until the participant numbers were considered adequate. No post-experiment interviews were conducted in the main study. 2.4. DATA ANALYSIS The Nationality, Country and Culture variables were combined to result in the construct Dominant Culture. This was attained when each participant chose the same option (Australian, Chinese or Other) for two or three of the Nationality, Country and Culture



variables. If a different option was chosen for three of the mentioned variables, the option chosen for the Culture variable dominates the Dominant Culture construct. The Language construct includes Mother Tongue and Preferred Language. In the online questionnaire as part of the demographic data, the participants were asked to choose from three options of Mother Tongue (Australian English, Mandarin, Other). Preferred Language (Australian English; Mandarin; International English) may be different from the Mother Tongue of participants. For instance, an individual whose Mother Tongue is Korean may prefer Australian English because he/she has spent most of his/her life in Australia. In this experimental study, participants were allocated to one of three groups as a result of their selection of Preferred Language because it was chosen as the dominant aspect of culture for the demographic represented by the participants, despite differing from their Mother Tongue. Thus, Mother Tongue represents the Language construct. The Religion construct is represented by seven options (None, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Other). Halal and vegetarian dishes had symbols assigned to them in the web site versions. Symbols for meat and beef were also assigned to clearly distinguish between vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu items on the virtual restaurant web site versions. The Overall Culture encompasses the Mother Tongue, Religion and Dominant Culture of participants. They correspond to the cultural background of participants and assist the examination of the impacts of culture on web design and usability of the versions of Australian, Chinese and International web sites. Independent variables comprised demographic factors: Computer Experience, Computer Usage, Web Experience, Web Usage, Nationality, Country Lived, Identified Culture, Years Living In Australia, Mother Tongue, Standard of English, Religion, Age and Gender. The dependent variables pertain to usability aspects of web site design which were assessed by participant performance and preferences, and consist of web task responses, web design responses, and open-ended survey responses. The relationship between independent and dependent variables is illustrated in Figure 1.



Figure 1. Relationship between Independent and Dependent Variables An examination of the demographic factors was performed in terms of evaluating the data acquired for each set of the demographic variables. This provides some principal comparisons between variables from the different sets. The main aspects of the results from the evaluation of the data collected and the primary associations between variables from the different sets are summarised. A review of demographic variables provided a better understanding of the nature of the participants in the three experimental groups in the main study and informed the quantitative and qualitative data analyses carried out. The method of quantitative data analysis employed the same two-stage approach, including a reduction of data complexity process, as the pilot study. Quantitative and qualitative data analyses were performed using descriptive statistics, means, paired ttests, chi-square tests and scenario-based content analysis. Paired t-tests were also used to measure the impact of Mother Tongue, Religion, Dominant Culture and Overall Culture.



3. Summary of Key Findings 3.1. SUMMARY OF DEMOGRAPHIC FACTORS The three groups of language (Australian English, Mandarin and American (International) English) examined, were related to the language preferences of participants, rather than their Mother Tongue, and were used to allocate participants to the three cultural groups (Australian, Chinese and International). The aim was to investigate their impacts on web design and usability of the localised and internationalised versions of the web site. As none of the International Group has spent most of their lives in Australia or China or has Nationality from those countries, the participants comprise an international sample. In addition, the Dominant Culture (derived) indicates that 60% of participants are associated with an International culture and a significant proportion (38%) of participants in the Australian Group has spent little time in Australia. Interestingly, only the Chinese group has a significant proportion (34%) of participants who have actually spent most of their lives in China. As most participants have many years of experience with computers and the web, they are very heavy users of these technologies. Therefore, the results for these participants may be generalised for heavy web users but the same cannot be said for low users of web technology. 3.2. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DATA ANALYSES RESULTS A comparison of paired t-test values of responses to web design items for the three experimental groups on the Australian, Chinese and International web site versions to assess the significance in differences between responses to web design items was performed. The preference for the International web site version was greater for most of the web design items (except Language) for the Chinese group than the Australian group. The rationale could be the Chinese group having an international sample, as pointed out by the summary of demographic factors in the previous subsection. Overall, the Australian and Chinese participants provided more positive responses to open-ended survey questions on the International web site version than their own localised version (Australian and Chinese, respectively), may be because they are experienced and heavy users of the web. Additionally, most of the participants have had some practice with their targeted (localised) web site version first, so they found the second (International) web site version easier. On the contrary, the International participants provided more positive responses to open-ended survey questions on the International web site version than the Australian web site version, although the Australian version was looked at after the International version. 3.3. IMPACTS OF CULTURE Comparisons of paired t-test values were carried out for the three experimental groups to assess the impact of the constructs Mother Tongue, Religion, Dominant Culture and Overall Culture using a summary score of the specific sets of web task responses, web design responses and comments which concern each of these constructs. The



performance of each group on two of the three web site versions is compared, to show the difference in preference for the Localised and Internationalised web site versions. The data utilised for comparisons concerning each of the four constructs is listed in Table 2. For assessing the construct "Overall Culture", all of the data used in the former three constructs were employed. Table 2. Derivation of summary score of responses to tasks and questions related to each construct on each web site version by each experimental group.

The impact of Mother Tongue on web site versions is displayed in Table 3. and is assessed using a summary score of web task responses from the web tasks and web design responses from the close-ended survey questions pertaining to Mother Tongue on each web site version by each group of participants. This means that the Australian, Chinese and International groups prefer a web site in American (International) English (the International version of the web site) for measures pertaining to the construct Mother Tongue. Table 3. Impact of Mother Tongue on web site versions for each group.

The measure of the impact of Religion on web site versions is shown in Table 4. A summary score of web task responses and web design responses associated with the construct Religion are used to establish this impact on each web site version by each group of participants. The significant results show that the Chinese group prefers the International web site version (the International web site version scores significantly higher than the Chinese web site version for the Chinese group), while the International group prefers the Australian web site version (the Australian web site version scores



significantly higher than the International web site version for the International group) for usability measures related to Religion. Table 4. Impact of Religion on web site versions for each group.

The impact of measures pertaining to Dominant Culture on web site versions is tabulated in Table 5. This assessment of the impact is measured using a summary score of web task responses and web design responses related to Dominant Culture on each web site version by each group of participants. Similarly, the significant results show that, for usability measures associated with Dominant Culture, the Chinese group favours the International web site version (the Chinese group prefers a web site that uses American cultural items than a web site that uses Chinese cultural items) and the International group favours the Australian web site version (the International group prefers a web site that uses Australian cultural items than a web site that uses American cultural items). Table 5. Impact of Dominant Culture on web site versions for each group.

The impact of Overall Culture on web site versions is shown in Table 6. The results disclose that the Australian, Chinese and International groups all prefer a web site that uses American web design elements, text elements and web interface elements. Table 6. Impact of Overall Culture on web site versions for each experimental group.



3.4. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS IN THE CONTEXT OF HYPOTHESES This experimental study aims to investigate the differences in usability of web sites for users from different cultures. A summary of findings in the context of hypotheses shows that only three of the thirteen hypotheses were supported (Table 7). The impact of Overall Culture contributes to the support of the hypotheses. Table 7. Summary of Findings in the Context of Hypotheses.



The results show that there is a higher possibility for a “world wide web culture” than a “world wide web of cultures” for the kinds of users characterised by participants in this study (Turk, 2000), having significant exposure to web sites. A review of demographic factors indicates that the users in each experimental group are experienced and heavy users of the web, which may explain their preference for the internationalised versions of the web site. Overall, the results show significant differences in responses to the three different web site versions by participants from the three different cultural groups, with each group favouring American (International) English and the Internationalised web site version.

4. Conclusion This paper reports on the main study phase of the experimental study. An overview of the experimental study was provided using the experimental design, nature of participants, data collection and data analysis. A review of demographic factors obtained from the responses of the participants distinguished the data analysis method used for the main study from that for the pilot study. Finally, a summary of key findings of the main study was presented, in the context of hypotheses. A summary of demographic factors was also provided to help understand the nature of the participants in the three experimental groups. The details will appear in a later publication.

Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge my former PhD supervisors, Emerita Associate Professor Fay Sudweeks and Adjunct Associate Professor Andrew Turk for their valuable input to this study.

References Evers, V. and Day, D. (1997). The Role of Culture in Interface Acceptance. Proceedings HumanComputer Interaction: Interact '97. Chapman & Hall, pp. 260-267. Evers, V. (2001). Cultural Aspects of User Interface Understanding: An Empirical Evaluation of an E-Learning Website by International User Groups. Doctoral Thesis, The Open University, UK. Hongladarom, S. (1998). Global Culture, Local Cultures, And The Internet: The Thai Example. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication, CATAC'98, University of Sydney, Australia, pp. 231-245. Kralisch, A., Yeo, A.W. and Nurfauza, J. (2006). Linguistic and Cultural Differences in Information Categorization and Their Impact on Website Used. Proceedings of the Thirtyninth Hawaii International Conference On System Sciences. January 4-7. Hawai’i, USA. Lim, L. (1999). Individual Differences in Human Computer Interaction. Honours Thesis, School of Information Technology, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia.



Lim, L., Sudweeks, F. and Turk, A. T. (2008). An Explorative Study of Localisation and Internationalisation of Web Sites, IADIS Multi-Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 22-27 July. Murrell, K. A. (1998). Human Computer Interface Design in a multi-cultural multi-lingual environment. Paper presented at the 13th Annual MSc and PhD Conference in Computer Science, University of Stellenbosch. Stander, A. (1998). Bridging The Gap: Issues in The Design of Computer User Interfaces for Multicultural Communities. Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 1998, University of Sydney, Australia. Turk, A. G. (2000). A Worldwide Web of Cultures or a 'World Wide Web' Culture? Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication, CATAC'00, Murdoch University, Australia, pp. 243-256. Yeo, A.W. (2003). Culture: From Symbols to Values, Translation is Not Enough. Localisation Focus: The International Journal on Localisation. 2(1): 12-14.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 135-149.

WEBSITE DESIGN AND TRUST ACROSS CULTURES DIANNE CYR Faculty of Business Simon Fraser University Surrey, BC Canada

Abstract. The paper provides an overview of culture related to website design and website trust. This is followed by the documentation of previously unpublished results from cross-cultural comparisons of user reactions to websites related to risk and vendor legitimacy, information privacy and quality, and transaction security. In addition, results are reported for how various design elements statistically impact online trust in Canada, Germany, and China. The paper concludes with suggestions for practice and how to design websites that are more trustworthy.



As shoppers converge in online stores, vendors are increasingly concerned with how to best attract and retain satisfied, trusting and loyal customers. It is important that websites are private and secure if they are to be revisited. According to Reichheld and Schefter (2000) an increase in customer retention rates by only 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. Therefore, the development of loyal customer behaviour is a valued goal for managers, marketers, and strategists. In June 2009 Internet users were over 1.6 billion strong, and hail from virtually every corner of the globe. Of those Internet users the majority reside in Asia (42.2%), followed by Europe (24.2%), North America (15.1%), Latin America/Caribbean (10.5%), Africa (3.9%), the Middle East (2.9%), and Oceania/Australia (1.2%) (Internet Usage Statistics, 2009). These users are also potentially Internet shoppers seeking positive and secure consumer experiences. Culture affects Internet usage, e-commerce trust, information and communication technology adoption, Internet marketing, and website development – therefore it is important to gauge user reactions to the Internet based on country and cultural diversity. Yet despite the importance of culture in an Internet context, relatively few studies have examined topics such as trust and risk across cultures. To better understand user perceptions of online trust and risk, an investigation was conducted in Canada, the United States, Germany and Japan. Canada and the U.S. were chosen due to cultural similarity, while these two countries are considered culturally distinct from Germany and Japan. Participants in the study completed an online task of searching the local Samsung website for a cellular phone they would like to hypothetically purchase. Each participant was asked questions about trust and



willingness to risk online, legitimacy of the vendor, information privacy and quality concerns, and payment security. Results of this investigation are presented along with additional research by the author (Cyr et al., 2005: Cyr, 2008a; Cyr, 2008b; Cyr et al., 2009a; Cyr et al., 2009b). Contributions of this paper are: (1) to provide background on topics related to culture, trust, and website design; and (2) to report the results of studies primarily conducted by the author on the topic of website design and how this translates into cultural difference and similarity in user perceptions related to online trust and security. These findings have implications for managers, strategists, marketers, Web designers and researchers who seek to provide a more trustworthy and secure online shopping experience in diverse cultural settings using information technologies. The paper begins with an overview of culture and website design, and then outlines previous research on website trust and culture. This is followed by the documentation of previously unpublished results from cross-cultural comparisons of user reactions to websites related to risk and vendor legitimacy, information privacy and quality, and transaction security. In addition, results are reported for how various design elements statistically impact online trust in Canada, Germany, and China.

2. Culture and Website Design Culture has implications for Internet use and affects marketing (Tian and Emery, 2002), consumer trust (Jarvenpaa et al., 1999), Internet diffusion (Ferle et al., 2002), and website development (Kang and Corbitt, 2001; Sun, 2001). Differences in online communication strategies for target markets exist between Japan, Spain and the U.S. (Okayazaki and Rivas, 2002). In other work, Evers and Day (1997) suggest there are differences between cultures concerning Web interface acceptance and preferences for design features. Effective website design engages and attracts online consumers (Agarwal and Venkatesh, 2002; Cyr, 2008a; Fogg et al., 1999; 2002; Hoffman and Novak, 1996; Nielsen, 2001). According to Gommans et al. (2001, p. 51), ― A website has to be designed for a targeted customer segment…Local adaptation should be based on a complete understanding of a customer group’s culture‖. Barber and Badre (2001) refer to the merging of culture and usability as ― culturability‖, when cultural elements are considered in website design and are expected to directly affect the way a user interacts with the site. If websites are culturally appropriate or ― localized‖ then users are more likely to visit and remain at the website (Barber and Badre, 2001; Evers and Day, 1997). Localization is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local ― look and feel.‖ In localizing a product, in addition to language translation, details such as currency, color sensitivities, product or service names, images, gender roles, and geographic examples are considered. In research in which design characteristics were considered across cultures different user preferences were found (Cyr et al., 2009a; del Galdo and Nielsen, 1996; Marcus and Gould, 2000). Singh et al. (2003) employed content analysis of 40 American-based companies to compare their domestic and Chinese websites. Significant differences in cultural characteristics were found for all major categories tested. The authors concluded that, ― [T]he web is not a culturally neutral medium‖ (p. 63). Cyr and Trevor-Smith (2004) examined design elements using 30 municipal websites in each of Germany, Japan, and the U.S. Use of symbols and graphics, color preferences, site



features (links, maps, search functions, page layout), language and content were examined, and significant modal differences were uncovered in each design category. In other research in which color (Cyr et al., 2009a) or human images (Cyr et al., 2009b) were specifically investigated, cultural differences were likewise noted across culturally diverse groups. To understand how national culture is related to social psychological phenomena such as trust, researchers (Cyr et al., 2005; Cyr, 2008a; Dawar et al., 1996; Jarvenpaa et al., 1999; Simon, 2001; Yamagishi and Yamagishi, 1994) refer to Hofstede’s (1984) cultural dimensions of individualism-collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and femininity-masculinity.1 In the research documented in this article, Hofstede’s dimensions are used as a proxy to determine cultural differences or similarities among countries. However, it is recognized and expected that individual value differences also occur within countries. 2

3. Background: Website Trust and Culture ― Disposition to trust is a general, i.e. not situation specific, inclination to display faith in humanity or to adopt a trusting stance toward others‖ (McKnight et al., 1998, p. 473490). ― Trust is determined by a general trusting disposition that is the product of a lifelong socialization process. This disposition is especially influential when the trusting party has not had extensive personal interaction with the specific organization or person in question. Therefore, a trusting disposition should influence people’s trust in a vendor‖ (Gefen, 2000, p. 729). Lack of trust is one of the most frequently cited reasons for consumers not purchasing from Internet vendors (Grabner-Krauter and Kaluscha, 2003). Considerable research has been dedicated to unraveling the complexities of online trust (Bhattacherjee, 2002; Chen and Dhillon, 2003; Gefen, 2000; Gefen et al., 2003). Corritore et al. (2003) provide a definition of online trust that includes cognitive and emotional elements, with trust encompassing ― an attitude of confident expectation in an online situation or risk that one’s vulnerabilities will not be exploited‖ (p. 740). Unlike vendor–shopper relationship established in traditional retail settings, the primary communication interface with the vendor is an information technology artifact—the website. In line with Jarvenpaa et al. (1999), trust is referred to here as consumer confidence in the website and ― willingness to rely on the seller and take actions in circumstances where such action makes the consumer vulnerable to the seller‖ (p. 4). In addition, and related to Web site design elements, the design of the website is trusted. 3 1

It is expected most readers are familiar with Hofstede’s cultural categorizations and therefore details of this work will not be elaborated here. However, for more information on this topic refer to Hofstede (1984), Dawar et al. (1996), or to Simon (2001) who provide an excellent overview of Hofstede’s dimensions in a compressed format.


Refer to Srite and Karahanna (2006) for a discussion of the role of individual and espoused cultural values in technology acceptance.


A thorough review of trust in offline and online settings is not feasible within the scope of the present paper. However, the reader may wish to refer to Rousseau et al. (1998) for a critique of offline trust and Gefen et al. (2003) for a summary of online trust. In research in which online trust is the primary focus, it is recognized a multidimensional construct for trust is most appropriate. Trust may result from a



Consumer trust in the website is fundamental to the establishment of online loyalty, including intentions to revisit an online vendor or to buy there in the future (Cyr, 2008a; Flavián et al., 2006; Gefen, 2000; Yoon, 2002). Antecedents to website trust vary and include Web design characteristics (Cyr 2008a; Cyr et al. 2009b), social presence (Cyr et al., 2007; Gefen et al., 2003), perceived vendor reputation (Jarvenpaa et al., 1999; Koufaris, 2002), clear and trustworthy privacy policies (Reichheld and Schefter, 2000), online transaction security (Palmer et al., 2000), or information privacy (Hoffman and Novak, 1996) among other things. Overall the results from these studies indicate that website properties and trust are related and that they influence online purchase intentions. There are cultural differences related to propensity to trust. For instance, within one’s own culture, generally there is greater willingness to trust in collectivist than individualist cultures (Doney et al., 1998; Parks and Vu, 1994; Triandis, 1990). Collectivists rarely move in and out of groups and levels of trust and cooperation are high among collectivist group members. Weber and Hsee (1998) found that Chinese collectivists are less risk averse when selecting financial options than participants from the U.S., Germany or Poland. The authors suggest that in collectivist countries like China, collectivism acts like ― a cushion‖ when other members in the family or society assist in bearing possible negative consequences of a decision. Alternately, individualistic societies tend to be less trusting and cooperation in relationships is transitory. However in relationships that extend beyond one’s own culture, the tendency to trust is reversed. Individualists are more optimistic than collectivists concerning benevolence from strangers (Inglehart et al., 1998; Yamagishi and Yamagishi, 1994). Kim and Son (1998) measured levels of distrust between highly individualist Americans and highly collectivist Koreans and found that 59 percent of Americans trust members of a different ethnic group in their society, and 57 percent trust people from a different country. For Koreans, the average responses were 23 percent and 18 percent respectively. According to Yamagishi and Yamagishi (1994) exchange relationships outside a cultural group only occur when there are strong institutional safeguards such as strong cultural norms or legal sanctions. In an Internet environment when institutional safeguards may be perceived as illusionary, collectivists may consider online buying as more risky than do individualists (Jarvenpaa et al., 1999).

4. Empirical Findings: Website Trust and Culture With a spotlight on prior research on website trust and culture Jarvenpaa et al. (1999) used Hofstede’s dimensions to compare Internet trust in collectivist and individualist cultures. The researchers expected consumers from individualist cultures would exhibit higher trust in an Internet store than consumers from collectivist cultures (similar to consumer’s belief that an online vendor demonstrates ability, benevolence, or integrity (McKnight et al., 2002). Alternately, in studies such as this one, when trust is one element included to better understand a more comprehensive user reaction to a Web site, then trust as a single construct has been used (Gefen et al., 2003; Koufaris, 2002).



Yamagishi and Yamagishi, 1994 as noted above). Contrary to this hypothesis no strong cultural effects were found for trust. Similarly, Badre (2000) conducted research on consumer trust in an Internet environment in individualist versus collectivist cultures with mixed outcomes. Simon (2001) found differences in trusting stance toward websites. Asians were most trusting of information provided across American and European websites (83% positive), counter to the earlier findings of Yamagishi and Yamagishi (1994) and Inglehart et al. (1998). In Simon’s study, Europeans (46% positive) and North Americans (42% positive) exhibited substantially lower levels of trust toward the websites. Considering the mixed results found in the above work, (Cyr et al., 2005) conducted a study to investigate whether or not local websites engender higher levels of trust for Web users than a foreign website of the same vendor (Samsung in this case).4 Related to earlier work by Yamagishi and Yamagishi (1994) and others, it was expected that Web users from individualistic cultures such as Canada or the U.S. would be least likely to trust the local website, and most likely to trust the foreign website than moderately individualistic German users, and collectivist Japanese users. When comparing the level of trust between countries for the local website almost no differences are reported between the Canadians, Americans and Germans. However, there were large differences between the Japanese and Americans, Canadians or Germans. Contrary to expectations, Japanese respondents trusted their local website least, while Germans trusted their local site most. Similar results were found for users viewing the foreign version of the website. Based on interview data all four cultural groups identify vendor familiarity and visibility of security signs as important factors influencing trust in online purchasing. For German participants personal experience with online purchasing or friend’s opinions of a website affect online trust: “I really trust if I had good experience. Even if I hear from friends…good things [about the company], normally I trust more than, let’s say, if it’s the first time I’m on the site.” 4.1. VENDOR LEGITIMACY AND WILLINGNESS TO RISK Building on the preceding, it is expected that vendor reputation is important and willingness to trust a vendor will differ across cultures (Jarvenpaa et al., 1999). According to Chen and Dhillon (2003), ― Since transactions [on the Internet] occur without personal contact, consumers are generally concerned with legitimacy of the vendor and authenticity of products or services‖ (p. 1). Similarly, propensity to take risks is known to vary across cultures. Generally speaking, Canada and the U.S. are not high in uncertainty avoidance, and hence are more willing to take risks than countries such as Japan which is generally risk averse. Germany is in the middle (based on Hofstede, 1984). Additional data beyond that reported in (Cyr et al., 2005) documents user responses concerning vendor legitimacy and willingness to risk (for U.S., Canada, Germany, and Japan respondents) as outlined in Table 1. Data reported in these tables 4

Thirty participants were selected in each of Canada, the United States, Germany, and Japan. Participants had an average age of 35 years; 42% were female and 58% male. After navigating the Samsung website (local and foreign versions) in search of a cellular phone, each person completed a survey (translated and back translated for each required language), followed by a digitally recorded interview. Interpreters were used when necessary.



was collected from the sample population and using the same methodology as fully elaborated in Cyr et al. (2005). Table 1. Risk and Vendor Legitimacy U.S. CAN GER JPN It is important to avoid risks 3.24 3.33 4.03 4.21 Concerned about security when 3.66 3.59 3.43 4.11 buying on the Internet Prefer recognized brands or 3.93 4.07 3.67 2.93 companies when online shopping Trust Internet store with well known 3.86 4.19 4.03 3.82 reputation Concerned about the legitimacy of the 3.17 3.26 3.27 3.54 online sales contact Notes: Scales are 1= low to 5 = high; ns = No significant differences * significant differences ** very significant differences

Sig ** * * ns ns

There are significant differences across cultures regarding preference to buy recognized brands, with Canadians most concerned about this factor and rather surprising - Japanese least concerned. All groups feel it is important that the Internet store is known and has a positive reputation. Japanese participants comment, “What is important is…if the supplier is very famous, very popular. Well, I can trust them.” or “I don’t buy anything from a company that I never heard of.” Germans indicate a company’s name and reputation are associated with trustworthiness, especially if someone they consider to be reliable recommended that company. Canadians and Americans are more prone to independently seek information to determine a company’s credibility, and mention acquiring information through the Web or by contacting the company directly. Germans are least concerned with security when buying online, while Japanese are most concerned. Canadians note they are aware of security problems when using the Internet, but feel the benefits outweigh the risks. As one Canadian describes, “You realize that some of the concerns the market has, or some of the perception that people have with security are unfounded…The likelihood that someone is going to intercept the transmission between your computer and a website, and decipher it, is very low.” In contrast, a Japanese participant mentions, “I will stay away from risk, as much as possible.” The interpreter further added, “He’s worried about the risks all the time…Using a credit card is a secret matter.” 4.2. INFORMATION PRIVACY AND QUALITY Information privacy is important and a ― lack of trust arises from cyber consumer’s perceived lack of control over the access others have to their personal information during the online navigation process‖ (Hoffman et al., 1999, p.82). Defined,



information privacy in an online environment is the right of an individual to control the release of his or her personal information. Accordingly, online business environments can result in ― problems associated with insecurity and privacy among transaction counterparts, which put pressure on Internet marketers to create a trust that is much stronger and more persistent than what is normally demanded offline‖ (Yoon 2002, p. 51). In support of this statement, in a study on information privacy 95 percent of those surveyed declined to provide personal information over the Internet (Hoffman et al., 1999). In a second investigation five years later this number had shrunk to 82 percent of online users refusing to provide personal information. Further, 34 percent of respondents admitted to being untruthful when asked about their personal habits and preferences (Teltzrow and Kobsa, 2004). While various studies have addressed the role of privacy and trust in e-commerce, there is little attention to information privacy concerns across cultures. In the current investigation, the first two items in Table 2 address this topic. Table 2. Information Privacy and Quality U.S. CAN GER JPN Concerned about sharing personal 3.45 3.26 3.77 3.61 information with online merchants Confident personal information will 3.00 3.44 2.73 2.04 not be misused when shopping online Product information on the website 4.62 4.67 4.47 4.71 should be trustworthy Important that online product 4.10 4.56 4.47 4.46 information is complete and detailed Trust information presented on 4.11 3.93 4.40 3.43 website Important that product ratings from 3.45 3.67 3.67 4.21 customers or consumer publications are provided on the website Notes: Scales are 1= low to 5 = high ns = No significant difference * significant differences ** very significant differences

Sig ns * ns ns ** ns

Providing personal information online is more a concern for Germans and Japanese than for North Americans, although the difference is not statistically significant. This outcome is reflected in the following quotations. One German remarks, ― For example, if you download something, and you have to give your e-mail address, I don’t like it, because you can be sure you’ll get spam.‖ A Japanese participant mentions, ― Actually I don’t show them my personal things…if I have to I will, but I hate it‖, while his interpreter adds, ― The sites where I shop online usually don’t require personal data. I’m choosing those kinds of sites.‖ Regarding the misuse of personal information, significant differences exist for the four countries in this investigation. Japan is least confident about the proper use of information provided, followed by Germany, with Americans and Canadians moderately confident how personal information is used. Whether shopping in a physical store or online, customers generally desire high quality information about a product or service in order to make a purchase decision. Quality information at a website further contributes to customer loyalty. This may



include perceptions of how information is presented, or how much information is appropriate for a particular cultural group. For example, in North America substantial amounts of product information are considered desirable, while in other cultures the same level of information would be considered inappropriate as outlined below (Cyr, 2002). “[O]n the [customer] support side, there’s a lot of pride in some European countries. In France they have a long history of what they’re doing, and status comes from the knowledge and expertise acquired. So it’s very important to only tell customers information about products which they assume it’s reasonable not to have…otherwise, it’s like trying to tell them how to do their job.” In the current study, there are no significant differences among participants regarding whether product information is trustworthy, complete, and detailed. However, it should be noted that the scores for participants in all countries are very high on these dimensions. Generally, participants across all country groups note they prefer few product details upon first entering a website, and like more details if they choose to investigate a product further. According to a Canadian respondent, ― For a first glance I like the first ten bullet points, the ten most important things. But if I’m looking for detail information I want it to be there. For example, the sizes and dimensions or something like that.‖ The amount of information preferred is often associated with the type of product or service being purchased, and in some instances, participants mention seeking information on their own if necessary. An American elaborates, ―M any times I’ll go online with Travelocity or Orbitz or Expedia to look for travel connections, and I end up calling the location directly and placing the order with them even though it costs me a little bit more because I can find out more information. I can ask, if I want a room with two double beds, can I get that, can you promise me it’s a non smoking room, can you tell me what I see when I look out the window, or, how far is the nearest McDonalds? I want to talk to somebody that has the information that answers my questions, not just general questions that aren’t complete.” Concerning ability to trust the website, Germans are most trusting, followed by Canadians and Americans, with Japanese least trusting. Consumer reports, consumer opinions/ratings, product brand, and familiarity with the product are identified by all participants as ways to judge quality online. It is especially important to Japanese that product ratings from customers or consumer publications are provided on the website. Canadians emphasize consumer reports, consumer opinions/ratings, and familiarity with the product. For instance, a Canadian remarks, ― When I was looking for the digital camera, I didn’t buy the camera online, but I did the research online, and the things that counted the most for me were the reviews from other users, and the professional reviews.‖



4.3. TRANSACTION SECURITY As a result of ― separateness‖ of buyer and seller, security of the transaction process is important to the buyer. Online credit card fraud is a major concern for online shoppers, often ameliorated by privacy policies or security signs on the vendor website. In this study, all groups are concerned with misuse of credit card information, and are very concerned with Internet security. Regarding security of the payment method, Japanese participants indicate the importance of this is 4.93 out of a possible score of 5 on the survey. Refer to Table 3. Japanese often refer to the dangers of using credit cards, and in some cases are apprehensive about vendor credibility. According to one Japanese respondent, ― When I think of all the Internet online shopping stores, I think maybe 50% cannot be credible.‖ One interpreter added, ― I just don’t want to give my credit card number, so if the method of payment is something else, then I feel okay shopping online.‖ Table 3. Transaction Security U.S. CAN GER JPN Concerned about who will access 3.72 3.41 3.87 4.18 credit card when shopping online Concerned about misuse of credit 3.55 3.19 3.57 4.04 card when shopping online Concerned about unauthorized use of 3.79 3.26 3.87 4.11 credit card when shopping online Important that payment method is 4.69 4.81 4.50 4.93 secure Notes: Scales are 1= low to 5 = high ns = No significant differences * significant differences ** very significant differences

Sig ns ns ns ns

The presence of security signs do much to console online visitors, although some Germans feel these signs could be faked. Company contact information seems to imply a degree of legitimacy. While Canadians and Americans seem relatively comfortable with credit card purchases, Japanese users express concern about online payments and instead opt for payment through the mail. Germans likewise mention alternate ways of making payments, including using invoicing or direct bank transfers. 4.4. MODELLING WEBSITE DESIGN TO TRUST The results presented in the previous sections illustrate cross-cultural comparisons concerning website design, trust and security although no causal relationships are implied. However, in research by (Cyr, 2008a) three elements of website design (Information Design, Navigation Design, and Visual Design) were modelled to determine if a statistical relationship exists between these various design elements and trust. The design categories are based on earlier work by Garrett (2003) and have been used in previous studies (Cyr and Bonanni, 2005; Singh et. al, 2003). A total of 571 participants located in Canada, Germany, or China completed an experimental task and online survey (N=230 in Canada; 118 in Germany; and 223 in



China). To ensure participants are ― of the culture‖ it was determined that each had lived in the country the majority of their lives and spoke the native language as their primary language. Participants were recruited from a wide range of sources, including universities, institutes, and companies. Average age across countries is very close with an overall average of 25.6 years. Participants are experienced online shoppers and well educated. Most had completed either a university degree or postgraduate education. For the research treatment, participants responded to the local version of the SonyStyle Web site represented in their native language. Users were requested to initially view the home page of the local Web site, followed by navigation of the Web site to choose a cell phone they would hypothetically purchase. Once participants concluded this task, each completed an online survey. Background information to the study and all other written content, including the survey, were translated and backtranslated into each required language. Instrument reliability and validity were confirmed (for details refer to Cyr, 2008a). Data were modelled using a Partial Least Squares analysis5. It was proposed that Information Design, Navigation Design, and Visual Design are central features of websites that potentially result in trust. As such, each feature is elaborated briefly below. Information Design refers to website elements that convey accurate or inaccurate information about products or services to a user. The location of an icon on the screen would be the domain of information architecture, while whether or not that icon or text conveys the right information to a user is Information Design (Garrett, 2003). Information is considered an important prerequisite to trust (Flavián et al., 2006; Yoon 2002). As McKinney et al. (2002 p. 308] described, ― [C]ustomers dissatisfied with web site information contents will leave the site without making a purchase‖. As noted in an earlier section, research comparing user preferences in Canada, the U.S., Germany and Japan for perceived access and presentation of product information uncovered few significant differences between the U.S., Canada, and Germany but significant differences (p<.01) between these countries and highly collectivist Japan. Based on qualitative comments from the study, there appeared a desire on the part of Canadians, Americans, and Germans for utility - at least as far as obtaining site information is concerned. In Cyr (2008a) a further comparison is made between Germans and Chinese who both score moderately on Hofstede’s scale for uncertainty avoidance - suggesting German and Chinese users prefer to avoid risk when shopping online. Canadians score in the low category for uncertainty avoidance. Hence, it was expected that Information Design would result in website trust for Canadian users but not for Germans and Chinese (Cyr, 2008a). Elements of Visual Design deal with balance, emotional appeal, aesthetics, and uniformity of the website overall graphical look. This includes colours, photographs, shapes, or font type (Garrett, 2003). In some research a relationship between the ― aesthetic beauty‖ of a website and trust was established (Karvonen, 2000), while in other studies visual design of the website did not significantly impact trust (Yoon, 2002). Colour is a common differentiator by culture and connotes different meaning (Barber and Badre, 2001; Singh et al., 2003). Red means happiness in China but danger in the United States. Users from collectivist cultures such as China have a strong 5

A variance-based partial least squares (PLS) method was chosen over covariancebased methods such as LISREL because it supports both exploratory and confirmatory research (Gefen et al., 2000).



preference for visuals, whereas users from more individualistic cultures like Germany prefer a logical and structured page layout (Szymanski and Hise 2000). Therefore it was expected that Visual Design would be more important to Chinese users and result in trust compared to Canadians or Germans (Cyr, 2008a). Navigation Design refers to the navigational scheme used to help or hinder users as they access different sections of a website (DeWulf et al., 2006; Garrett, 2002). ― No matter how thorough the information content of a site is, a customer who has difficulty in searching and getting the needed information is likely to leave the site‖ (McKinney et al., p. 308]. Preferences for the form of navigational scheme are expected to vary by culture (Marcus and Gould, 2000). Simon (2001) found that Europeans and individualist North Americans prefer navigation that enhances movement and makes the site simpler to use. Alternately, Asian/Latin and South Americans (generally collectivists) desire navigation aids to change the appearance of the site without particular concern for movement. Germans who are moderately high on uncertainty avoidance ― feel anxiety about uncertain or unknown matters‖ (Marcus and Gould 2000, p. 39], and therefore prefer ― navigation schemes intended to prevent users from becoming lost‖ (Ibid, p. 41). Similar to Germans, Chinese are moderate on Hofstede’s (1984) scale for uncertainty avoidance while Canadians are least risk averse. The preceding suggests differences in Navigation Design may exist between Canadians with German or Chinese users. More specifically, it was expected that Navigation Design would result in website trust for Canadian users but not for German or Chinese users (Cyr, 2008a). Related to the above expectations, the outcome was that Navigation Design results in trust for Canada and China, Visual Design results in trust for Japan only, and Information Design results in trust for Canada only. It is clear that there are distinct design proclivities between the countries in this study. Also of interest is that the three design characteristics serve to explain an outcome of trust better in Canada and China, while the variance explained is lower in Germany (R2 = .173). In the case of Germany, it would appear that other characteristics not captured in this study also contribute to online trust. This may include the company name and reputation, or perceived security of information as already reported. Predictions for how the various design features would result in trust were mostly supported as outlined earlier. That is, Information Design results in trust for Canadians but not for Germans and Chinese, and Visual Design results in trust for Chinese but not Canadian and German users. It was predicted that Navigation Design would result in trust for Canadians but not for Germans and Chinese. These relationships received partial support as Navigation Design resulted in trust for Canadians but also for Chinese users (Cyr, 2008a).

5. Concluding Remarks Perhaps more online than anywhere, consumer perceptions of trust and security are a necessary universal ingredient if online browsers are to turn into purchasers. Willingness to take risks on the Internet varies across cultures, with Americans and Canadians least risk averse and concerned about security when buying online, Japanese most concerned with risk, and Germans somewhere in the middle. It is rather surprising that Japanese are least focused on buying recognized brands online, while Canadians are most likely to pay attention to this matter. It would seem that for Canadians, establishing product credibility is especially important.



For all groups it is paramount that online transactions are secure. No significant differences occur across the four country groups for any of the items regarding credit card access, misuse of credit card information, or the security of the payment method. However, in each category for each country these issues are of prime concern. To assure all users, and especially highly risk-averse Japanese users, managers and Web designers will want to place security symbols and other assurances strategically and prominently on websites. Credit cards are the most trusted payment method for North Americans, while Germans and Japanese prefer other forms of payment. Hence savvy online vendors will aim to match payment methods with country preferences. A company’s reputation is important and is often assessed based on other people’s opinions - usually friends. Germans feel security symbols may be ― faked‖ therefore a presence of security symbols that are easily identifiable would be especially important for this group. North Americans feel more secure about an online vendor if contact information is available on the website, and are also likely to seek information about a company’s reputation through the Web. Japanese are least trusting of information presented on websites and least confident that personal information will not be misused. Some of this concern can be moderated when online vendors provide product ratings from customers or consumer publications on their websites. Overall information quality should be high, with online product information complete, detailed and trustworthy. Information Design is especially important to Canadians and is statistically related to trust. This is a beacon to online vendors to pay special attention to effective presentation of information on the website. As already noted the type and amount of information varies by country and should therefore be tailored to particular users. For example, all users noted they prefer few product details when first entering a website and these details should be easily accessible. Detailed information can be embedded at the next level of the website. Navigation Design is highly related to trust for Canadians and Chinese which suggests that users from these countries expect websites that are clear and transparent. Navigation itself has cultural nuances. Based on earlier studies Canadians expect utilitarian websites that enhance movement and are easy to use. On the other hand, Visual Design is very important to Chinese users related to trust, and less so for Canadians and Germans. As such, website designers should pay particular attention to the colours, images, shapes and overall graphical look of websites. Asian users tend to trust websites more if they have ― emotional appeal‖ and are otherwise engaging (Cyr et al., 2005). While elements of website trust formation are generally known, cross-cultural comparisons are not well documented. The results reported in this chapter provide online vendors with added insight as to how to most effectively build trust in consumers from international locations. As suggested in the introduction, even minor increases in customer retention rates serve to augment profits. As such, designing websites that are perceived as trustworthy and secure in alignment with cultural expectations of the user has potential for huge commercial advantage.

Acknowledgements This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.



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F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 150-162.


Abstract. The concept of culture has been attractive to producers of interactive systems who are willing to design useful and relevant solutions to users increasingly located in culturally diverse contexts. Despite a substantial body of research on culture and technology, interaction designers have not always been able to apply these research outputs to effectively define requirements for culturally diverse users. This paper frames this issue as one of understanding of the different paradigms underpinning the cultural models being applied to interface development and research. Drawing on different social science theories, the authors discuss top-down and bottom-up perspectives in the study of usersâ€&#x; cultural differences and discuss the extent to which each provides usable design knowledge. The case is made for combining bottom-up and top-down perspectives into a sociotechnical approach that can produce knowledge useful and usable by interaction designers. This is illustrated with a case study about the design of interactive systems for farmers in rural Kenya.

1. Introduction This paper reflects on the perspectives that have been used to study culture in the production and use of interactive systems, with a particular focus on human-computer interaction (HCI) research and design practice. The last ten years have seen a significant increase in the number of studies about the effect of culture in HCI (Kampuri, Bednarik, & Tukiainen, 2006). However, the contribution to design practice of these studies based on national culture models (Hofstede, 1991) remains controversial as these have not always proven effective in predicting user behaviour or obtaining culturally relevant requirements. This paper frames this issue as one of understanding of the different paradigms underpinning the cultural models being applied to interface development and research. We start by looking at contrasting conceptions of culture and how they have been used by researchers, including those in HCI. We then go on to look at some of the approaches used to study human diversity in systems production and use. Then the case is made for combining bottom-up and top-down perspectives on culture into a sociotechnical approach that can produce knowledge useful and usable by interaction designers. This is illustrated with a case study about the design of interactive systems for farmers in rural Kenya. The final section highlights the key elements of the two



main concepts on culture discussed in the paper (culture as „software of the mind‟ and culture as „meanings‟) and argues for a cultural assessment of the different levels of interface development and research , from the most technical to the most social.

2. Defining culture Researchers in HCI (e.g. Evers, 2001; Nielsen, 1996) and in the wider area of human factors research in IT (e.g. Calhoun, Teng, & Cheon, 2002; El-Shinawy & Vinze, 1997) have applied the concept of national culture as proposed by Hofstede (1991) to explain and predict how people of certain nationalities will interact with computer systems. A common aspect of these researchers‟ work is the application of Hofstede‟s dimensions to explain users‟ actions or preferences. These dimensions are based on a definition of culture as shared cognitive characteristics of users that could, in principle, be measured, analysed, typified, quantified, and catalogued: from this point of view, culture is already there (Kampuri et al., 2006). This understanding of culture has allowed researchers to categorize user behaviours according to pre-established dimensions. The meta-model of framing this definition of culture is the „onion‟ model of Trompenaars (1993) in which core assumptions about life belong to the centre, followed by norms and values in the middle layers and the perceptible outer layer, which represents symbols, rituals and artefacts. This meta-model is common for Edward Hall (1989), David Victor (1992) and Hofstede [2] in supporting their well known cultural models (Hoft, 1996). All these cultural models have a function and serve the purpose of identifying international variables, according to Hoft (1996). Despite mentioning other forms of culture, Hoft emphasises the association of culture with nations, reducing cultural problems to a matter of national differences rather than conflicts at other organisational or group levels. All these perspectives convey the underlying idea of culture being the corpus of collective and shared values that „program‟ the mind, in Hofstede‟s (1991) terms. This is different from understanding how people construct culture, which would involve exploring the dynamics in which meanings, values and beliefs that people share are created, reproduced, challenged and transformed. Beyond a cognitive-centred conception of the user, these perspectives do no address the sociocultural dynamics that help users define how useful interactive systems are from a situated perspective. This interest reflects a vision of the world typical of the social constructionist paradigm (Guba, 1990). From this paradigmatic stance, the study of culture has been more concerned with how people construe and build their own social world and is in stark contrast with the culture as „programming of the mind‟. This conception of culture is well depicted by Geertz: Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning. (Geertz, 1973)



It is a concept of culture that is congruent with the work of Mead et al. (1967), in which interaction and the (re)creation and transformation of symbols – values and meanings – are the basis of the social world. In these perspectives the relationship of culture and the individual is not causal – as in the case of Hofstede (1991) –, but more integrated and co-constructed. These ideas point to the need for more comprehensive research on culture and technology, as has been suggested by previous empirical studies on cultural fitness of IT (Abdelnour-Nocera, Dunckley, & Sharp, 2007; Gobbin, 1998; Shen, Woolley, & Prior, 2006). The study of culture and users is of interest not only to HCI but also to other disciplines. In the field of information systems (IS), Eason (1988) examined the concept of culture and the social implications of technology use and change in organisations. His work became influential in the field of human factors research, especially in IS. In the Sociology of Technology, the social and cultural frames of users are a primary focus of research (Bijker, 1995; Latour, 1986). In order to understand the role of interactive systems as culturally mediated and mediating entities, the study of interpretation becomes crucial (Suchman, 1987). This reinforces the definition of culture as „webs of significance‟ and relates to the process of interpretation of users as discussed by Suchman (1987) and Winograd and Flores (1986). In this sense, culture refers to the diverse interpretive frames of users.

2. Approaches to Cultural Diversity in the Design of Interactive Systems The HCI community has developed different methods and tools to elicit requirements and evaluate the use of interactive systems. These have been developed in the western world under particular assumptions about what constitutes relevant knowledge for the design lifecycle (Clemmensen et al., 2007; Yeo, 2001). These methods and tools are usually based on iterative prototyping models, scripted evaluations and protocols to obtain user feedback and measure user perception and performance. Following these methods, HCI researchers have used national cultural dimensions, such as power distance or collectivism (Hofstede, 1991), as independent variables in the study of the usability of systems (del Galdo, 1996; Smith, Dunckley, French, Minocha, & Chang, 2004). This type of research into cross-cultural user interface design has established the existence of a cultural effect in the use of ICT that goes beyond language differences. While the methods used by these researchers can improve and facilitate the communication and interaction between the user and the system, these cannot fully assess whether the design of the technology will contribute to its successful adoption and integration into the users‟ practices and interactions (DePaula, 2003). At present, the validity of Hofstede‟s national cultural dimensions remain as controversial and questionable (Ratner & Hui, 2003) as their effect on usability and predicting user behaviour (El-Shinawy & Vinze, 1997; Fang, 2003; Kampuri et al., 2006). For instance, in a study about Group Support System the hypothesis of the cultural behaviour of a Singaporean user group and a US group predicted from Hofstede's model was not fully supported (El-Shinawy & Vinze, 1997); research about the introduction of automatic teller machines in India also found that Hofstede‟s dimensions were not sufficient to



make sense of the all the cultural factors shaping the process of technology adoption in that country (De Angeli, Athavankar, Joshi, Coventry, & Johson, 2004). In contrast to use of national culture models, semiotic studies in HCI (BourgesWaldegg & Scrivener, 2000; Onibere, Morgan, Busang, & Mpoleleng, 2001) locate the problem of cultural „fit‟ to a matter of meaning-matching – e.g. understanding and liking icons and words – between the interface and users‟ interpretation. There is a clear reference to culture as a frame that enables the decoding of elements, but not in terms of social and symbolic practices that constitute and transform culture, namely traditions (Gadamer, 1975) or domains (Winograd & Flores, 1986). There are authors that explore these traditions as spaces of intersection between the system and the cultures of the workplace or context of use (Bødker & Strandgaard, 1991; Suchman, 1987) These spaces of intersection between systems and people are also addressed by Suchman‟s (1987) Situated Action approach. In this approach, the significance of usercomputer activities will always be indexical to their unique conditions and circumstances. It is at this level that the challenges of human diversity and culture are faced by technology designers. Suchman‟s approach has been shared by a number of researchers of HCI (e.g. Carroll, 2000; Nardi, 1996) and Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) (e.g. Hughes, King, Rodden, & Andersen, 1994; Shapiro, 1994) to understand diversity, and this includes, at least implicitly, the notion of culture. CSCW as a discipline places an important emphasis on contextual and social aspects of technology use. The fact that these phenomena have not been labelled as 'culture' does not mean it is not interesting to understand the relation between technology and people, as socially and culturally different Another alternative to Hofstede‟s model adopted in HCI is Activity Theory (Leont'ev, 1978). This theory does not include pre-established cultural dimensions that could obscure other more relevant cultural factors. Research approaches based on Activity Theory look at how relevant aspects of the context shape computer-mediated activity instead of expecting to find, to a certain extent, some given objective structures. These approaches rely strongly on the implementation of plans and goals of people‟s actions. A clear limitation of Activity Theory that is recognised by Leont‟ev‟s followers (Kaptelini, 1996; Kaptelini, Nardi, & Macaulay, 1999) is that it was developed from psychology and serves different objectives to those of interactive system design. It studies the cognitive-behavioural aspects of tool-mediated activities and tries to explain everything from the minimal operational details to high level issues of social and cultural nature. However, the conception of artefacts as historically and culturally embedded in the practices of a group (Kaptelini, 1996) provide a useful perspective for HCI researchers that is much closer to users‟ practices and, hence, more usable by interaction designers. All these perspectives on design and culture highlight two important notions: the relations between designers and users as intercultural and the interpretive flexibility of technology, both of which we now discuss briefly. Intercultural research on the consumption of technology has found evidence of the integration of artefacts into the everyday life of consumers in ways that differ from those intended by its producers (Honold, 2000; Howes, 1996; Miller & Slater, 2000). Supposed global products go through a creative process of use and interpretation that



will differ to some extent from its built-in meanings and uses. A key insight from this body of research is that studying the cultures shaping designers of interactive systems is as important as studying users‟ culture. This defines the relation between designers and users as an intercultural one at different levels, not necessarily or only national. Authors in the Sociology of Technology (Mackay & Gillespie, 1992; Pinch & Bijker, 1987; Woolgar, 1991) define computers and systems as interpretatively flexible. This means that there is not only a process of encoding or production, but also a process of decoding. This flexibility resembles to what Sorenson, Aune, & Hatling, (2000) called the „symbolic work‟ involved in the domestication of technology, in which the actual uses of systems are not finalised until appropriated by users. This echoes findings by many researchers that local culture, organisational practices and improvisations play a more important and evident role in defining the acceptance and uses of interactive systems than Hofstede‟s national culture dimensions (e.g. Krumbholz & Maiden, 2001; Rugg & Krunbholz, 1999; Soh, Kien, & Tay-Yap, 2000). All these considerations lead us to propose a sociotechnical approach to cultural diversity in HCI able to provide usable and useful cultural knowledge for designers.

3. A Sociotechnical Approach to Cultural Diversity in HCI What is so attractive to the HCI authors using the term „culture‟ based on national models (e.g. Hofstede) and social psychology theories (e.g. Rotter's locus of control) is the possibility to predict and control user behaviour, an expectation grounded in a positivist scientific paradigm. HCI research on national culture has been used to provide direct guidelines on how to gather requirements, design and evaluate technology, but as soon as designers start working with abstractions other critical aspects of the local culture and context start being overlooked. Thus, these methods, apart from offering an initial realisation that culture does matter, have proven not to be so effective in informing decisions at lower design levels, as already discussed. Ironically, the tools to understand user diversity at a richer and more granular level come from perspectives cited in the previous section, concerned with sociotechnical change and grounded in contrasting paradigms such as constructionism, usually not so attractive to HCI researchers with stronger roots in computer science and software engineering. The socially constructed and mediating characters of interactive systems, only finally defined once they are deployed in their context of use, are difficult to assess only in terms of national culture (Abdelnour-Nocera & Dunckley, 2008). This is even more critical at a time when interactive systems are increasingly pervasive and ubiquitous. Adopting a „sociotechnical‟ approach responds to the need to carefully consider the social and technical implications of design decisions (Sommerville & Dewsbury, 2007) while helping multidisciplinary project teams to reach a common understanding of the problems being solved with ICT (Hansen, 2006). This includes the recognition of the cultures of designers and users and their contextual diversity in designing interactive systems. Such an approach requires qualitative methods to complement the quantitative survey tools and analysis models usually applied by HCI researchers looking at national culture. These methods are not only ethnographically inspired but also include artefacts



that can act as probes (Gaver, Dunne, & Pacenti, 1999) or facilitators (Camara, Abdelnour-Nocera, & Dunckley, 2008) in eliciting cultural knowledge, specially in those areas of intercultural conflict or misalignment between designers and users. In order to briefly illustrate a sociotechnical approach to address culture in interaction design, we describe a project aimed at bridging the global digital divide; enabling Kenyan rural farmers to use technology and exchange farming knowledge. This project provides an example of how we applied top-down and bottom-up approaches to culture to identify relevant cultural knowledge for designing interactive system. 3.1. VESEL The Village e-Science for Life (VeSeL) is a multi-disciplinary research project that aims to identify and design novel and customised ICT solutions for two distinct farming communities in Kanya: Kambu and Kiangwaci. These were chosen because they are characteristically different in terms of their geography, climatic conditions, farming practices and types of crops. In Kambu, agriculture is relatively poor and constantly in decline due to the lack of good farming knowledge suitable for this type of arid condition. In Kiangwaci, despite its more fertile condition, farmers also have poor agricultural and market knowledge. Schools in both communities remain very disadvantaged and have minimal teaching and learning resources. The overarching aim of VeSeL is to identify suitable and useful ICT to improve these conditions via a participatory design approach with all relevant actors (community members, researchers, local and national government officials and other interested third parties). To do so, an understanding of context and culture of the communities along with knowledge of existing infrastructure, level of technology and needs were of paramount importance. In other words, a sociotechnical approach to identifying key cultural factors in our choice of technology and subsequent design was needed. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, we engaged in a contextual inquiry with the communities to unravel their expectations, ways of life and perceptions. Formal surveys, semi-structured and open interviews were conducted taking into consideration local procedures and sensibilities. Some researchers lived with communities for a number of weeks and gained a level of trust and acceptance towards understanding the context in situ. Guided by our local partners, researchers took notes, videos, photographs and used some technology probes (Hutchinson et al., 2003) to provoke reactions and elicit tacit cultural knowledge. The analysis of data included topdown and bottom-up perspectives for the elicitation of the cultural knowledge needed. From the top-down, the analysis was informed by Hofstedeâ€&#x;s cultural dimensions. However, researchers remained open-minded at all times to findings that contradicted or complemented the dimensions suggested by Hofstedeâ€&#x;s or his models for East African countries. We had within VeSeL a local partner in the University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya. In addition, two of the researchers from UK partners were African with one them being Kenya. These partners influenced our initial cultural discovery and understanding of the communities. For instance, in deciding on ethnographic methods or technology probes they would initially advise on the social rites and level of



technology in the communities to expect: requesting meeting through local self-help groups rather than local government/authorities; complexity level and availability of ICT resources on the ground. Previous to our fieldwork different documents and reports on implementing interactive systems rural sub-Saharan Africa were read, some of which confirmed Hofstdeâ€&#x;s values while others only did it partially. We found farmers were collectivists by nature since they were well organised into selfhelp groups that buy and sell agricultural products, make decisions for and within the groups and learn/disseminate information within a group. They showed high uncertainty avoidance: for instance, during some probing exercises with small digital cameras and MP3 players, users would not perform any other actions than those they had been shown. If a camera screen went off, they would come back to the researcher asking if he could fix it. Contrary to Hofstedeâ€&#x;s scores for East Africa, the communities studied showed low power distance traits since leaders are elected and often this role rotates. Each leader must explain and justify his actions and decisions at every group meeting. Nonetheless, these high level insights into their cultures were not complete and refined and situated enough to inform design and needed of methods and artefacts that would facilitate decisions at more detailed level. From the bottom-up, the analysis of field notes and qualitative data in general also provided useful findings about their lifestyle and values driving the farming practices. These findings were not focused only on culture manifested in behavioural patterns or measurable responses but on culture as a qualitative phenomenon based on the shared interpretive frames of the user communities. For instance, a semi-structured interview was prepared to be conducted with each of the self-help groups identified. In Kiangwaci, the self-help group (Kaaria) had 19 members and in Kambu there were 16 members (Mtito-Andei Development Initiative). The interview questions for each member focused on their farming activities and resources; types of crops grown; problems they face; their ambitions and objectives; their choice of self-help group; what they see/understand within the group in terms of decision making, leadership and management, benefits, problems; their preferred learning patterns (time and place); where precisely they think VeSeL should help them and their communities; what they see as successes of the group and also individual success stories; etc. It is also important to mention that these activities took place in farmersâ€&#x; home comfort and sometimes while carrying on their farming or showing researchers around.The interview provided much ethnographic information of the community in terms of its characteristics, environment, tasks, values and views. Some of the most pertinent findings were that: Farmers expressed a great deal of trust and valued the self-help group as it allowed them to make the most of their crops. For those who did not own land and were forced to rent from other community members, they expressed the hardship and effort they had to put into their farming activities to make ends meet. A great disparity existed between farmers based on their education level and means. Those who had a higher level of education, tended to have bigger shambas (fields) and more tools such as motor pumps for irrigation, water tanks, better storage units (seed banks) and thus bigger and better houses. In Kiangwaci, farmers practiced mixed farming to make the most of their time, resources and continuous production rota. For example, while one set



of French beans was maturing, another one was germinating. After the harvest, another type of crop was grown in its place to re-fertilise the soil. All farmers interviewed expressed the difficulty of getting a better return on investment in their produce. While some farmers trusted agricultural extension officers sent by the government or buyers who advised on pesticides and practices, others had mixed feelings after a single experiment or advice had gone wrong. Richer farmers coped easily with a bad experiment and tended not hold a grudge, but poorer ones had deep resentment and doubts about any similar initiatives. Due to the self-help group initiative, farmers all tended to grow the same crop for income generation even if this practice might lead to abandoning subsistence crops (crops for their own food). Because of these group activities and practices (collectivism), it was hard at times to identify farmers‟ individual interpretation of their context and culture with regard to the perceived farming and group dynamic. Should there be some hidden individualism or silences and sensibilities, what it is and how significant it is need to be explored and made explicit. Card sorting was therefore envisaged after all interviews were conducted to help validate and further explore members‟ mental model. While conducting the interviews, researchers were also taking pictures to illustrate as much as possible community members‟ responses. Pictures of farms (crops and livestock), pests, water resources, school activities, aid activities, homesteads, etc. were all reviewed by researchers to identify a sample set for the sorting exercise. In total 23 pictures were selected with a minimum of two or three in each category identified. Since the focus of VeSeL was in farming and education, these two categories were predominantly represented according to the responses from the interviews. For example, the farmers consistently reported pest control or water management issues. The pictures therefore showed different types of infested crops and water flows. Other pictures of successful crops were also included. The result of this sorting served to validate the interview results in terms of understanding and interpretation of meaning attached to the view we had of the communities through the interviews. Nonetheless, further analysis revealed another dimension of the community‟s mental model. Some of the categories showed clusters of cards based on their economic value or impact within community life. Four of the five participants created categories such as “high value crops” or “commercial crops”, “consumed locally”, “exported” and “survival crop”. When we explored the cards associated with these categories, we observed that high value or commercial crops were more respected than those consumed locally or survival crops. Also, we noticed that during the interviews, farmers spent more time demonstrating the extent of their knowledge about these crops than anything else. We did not explicitly identify this meaning attached to their farming practices in the interviews. However, the variety and richness of this analysis makes it difficult to, on its own, tie key findings with design decisions. This is why an approach to make top-down and bottom-up cultural findings usable in the context of design was followed. The notions of technology as interpretive flexible and the designer-user relation as intercultural underpinned our approach, which led to the creation of sociotechnical



matrices to guide design. More detailed information on how this occurred can be found in (Camara et al., 2008). Matrices supported the evaluation of scenarios and prototypes by highlighting directly relevant elements of users‟ culture; they also highlighted intercultural differences across the expectations of the different stakeholder groups in the project, e.g. engineers, users, designers, educators, agricultural experts. Without matching the sociocultural factors to the technological factors in one frame of understanding, most of the solutions would very likely have been abandoned as soon as we left the sites. This sociotechnical approach to the integration on cultural research in interaction design practice provided situated and usable cultural knowledge beyond the cultural dimensions that neither we nor the communities would have been able to identify or reveal in only following a top-down approach. Among other things this sociotechnical analysis exposed the need for: Local champions (keen individuals or persons with pre-requisites and an interest in technology) to lead the dissemination of knowledge; Matching users‟ expectations with designers‟ intentions. i.e. one blog a day Vs one a week. Local metaphors to be added to the user interface. This approach allowed us to evaluate the interaction between the identified cultural dimensions/attributes and the VeSeL kit. It became clear that sociocultural and technological factors had to be evaluated in an iterative process in which primary knowledge was brought back to evaluate new processes or scenarios in subsequent stages (Hansen, 2006).

4. The Use of Cultural Knowledge in the Design of interactive systems On this paper we have reflected on cultural research in HCI and its relation to design practice. We have referred to broadly two different takes on culture: (1) as „software of the mind‟ that controls user behaviours and responses, which then can be measured and analysed in order to produce high level predictive models; (2) as meanings and discourse that cannot necessarily be measured, but which is richer and more detailed about users‟ practices and expectations. While the former concept helps to introduce practitioners to the fact that cultural differences do matter in designing interactive systems, they have not always proven effective and sufficient in supporting design decisions. The latter concept implies a much richer source of cultural knowledge potentially more useful to designers, but which needs to be streamlined in ways that can be usable by HCI practitioners. Our approach to cultural diversity tries to embrace both perspectives on culture in ways useful to and usable by designers, allowing them to think of „the interface as culture‟ (Kamppuri, Tedre, & Tukiainen, 2006); including the „sixth level‟ of interface research and development, adding to Grudin‟s five-level classification (Grudin, 1990). The 5th level refers to interface as „work setting‟ highlighting the need to recognise the social aspects of organisations and groups, that is, recognising them also as local cultures in our terms. The 6th level places an emphasis on culture at a much broader and fuzzier level, e.g. nations, lifestyles, ethnic groups, etc., and its effects on the lower



levels. Kamppuri et al. recognise the difficulties at generalising and, we would say, using the knowledge generated at this level in design practice. As they note, the meaning of culture in interface design at this level remains yet to be fully defined and understood. We have argued in this paper that this is an issue of understanding the epistemological differences in the paradigms driving cultural research. Converting knowledge primarily aimed at understanding the relations between nations and people, and culture and technology into knowledge aimed at informing the design of interactive systems in culturally sensitive and sensible ways remains a key challenge for HCI. In this paper, we have discussed an attempt at tackling this challenge by incorporating our insights on culture in artefacts and processes supporting design practice. A way forward would be to device methods and tools, such as those mentioned in our sociotechnical approach, that instead of looking for cultural „effects‟, identify what is cultural about the different levels and aspects of interface development, from the most technical to the most social level, and enable practitioners to act on this knowledge. In this approach, a top-down perspective on culture can provide initial guidelines to categorise and make sense of diversity in structured ways; a bottom-up perspective can elicit sound requirements based on solving problems as defined by intended users of interactive systems and not by its designers.

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Kamppuri, M., Tedre, M., & Tukiainen, M. (2006). Towards the Sixth Level in Interface Design: Understanding Culture. Proceedings of the CHI-SA, 69-74. Kampuri, M., Bednarik, R., & Tukiainen, M. (2006). The Expanding Focus of HCI: Case Culture. Paper presented at the NordiCHI 2006: Changing Roles, Oslo, Norway. Kaptelini, V. (1996). Computer Mediated Activity: Functional Organs in Social and Developmental Contexts. In B. Nardi (Ed.), Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction. (pp. 45-68). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Kaptelini, V., Nardi, B., & Macaulay, C. (1999). The Activity Checklist: A Tool for representing the "space" of Context. Interactions, 6, 27-38. Krumbholz, M., & Maiden, N. (2001). The implementation of enterprise resource planning packages in different organisational and national cultures. Information Systems, 26(3), 185204. Latour, B. (1986). The Powers of Association. In J. Law (Ed.), Power, action, and belief : a new sociology of knowledge (pp. viii, 280 s.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Leont'ev, A. (1978). Activity, Consciousness, and Personality. Englewood Cliffs,NJ: Prentice Hall. Mackay, H., & Gillespie, G. (1992). Extending the social shaping of technology approach: ideology and appropriation. Social Studies of Science, 22(4), 685-716. Mead, G. H., Morris, C. W., & Morris, C. W. (1967). Mind, self, and society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago: U. of Chicago P. Miller, D., & Slater, D. (2000). The Internet : an ethnographic approach. Oxford ; New York: New York University Press. Nardi, B. (1996). Studying Context: A comparison of Activity Theory, Situated Action Models, and Distributed Cognition. In B. Nardi (Ed.), Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction. (pp. 69-102). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Nielsen, J. (1996). International Usability Engineering. In E. d. Galdo & J. Nielsen (Eds.), International User Interfaces (pp. 1-19). New York: Wiley Computer Publishing. Onibere, E. A., Morgan, S., Busang, E. M., & Mpoleleng, D. (2001). Human-computer interface design issues for a multicultural and multi-lingual English Speaking Country - Botwswana. Interacting with Computers, 13, 497-512. Pinch, T., & Bijker, W. (1987). The social construction of facts and artifacts. In W. Bijker, T. Hughes & T. Pinch (Eds.), The social Construction of Technological Systems. (pp. 17-50). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Ratner, C., & Hui, L. (2003). Theoretical and Methodological Problems in Cross-Cultural Psychology. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 33(1), 67-94. Rugg, G., & Krunbholz, M. (1999). Determining culture for effective ERP installation. Paper presented at the EMRPS'99, Venice, Italy. Shapiro, D. (1994, October 22 - 26, 1994). The Limits of Ethnography: Combining Social Sciences for CSCW. Paper presented at the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Chapel Hill, United States. Shen, S.-T., Woolley, M., & Prior, S. (2006). Towards culture-centred design. Interacting with Computers, 18(4), 820-852. Smith, A., Dunckley, L., French, T., Minocha, S., & Chang, Y. (2004). A process model for developing usable cross-cultural websites. Interacting with Computers, 16(1), 63-91. Soh, C., Kien, S. S., & Tay-Yap, J. (2000). Enterprise resource planning: cultural fits and misfits: is ERP a universal solution? Communications of the ACM, 43, 47-51.



Sommerville, I., & Dewsbury, G. (2007). Dependable domestic systems design: A socio-technical approach. Interacting with Computers, 19(4), 438-456. Sorenson, K. H., Aune, M., & Hatling, M. (2000). Against linearity: On the cultural appropriation of science and technology. In M. Dierkes & C. von Grote (Eds.), Between Understanding and Trust. Suchman, L. (1987). Plans and Situated Actions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Trompenaars, F. (1993). Managing across cultures. London: Business Books (Random House Books). Victor, D. A. (1992). International business communication. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Winograd, T., & Flores, F. (1986). Understanding Computers and Cognition. New Jersey: Ablex Publishing. Woolgar, S. (1991). Configuring the user: The case of usability trials. In J. Law (Ed.), A Sociology of monsters: essays on Power, Technology and Domination (pp. 58-100). London: Routledge. Yeo, A. (2001). Global-software development lifecycle: an exploratory study. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 163-169.

EXPLORING KEY DETERMINANTS OF VIRTUAL WORLDS BUSINESS SUCCESS BASED ON USERS’ EXPERIENCE AND PERCEPTION XIAOBO (BOB) XU Department of Management Information Systems School of Business and Management American University of Sharjah Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Abstract. Given the growth and popularity of virtual worlds, companies have a strong interest in presenting themselves successfully in virtual worlds. We designed an experimental study to identify the key determinants of virtual worlds business success based on users’ experience and perception. The preliminary results indicate that Starbucks, McDonalds, and Paris are the 3 most favorite sites. Furthermore, 5 key determinants (entertainment, functionality, interactivity, reality, and sociality) of business success in virtual worlds are identified in this study. We conclude the practical and theoretical implications of the findings of this study.

1. Introduction Given the growth and popularity of virtual worlds, companies have a strong interest in branding themselves (i.e. Starbucks and McDonalds) in virtual worlds as well as marketing their products and services to virtual member communities. One example of such virtual worlds is Second Life (SL) where a user is represented by an avatar to walk in the virtual world, chat with others by typing or calling, and engaging in business using the currency of SL called SL dollar. Most importantly to businesses, SL dollar can easily be exchanged for real currencies with a specific exchange rate (i.e., 1 USD = 360 SLD) ( Despite many studies have examined the impact of virtual worlds on business from different perspectives in terms of advertising medium (Barnes, 2007), marketing strategies (Lui et al., 2007), brand value (Barnes and Mattsson, 2008), business value analysis (Arakji and Lang, 2008), and user intention and behavior (Guo and Barnes, 2007; Shen and Eder, 2009; Ahmad et al., 2009), no study has attempted to explore the key determinants of virtual worlds business success. Identifying such key determinants certainly contributes to both theories and practices of doing business successfully in virtual worlds. Therefore, the goal of this study is to explore the key determinants of virtual worlds business success to bridge a major gap in the literature.



The short paper is organized as follows. In Section 2, we review virtual worlds SL and avatars. Section 3 discusses the research question and the research methodology. Section 4 presents the preliminary results of the data analysis and indentifies the key determinants of business success in virtual worlds. The final section concludes the paper by discussing the implications for both research and practice, and future research.

2. Virtual Worlds Second Life Virtual worlds are computer based simulations which may provide a platform for social networking and many other business activities. While businesses are utilizing virtual worlds in many ways, including brand and service expansion, human resources, business to business opportunities, and online collaboration, people are still figuring out the best way to make use of virtual worlds (Smith, 2008; Cheal, 2007). SL is a virtual world created and introduced by Linden Lab in June 2003 ( It is perhaps the most socially and economically complex virtual world environment that is entirely driven by user-created content. SL is a social environment in which an avatar lives, explores, works, shops and talks to each other, that in many ways is similar to the physical world (Koh et al., 2007; Kim et al., 2007). Residents in SL communicate with one another by controlling their avatars. Many other activities, especially shopping, represent commerce opportunities. Many have claimed that SL is the next big thing and is quickly becoming an arsenal of mainstream application that businesses are using to gain an edge on their competitors (Lagorio, 2007; Metz, 2007; Ringo, 2007). Its popularity is quickly reaching the likes of MySpace and YouTube. More importantly, SL is growing throughout the business sector, as well as in educational environments (Lagorio, 2007; Maher, 1999; Metz, 2007; Ringo, 2007; Smith, 2008; Boulos et al., 2007; Jarmon and Sanchez, 2008). Companies on the cutting edge and even those not traditionally seen as technology based, are using SL to provide additional benefits to their employees, customers, and the general population (Metz, 2007; Cheal, 2007). Currently, more than 50 major corporations have established a presence in SL such as IBM, Dell, Cisco, Coca-Cola, News Corp, and Royal Philips Electronics ( These companies in SL are offering services such as product consulting through knowledgeable employees who might not be available on their company’s website (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Fornell et al., 1996). Hence, this new emerging platform creates a truly exciting research opportunity about how to do business successfully in virtual worlds. As a preliminary study, virtual worlds business success is defined as the degree of users’ engagement with the virtual site based on their experience and perception.

3. Research Question and Methodology The research question of this study is: What are the key determinants of virtual worlds business success based on users’ experience and perception? In order to answer the research question, we designed a survey instrument which includes four parts: 1)



demographics; 2) given 15 sites in SL, identify 3 most favorite sites and record time in minutes spent on these 3 sites, respectively; 3) explain why you picked these 3 sites; and 4) any other comments about your SL experience. The initial version of our survey instrument was refined through extensive pre-testing and discussions. The final version of the survey instrument is shown in Appendix. Undergraduate students who enrolled in a Management Information Systems (MIS) course from a major American University in United Arab Emirates were used as subjects of this study. In a total of six sections of the course, the students volunteered to participate in this study for receiving a small amount of class participation credit as an incentive. A total of one hundred and six participants completed both an SL assignment and the final surveys that provide the data for our further analysis. The participants did not have any exposure to the goals of the research prior to completing the surveys. As indicated in Table 1 about the participants’ demographics, the participants had experience with the Internet and computers and are therefore representing a large portion of current and future Internet users. Table 1. Breakdown of study participants Demographic Categories Gender


Academic Rank

Frequency of Using Virtual Worlds (including Second Life)

Range Male Female Finance/Accounting Management/Marketing MIS Economics Other Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior Daily Weekly Monthly Rarely Never

Percentage 33.0% 67.0% 50.0% 23.6% 8.5% 1.9% 16.0% 34.9% 53.8% 9.4% 1.9% 1.9% 17.0% 16.0% 39.6% 25.5%

One issue often raised by researchers is whether the use of students for a study limits the external validity of the results obtained. Prior research illustrates that there are no statistically significant differences between students’ and general consumers’ beliefs and attitudes (Durvasula et al., 1997). In addition, surveys of Internet users reveal that young people with above average education form the majority of users; therefore, they also form the majority of potential web users (



4. Preliminary Results First, we present count and time for participants’ 3 most favorite sites. As shown in Table 2, Starbucks, McDonalds, and Paris are the 3 most favorite sites based on participants’ experience in SL. Table 2. Count and time for 3 favorite sites Sites

No.1 Count/Time

No.2 Count/Time

No.3 Count/Time

Total Count/ Total Time






































Noob Island






Fashion Square















Freebie Outlet The Safari Zoo Sites Paradise Amusement Park
























New York






Based upon participants’ explanations about their picks and other comments about their SL experience (e.g., “I liked Africa because the animals there were nice to see and Paris because of Effiel Tower and Madonalds seemed close to reality”, “In dell I found so many interesting electronics. I like the decoration of Mcdonalds, but unfortunately I was not able to eat there. Paris provided so many historical views which was really nice”), a content analysis was conducted to explore key determinants of business success in virtual worlds. The key determinants of virtual worlds business success are identified and illustrated in Figure 1.



Entertainment Functionality Interactivity

Business success in virtual worlds

Reality Sociality Figure 1. Key determinants of virtual worlds business success

5. Conclusion and Future Work Based on users’ SL experience and perception, 5 key determinants (entertainment, functionality, interactivity, reality, and sociality) of business success in virtual worlds are identified in this study. The preliminary results contribute to both research and practice. Specifically, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first research that tries to explore the key determinants of business success in virtual worlds. Our study also informs IT managers that these 5 key determinants deserve more efforts and resources to present their business successfully in virtual worlds. Developing measurement instruments to empirically test the proposed relationships can lead to promising future research opportunities. Also, future research is needed to examine the gender impact on the proposed relationships between 5 key determinants and virtual worlds business success.

References Ahmad, N., Xu, X. & Barkhi, B. (2009). The phenomena of Second Life adoption: antecedents and consequences of Second Life experience. Unpublished working paper. Ajzen, I. & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Social Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Arakji, R. Y. & Lang, K. R. (2008). Avatar business value analysis: A method for the evaluation of business value creation in virtual commerce. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 9(3), 207-218. Barnes, S. & Mattsson, J. (2008). Brand value in virtual worlds: An axiological approach. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 9(3), 195-206. Barnes, S. (2007). Virtual worlds as a medium for advertising. The Data Base for Advances in Information Systems, 38(4), 45-55. Boulos, M. N. K., Hetherington, L. & Wheeler, S. (2007). Second Life: an overview of the potential of 3-D virtual worlds in medical and health education. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 24(4), 233-245.



Cheal, C. (2007). Second Life: hype or hyperlearning? On the Horizon, 15(4), 204-210. Durvasula, S., Andrews, J. C., Mehta, S. & Lysonski, S. (1997). Advertising beliefs and attitudes: are students and general consumers indeed different? Journal of Asian Business, 13(1), 7184. Fornell, C., Johnson, M. D., Anderson, E. W., Cha, J. & Bryant, B. E. (1996). The American customer satisfaction index: nature, purpose, and findings. Journal of Marketing, 60, 7-18. Guo, Y. & Barnes, S. (2007). Why people buy virtual items in virtual worlds with real money. The Data Base for Advances in Information Systems, 38(4), 69-76. Jarmon, L. & Sanchez, J. (2008). The educators coop experience in Second Life: A model for collaboration. The Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 4(2), 62-82. Kim, Y.J., Baker, J. & Song, J. (2007). An exploratory study of social factors influencing virtual community members’ satisfaction with Avatars. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 20, 567- 593. Koh, J., Kim, Y. G., Butler, B. & Bock G. W. (2007). Encouraging participation in virtual communities. Communications of the ACM, 50(2), 69-73. Lagorio, C. (2007). The Ultimate Distance Learning. The New York Times. Lui, T-W., Piccoli, G. & Ives, B. (2007). Marketing strategies in virtual worlds. The Data Base for Advances in Information Systems, 38(4), 77-80. Maher, M. L. (1999). Designing the virtual campus as a virtual world. Proceedings of the Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (C. Hoadley & J. Roschelle Eds.), Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. Metz, C. (2007). The emperor's new web. PC Magazine, 26(9), 70-77. Ringo, T. (2007). IBM explores new frontiers in collaborative innovation. Research Technology Management, 50(5), 6-7. Second Life Official Website. Accessed on May 27, 2009, available at Shen, J. & Eder, L. B. (2009). Exploring intentions to use virtual worlds for business. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 10(2), 94-103. Smith, S. (2008). Second Life mixed reality broadcasts: A timeline of practical experiments at the NASA CoLab Island. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 1(1), 1-9.

Appendix: Survey Questions PART A: ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS Demographics 1.


Major? MIS Finance/Accounting Management & Marketing Economics Others: ___________ Your current standing: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior




What is your gender? Male Female Your experience with Second Life (SL) or other similar applications such as World of War Craft, and SimCity: Not at all Moderately Totally 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 If yes, how often do you use them? Daily Weekly Monthly Rarely Never


Dell Cisco IBM Coca-cola Starbucks McDonalds Noob Island Fashion Square Freebie Outlet The Safari Zoo Paradise Amusement Park Museum Africa Paris New York

3 favorite sites

Time (minutes) you spent on these 3 sites


F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 170-186.

TRANSFORMATION OF AUDIENCE COMMODITIES TOWARDS USER COMMODITIES Free labor in Web 2.0 technologies DAL YONG JIN Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea

Abstract. This article examines Cyworld from critical perspectives. It mostly analyzes the commodification process of Cyworld users, because Cyworld is engaged in the commodification of what can be understood as free labor. As the political economic overview of Cyworld is meant to unpack some structural elements of this new cultural practice, the paper contextualizes an early attempt to understand the role of free labor in the reproduction of capital relations towards user commodity via Dallas Smytheâ€&#x;s audience commodity. The producibility of the subjects in relation to broadcast media can be contrasted with the productivity of the free labor in a social network site.

Introduction Social network sites (SNSs) have been highly popular and have become a global phenomenon in the early 21st century. SNSs such as Facebook, MySpace, and Cyworld (in South Korea) have hundreds of thousands of users spending immense time and energy to update their personal profiles that blog-type interfaces in which the latest postings or photos appear on top of the SNSs. They have allowed people to present themselves, articulate their social networks, and establish or maintain connections with others (Ellison et al., 2007). SNS users regularly participate in creating their own content and expressing themselves; therefore, participation in SNS has become a major cultural and entertainment activity among them. With the rapid growth of SNSs, the bulk of SNS research has focused on the role of the SNS for the future of digital economy or participatory culture (Pedersen, 2008; Nakamura, 2009). Several of them are also emphasizing the management and friendship performance, network structure, online/offline connections, and privacy issues (Choi, 2006; Hugo, 2008; boyd and Ellision, 2008), while others have primarily emphasized empirical data showing the remarkable growth of SNSs (Kim and Yun, 2008; Levinson, 2009). Contrary to this, the analysis of the relationship between SNS users and companies operating those sites in the context of commodification has received scant attention from media and technology researchers. Although a few scholars have recently begun to analyze SNSs from a political economy approach, their focuses have been analyzing the



characteristics of SNS users with the concept of immaterial labor (Cote and Pybus, 2007; Cohen, 2008; Suhr, 2009). It is rare to see an analysis emphasizing the changing nature of SNS users as free labor and user commodities, although it is crucial to investigate the reasons why people, especially young people, are excited about being a member of SNSs, and their role as producers as well as consumers of SNSs. To make up for this gap, this article examines Cyworld from critical perspectives. It mostly analyzes the commodification process of Cyworld users, because Cyworld is engaged in the commodification of what can be understood as free labor. Although Cyworld and other SNSs have implemented strategies that break with those of old media, these sites can be situated within more general capitalist processes that follow familiar patterns of asymmetrical power relations between users and owners, commodification, and the harnessing of audience power (Cohen, 2008). As the political economic overview of Cyworld is meant to unpack some structural elements of this new cultural practice, the paper contextualizes an early attempt to understand the role of free labor in the reproduction of capital relations towards user commodity via Dallas Smythe‟s audience commodity. The producibility of the subjects in relation to broadcast 1 media can be contrasted with the productivity of the free labor in a social network site.

Transition from Audience Commodity to User Commodity The commodification process of movie and sports stars and their fans is not new (Theberge, 2005); however, Web 2.0 technology has recently suggested a growing interest towards SNS users as new participatory cultures (Jenkins, 2006), with target audiences whom big corporations actively commodify. Web 2.0 users are late comers in the realm of the digital economy and culture, and Web 2.0 models depend on the users producing the content, thus requiring an approach that can account for the labor involved in the production of Web 2.0 content, which can be understood as information, social networks and relationships (Cohen, 2008). The commodification process of Web 2.0 users is the embodiment of the audience commodity, or least we can borrow the term, which had been discussed by Dallas Smythe (1951, 1981). Smythe recognized the economic relationship between the advertiser and the corporate product sponsor—the commodity producers pay advertising agencies for the advertiser‟s product: the broadcast commercial, the published ad, the billboard, etc. Smythe (1977) tried to understand what the commodity form of massproduced, advertiser-supported communications under monopoly capitalism was, and the materialist answer is audiences (Artz, 2008). The approach to audience labor theorization was evinced when Smythe‟s economic consideration of “watching time” as a form of productive labor draws on Marx, for whom labor must be productive, must produce value (Shimpach, 2005). Under contemporary capitalism; all non-sleeping time of most of the population is work time. This work time is devoted to the production of commodities in general and in the production and reproduction of labor power. Of the off-the-job work time, the largest single block is time of the audiences which is sold to advertisers (Smythe, 1994).



Smythe indeed observed that audiences were products that commercial networks sold to corporate advertisers. Recent developments in media technology, however, suggest a shift, with growing interactivity in audience practices, and resonating with growing interest towards fan communities and Web 2.0 users as new kinds of participatory cultures (Nikunen, 2007). In particular, the term audience commodities has gained a new look due to the importance of the changing nature of Web 2.0 participants. With rapid technological changes and digitalization impacting the culture industries, several scholars have proposed different expressions replacing the notion of audience (Shimpach, 2005). Sonia Livingstone, in particular, advocates replacing the term „„audience‟‟ altogether with the more explicitly (inter)active term „„user.‟‟ She (2003, p.355) emphasizes the action of being a user in the Internet age, literally emphasizing the verbs involved: these media and information technologies open up new, more active modes of engagement with media—playing computer games, surfing the Web, searching databases, writing and responding to email, visiting a chat room, shopping online, and so on.

It is indeed useful to emphasize the nature of Web 2.0 customers by adopting the term users, for audiences are increasingly required to participate audibly and physically, albeit that their activities require a subtle eye on the part of the observer. Compared to this, users are, necessarily, clicking on hypertext links in order to create a sequential flow of images on the World Wide Web, typing in order to co-construct the messages of the chat room, externalizing their conception of interface design and genre when producing their website (Livingstone, 2003). In addition, while Smythe located the audience broadly within the media production process, the work of his audience came after content was produced. The television program, for example, is produced and then broadcast, during which time the audience‟s work would begin (Cohen, 2008); therefore, audience commodity broadly could not understand the interactive nature of consumption and production in Web 2.0 technologies. Against this backdrop, it is important to interpret the ways in which SNS users have been valuable commodities as a labor force. As Mosco (2009) clearly articulates, extensive commodification refers to the way in which market forces shape and re-shape life, entering spaces previously untouched, or mildly touched, by capitalist social 2 relations. SNSs have accelerated the commodification process, primarily because the users are free labor devoting their time and energy to their social network sites. Many Cyworld users create their own mini-hompy (homepage), and they do not receive any kind of money reward. As Terranova (2000) claims, it is a good example of the free labor characteristic, which means that Web 2.0 users provide their labor without an exchange of money or wage. Users‟ activities certainly provide some energies and strategies for Cyworld, and free labor is a feature of the cultural economy at large, and an important, yet unacknowledged, source of value in advanced capitalist societies. Free labor on the net includes the activity of building web sites, modifying software packages, reading and participating in mailing lists and building virtual spaces (Terranova 2004, pp. 73-74). The point is whether SNS users as free labor have changed their use value to the exchange value in a certain process. In this regard, it is crucial to identify the nature of



labor involved in Web 2.0 technologies beyond the characteristics of labor in production, especially the way in which the division between producer and consumer has been blurred online. As Cote and Pybus (2007, p. 97) argue, the commodified audience has shifted from Smythe‟s conception of the audience as discrete, measurable quanta in the chain of production and circulation to a dynamic, productive composition of bodies as aggregate networked information and communication technologies (ICTs). As Lazzarato (1996) claims, leisure time and working time are increasingly fused, making life inseparable from work. Web 2.0 applications are built on an architecture of participation and their foundations depend on the creation of massive databases of user information, each new participant adding to the database and thus adding value to the site (O‟Reilly, 2005). Whether this type of labor is being classified as a quantifiable value is another crucial issue, because the owners of SNSs have utilized the users as commodities. SNS users require a serious investment of time by collectively putting a significant amount of time and energy into the creation of their mini-hompies. It is considered to be a pleasant type of participation; however, it has also been described as labor that produces affect, or a feeling of ease, well being, satisfaction, excitement or passion (Lazzarato, 1996; 3 Cote and Pybus, 2007; Hardt and Negri, 2004; Gill and Pratt, 2008). As DyerWitheford and de Peuter (2009, p. 4) point out; immaterial labor involves the less-tangible symbolic and social dimensions of commodities. There are various subcategories of immaterial labor: high-technology work manipulating the codes on which computers and networks run; affective work, generating emotion of, say, ease or excitement.

However, this kind of voluntary involvement of immaterial labor has eventually turned itself into the commodification process in the era of Web 2.0, because corporations and advertising agencies systematically exploit their users‟ affective labor. It is therefore required to reframe or to reconstruct the audience in accordance with discourses of contemporary labor. Being an audience can certainly be usefully conceived as in itself producing audience power as an abstract form of labor required under commercial media systems‟ economic imperatives (Shimpach, 2005); however, this concept is limited in interpreting the changing nature of SNS users as free labor. What distinguishes the concept of free labor in the era of Web 2.0 is indeed its link to ideas of quantitative and interactive commodities in both production and consumption.

Cyworld: The first sort of SNS Web 2.0 technology has increased in popularity and Cyworld has further enticed Korean youth to choose it as their primary SNS. With Korea‟s rapid penetration of high-speed 4 Internet, which is the most advanced in the world, the concept of social networking on the Internet flourished in Korea earlier than any other nation, and Cyworld took over the reigns to dominate the market. Cyworld was created by individual inventors in Korea in 5 1999 as a personal information management system (ahead of several U.S.-based SNSs such as MySpace: 2003, Facebook: 2004, and Twitter: 2006), and it was later revitalized in 2001 as a full-blown social network site with the launch of its template-based



homepage service, called mini-hompy. By networking them through this unique service, Cyworld has been popular and deeply influences local people, in terms of their daily routines, given that almost half of Korean people (24 million people) are connected through Cyworld, and more than 90 % of 20 to 29-year olds use the site regularly (Kim, H., 2009). The rapid growth of Cyworld has relied heavily on the increasing number of young people, who actively dedicate their time and energy to make and continue their connections with others. In the term Cyworld, the prefix “cy” could mean “cyber,” but it could also mean relationship. Members cultivate on-and-off-line relationships by forming Ilchon (1chon) relationships with each other through a service, which encompasses a photo gallery, video, message board, guestbook, friend list, and personal bulletin board. A member is able to link their mini-hompy to another user‟s mini-hompy to form a buddy relationship, which is similar to Facebook and MySpace. Cyworld, however, has a unique concept of Ilchon referring to the single unit of kinship that exists between parents and children. In Cyworld, users are at liberty to create made-up Ilchon relationships that occur when one user accepts an invitation sent by another user, as Facebook users send their invitation through email. This Ilchon kinship metaphor is facilitated by “Ilchon surfing,” which allows users to participate in Ilchon tours to visit all of their Ilchons‟ mini-hompies and to leave courtesy messages in others‟ guestbooks (Kim and Yun, 2008). As one male Cyworld user (21) interviewed in September 2009 mentioned; I have almost 100 Cy-Ilchons and most of them are my classmates in college except for my sister. Through mini-hompies, I communicate with my friends almost every day. I check my mini-hompy and my Cy-Ilchons and meet them on line daily; however, I meet my family only during summer and winter vacations (Interviewee 1).

The mini-hompy is a small cyber space that users get when they become members, and through their mini-hompy, they express themselves to others (appendix 1). The mini-hompy is fully customizable with wallpapers, furniture, and background music, and it acts as a user‟s virtual home. In order to decorate the mini-hompy, users need to use Dotori (acorn in English), which is cyber money ($.10 per Dotori). With Dotori, users can buy decorations, such as a skin or background music, banner, and interia for his/her small cyber room, and users can also send virtual gift cards to others. Prices vary from about two Dotories for a wall painting to six Dotories for a song, or 40 and above for a background for one‟s homepage for a year. It is now a common practice for many Web portals to integrate the use of avatars by appealing to the user as possessing and processing a visual self, in which they should invest to achieve a better sense of being, similar to the way the self is conceived and constructed offline (Choi, 2006). These young users have produced a new internet culture. Unlike other SNSs, including Facebook and MySpace, Cyworld has a unique combination of blog and the Second Life, which is more attractive for young people. During my interviews, one college student pointed out, “Korean youth are very eager to decorate their own mini-hompy. Cyworld users always decorate the backgrounds, background music, and avatar based on their needs and interests” (Interviewee 2). Unlike other Web 2.0 technologies, Cyworld has also grown beyond the function of social networking and evolved into a site that enables companies to



reach out to both users and consumers respectively. For example, Korean celebrities have been known to use Cyworld to connect with their users by setting up a minihompy and posting details of their upcoming tours and works. Several famous actors and actresses have more than 15 million visitors per year, and Cyworld users as fans of these celebrities have contributed their time and energy to them more visibly while expressing their loyalty to them. According to SK Communications (2009b), on average, one Cyworld user has 41Ilchon friends and stays for 50.9 minutes when they access the site, as of November 2009. These figures have slightly increased from the previous year mainly because SK Communications has converged Cyworld and Nate, its own Internet portal, in order to maximize its synergy effect, starting since September 2009. Until then, the two websites were not connected; however, users are now able to enjoy both Nate and Cyworld on the same front page, which has resulted in the increase in the number of Cy- Ilchons and access time, as planned. The wall between SNSs and portals is being taken down, which is perhaps a new trend, and this converging of social networking and search engine sites is likely to be a case study model for Web companies in other nations . Many major global social networking and portal services have been expanding Korean operations and hiring local engineers and marketers to learn from the cuttingedge market.

The Political Economic Interpretation of Cyworld The political economic history of Cyworld reveals precisely such a strategy of managing and regulating, and of developing devices for the control and creation of the social and cultural activities therein. Cyworld is an open site, although its politicaleconomic foundation demonstrates how such user-generated content is the dynamic driving new revenue streams. Thus it is the tastes, preferences, and social narratives found in user entries which comprise the quotidian mother lode of these new revenue streams (Cote and Pybus, 2007). It is this user-generated content that spyware and adware monitor to microtarget those same online subjectivities. This is what excites media and telecommunications conglomerates like News Corporation and SK Telecom who realize the value of mining these new networked subjectivities to extend existing markets and to produce new ones—indeed, to construct a new paradigm of capitalist market relations (Cote and Pybus, 2007, p. 100). In this regard, two major business strategies are especially worth looking at: the commodification of the SNS itself and the convergence of new media. As MySpace began when Tom Anderson, a musician, paired up with Chris De Wolfe to create a website where musicians and fans could interact and engage in music sharing and casual discussions on music (Suhr, 2009), the inventors of Cyworld thought of it as a personal contact website, a way to connect to their immediate circle of friends and family. It was hardly an overnight success; however, it finally found its turning point through the introduction of mini-hompy (Choi, 2006); then there was the mini-room, a three dimensional virtual space, and the mini-me, an avatar that the user could place in his/her mini-room and send out to visit others. The mini-hompy, and especially the mini-room,



gave Cyworld a new lease on life. Now members could create their own content and decorate their rooms. Cyworld has been a valuable product itself ahead of MySpace and Facebook. Cyworld had been receiving merger and acquisition offers from various Internet portals, and it was sold to a large corporation, SK Communications—itself a subsidiary of SK Telecom Co. Ltd., a predominant wireless services provider- for $7.5 million in August 2003, before the sale of MySpace to News Corp. for $580 million in 2005. Its popularity as a commodity happened mainly because SK Telecom planned to be a leader, not only in the wireless telephone service, but also in individual media, and Cyworld was crucial for its convergence strategy (Kim, 2004). SK Communications was operating Nate, an Internet portal, whose market share ranked between eighth and tenth of Internet portals, and wanted to be the leader by acquiring Cyworld. Nate became the third largest only two months after its acquisition of Cyworld in October, 2003, due to the rapid growth of Cyworld users (Lee, 2003). Furthermore, SK Communications acquired Empas—a search engine—for $39 million to pursue socalled synergy effects with Cyworld in 2006 (Hwang, 2006). SK Telecom has indeed developed a synergetic connection between the search engine (Empas), social network (Cyworld), and platform (Nate) through convergence among Internet-related new media sectors in order to compete with domestic and international corporations that launched their subsidiary companies in Korea, including Google and Yahoo. SK Telecom has also aggressively expanded its investment in new media and entertainment sectors, due to its strategic corporate policy to converge mobile technologies and content. SK Telecom especially acquired Seoul Music Corporation, the leader in the music industry, mainly because it pursued synergy effects by converging content and hardware, including wireless telephone services and Cyworld in 2005. Through vertical and horizontal integrations, several media and telecommunications corporations like SK Telecom and News Corporation are able to control interests in several different areas, including film, television, games, the Web, music, and countless other sectors. Cyworld has primarily pursued horizontal integration in the field of new media, instead of traditional vertical integration between new and old media, because networks are what the 21 st century is calling for. The result has been the restructuring of cultural production around synergies (Jenkins, 2001). Convergence is particularly a challenge for many media and telecommunications corporations who attempt to venture into the Internet market, because current media convergence has been fuelled by increasingly pervasive digital technologies (Huang and Heider, 2008), and SNSs become a cornucopia in the digital economy. More importantly, Cyworld‟s business model has been unique due to its mix of several different revenue resources unlike other portals and SNSs that primarily rely on online advertising as a major revenue resource. There are recognizable differences in business models among SNSs as they originated from various parts of the world and are modeled to cater to the preferences and culture of the locals. Social networking and community sites also face several challenges in building a profitable community and identifying what it is that users value in the service (Ching et al., 2008). There are several significant revenue resources making Cyworld profitable, including the sales of avatar and background music, as well as advertising, which means that since the



acquisition by SK Communications, there has been a stream of effort to strengthen revenue by establishing or expanding new business models. The most significant revenue source for Cyworld is its avatar system, which has become its most successful business model, resulting in annual sales of $77.3 million; this consisted of about 80% of Cyworld‟s revenues in 2008 (Kim, T., 2009). While Facebook was expected to earn 13.6% of its revenues from virtual goods in 2009, because its primary revenue resources are both brand ads and self-service ads by using Beacon and News Feed functions, Cyworld‟s major revenue resource is surprisingly the avatar system. As noted, what drove the Cyworld business was the sale of their virtual currency called Dotori. Dotories are used to purchase items for the furnishing of the mini-hompy. On average, each Cyworld user already spent about $7 per year on Dotori in 2007, whereas, at the same time, the average American user at MySpace was spending less than a third as much at $2.17 per year (Coyner, 2007). In particular, several star characters have become popular for young users. Since users need eight Dotories to buy one star character to decorate their mini-hompy, they pay 80 cents each, which means several of these star characters make about $250,000 each (Choi, 2009). While most American Web companies have decided to put their eggs in the advertising basket, and the SNSs are counting on ads as their main source of revenues, Cyworld demonstrates that next-generation Internet companies can also have powerful Ecommerce components as well (Ewers, 2006). Although Cyworld members are able to earn free Dotories through some events (e.g., special points earned through the usage of wireless telephones), the sales of Dotori have been a major financial resource for Cyworld. Meanwhile, the sales of music have increasingly become one of the most significant parts in its revenue as a result of the commodification of users. As of August 2009, Cyworld has cumulatively sold more than 4 millions songs as background music to members after seven years of service, mainly because users easily buy songs with both Dotories and cash (SK Communications, 2009a). The site has established a unique business model that distinguishes itself from other online music shops. While the iTunes Store and other popular online music shops sell MP3-format songs that can be played on portable gadgets as well as PCs, Cyworld is sticking to a "streaming" service, which means users should be connected to Cyworld Web site or SK's Nate online messenger program in order to listen to the music they have purchased. The so-called BGM (background music) strategy has received much criticism but many saw it as an inevitable choice for SK Communication, considering the widespread piracy of music in Korea (Cho, 2008). Cyworld has fully utilized Seoul Music Cor., acquired in 2005, to amplify synergy effects. For example, Cyworld provided free BGM coupons to 3,000 Cyworld users who bought a new music album called Bohemian in October 2006 (JoongAng Ilbo, 2006). Cyworld also sold Su, Tae-Ji‟s (the most famous rapper in Korea) new album, only to Cyworld users when the album was released in July 2008. Cyworld sold as many as 5,084 albums before Su released the album, so Cyworld users could use Su, Tae-Ji‟s new songs as BGM. With the huge success of this business model, Cyworld has even changed its music service brand from BGM to Cy-BGM (it means Boys & Girls love Music) (SK Communications, 2008). These two events have especially succeeded in soothing many local musicians‟ anxieties related to the search for outlets for their



music particularly for a new album (Suhr, 2009). While they still depend on the music industry and media as a way to gain popularity, they also utilize a popular network channel. With 24 million young users, Cyworld has a great potential for networking and promotion for musicians and other celebrities, such as actors, actresses, and sports stars. The BGM model has been one of the most significant embodiments of the commodification of SNS users. Cyworld already started its own Digital Music Awards in June 2006 and its ceremony has become one of the major music events in Korea. Since the awards are handed out to K-Pop artists whose songs are the most played on Cyworld as BGM for the month, it is a genuine reflection of the preference of Korean youth. Unlike MySpace, which has developed its popularity for independent musicians who have found a voice, a platform and an outlet to express and network their music (Suhr, 2009), the major musicians whom Korean youth like the most are established musicians. SNS users as free labor contribute to the increase of musicians‟ visibility and their sales of new albums. Through searching for their favorite music and clicking the keyboard, Cyworld users have turned themselves into valuable commodities for the music industry, as well as Cyworld. Whenever Cyworld users download and listen to music, their clicks have been quantifiable commodities to be bought and sold.

SNS Advertising towards User Commodities Large corporations and advertising agencies utilize SNS users as a major advertising resource. As the number of SNS users has soared, advertisers have focused more on SNSs. Advertisers spent $2.2 billion to advertise on SNSs worldwide in 2009, with $1.2 billion in spending in the U.S. (Adweek, 2009). Among these, MySpace earned $490 million through advertising globally in 2009, followed by Facebook ($435 million) (eMarketer, 2009). Mixi, Japan‟s most popular SNS also earned 90% of its revenue from advertising (total $19 million), including banner ads and mobile formats in 2008 (Campaign, 2009). Compared to these major SNSs in different places, Cyworld has not seemed to show any serious interest in advertising due to its successful business model driven by virtual items. However, Cyworld has begun to pay keen attention to online advertising because it has pursued new revenue resources in recent years. As Park, Sang-Jun, CEO of SK Communications, states, “since it is too difficult to entice new customers given that more than 90% of Korean youth between late teens and early twenties in their ages are already Cyworld users, Cyworld needs to find alternative revenues, including online advertising” (New Media World, 2008). After sophistically developing its BGM services, Cyworld has introduced a new advertising model, known-as HappyClicks, a service that allows Cyworld users to put ads on their mini-hompy and be rewarded with Dotories, since July 2006. HappyClicks is a new social network advertising concept in a way that SK Communications awards Dotories, between 1 and 3 per click, to users who agree to show ads on their minihompy to visitors whom mostly they have known for a while. When people visit their Ilchon mini-hompy, they see banner or visual ads as long as Cyworld users agree to do so (Lee, S., 2008), which is another example of free labor on Cyberspace.



HappyClicks has been successful, and about 1.3 million Cyworld users registered as of May 2007. SK Communications earned an extra $3.5 million with this new service until that point (Kwon, 2007). Cyworld started to integrate advertisers as members of the online community, and more than 50 corporations became advertisers as of May 2007, including movie production, game, and mobile firms (Kwon, 2007). Given that Cyworld users are very homogeneous in terms of their ages (teens and early twenties) and education (high school or college students), advertisers are clearly targeting them, so women/diet, travel/leisure, mobile/Internet, and college/private institutes are major advertising categories. Cyworld users especially seem to like some high quality visual ads, such as movies/games and shopping ads, which makes the SNS more profitable. Online communities have become the center for buzz marketing, a powerful marketing tool for new films. For example, two recent Korean films, The Host (2009) and National Athlete (2009) made huge successes in terms of box office records, partially because netizens posted their positive movie review in the mini-hompy, which has resulted in the rapid growth of the number of movie-goers for these movies. People have more or less value depending on their demographics and the value of those demographics to particular product producers (Arts, 2008). Telecommunications, media, and online publishers have utilized the younger generation, whose major characteristics include the rapid acceptance of new technology, as well as their roles as heavy users of new media. Mega corporations and advertising agencies have considered SNS users as primary Internet advertising resources. Search engines, including Google and Naver (in Korea) act as the basic platform promoting knowledge creation and sharing; therefore, they are increasingly becoming commodities (Kwon, K.D., 2007). Social network sites such as MySpace and Cyworld also play a key role as a platform serving such purposes; as for advertising agencies, they are very significant commodities. While Cyworld users perhaps enjoy their virtual space every day, their click of website has been counted as valuable commodities. Cyworld users have defined a new concept of participatory culture, and their unique culture has also been part of commodified culture due to the importance of SNS users for major telecommunications and media corporations. Cyworld has learned that it has more than 24 million users and acknowledged the subtleties of free labor well; therefore, it has begun to utilize the seemingly endless time and energy of young users. Advertisers continue to spend their ad money to make social networks a priority because the additional unpaid exposure to the increasing number of users is immeasurable. In this regard, Cohen (2008) adequately points out, in SNSâ€&#x;s productive processes, we can conceive a form of exploitation, because as a publisher, Cyworld does not pay a wage for the labor that produces content. As Smythe (1994) claimed, advertisers buy the services of audiences with predictable specifications who would pay attention in predictable numbers and at predictable times to particular means of communication (TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines). The audience is not a category like class, gender or race; rather, it is an aggregation of people linked to a particular market, be it for a cultural commodity (such as a TV program) or the commodities advertised therein (Cote and Pybus, 2007). Audiences in television and users in SNSs are products that commercial networks and SNS operators sell to corporate advertisers. In particular, SNS users are products that advertising agencies sell to corporate advertisers.



What distinguishes SNS users from television audiences is that SNSs directly change user values to exchange values for profits. In Smythe‟s articulation, audiences received television programming in exchange for their labor; however, exchange involved in SNSs is not the same as audience commodity theory. By contributing their time, energy, and creativity with a click of the keyboard and mouse, SNS users receive information, maintain friendships, and generate a feeling of belonging or fulfillment. However, by uploading photos, posting links, and inputting detailed information about social and cultural tastes, users provide content that is used to generate traffic, which is then leveraged into advertising sales (Cohen, 2008). Cultural participation is always a commoditized activity, and participation is the act of selling and buying (Andrejevic, 2004), because within the world of the Internet, corporate products are easily treated as abstract digital bits of information, or more concretely, as raw materials for users‟ creative re-interpretation (Shefrin, 2004). Regardless of the fact that participation is symbolic and contextualized in meaning-making systems, ultimately, participation is also always commoditized (Pedersen, 2008). Many SNS users participate in the creation of cultural content; however, their activities are not simply passing time. Smythe (1977, p. 3) argued, “leisure time, such as those hours of uncompensated labor in which the workers perform essential marketing functions for the producers of consumer goods, changes the relations between the production and reproduction of labor power.” During my interviews, one Cyworld user indeed explains: I can‟t explicitly say whether it is a waste of time because I do not spend too much time on Cyworld. However, I know many friends of mine who put too much time and energy on decorating their mini-hompies, which, I believe, is a waste of time (Interviewee 3).

Another college student also states: students spend much time on Cyworld. However, I still have to spend some of my time in doing Cyworld in order to keep some kinds of relationships with people and to see what‟s up with them (Interviewee 4).

As such, many Cyworld users do not know or do not care whether they spend their time for the company operating the SNS and its advertisers. Their volunteer activity was initially highly autonomous, as autonomist Marxists state (Hardt and Negri, 2000). However, such participatory culture was soon recognized by SNS capital as a source of ideas that could be harvested, and by the turn of the century it was reaping these fields with increasing thoroughness (Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter, 2009). Building on such autonomist theory, some have pointed to the prevalence of free labor in digitally based cultural industries that rely on user-generated content (Terranova, 2000). Of course, their contribution is a little bit different from what Hardt and Negri (2000, p. 292) focus on, because unlike immaterial labor, where labor produces immaterial goods such as a service, a cultural product, knowledge or communication, the SNS users as free labor are turning themselves into valuable commodities that advertisers buy and sell. The users‟ participation in Cyworld is commodified and marketed as both a notpaid-for leisure experience and as a key selling point of corporations having SNSs, such as SK Telecom. With their high-level computer skills, users turn their use value into



exchange value backed by corporations whose major goal is to make surplus through the commodification process. Although playfulness and joy are major features of users, these use-values ultimately become subordinate to exchange-value. As one student expresses: it is worthwhile spending my time visiting Cyworld. It‟s a way of communicating with others nowadays, and by checking out others‟ mini-hompies, I can be updated with what‟s going on in their lives. And by writing chores and posting pictures on my minihompy, I can show how I‟m doing lately (Interviewee 5).

The blurring of work and non-work time is a common thing and a feature of free labor. SNS users do work on advertising and program messages, but they have seldom worked in the form of wage labor. SNS owners, which are usually telecommunications and media corporations, rapidly utilize these SNS users as valuable commodities. Major corporations have invested and/or expanded their investments in SNSs mainly because of the potential benefits from the digital culture and economy in which knowledge and information work dominate (Gill and Pratt, 2008). SNSs are now parts of telecommunications and media corporations. For these corporations, users are the new economy because they do not just buy their goods and services, but they convince their friends to give them a try through their activities, as in the case of the creation of mini-hompies. The commodification of SNS users is produced not only by users themselves but also by corporate strategies as SNSs have vehemently utilized users as commodities to be sold. Advertising has been an emerging revenue resource for corporations and advertising agencies, and Cyworld has learned this and executed a corporate policy to capitalize on it. With the rise of crossplatforming and convergent media through Web 2.0, the role of online communities has been critical (Hjorth and Chan, 2009). SNSs facilitate the commodification process through aggregating user information for thirdparty use and specifically targets demographics for marketing purposes (Cohen, 2008). As the Internet has been a primary tool as social networking systems in the 21st century, the degree to which users‟ activity as valuable commodities has also been remarkable in the era of Web 2.0.

Conclusion The SNSs have a strong appeal to Korean youth, who live in a tightly woven and hierarchical Confucian society, emphasizing solidarity and togetherness. With the rapid penetration of broadband services, more Internet users are enjoying the social network site. SNS users enjoy and create a new digital and convergence culture; however, the process of commodification in SNS users is evident, because Web 2.0 technology amplifies the elements of Smythe‟s argument of audience commodity in a form of user commodity. Web 2.0 technologies are used to refine the process of delivering audiences of viewers, listeners, readers, movie fans, and now mobile and Internet users to advertisers. Companies operating and/or owning SNSs can package users and repackage users in forms that specifically reflect both their actual purchases and their demographic characteristics (Mosco, 2009).



Marketers are discovering that Cyworld and other virtual markets are increasingly becoming as important for a number of products and services as the physical markets (Coyner, 2007). It did not take much time for corporations to learn that the users have, either voluntarily or non-voluntarily, turned themselves into valuable commodities. SNS users as a labor force play a key role in the production process as valuable and quantifiable commodities. In the era of Web 2.0, media and telecommunications have on a large scale invested into SNSs, primarily due to the medium‟s unique role as the convergence point of new technology, culture, and youth, as well as its value in creating profitable commodities in terms of both the product and the valorization of users. Big corporations have deliberately organized the convergence as part of their primary marketing strategies, which has become a user commodity process. SNSs are often considered as sites for sharing information, connecting friends (social interaction), enjoying entertainment, and of course, passing the time; however, their transformation into work platforms, and the amount of work that is being done through SNSs often goes unacknowledged by both users and the public. The real value produced by SNS users is economically relevant as long as the credibility of user commodities and associated exploitation have been seriously considered in the market. The users proactively participate in producing, sharing, and consuming knowledge and information, and users interact with each other on an open platform through which someone can create and consume content. As Maxwell (2001, p. 12) argues, “consumption also has the quality of labor because the work it involves functions to complete a part of the cycle of capital expansion by fostering the turnover of investment. We don‟t just buy things, we make systems run.” Therefore, SNS users can be seen as confirming the pre-eminence of exchange-value in social network sites, as audiences in television have, but as more affective and information-savvy customers. Labor power has been conceived as variable capital, that is, a force that is activated and made coherent only by capital. This traditional concept is called into question in SNSs, because the cooperative powers of labor power afford labor the possibility of valorizing itself (Hardt and Negri, 2000, p. 294). In other words, as SNSs evolve in relation to an environment of commodification, it seems likely that SNS users, as free labor, will continue producing and reproducing the inescapable inequalities. SNS users add and/or create value to what they consume by clicking the keyboard and dragging the mouse with no monetary reward. SNS users have been earned as user commodities in a form of working free labor, and user power as a product to be sold is evident in the era of Web 2.0 technology; however, their value has been severely exploited, regardless of the fact that this labor is affective and enjoyable for many users.

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Appendix 1: Mini-hompy Screen

Endnotes 1

The discussion in this article is partially based on interviews I conducted with Cyworld users who are college students (20 participants) in Daejeon, Korea between September and October 2009. The respondents are between 20 and 26 in their ages, and 12 participants are male students. 2

The process of commodification in general is clear. On one hand, use-value is determined by a productâ€&#x;s ability to meet individual and social needs; on the other hand, exchange-value is determined by what a product can bring to the marketplace. Commodification occurs when usevalue is transformed into exchange-value.




Cote and Pybus (2007, p. 89) employ the term immaterial labor to describe the social and cultural component of labor, from which value has been extracted. Immaterial labor is originally defined as that which produces the informational and cultural content of the commodity (Lazzarato 1996, p. 133). 4

Korea is among the leading performers in broadband, which has greatly contributed to the growth of SNS. As of December 2008, about 95% of Korean households were connected to broadband services, the highest in the world; connection rates were much lower in Canada (76%), U.K. (67%), Japan (64%) and the U.S. (60%) (Strategy Analytics, 2009). 5, which was the first recognizableSNS launched in 1997 failed to become a sustainable business and the service closed in 2000. Between 1997 and 2000, several SNSs launched their service, including AsianAvenue, BlackPlanet, and MiGentle, which are ethnicbased and targeted SNSs. Therefore, Cyworld could be recognized as the first local-based, notethnic oriented SNS in the world (See boyd and Ellision, 2008).

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 187-197.

THE ELUSIVE QUEST FOR REVOLUTION What about the ‘next generation’? ALBRECHT HOFHEINZ Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages University of Oslo Oslo, Norway

Abstract. Research on the impact of the internet in the Middle East has been dominated by a focus on politics and the public sphere, and oscillated between the hope for ‘revolutionary’ change and the admission that regime stability in the region has not easily been unsettled by media revolutions alone. Obsession with the new and with the latest technologies has helped to obscure more long-term socio-cultural developments. This paper is a plea for a shift of paradigm: to study more seriously the social and cultural effects of internet and mobile phone use; to find out what impact the use of these media has on conceptions of the individual and its role in the construction of knowledge and values; and how these dynamics are embedded in more long-term historical developments promoting a greater role for the individual vis-à-vis established authorities.

Revolution through the ever latest technology? Published research on the impact of internet use in the Middle East seems to be driven by a constant quest to discover some ‘revolutionary’ effect that the medium might have. The preeminent journal in the field, Arab Media & Society, was created in 2007 with the proclaimed goal of “Reporting a Revolution” (Pintak, 2007). Sure, those who believe unreservedly in the power of new media to change the world are mostly journalists or activists.1 Much of the academic literature has, over the past years, oscillated between the search for revolutionary developments and the admission that all too high hopes for radical political change have not been borne out. But this admission has not killed the dream. In the 1990s, satellite TV was the projection screen for optimism; al-Jazeera became its emblem. Towards the end of the decade, with internet penetration in the region creeping towards the one-percent-mark, some placed their hopes for rapid change on the “information super-highway”; but when the dot-com-bubble burst and 1

Mona Eltahawy currently is one of the most eloquent of these; see



descriptions of the digital divide gained currency, it appeared that we were perhaps rather looking at “information without revolution” (Wheeler, 2010, 193; id., personal communication, 2004). Change, however, was going to come. In 2005, blogging emerged as the new flame of hope in the Arab world.2 After blogs in neighboring Iran had blossomed in the wake of a state crackdown on the liberal press, and shown the potential of the platform to undermine state control over information flows (Alavi, 2005), Egyptian bloggers took the lead in the Arab world by publishing reports on police brutality that not only aroused international attention, but also led to a court case and the conviction of two police officers for torture – an unprecedented event in the country (Wāʾil ʿAbbās, 2006 b; Anon, 2007).3 In a further step, bloggers were decisive in reporting about mass sexual assault on women during a religious holiday in downtown Cairo in October 2006, with the police not intervening and other media keeping quiet for three days (Al Husseini, 2006).4 Eventually, this led to greater public debate about sexual harassment and to a draft law to combat the problem being introduced to the Egyptian parliament in January 2010 (Abou el-Magd, 2010; Amro Hassan, 2009). While governments across the region demonstrated their nervousness by cracking down harder on bloggers, the “blogging revolution” (Loewenstein, 2008) did not topple a single régime, and by 2008, David Faris noted “a fatigue with Egyptian blogging” that he attributed to the hyperprominence of a few (three!) bloggers which made it “difficult for new voices to be heard”. A saviour, however, had already appeared on the horizon: “Social networking sites where 12-year-old girls trade make-up secrets have become breeding grounds for revolution”, the co-editor of Arab Media & Society proclaimed (Pintak, 2008). “Facebook: the next generation” was regarded as the new way out that “might work better” for organizing social action, since allegedly it was more community-oriented, not least because it reduced the transaction costs for group-formation (Faris, 2008). This new enthusiasm was ignited by what in Egypt became known as the “Facebook Party”, founded, or so it was reported, by the “Facebook Girl”. Where traditional political parties had failed, Facebook groups were going to succeed, even if the people behind were blissfully unaware of the momentous change the researcher was uncovering: “revolutions without revolutionaries”. “Esraa Abdel Fattah probably had no idea she was going to create a global phenomenon when she started a Facebook group in March of 2008” (Faris, 2008). The group – membership of which exploded to over 70000 in a few weeks, or almost ten percent of all Egyptians on Facebook – was calling for solidarity with the 6 April strike planned by workers in Egypt’s largest public sector textile company. The workers’ strike was suppressed by security forces; the Facebook 2



Even podcasting, the latest craze in 2005, was not spared the question, “Will podcasting bring democracy to the Arab world?” “I think yes”, answered Mohammed Ibahrine (2005), then a doctoral student of communication and political culture in Hamburg. The two officers were released in 2009 after serving a reduced sentence, and reinstated into active service; an appeal against their reinstatement was turned down in Jan. 2010 (alQirinshāwī, 2010). The story became public news after it was leaked impromtu on a popular satellite TV talk show (al-ʿĀshira masāʾan, on DreamTV; cf. Wāʾil ʿAbbās, 2006 a).



strike – which had called on people to stay at home – was interpreted as a success by eager commentators. A few critical voices pointed out that it was not entirely clear whether Cairo streets were emptier than usual on 6 April due to a sandstorm, combined with people’s fear of ending up in confrontations with the police. The Government, again, showed its wariness by arresting the Facebook Girl and pushing her into public submission. Pro-Government papers published an avalanche of articles denouncing Facebook as undermining the good morale of the Egyptian people. But activists themselves knew better. In particular, Ḥusām al-Ḥamalāwī of the International Socialist Tendency pointed out that it was grass-roots movement on the ground rather than a mouse click on Facebook what accounted for the making or breaking of a successful strike (al-Ḥamalāwī, 2008 c). And he was proven right faster than he may have wanted. In the wake of their 6 April elation, Facebook activists called for a strike on 4 May, President Mubarak’s eightieth birthday. When the call went unheeded, research concluded that “[t]he trouble with relying on past successes in social activism is that it often does not work the same way the second time around” (Faris, 2008). A year later, the “Facebook Revolution” was declared dead: “Facebook activism is now dismissed as useless at best, and the failure of the April 6th group to engender a lasting political movement has come to symbolize the futility of even trying” (Faris, 2009). The ‘groups’ that were celebrated in 2008 as the Web 2.0 improvement on political parties due to the low transactions costs of forming them were now recognized to “engender extraordinary low levels of commitment” (Faris, 2009).5 Again, however, “some hope” remained. The failure of 6 April was only the “end of the beginning”, as a “closer look” would reveal. For Facebook was a mere digression; the “focus on Facebook also appears to have missed the apparent shift of online dissent from blogs to Twitter” (Faris, 2009). Twitter had already been noted in the aftermath of the 6 April 2008 events when an American student, James Buck, twittered his way out of police custody in Maḥallā. “Twitter Saves Man From Egyptian Justice” was the headline in TechCrunch, the world’s leading blog on Web 2.0 technologies; CNN helped to spread the news to the whole world (Arrington, 2008; Simon, 2008). Hardly anyone commented on the fact that it was only the US citizen Buck, with legal help organized by his home university at Berkeley, who was released from the police station – his Egyptian translator stayed behind along with 42 others who had been arrested during the demonstrations. Even the otherwise skeptical Ḥusām alḤamalāwī, on whose blog news of Buck’s arrest were published two minutes after the original tweet (al-Ḥamalāwī, 2008 a), excitedly exclaimed: “The Revolution will be Twitterized” (al-Ḥamalāwī, 2008 b)! The dream of the “Twitter revolution” (Micek and Whitlock, 2008) materializing in politics was rekindled in Iran in 2009. internet guru Clay Shirky (2009) declared: “[T]his is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media.” There we have it again, the “global stage”, the “global phenomenon” that Egypt’s Facebook Girl was believed to have created. But note that more than about actual events on the ground in Iran, Shirky was excited about how “the whole world is watching”, i.e. about how 5

Cf. the Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey (2009) who described Facebook activism as “[a] form of masturbatory self-congratulating cyber activism that doesn't really cost you any time or effort.”



Twitter allowed international media users the breathless feeling of receiving and forwarding minute-by-minute updates on unfolding events. Revolution here is in danger of being reduced to a mere media event. Meanwhile, régimes in Egypt, Iran, Moldova, China, Burma etc. have not been revolved away from power. – Hope, however, dies last. After the Twitter revolution has proven mostly a revolution for Twitter (Forte, 2009), I will not be surprised if the next technological innovation engenders as much excitement and revolutionary expectation as the previous ones.6

A preoccupation with the ‘new’ and the ‘political’ Why do I dwell on this for so long? Because I think that there is a pattern to how we have come to look at media impact in the Middle East, and that we need a shift of paradigm. The elusive quest for revolutionary effects of new media, where hope and disappointment alternate in rapid succession, is tied to a preoccupation with the new, exemplified in ‘new’ technologies and ‘new’ media, and a preoccupation with the political. Long-term developments reaching far back into history, and private and personal dynamics tend to fall off the radar in this view. If we survey the main focus of extant research on the impact of the internet in the region, we find that it has mostly concentrated on (1) political action (be it for democratization or for militant, and here chiefly Islamist militant, opposition); and (2) news reporting: “Analysis on the role of new media in the Middle East has largely centered on how ‘citizen journalists’ can now set the agenda for news outlets, and how social media users repackage, comment on, and distribute content in innovative ways” (Ward, 2009). “[B]logs […] have challenged the privileged role of professional journalists by giving ordinary citizens platforms for mass dissemination, whether for a moment or a lifetime. In recent years the medium has also become a form of protest and activism, a type of alternative media, and a source for mainstream media” (Radsch, 2008). In other words – and simplifying a little for the sake of clarity – research was initially driven by a hope that the internet would be a decisive factor in changing politics in the region. When that hope did not materialize, research turned its attention to the ‘public sphere’. This is in line with the recommendation by Marc Lynch, one of the foremost Middle East media scholars, whose words on blogging may be generalized to include other internet forums: “Rather than focus on whether blogs alone can deliver democracy or a political revolution, analysts should explore the variety of ways in which blogs might transform the dynamics of Arab public opinion and political activism” (Lynch, 2007).


Cf. Faris (2008): “It might be necessary for [opposition activists] to constantly innovate, using new technologies, […]”.



Taking serious the social dimension of social media So politics and the public sphere have dominated research on the impact of the internet in the Middle East, and the quest for revolution has been focussed on fundamental change in politics and the media itself. Meanwhile, the influence of the internet in the social and cultural domains has been less in the limelight. One finds occasional observations on how mobile communication and social networking threaten established models for appropriate gender relations, and recently we have begun to see work on how literature (belles lettres) fares when published and consumed on the net. But overall, Walter Armbrust’s (2007) plea has so far remained largely unheeded: “The last thing I would like to see is a repetition of the sterile debate over the political effects of al-Jazeera carried out in academic analyses of blogs.” An “old and familiar concern for politics” structures much of Middle Eastern studies, including media studies, and has come “at the expense of the rest of the content” that is being communicated on the media. At a minimum – and still with an eye for public politics – Armbrust called to look at the internet “as a new phase in a long evolution in hierarchies of authority” and to investigate its complex effects on the social construction of authority in the region. These remarks are of prime importance if we want to address what Armbrust termed a “stagnation in the study of Middle Eastern media”. What we need is not only to acknowledge but to take serious the fact that internet and social media are used for much more, and primarily for other than, political activism or citizen journalism. While researchers and activists dismissed Facebook after the failures of 2009, the platform has been steadily rising in popularity and is now the second or third most popular web site after Google across the Arab world — just as in the rest of the world.7 And it is primarily for maintaining and extending social relations and for entertainment that Arabs go on Facebook – just like the rest of the world. To maintain and extend social relations and seek entertainment has been a prime reason for starting to use the internet long before Facebook; in the old days, it was common to hear complaints that internet use was “80% chatting”, or cliché juxtapositions such as that while the West made good use of the net for learning and business, Arabs were wasting it for entertainment (Sāmiḥ M. Fahmī, 2006; arablibrarian, 2007). And who did such dismissive ideas come from? It was people of authority – parents, educators, ‘responsible’ journalists and researchers, police officers, etc.8 My point here is not that the observation that a lot of people were using the net for chatting and entertainment was wrong; it is the dismissive attitude towards this type of use. This is an attitude that attaches greater importance to the ‘serious’, the public, the political than it does to the private and the personal. It is an attitude that may be shared by people in authority, activists in opposition, and political scientists alike. It is an attitude that is betrayed even in innocuous statements such as in this quote from an 7


This is according to Alexa. In Feb. 2010, Facebook was the second-most popular web site after Google or other search engines in Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and Bahrein. In Algeria, Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, and Yemen, it came third after search engines and YouTube. In Tunisia, it was the most popular site of all. Only in Syria, where Facebook has been subject to filtering for years, it lagged behind, at rank 10. Hofheinz, interviews during field work in Egypt and Morocco, 2002-2005.



Egyptian blogger: “In most of other Arab countries blogs are personal not activist, Egypt is exceptional”.9 – Is this really a correct description of the Egyptian blogosphere? I posit that it would be more precise to say that in Egypt, the politically active bloggers have gained more political weight and attention than in many other Arab countries, but that doesn’t mean that the majority of blogs there are activist. Courtney Radsch (the researcher quoting the Egyptian blogger I just mentioned) must have realized this herself when she distinguished three phases in the development of the Egyptian blogosphere: after experimenting with the new medium (2003-05), activists exploited its full potential in particularly propitious political circumstances (2005-06); when these circumstances changed and the user base grew, the blogosphere after 2006 diversified and fragmented into a wide variety of ‘circles’ that included “citizen journalists, non-denominational activists, leftists, Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists, culture and art enthusiasts, open source technology activists, English language political commentary and strictly personal.” However, even as she acknowledged that blogging became “commonplace”, Radsch continued to focus almost exclusively on the activist part of the blogosphere, thereby cementing the skewed image that the blogosphere is mainly about political and media activism. And this is the problem. We acknowledge that chat, blogs, Facebook, not to speak of mobile phones, are increasingly becoming ‘commonplace’ in the Middle East. But in our research, we largely focus on a small subset of activist users while ignoring what chatting and facebooking do to the majority. We despair over the glacial pace of political reform (al-ʿUmrān, 2008) but do not know nearly enough about what the internet does to the dynamics between children and their parents, between younger and older generations, between individuals and authorities. Here is a quote taken from the world of literature to illustrate what Facebook does far away from politics. A publisher complained to BBC Arabic: “Dealing with the new writers, there’s a problem with them. But do the problems get addressed in the proper way? […] In the old days […] one would go to the publishing house, and the director of the publishing house, and if there was a problem, one would talk to the director. And if one couldn’t come to a solution with the director, then one would try and figure out what other options one had. But now we no longer have any of that. Now everyone as soon as they have a problem, they always go and put it on Facebook!” (Yaḥyā Hāshim, 2009).

A change of attitude: individuals vs. authority There you have it. It’s the attitude that changes, the attitude of individual users towards authority, a disrespect or disregard for the long chain of authority, for established hierarchies that used to structure decision making. We find this attitude all over the Arabic internet; it is deplored by people in authority and positively asserted by ever more young users themselves. In the realm of religion, to take another domain, more and more people are asserting – sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly – their right to question and dismiss religious authorities. Like for example the “global mufti” alQaraḍāwī, arguably one of the most high-profile and popular Islamic scholars of our 9

Egyptian blogger Abd Al Moneim Mahmoud, quoted in Radsch (2008).



time (a position he owes not least to the satellite TV station al-Jazeera) (SkovgaardPetersen and Gräf, 2009). He may be very popular, but his authority is in no way undisputed. “You mentioned Sh. Qardawy’s statement. Who is Sh. Qardawy? Isn’t he one like many others, since we have no clergy in Islam?” (Sameh Arab, 2001). Such attitudes are increasingly expressed as a matter of course on the internet. “Praise be to God – religion has been established by God and not by al-Shaʿrāwī or al-Qaraḍāwī [the two leading Islamic TV scholars since 1980], and if al-Qaraḍāwī and al-Shaʿrāwī err it doesn’t mean that the whole Islamic community follows them in their error” (Muṣṭafà ʿAbd al-Khāliq, 2009). Al-Qaraḍāwī himself bemoans a “tragic disappearance of wise and knowledgeable ulama [scholars] capable of properly basing their arguments on accurate testimony from the Koran and the Sunna. Their absence has given rise to inexpert, unqualified religious scholars and to disingenuous clerics […]. Under such anarchy anyone can sell himself as an Islamic sheikh, and such men have begun to give a religious verdict without scruple even on the most complex issues” (Polka, 2003, 7). Authority is threatened by increasingly being called into question, not by fellow authorities but essentially by ‘everyone’. “Kullu man dabba wa-habba aṣbaḥa yatakallamu fī ’l-dīn” – every Tom, Dick and Harry, every Aḥmad and Dīna have come to dabble in things religious, as critics complain (Yāsir, 2009). If everyone can read the Scriptures, everyone can use them to measure presumed religious authorities by the standards of these Scriptures – in practice, that is, by one’s own understanding of these standards. And this is what’s happening in internet forums every day, uncountable times. The attitude coming to expression there is one of no longer unquestioningly accepting what authorities decide but to check for oneself, come to one’s own conclusions, make one’s own decisions. This attitude is fostered by the structure of interaction on the net. On the net, it is the individual user who is doing the selection, who is choosing what to see and what not, and choosing what to forward and what not. This may be purely copy and paste, and if you will, completely unoriginal, but this copy and paste is what is increasingly important in today’s attention economy, and it does shape the cultural horizon of people, the horizon under which they act. It shapes what news they read and what they discuss and what they think is authoritative – all this is increasingly shaped by what links are forwarded to them by their friends on Facebook and what stories are dug on Digg, or what flies by them on Twitter. And so these forums, these arenas are places that we need more research on as far as Middle Eastern users are concerned in order to understand the precise dynamics going on there. But we can already see the structural elements that are important here and that are inherent in the code that structures communication on the net. Since it is individual users who do the picking and choosing and forwarding, they thereby become more important elements in the construction and reconstruction of cognitive and normative content – content pertaining to their social worlds, to religion, to culture, and yes, also to politics. Even those who are not adding their own voice but merely picking and forwarding, thereby become more important elements and more important actors in the social construction of knowledge than the likes of them have been before. “I’m a maker – not a taker” is a slogan spread by the “Life Makers” campaign of the televangelist ʿAmr Khālid, star among the young. This widely successful campaign draws on and aims to strengthen the attitude that ‘I can actually make a difference’, I can change things, at



least in my own immediate circle, and the first thing I can change is the attitude that we can’t change anything anyhow.

The weight of individuals: a generational evolution And it is here that we need to take serious the metaphor of ‘the next generation’. A breathless focus on the latest and newest technologies, often coupled with scarcely taking into account historical dynamics before the emergence of the ‘new media’ in the 1990s, works to obscure the more long-term evolutionary developments. These are developments that happen over many generations, human generations. And what happens through generational change certainly is reflected by, and may be propelled by, new media technologies, but it has many more dimensions to it (Hofheinz, 2005). So what we need is to look beyond the latest in technologies and beyond politics and news reporting when it comes to assessing the influence the internet and mobile communication might have in the Middle East. And we need to think of the next generation in human terms at least as much as we think software generations. We need to look at what growing up with the internet does to the dynamics between younger and older generations. How it helps to increase the relative weight of communication with peers, and how that strengthens more critical or distanced attitudes towards established authorities. Implicitly but often also as consciously expressed by themselves, internet users develop • the feeling of being in greater control over what they want to read and look at • the ability to judge sources of information and authorities (‘I have the option, and the ability, and the right, to judge by myself’) • the opportunity to express themselves publicly, to be active participants in opinion-forming. This means that there appears to be a development towards a greater role [or at least: a greater (self-)perceived role] for individual users in the constitution of factual and normative knowledge.10 This is structurally reinforced via the mode of interaction with friends and peers in social networks, including social networking sites, and it means that the social self-evidence of established authorities becomes more volatile. Of course, authorities have at all times had to construct their authoritativeness through social processes; they have had to negotiate and legitimate their authority and prove it to the social groups that they wanted to influence. Today, the ‘crowds’ they need to take into 10

And lest we forget: these individual users are not one-dimensional entities, but human beings with multiple, negotiated, and performed identities. If we take this seriously, we need to make analytical room for the fact that Muslims, for example – and this includes Islamists –, do not only act as Muslims. This may sound like a truism, but in practice our research often focuses too exclusively on the religious dimension of actors in the religious field, and thus risks to over-simplify a more complex reality. Take for example the 16-year old Egyptian who was among the first to post a video of a TV talk show where the Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar was condemned for wanting to forbid the face veil – previously, this young man had commented positively on romantic music videos ( This is in line with young users on Facebook who have no qualms declaring themselves fans of both Mohammed and Madonna.



account are becoming larger and faster than ever before. In other words, the general fact that crowds and authorities are in a mutually dependent dynamics has not changed, but the weight of crowds, and of the individuals that make up the crowds, has grown. So with the increasing spread of social media and mobile communication, the social networks of knowledge construction are becoming not only vastly bigger and quicker and less limited by space and locality than they had been before, but also less hierarchical.

A development with roots in the eighteenth century However, when we look at what the internet does to the ‘next generation’ in human terms, we should not only have a longer breath but also a longer historical perspective than has hitherto been the rule in internet studies in the Middle East. Evolutions – which, as I am arguing, are more important here than short-lived revolutions – take time. They happen over the course of generations. And here I am not only talking about the future. I am talking about dynamics that can be traced back over the past three centuries of Islamic intellectual history. For the deconstruction of scholastic hierarchies and the promotion of a greater role for each individual believer is something that began to spread in earnest in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries already. Muslim preachers (using, by the way, the new technologies of the time, like pamphlets and vernacular language) tore down a key concept that had dominated the conception of religious authority for five centuries: that “the believer must be in the hands of his teacher like a corpse in the hands of the one who washes it”, and therefore obey and comply even if the teacher gives an order ostensibly in conflict with the prescriptions of the Divine Law, the sharīʿa. This was no longer acceptable to eighteenth-century reformers who worked to spread the idea that every believer had the right and duty to hold up presumed authorities to the standards of the Scriptures, and therefore encouraged everyone to go back to the Scriptures instead of relying on secondary sources. It dates from that time that growing numbers of people are actually reading the Qurʾān and holding up the Scriptures against established authority (Hofheinz, 1996). So what happens on the internet today is a continuation of a much older story, where individuals are encouraged to judge authorities by a generalized standard accessible, in principle, to everyone. Placed in such a wider historical context, the internet may loose some of its ‘revolutionary’ mystique – but this may be just what is needed to gain a more sober understanding of its impact in the Middle East.

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F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 198-206.

PHOTOBOMBING: MOBILITY, HUMOUR AND CULTURE Putting in the visual GORDON FLETCHER Salford Business School University of Salford, UK AND ANITA GREENHILL Manchester Business School University of Manchester, UK

Abstract. The photobomb, in name and practice, is a phenomenon of Web2.0 – in the sense of being a participatory and read/write Web. This paper contributes to the academic discourse concerning the anthropology of the Internet. Photobombing exploits the ready availability of channels for individual expression created with writability, the importance of user-generated humour for the Web and the ubiquity of digital photography devices. The issues of the visual and of humour are both problematic territory for academic research and, despite their significance within the context of digital culture, have received little focused attention in this context (Gillispie, 2003). By drawing upon an observational methodology we construct a typology of photobombs drawn from a variety of sources to understand the simplicity and subtlety of humour being employed as well as the way in which the photobomb – as a discrete artefact - is embedded and interlinked with other (digital) cultural practices. The approach employed here for photobombs offers insight into the potential for the wider application of typological methods in the search and retrieval of (digital) visual objects.

1. Pictured within a web Digital photographs represent a significant commodity within the context of the digital culture and Web2.0 (Kalapoš, 2002). A photograph is a ‗whole‘ artefact with embedded dense contextual meanings that are simultaneously aesthetically, politically, economically and culturally nuanced. This distinguishes a photograph from PDF and sound files, for example, which require separate readers or plugins, or text, which can be partially presented and experienced. The self-contained nature of the photograph also makes representation a relatively simple process with consequent opportunity for intentional and unintentional shifts in context and meaning. The participatory sentiment of Web2.0 actively encourages this reuse and repetition (O‘Rielly 2007) through, for example em-



bedding, retweeting, reposting, digging and stumbling. These are practices that potentially, without instruction, add to popular confusion concerning concepts of intellectual property and plagiarism. Examination of photographs, or specific classes of photographs, offer the ability to examine digitally oriented cultural practices that are not directly bound to a specific website or type of website. By detaching enquiry from a specific site of engagement and experience that a website represent examining the visual object provides an opportunity to understand the relationship between the digital mediated experiences of production and consumption, a task that has proved difficult in much of the literature associated with Web2.0 and the Internet. As a specific category of images that is applied post hoc visual artefacts labelled as photobombs encourage forms of ‗Web2.0 like‘ participation through the construction of collections such as and that take images from a range of image warehouses, humour sites and personal blogs and group them in one location. What is reinforced are the cultural practices of collecting and copying digital artefacts and the possession or, even more simply, the knowledge of things that reflects association with specific cultural identities. This, of course, raises the question of culture. We describe cultural practices here as activities and actions that are undertaken meaningfully and with shared recognition by a group. While cultural identity is used here in the sense of a series of beliefs and understandings broadly common to a group – although this is potentially a self-referential definition. Cultural identity and practice are consequently interdependent alongside with artefacts and it in this combination that culture is found (Levi-Strauss 1968, 295). A key and problematic issue concerning any form of humour – including photographic images - is the ways in which it is culturally specific and constructed. Consequently, associating with an individual image categorised as a photobomb through reposts, retweeting, linking or as a reference point in conversation is to make a statement about one's association with a particular culture and its cultural traits – the characteristics of a culture - that is not defined by language or location but through a collection of recontextualised digital artefacts. The importance of celebrity within contemporary mainstream culture (Holmes, 2005), as one example, intersects with the cultural milieu of which photobombs are a part (Figure 1). The likelihood of a celebrity to become associated with a publically available photobomb is high but nonetheless the act of retaining what would otherwise be a poor image and defining the photograph as a photobomb all enrols the image in a specific way and with particular cultural meaning. Celebrity photobombs themselves problematise their meaning and intention in relation to mainstream culture. Many of this particular type of photobomb could be seen to represent the celebrities themselves in a poor light and act as a form of tacit criticism of the meaning and impact of their 'celebrity'. However, the counter observation is equally plausible in that the photobomb makes the celebrity appear more accessible and 'human' – and by implication implies that it is possible for anyone to become a celebrity. This latter observation reinforces the cultural significance of celebrity rather than critiquing it. The relationship of the desires to become celebrity and to associate with celebrities with the act and practice of photobombing is further reinforced by (as of March 2010) which carries ad-



vertising on the website for – a casting company – with the strapline, ― Wanna be famous? Get discovered!.‖

Figure 1. Chris Rock 'bombing' Rhianna ( The wide acceptance of the photobomb category of images as a form of expression reveals the extent to which practices made possible and defined by digital technologies simultaneously are almost de facto mainstream cultural practices. The National Geographic and Daily Mail coverage of the 'squirrel photobomb' taken in a National Park in Canada (Figure 2) provides the photographic category with a form of legitimacy and currency. The text in the Daily Mail article also allays what can be seen as a lasting mainstream concern regarding digital culture, ― the image is so startling that, had it not ran on the prestigious National Geographic magazine's website, many might have assumed it had been digitally altered‖ (—How-cheeky-rodent-star-couples-photos.html). The assumption that digital is somehow inauthentic is generally, however, diminished by photobomb images rather than being reinforced. The majority of photobombs are primarily focused on the mundane and those 'special' events within an individual lifetime that are repeated ad infinitum in a multitude of locations; the graduation, the 21st birthday, the wedding or wedding anniversary or someone photographing a famous landmark. The mundane settings of many ‗famous‘ photobombs coupled with the complex backgrounds and combination of subjects also serve to allay fear about the potential for ‗photoshopping‘ – the post-production manipulation of the image on the computer with software such as Adobe‘s photoshop. In this way, photobombs generally serve to reinforce authenticity and confirm a notion of reality albeit in its most surreal forms.



Figure 2. Squirrel photobomb (

2. The Photobomb The urbandictionary provides two tentative definitions for a photobomb; ― Any time the background of a picture hijacks the original focus‖ and ― an otherwise normal photo that has been ruined or spoiled by someone who was not supposed to be in the photograph‖ ( The photobomb is not a new phenomena and one black and white example (Figure 3) shows Paul McCartney 'bombing' a picture that focuses on George Harrison with two women. However, with the ubiquity of digital photography devices (Madrazo, 2004), the importance of visual referents within social networking profiles and the utilisation of social media (Nakamura 2008) as the site for storing personal memory the photobomb category of images has shifted from being potentially being discarded as a 'ruined' photograph to a performative work of humour and a pseudo-permanent primarily digitally captured momentary event with 'lol' value. The urbandictionary is not, however and unsurprisingly, entirely correct in its definition. There is a range of subtle differences to the most popular photobombs that indicate that each type is positioned in subtly different relationships with wider sets of cultural practices. Digital photography has meant that the act of taking a photograph is now closely combined with its initial consumption and not the first half of a pair of temporally distanciated activities. This dramatic reduction in the period between production and consumption has not however constituted the act of photography and the artefacts that are produced as more temporary or disposable items. This is a doubly dramatic claim when the photographic artefact itself is also recognised as having changed from a relatively high cost and somewhat fragile tangible item to a primarily digital one. Digital photography also inherits a quality from more traditional forms of photography – it is inherently mobile in production and, now, also consumption. This form of mobility has not been generally considered within the context of the wider discussions of mobility that have become available with smartphones and similar devices that enable Web



browsing, texting and other forms of communication. The depth and range of expression that is possible with visual communications, and by implication digital photography, makes this omission problematic when a key hallmark of Web2.0 is also its ability to seamlessly share images and video recordings.

Figure 3. An early celebrity photobomb ( Photobombs, along with lolcats, demotivational posters and other genres of web humour, reveal the forms of simplistic and sometimes dubious humour that represents a major proportion of the content on sites such as (32), (33), (53) and (74) ( site rankings 4th March 2010). The basis for this humour is not solely confined to someone wrecking the photo of a group and include the mocking of a person‘s physical features, the unfortunate juxtaposition of an image or object with the subject of the photo and the unruliness of pets. These different forms of humour are reflected within the typology of photobombs presented by this paper with different types of humour generally being reflected by different types of photobombs and are closely related to types of photographs including ‗Oh Shit!‘, OMFG and mirror-shot images. Photobombs have even generated a degree of celebrity for those associated with the bombing. The perpetrator of one of the most frequently referenced photobombs has even offered her advice to other potential bombers ( This includes the observation that the best locations are



found where there is ― the presence of unnecessary photography and group photos‖ and to ― keep an eye out for the narcissistic girl that is really taking pictures to improve her Facebook profile default.‖ In this paper we present a typology of photobombs including animal and reverse photobombs in order to consider the importance of these particular types of photographs as contemporary cultural artefacts that lend insight into a range of cultural practices and the experience of the 'mundane' within everyday life. Photobombs themselves reveal the importance of humour within mass acceptance of the Web as a mainstream ‗media‘, the continued importance of the visual (and of the artefact of the photograph) in constituting personal and group memory and the extent to which photobombing can represent resistance to the cultural mainstream.

3. A Typology of Photobombs The range of publically available photobombs present a range of images that all aim to be humorous within the context of a ― wrecked‖ photographic composition. This definition however belies the range of images and the varying intent and actions of the bombers. Similarly the basis by which an image is construed as humourous varies as a result of these different intentions and the location or event where they were taken. Table 1 sets out a tentative typology for photobombs that captures the range of photobombs currently discoverable. While the categories are themselves extensible and not necessarily mutually exclusive the purpose of the typology is capture the intention and context of the photograph rather than to judge the relative photographic merits of individual images. There is, for example, no judgement as to whether an image is focused or blurred (of which many are) although this may assist in making a judgement as to the intentions of the bomber and whether the image is a reverse photobomb. The typology itself assists in understanding how photobombing relates to other cultural practices and construction of cultural identity by association. Utilising the typology reveals Figure 3 could be classified as A5B5C3D2E2 – a celebrity to celebrity photobomb containing a suggestion of intent with an insulting gesture taken in a bar or club. Figure 1 is classified as A5B5C3D5E10 and is another celebrity to celebrity photobomb with a suggestion of intent but undertaken in this example through a sexual/suggestive look. This reveals a similarity between these two photobombs and that both of the celebrity bombers are intending to produce a humorous result. Knowledge of the back stories for these celebrities is important here and would further suggest that the bomber is trying to break the tension associated between themselves and the bombee. Figure 2 is clearly visually a different image with no clear differentiating features of the bombees. Utilising the typology shows that Figure 2 can be classified as A6C2D7E4. This photobomb assists in highlighting the distinction between the bomber being simply present and what is described in the typology as 'peek-a-boo' (D8). This latter action is more generally found linked to images where the photobombing is intentional, bombed by an individual and to the camera (C1) at a 'mundane' event such as a graduation (E7) or sports event (E8). The football photobomb (Figure 4) is an example of the peek-a-boo and can be classified as B4C1D8E8.This classification also offers a clearer indication as to why the photobomb in Figure 2 is acceptable to the Dai-



ly Mail and National Geographic when Figures 1, 3 or 4 would not share this mainstream favour. Table 1. A Photobomb Typology 1) Opposite Sex

2) Same Sex

5) Celebrity

6) Animal

1) Individual woman

2) Individual man 3) Single sex group

5) Celebrity

6) Child/children

C) Intent (of bomber)

1) Intended, to camera

2) Casual, to camera

3) Suggestion of 4) Unintended, intent, not camera not to camera

D) Action (of bomber)

1) Smile

2) Finger/Insult

3) Face/Gurn

4) Flash

5) Suggestive/Sexual

6) Drunk/ Eyes roll

7) Statue/Presence/ Nothing

8) Peek-a-boo

E) Location/Event

1) Closeup

2) Bar/Club

3) Home

4) Landmark/Outdoors

5) Zoo/Fair

6) Anniversary/Building

7) The 'mundane', 8) Sports event e.g. graduation or wedding.

A) Bomber

B) Bombee

3) Building/Sign/Object

4) Child

4) Mixed sex group

9) Awards ceremony R) Reverse

The subject becomes the bomber

The final element of the typology, the reverse photobomb, is a potentially problematic category and one that requires additional narrative to be understood as a photobomb. This is difficult within our argument that photobombs and digital photography more generally are self-contained artefacts the can be exchanged and distributed in isolation while retaining shared cultural meaning without accompaniment from other digital artefacts. In the reverse photobomb the apparent subject of the image, conventionally the bombee, conspires with the photographer to capture a person or object within the frame of the image. Figure 5, classified as A2B3C4D5E4R, provides an example of a reverse photobomb that is also provided with a backstory that reconfirms its classification. ― There are a handful of beach boner reverse bombs. But can you imagine how funny this must have been – to have some old weirdo come chat you up, offer to buy you drinks, then order them with a raging "problem" in his speedos? Then you get it on camera!? Instant laughs and friendship for life. With that boner, that is. Kidding!‖



( Without this statement or its provenance on the Comedy Central website it is possible that this image could be treated as a conventional photobomb achieved with an unintentional bomber.

Figure 4. Football photobomb (

Figure 5. Reverse photobomb (

4. Photobomb as a practice of mainstream culture There is an important relationship between the photography of everyday mundane events and the photobomb. In all of the examples utilised by this paper relatively plain and uninteresting images have received attention in a way that very similar photos would have not. Defining the photographic image as a photobomb provides it with additional mean-



ing and currency that positions them, albeit marginally, within the context of celebrity focused mainstream culture. Constructing a photobomb makes everyday activities become notable and this offers further explanation as to why these ― wrecked‖ images are not discarded and not even simply retained but are made public, distributed and shared. Photobombs also offers an opportunity to examine an aspect of digital culture in an artefactual manner rather than a locational – site specific – way. This offers opportunities for consideration of the cultural practices for exchange and participation that figure so significantly in the technologies of Web2.0. The typology of photobombs proposed here also offers some consideration to the more general problem of classifying and retrieving photographic images within what is still primarily a textually based Web environment. The majority of image retrieval relies upon folksonomic tagging, machine based analysis or the context of the image within a web page. A typological approach at the very least can serve to complement these approaches by providing analysis of the content of the image itself in a systematic and structure way.

References Bernus, J. S. & Chase, M. A. (1990). ― Decision making in a networked environment‖. In H. Eschenauer, J. Koski and A. Osyczka (Eds), Technology and Communication. pp.376-396. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Gillespie, M., (2003). ― From Comic Asians to Asian Comics: Goodness Gracious Me, TV Comedy and Ethnicity in Scriven‖, M. & E. Roberts eds. (2003) Group Identities on French and British Television Oxford: Bergham pp 93-108. Holmes, S., (2005). ― Starring… Dyer?‘: Re-visiting Star Studies and Contemporary Celebrity Culture‖, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, Vol. 2(2), pp 1744-6716. Kalapoš, S (2002). ― The Culture of Laughter, the Culture of Tears: September 11 events echoed on the internet‖, Nar. umjet. 39 (1),pp. 97-114. Levi-Strauss, C., (1968) Structural Anthropology, London: Allen Lane. Madrazo, L., (2004). ― Understanding the image in the digital culture: the quest for an interdisciplinary and collaborative education‖. In L. Cantoni & C. McLoughlin (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2004. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Minsk, M. L. (1990). ― Process models for cultural integration‖. Journal of Culture, 11(4), 49–58. Nakamura L (2008). Digitzing Race: visual cultures of the internet, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. O‘Rielly T (2007). What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software Communications & Strategies, No. 1, p. 17, First Quarter. Shifman, L. (2007) ― Humor in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Continuity and Change in Internet-Based Comic Texts‖. International Journal of Communication. 1, 187-209 Smythe, J. S. (Ed.) (1990). Applications of Artificial Intelligence to Communication. Berlin: CMP and Springer-Verlag.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 207-216.

FOUCAULT, EXHIBITIONISM AND VOYEURISM ON CHATROULETTE DAVID KREPS Information Systems, Organisations and Society Research Centre University of Salford, UK

Abstract. Sexuality, understood as a Foucauldian discourse that expresses itself through our passions and pursuits and contributes massively to our sociallyconstructed identity formation, has from the outset been a major factor in the growth of the internet. As the ultimate look-but-don‘t-touch medium, the computer screen has offered us a pornographic emporium in the privacy of our homes, fed first by the producers of material in the standard broadcast mode, then more and more by ourselves, to each other, in the social media context of online sexual social networking. The recent shift of sexual video material from broadcast to social media mode highlights the fundamental exhibitionism/voyeurism dyad at the core of all this activity, and finds its most impersonal, anonymous apotheosis in the phenomenon that is ChatRoulette, where visual discourse-objects are deployed in a nexus of online sexual power relations.

1. Introduction Much of interest has been written in recent years around the subject of pornography on the internet, and sexual identity formation in the context of internet dating. As Waskul (2004) reminds us, the first mass-produced low-cost Polaroid camera was called ‗The Swinger‘, mapping directly onto the 70s phenomenon whereby the twins ― instant photography and instant pornography‖ (Edgley and Kiser 1981:59) were born. Video, camcorders, the computer screen, scanners, and the internet all followed in quick succession, but the essence of what the Swinger Polaroid represented remains true to this day: a shift of control of the production of pornography from the broadcast mode of producers creating for consumption, to the distributed mode of individuals creating their own material to share amongst each other, instantly. This shift itself is emblematic of a great many changes in twenty-first century western societies, including whereby news production by the major newspapers and networks is seen to be shifting gradually to the blogosphere and to social networks like Twitter; whereby the traditional format of the television, once the exclusive locus of broadcast entertainment, is shifting to a mixed platform of broadcast and broadband, with video material increasingly available for hand-held mobile devices, too. This paper highlights how these changes perhaps owe their origins to that same shift occurring in the production and consumption of pornography.



The impact of the internet upon the construction of sexual identities, moreover, has been the focus of early studies in the text-based world of online discussion forums, such as Atkinson & DePalma 2008; van Doorn 2008; Del-Teso-Craviotto 2008; and Kelly 2006. These studies have revealed lines of power relations between participants within such spaces, and relative freedoms from the power relations in the offline/real world, but also that the body, although graphically absent, is not any less present. Studies have even suggested that time spent online for sexual purposes can increase that spent offline, as well (Daneback et al 2006), and that time spent online can often be a concealed and secret exploration of sexual behaviour and sexual roleplay that falls ― outside the confines of the heterosexual ‗norm‘‖ (DiMarco, 2003). This paper concerns itself with sexuality, and most specifically, the performance of the discourse of sexuality. It posits that the proliferation of sexual discourse and sexualities over the last two centuries outlined by Foucault (1990; 1992; 1998) continues apace in the Information Age, if anything accelerated and broadened to a wider public by the phenomenon of internet pornography – in both broadcast and social media modes. This is of course a very large topic to which a conference paper such as this cannot do true justice, so the aim of this paper, more narrowly, is to introduce the relevant ideas of Foucault on the nature of sexuality, to explore briefly the nature of exhibitionism and voyeurism from a psychoanalytical – and Foucauldian - perspective, and then to apply these understandings briefly to some thoughts about the website,, a site which generates one-on-one Webcam connections between each visitor and another randomly chosen user.

2. The Scientia Sexualis This paper aligns itself with Foucault‘s notion of political technologies of the body, and the progressive disciplination of the self over the last few centuries. His work on the creation of our concepts of sanity through the creation of the medical discipline of mental health (Foucault 1995); the creation of our concepts of good citizenship through the creation of the prison system (Foucault 1977); and the creation of a range of sexual character types and whole modes of desire in recent centuries (Foucault 1990; 1992; 1998), collectively provide an extraordinary insight into how social technologies of organisation, power and control have progressively shaped not just our lives but our bodies themselves, our self-concept, the individual performances of who we are. Foucault, then, outlines the map of contemporary social roles from our own subset of which we are able to select who we will be in any given situation. This map derives from the social environment of control where power and knowledge are intertwined and focused upon the human body as the object of their interplay. The human body is exposed as object and target of power in the modern era. ― It is manipulated, shaped, trained, [it] obeys, responds, becomes skilful and increases its forces…. [it is] constituted by a whole set of regulations and by empirical and calculated methods relating to the army, the school and the hospital, for controlling or correcting the operations of the body.‖ (Foucault 1977:136).

FOUCAULT, EXHIBITIONISM AND VOYEURISM ON CHATROULETTE 209 Foucault‘s contention, in his three-volume History of Sexuality (1990; 1992; 1998) is that sexuality is discourse. For Foucault the commonly held view that sexuality is something that we have "repressed" does not ring true. By contrast, he argues what appears as a "repression" of sexual drives is a huge increase in the discussion of sex, a proliferation of the discourse of sex, that has formed, defined, categorized, delineated, and constituted a concept - ‗sexuality‘ – and that this concept has become a core feature of our identities. Foucault‘s concern, in the first volume, The Will to Power, (Foucault 1998) focuses around the nature – and sexual content - of ‗confession,‘ first in its Christian context, through the evolution of its use in Christian theology and political influence, and then latterly to its translation into a ‗scientific‘ form, the ‗consultation‘ on the sexologist‘s, in the 19th century, and then in the 20th century the psychoanalyst‘s couch. These changes together constituted what Foucault describes as the ― scientia sexualis‖ (Foucault 1998:67) – sexuality as discourse. This scientia sexualis, moreover, acts in concert with the interplay of all the other forces in the power-knowledge network described in Foucault‘s other works, becoming one of the many political technologies controlling, constituting, directing, and producing the human body in contemporary society. It is clear that this sexual discourse, once perhaps more the domain of the learned and of the professional classes – the priest, sexologist, or psychoanalyst - has with the phenomenon of the World Wide Web, and especially of Web 2.0, become the domain of all. Understanding today‘s online social networks, and especially the internet dating sites that have proliferated in recent years, from this Foucauldian perspective, we can see that the discourse of sexuality is everywhere. There is a great range of different kinds of internet dating websites for a panoply of different tastes, where discussion, connection, and the sharing and exchange of confessional photographs and videos can be undertaken, all at the touch of a button for today‘s computer user.

3. Exhibitionism/Voyeurism and Sex on the Internet It is truly not that long ago that spending large amounts of time in front of a computer screen was regarded as the behaviour of a young adolescent male, devoid of social skills. Now, more and more of us are attached to our screens much of the time, at work and at home – and increasingly to our mobile screens on our journeys in between. This activity is increasingly seen not only as socially acceptable and a ‗cool‘ thing to do, but crucial to our economic well-being. The geekishness of the 1980s has in a sense taken over as normal activity, no longer viewed as the behaviour of a social misfit lacking in social skills, it is the social interaction mediated by the computer that has become the norm: social interaction has thus been subtly shifted from the control of the individuals involved to a shared control with the computer networks that now mediate it - a classic Foucauldian transformation that increases disciplinary power. The bodies of those using these online social networks, moreover, are the nexus of intense power relations, required to perform a myriad technical duties in a multi-tasking environment that has them pinned - literally - rooted to the spot, physically immobile sat in front of the screen. Whether that screen is a large fixed unit on a desk or a small portable unit on a mobile phone, the eyes, concentration and focus of the user of online social networks are



captured by the screen for the tasks associated with networking, while other tasks such as making coffee to drink at one's desk, or undertaking a journey on a train or bus, become secondary to the focus upon what is happening on the screen. Small wonder then that the sexualities of these disciplined bodies have migrated to the screen as well. Many internet dating sites include private photos that can be shared once conversation begins. Some even dispense with this level of modesty. Naked pictures, often of individuals in a state of arousal, have been commonplace since the outset. The inclusion of video in internet dating profiles, however, is a relatively recent but very important development, and as camera technology has become more readily available – in our mobile internet devices, and other high-tech hand-held gadgets such as the Flip – the old tradition of the saucy Polaroid snap has grown into what is now hard to distinguish from professional pornography. In classic pornography, both the traditional cinema version and the more recent online version, the ‗ordinary‘ individual gazes upon the (inaccessible – or at least costly) ‗extraordinary‘ – the fit, classically good looking porn star. Video sharing is different. In this case it is the ‗ordinary‘ displaying themselves to each other, as if at once both claiming to be ‗extraordinary‘, and glorying in the accessibility of their ordinariness – if you like the video you can write to the individual and try to arrange a meeting. Some are simply mobile-phone videos, grainy and not well shot, but others are carefully edited, with accompanying music, perhaps shot with expensive home video cameras, even by second or third parties who do not themselves appear in the video. These latter videos represent perhaps the individual‘s ― perceptions of what are known as their hoped-for possible selves‖ (Yurchisin 2005:737) –a reference to the potential for online ‗role‘-play. This phenomenon of posting revealing pictures and videos of oneself in internet sites, places where we go to view the pictures and videos posted there by others, clearly has impact upon our understanding of the nature of contemporary sexuality. In the discourse amongst the psychological/psychoanalytical profession regarding sexual problems in society, exhibitionism and voyeurism, two of the categories that the ongoing discourse of sexuality has identified, are defined and viewed quite differently. Both are regarded as quite normal aspects of human sexuality up to a point, beyond which they become an issue: a paraphilia. Exhibitionism, as a paraphilia, has been defined by psychoanalysts as ― recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies…involving the exposure of one‘s genitals to a stranger‖ (Spitzer, 1987:287). Historically, this kind of behaviour has represented some 30% of the anti-social sexual behaviour appearing in the legal system in the US (Cox 1988:227) and has clearly been a very serious problem. The psychoanalytical profession has long regarded such behaviour – particularly the implied violence contained within it – as an ― attempt to alleviate tensions surrounding early psychic anxieties,‖ (Piemont 2007:79), and although as a "non-contact" crime, exhibitionism‘s ― psychological impact on women and children can be minimized—… it is a threatening act suggesting that the perpetrator intends a progression of his sexually aggressive behaviour and indicating a dangerous incapacity to control impulses.‖ (Piemont 2007:79) Voyeurism, by contrast, although certain voyeuristic fantasies, urges and behaviour patterns are classified as a paraphilia (Spitzer 1987), is more generally regarded as typical, and sexual arousal simply by seeing nudity or sexual activity unremarkable, and

FOUCAULT, EXHIBITIONISM AND VOYEURISM ON CHATROULETTE 211 normal. The voyeur suffering from paraphilia fetishizes upon observing unsuspecting people naked, and ― often has the fantasy of taking part in a sexual experience with the observed person, but rarely seeks this outcome,‖ (Spitzer, 1987) The principle at issue here, of course, in both cases, and the dividing line between what the psychoanalytical profession regard as normal and abnormal sexual behaviour, is the issue of consent. Exhibiting one‘s genitalia to those who are consenting in such exposure, and enjoying looking at such an exhibition, are contrasted with such exhibition and looking where the viewer or viewed, respectively, are not consenting in the exposure. With the advent of sexual social networking on the Internet (Waskul 2004; Light 2007, Light et al. 2008; Kreps 2009), the consenting exhibition of one‘s genitalia has found a safe outlet, and arguably more social acceptability and even normalization: somehow the mediation of the computer screen, the distance implied in the telecommunications link, allows us to feel easier about exposing pictures and videos of ourselves for strangers to look at. Importantly, in the sexual social networking context, all those strangers, by logging into their own accounts on the website, have by default given their consent to view such exhibition, and indeed are there specifically to satisfy their voyeuristic – and/or their own exhibitionist - impulses. In Foucauldian terms, as outlined above, the discourse of sexuality through the use of telecommunications and the exchange of visual information about ourselves has devolved from the psychoanalytical profession to ordinary people. The confessional manner in which young people take photographs and videos of their bodies in masturbatory or coital scenes and post these images and videos on their internet profiles, parading themselves to one another, is more than simply self-advertising in the hope of ‗scoring‘ sexual partners. There is, at least in some cases (Kreps 2009) a competitive sexual exhibitionism apparent. Much of this activity is more to do with communication about sex – albeit that that communication is visual rather than oral or textual – than it is about sex itself. As Nakamura (2008) has described, digital images are as open to interpretation as Foucauldian visual ― discourse-objects‖ (Foucault 1995:140) as are vocal and written statements. This, then, is video-discourse - a scientia sexualis videre – in which the exchange of imagery online becomes a confessional sexual activity in its own right, quite apart from the physical meetings that may or may not be arranged through the website. The discourse outlined by Foucault between sexologists and psychoanalysts, around the judicial and penal response to and the medical definitions and treatments of the multiplicity of sexualities which were ‗discovered‘ in the nineteenth century, relied heavily upon the ‗confessions‘ of the subject – either patient or felon. Arguably, through the medium of online sexual social networking, such ‗confessions‘ have really now become performances by subjects, performances that bypass the professionals and the broadcasters in order to perform directly to one another, and undertake the discourse of sexuality through the mediation of the computer, rather than the sex professional. Thus, Foucault‘s argument that the scientia sexualis was also an ars erotica in its own right, a ― pleasure in the truth of pleasure‖ (Foucault 1998:70), is perhaps borne out by these activities. One image of the significance of the shift from broadcast to socialmedia mode in the history of consenting exhibitionism/voyeurism, or ‗co-pornography‘, is a re-



imagining of Foucault‘s Panopticon as a Synopticon. (Vannini 2004) It was Jeremy Bentham who first conceived of a structure with a high central tower, housing guards who could overlook and see into every cell in the surrounding torus-like prison complex, and called it a Panopticon. The prisoner, for Foucault, is controlled by the gaze of the guard in the central tower, and the whole structure becomes, for Foucault, an image for society under the yoke of political technologies of the body (Foucault 1977). Vannini‘s re-imagining of this structure – the Synopticon – has the gaze of the guards shifted to lights and surveillance cameras, and those cameras themselves turned variously back onto the guards: prisoners and guards alike now come under the electronic gaze, all of them exhibiting themselves and enjoying the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing each other in exposed sexual positions. The one-way control of producer/consumer and of guard/prisoner, has become a shared slavery to the scopophiliac urge. (Vannini 2004)

4. ChatRoulette The internet, however, is always full of surprises, and there seems always to be something new just around the corner. The latest social media phenomenon, the website, generates one-on-one Webcam connections between each visitor and another randomly chosen user. The site was created in November 2009 by a Russian 17 year old, Andrey Ternovskiy, who said of it, in a New York Times interview, ― I myself enjoyed talking to friends with Skype using a microphone and webcam. But we got tired of talking to each other eventually. So I decided to create a little site for me and my friends where we could connect randomly with other people.‖ (Stone 2010) As the New York Times says of it, the site is ― intensely addictive—one of those gloriously simple ideas that manages to harness the crazy power of the Internet in a potentially revolutionary way.‖ (Anderson 2010) Experiencing the site, one is immediately confronted with the sheer ephemerality of the connections that are made. The vast majority of people simply click ‗Next‘ within seconds of seeing your webcam picture appear in their browser. Indeed, for many of the pictures that appear, this is precisely one‘s own reaction. Yet even when those seconds stretch into minutes, and a text-based or sound-enabled conversation takes place, it is clear within moments that this is to be a random, once-only meeting, and not likely to last very long. In this sense there is an anonymous and bite-size quality to these meetings that is somehow similar to the experience of a hashtag search on twitter – each tweet a brief snapshot of a thought from an anonymous tweeter somewhere in the world. But with Twitter one can look at the page of the Tweeter, explore more background on the web, find out more about the person, follow all of their Tweets from now on. With ChatRoulette, for all that the ‗tweet‘ comes with the full richness of sound and video in computer mediated face-toface communication, unless there is a direct willingness to exchange contact details, the moment will remain forever anonymous. If in its early days when barely hundreds of people were using the service it was possible to get the same person twice, as more and more people use the site for random meetings that likelihood becomes slimmer and slimmer. But as Anderson tells us: ― Meeting a new person is thrilling, in a primal way— your attention focuses completely, if only for a nanosecond, to see if the creature in front

FOUCAULT, EXHIBITIONISM AND VOYEURISM ON CHATROULETTE 213 of you has the power to change your life for better or worse. ChatRoulette creates this moment over and over again; it privileges it over actual conversation.‖ (Anderson 2010) In the experience of the author of this paper, any session is likely to include a mixture of immediate ‗Next‘s‘ – the result of the vast majority of connections – interspersed with a handful of fascinating, brief meetings and conversations. In one session, in February 2010, by which time there were upwards of 20,000 regular users of the site, I chatted with a French teenager playing live electronic music on a keyboard in Paris, and a middle-aged man eating noodles in a café in Szechuan. I also saw a strangely still mug-shot of a classically beautiful Far-Eastern woman, and – very briefly as my finger reached for the ‗Next‘ button – a close-up of a naked man masturbating. This latter is emblematic of the early use of the site. As Anderson notes, ― One man popped up on people‘s screens in the act of fornicating with a head of lettuce. Others dressed like ninjas, tried to persuade women to expose themselves,‖ (Anderson 2010). In short, as Stone recommends: ― Let‘s put it this way: Parents, keep your children far, far away.‖ (Stone 2010) The experience will be, for many, as described by Tossell, ― Naked guy. Click. Naked guy.‖ (Tossell 2010). All the press attention given to the site during its moment of recognition, in February 2010, has concluded that ChatRoulette is NSFW – Not Safe For Work. The completely open nature of ChatRoulette grants it some of the wildness and frontier cache of the early internet. ChatRoulette is the most raw and unfiltered form of social media possible. As Ingram points out, ― The addition of video brings out the exhibitionist tendencies in some people and the voyeuristic tendencies in others, and ChatRoulette subjects its users to plenty of both.‖ (Ingam 2010). Venture Capital is, at the time of writing, already intensely interested, (Ingam 2010) but there will need to be some changes, first. Filters will need to be applied, enabling people to choose, based on age, interest, language, location, what kind of random connections are made. Why? Because the issue of consent, so crucial to the above discussion of exhibitionism and voyeurism, is here of absolute importance and significance. In the open, wild, unfiltered version of ChatRoulette, exhibitionists can thrill at the prospect of displaying themselves to those who have not consented to the experience. The technology, indeed, almost encourages it. Issues of power are foregrounded in this context: the power to display without consent, the resistance in the ability to click ‗Next‘ and escape – both inherent parts of the unfiltered technology. A dominant masculine hegemony in sexual expression, inherent in exhibitionism, is given free rein. Yet above all, the discursive practice of sexuality, rather than its visceral referent, is uppermost in this unfiltered masquerade where anonymous men display video-ed imagery of their tumescent genitals to the unsuspecting – or expectant – viewers. Without such filters, then, the future for ChatRoulette is clear – it will be gradually taken over by exhibitionists and voyeurs, and eventually no-one else will use it. ChatRoulette, then, represents a discourse of depersonalized sexuality, with no interest in establishing contact towards a physical meeting for actual sexual activity, as is putatively the case in sexual social networking (regardless of whether such connections actually occur.) This is a discourse of depersonalized sexuality with – arguably – zero actual, visceral sexual contact, albeit the sexual content is plain. In this sense, ChatRoulette presents us with a video based Foucauldian discourse of sexuality, a scientia sexualis videre, par excellence, floating entirely free from such visceral and



bodily exchange as is usually associated with sexual activity, and devoted entirely to a visual communication about sex, with live streaming video discourse-objects. In this sense the exhibitionist on ChatRoulette is deploying a form of almost exclusively discursive sexuality. As a discourse-object, live-streaming video presents a very unusual Foucauldian statement, to be sure. The live video imagery of a masturbating man in a three-inch square window on ChatRoulette is a sexual speech act in the specific context of exhibitionism lacking consent, and thus additionally a statement, exerting power across broadband infrastructures. The unwitting viewer is disempowered – losing their choice NOT to view pornographic material. The exhibitionist is empowered, making their statement performatively before the safety of the webcam. Their power over the consent of others is enacted in the moment they are connected across the network, and sealed in the moment that connection clicks ‗Next‘ in disgust. Thus the nexus of power relations between exhibitionist and viewer gradually becomes the primary field within which ChatRoulette operates, until it is either filtered, or becomes exclusively populated by exhibitionists and voyeurs. Arguably, at this point, it may indeed lose its allure even for these people, once the element of empowerment and disempowerment is lost.

5. Conclusion Sexuality, understood as a Foucauldian discourse that expresses itself through our passions and pursuits and contributes massively to our socially-constructed identity formation, continues, clearly, to be a major factor in the growth of the internet. Sexual social networks and internet dating sites are emblematic of the recent shift of sexual video material from broadcast to social media mode, and the fundamental exhibitionism/voyeurism dyad displayed in such sites finds it‘s apotheosis in ChatRoulette. Video sharing in online sexual social networking and on ChatRoulette, moreover, proves to be illustrative of Foucault‘s concepts of sexuality as discourse. The disciplined body, glued to the screen, exhibiting itself in the act of masturbation, turns out to be the ultimate ‗non-contact‘ reduction of the visceral act of sex to a conversational, visual discourse-object communication with its corresponding voyeur. Conceiving sexuality as discourse moreover, offers us the possibility, particularly in relation to the all-important notion of consent in matters pertaining to sexual activity, to extend the penal controls deriving from what we consider right and wrong in society into the code – the filtering – of our online sexual social networks. In this way the architecture of our virtual social spaces can incorporate the powers of social construction and control, as well as panoptic surveillance of our activities, rendering Foucault‘s political technologies of the body all the more openly apparent in our information society.

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F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 217-230.


Abstract. Rural women in Bangladesh have limited access to resources and public spheres due to socio-cultural restrictions. Women suffer from severe discrimination, and it is thought this is heightened due to a lack of access to information. Information communication and technology (ICT) is a potential tool that can reach rural women and enrich their knowledge. This paper discusses women‟s empowerment in terms of perceptual change in rural villages in Bangladesh after ICT intervention has been introduced by Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Since empowerment is a complex phenomenon to measure because of its multidimensional aspects and its relationship with time as a process, the methodology used in this research was an integration of qualitative and quantitative methods. Using a structured questionnaire, data was collected from women in two different villages where ICT projects have been introduced. The change in women‟s perception after using ICT was compared with changes in women who did not use ICT. The results indicate that ICT intervention changed women‟s perception in a positive direction in one village but it did not change in the other village.

1. Introduction Bangladesh is a poor country with 45% people living below the poverty line (Save the Children, 2008). Gender inequality, lower education, unemployment, income inequality, business failure, poor infrastructure, political instability and environmental degradation are the main causes of poverty in many developing countries like Bangladesh (Szirmai, 2005). If rural women in Bangladesh were educated and empowered using ICT tools such as computers, the Internet and mobile phones (UNPAN, 2007), then poverty could be alleviated and development would be possible in social, economic and all other levels of human life. A study by Ahmed, Islam, Hasan, & Rahman (2006) found that, in Bangladesh, women‟s involvement in ICT industries and ICT-based government organizations (GO) and non-government organizations (NGO) changes the behavioural aspect of women‟s lifestyle and thereby affects the society as a whole. In another study on the impact of ICT intervention towards the development in third world countries, Ashraf, Hanisch & Swatman (2008) describe the situation in Bangladesh. This interpretive study discovered



that rural people were enthusiastic about ICT intervention despite its impact on the culture of the village. Although the focus of the study was the impact of ICT intervention on rural people generally, the study showed there are positive prospects in Bangladesh in terms of ICT use by women for their empowerment. In Bangladesh, ICT can play an important role in changing the social and cultural behaviour towards females, helping them to build their capacity to utilize their own potential, and educate them on various issues. Therefore, there is scope for research on this issue. The research reported in this paper is part of a wider investigation on the issue of women empowerment through ICT tools in terms of change of perception. The aims of this paper are to: identify factors affecting women‟s empowerment; find the potential of ICT for women‟s empowerment; implement a model for measuring empowerment; and identify any perceptual change due to intervention activities.

2. Literature Review 2.1. WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT Empowerment refers to the ability of people to control their own destinies in relation to other people in society (Mason, 2005). There is no universal definition of women‟s empowerment as factors such as socio-cultural, geographical, environmental, political and economic, as well as many other aspects of countries and regions, influence it. Kabeer (1994) offers a definition of empowerment as: the expansion in people‟s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them.

According to The World Bank (2008): empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.

So, one definition of women‟s empowerment could be a process that gives them control of power and resources, and changes women‟s lives over time through their active participation in that process. Empowerment dynamics is a complex and multidimensional process linked at the macro, meso, and micro levels (Narayan-Parker, 2005). Macro level dynamics (i.e. global, national or regional level) directly affect the micro level (i.e. the individual or domestic level) as does the meso level (i.e. village or community). A connection between the levels is needed to ascertain women‟s empowerment intervention (Mason, 2005). The domestic or household level is the central point of gender-based discrimination and the goal of empowerment (Narayan-Parker, 2005) because of the power relation in the family hierarchy. Domestic power dynamics can be analysed by an individual‟s access to and control of different „spaces‟ such as physical, economic, socio-cultural and political, and non-physical within the domestic level. A new space of

ROLE OF ICT IN WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT IN RURAL BANGLADESH 219 women‟s empowerment is technological empowerment, which is as important as the other interrelated spaces (Lennie, 2002). Shifts in spaces are closely connected to changes in the micro, meso and macro environments, both backward and forward. For that reason, women‟s empowerment needs to be measured in all three dimensions and all spaces of women‟s life (Charmes & Wieringa, 2003). The mental space of women remains the most critical issue since it has a complex relationship with other non-mental spaces. Mental or psychological space consists of the feeling of freedom that allows a person to think and act. For example, it often happens that interventions that expand a woman‟s economic space with increased income do not empower her if she has no control over the income. Therefore, expansion in economic space alone will not bring about empowerment. If the interventions increase a woman‟s level of confidence and self esteem, then a process of empowerment has began. An expansion of this space implies a change in perception and leads to a feeling of strength. Hence, understanding the link with other spaces will help policy makers to understand why some interventions fail in spite of an increase in physical, economic and political spaces (Ranadive, 2005). Though some ICT interventions in Bangladesh are not benefiting rural women economically (Alam, 2006; D.Net, 2007), they are helping to provide required information to rural women, which eventually changes their perceptions and expands their self-esteem as human beings. This issue needs to be investigated; that is, whether ICT can empower rural women with or without economic benefit. 2.2. THE NEED FOR WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT The World Bank (2001) developed a two-pronged strategy to eradicate poverty: large scale investment in developing countries; and empowerment of underprivileged people. Therefore, disadvantaged people have the potential to develop their lives and eradicate their poverty if they are empowered. Women are half of the total population in the world yet 70% of the world‟s disadvantaged are women (Actionaid, 2006). Many women are the poorest of the poor because of the extreme forms of discrimination that persist in many parts of today‟s world (Obayelu & Ogunlade, 2006). Women are, therefore, not only the representatives of impoverished people in the world but they are also the most deprived and the cross-cut category of individuals that overlaps with all other disadvantaged groups (the poor, ethnic minorities, etc). Although actively participating in taking care of children, family members, livestock and agricultural work (food production, preservation and processing), household work, health care and so forth, women have limited access to resources and economy. The World Bank (2008) has identified empowerment as one of the key constituent elements of poverty reduction and sustainable development. So, it is important to empower women to change their lives through eradicating poverty and enabling their contribution to society. 2.3. POTENTIAL OF ICT FOR EMPOWERING WOMEN Information is noted as a prerequisite for empowerment, while participation drives empowerment by encouraging people to be actively involved in the development process, contribute ideas, take the initiative to articulate needs and problems and assert



their autonomy (Obayelu & Ogunlade, 2006). The UN millennium development project (United-Nations, 2005) focused on globalization as well as gender equality and empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty in a sustainable way. Women‟s full and equal access to ICT-based economic and educational activities support women‟s contribution in business and home-based activities and help women to become more empowered. By accessing information, women can enrich and enhance their quality of life. The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW) focuses on “ICTs and their impact on and use as a tool for the advancement of women” (Marcelle, 2002). Successful case studies from many countries describe the use of ICT as a tool for the economic empowerment of women (Prasad & Sreedevi, 2007), participation in public life (Lennie, 2002), and enhancing women's skills and capabilities in society (Mitchell & Gillis, 2007). When used effectively, ICT can create better opportunities for women to exchange information, gain access to on-line education and to engage in e-commerce activities (Marcelle, 2002). 2.4. FACTORS IN WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT Generally, two key factors in the process of empowerment are identified: control over resources (the conditions for empowerment); and agency (the ability to formulate choices). From the conceptual framework discussed by Malhotra, Schuler & Boender (2005) (Figure 1), it can be understood that empowerment is a dynamic process that may be separated into components, such as enabling resources, agency and outcomes.

Agency Empowerment


Resources Figure 1. The conceptual framework showing relationship between resources, agency and outcomes correlating empowerment (adapted from Malhotra et al., 2005). Alternatively, the consolidated framework developed by Chen (1997) details four broad pathways through which individuals‟ experiences change: 1.

Material pathway, through which changes in access to or control over material resources, such as in the level of income, in the satisfaction of basic needs or in earning capacity, are experienced. 2. Cognitive pathway, through which changes in level of knowledge, skills or awareness of wider environment are experienced.

ROLE OF ICT IN WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT IN RURAL BANGLADESH 221 3. Perceptual pathway, through which changes in individual confidence level and self-esteem and vision of the future as well as changes in recognition and respect by others are experienced. 4. Relational pathway, through which changes in decision-making roles, bargaining power, participation in non-family groups, dependence on others and mobility are experienced. To fully understand the process of change, Chen (1997) details two types of variables: the key participation variables (i.e. demographic profile of the client, household dependency ratio and the economic portfolio mix of the household) which are designed to measure the different levels of contact that a woman might have with various services offered by micro enterprises; and the mediating variables (i.e. social norms such as gender division of labour, gender norms of behaviour and gender allocation of resources), which are thought to affect the direction and strength of the relationship between participation in micro-enterprise services and impacts on individual level. This framework is useful because it reflects the culture and context of rural Bangladesh for measuring women‟s empowerment. In the model, developed by Lennie (2002), a new dimension of women‟s empowerment was added, that of technological empowerment. Other dimensions, such as social, political, and psychological empowerment are also interrelated. The questions which were used to identify the changes in women‟s technological issues after using ICT were incorporated in this study since ICT affects the mental space of women. 2.5. MEASUREMENT OF WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT Though ICT is used for women‟s empowerment in many countries in Asia, Africa and other developing areas in the world, there is no rigorous method for measuring and tracking changes in levels of empowerment by ICT intervention. For example, multiple research methods (including participant observation, individual interviews, group interviews, analyses of selected email messages, feedback questionnaires that provided qualitative and quantitative data, and statistical analysis of demographic and personal information) were used to investigate empowerment and disempowerment of rural women in Australia, a developed country (Lennie, 2002). The key activities in the project were workshops, online conversation groups and audio conferences. In another study in India (a Kudumbhasree project), a research report was based on primary and secondary data analyses from the IT industries, ICT-promoting GOs and NGOs, IT professional and related websites. This case study was conducted to ascertain the success factors of the project through an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) within the project (Prasad & Sreedevi, 2007). As noted above, empowerment of women is considered in two ways: as a process through which there is a change for greater equality or greater freedom of choice; and action. Empowerment is also considered as agency, where women themselves must have significant involvement in the change process that is being described or measured. However, processes are difficult to measure; they cannot be measured directly but through proxies, like health, educational level, and knowledge. Mason (2005) argues that women‟s empowerment in developing countries should be confined to the domestic environment and be measured and analysed through the effectiveness of any intervention



in that space. Ranadive (2005) countered that it is difficult for the researcher to carry out detached observation at the domestic level. Women may not report discrimination for their own safety or for the good of the family. Therefore, a framework needs to be developed that can be used across settings to address empowerment at the meso as well as the macro and micro levels, thus covering economic, socio-cultural, familial, legal, political and psychological dimensions of women‟s life in the context of different countries and cultures. Chen‟s (1997) mixed method approach, combining a qualitative case study with a quantitative survey to test hypotheses of the impact of micro-enterprises at the individual level, applies the consolidated framework discussed above and is ideal to measure the empowerment of women using ICT in Bangladesh. In this approach, a quantitative survey can measure broad patterns and correlate the changes, whereas case studies can illuminate the impact process, counter factual or rival explanations, and investigate complex or unexplained phenomena.

3. Methodology This research focuses on individual level impacts. Therefore, the unit of analysis chosen is individual people, i.e. women, and involves interviews with rural women, ICT trainees and members of ICT interventions projects. This is an effective way for collecting original data and for measuring attitudes and the impact of ICT intervention in women‟s life. Since women‟s empowerment is a complex entity to measure, Chen‟s (1997) conceptual model is considered appropriate because it has been developed for South East Asian countries like Bangladesh and India, where socio-cultural norms are similar and women suffer similar types of discrimination in rural areas. The research model used in this research is designed in such a way that it illuminates all spheres of women‟s life and identifies what data to collect for analysis. Taking the concept of women‟s empowerment of agency, resource and outcome in mind (see Figure 1), the research model (Figure 2) was developed taking the pathways of Chen‟s (1997) consolidated framework and Lennie‟s (2002) technological change to measure empowerment. As illustrated in Figure 2, the independent variables, such as personal characteristics (education and age) and motivation (type of information, purpose of involvement, and access level), are different for each woman. These variables affect dependent variables like material, relational, cognitive, perceptual and technological change. For example, an educated woman can learn ICT skills more easily and acquire more knowledge and skills than a woman without education and can therefore perceive changes. Similarly, all other factors like age, purpose of involvement, access to ICT, and information type may affect women‟s knowledge and skill gained through ICT and affect the changes leading to empowerment as well. This paper will focus specifically on women‟s purpose of involvement in ICT projects and how it affects women‟s perception leading to empowerment after ICT intervention. As this research aims to investigate women‟s empowerment through technological intervention in rural Bangladesh, it adopts an interpretive perspective. ICT intervention

ROLE OF ICT IN WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT IN RURAL BANGLADESH 223 for women‟s empowerment is a relatively new issue and therefore needs to be examined for the appropriate application of technology for social inclusion.

Education Level

Material change

Type of information


Purpose of access

Cognitive change

ICT tools

Level of access (time and location)

Age of women

Independent variable

Gained skills and knowledge

Perceptual change


Relational change

Technological change

Dependent variable

Figure 2. Proposed model for measuring empowerment for ICT intervention (based on Lennie, 2002, Ahmed et al. 2006 and Chen, 1997) The research design is based on a questionnaire, one of the most common research methods used for social research (Babbie, 2001), and a comparison of similar sample groups without researcher intervention. Seven questions were asked of rural women to identify perceptual changes after ICT intervention. The women were asked to rate their perceived change on a Likert-like scale. The questions were: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Are you able to speak about your problems without any fear? Do you have enthusiasm and inspiration for any work? Are you aware about women‟s problems and rights in the society? Do you think that other people in the family and in the community respect you? Are you free to do any work without any pressure from your husband or other family members? 6. Do you feel dominated by other family members like husband or in-laws? 7. Are you able to do anything on your own without the help of other?

The same questions were asked of non-ICT women. Even though they were not involved in the ICT projects, they may have experienced changes as other women in the neighbourhood were engaged in those ICT projects. Therefore, their feelings about ICT and its impact on their lives were also investigated.



3.1. CASE STUDIES Searching the web about ICT for women‟s development in Bangladesh, several appropriate projects were identified. After communicating with key personnel through email and formal application, two projects ─ Development Research Network ( and Our Village Online (Amader gram online) ─ gave permission to work with their beneficiaries. Both projects were at their early stage of ICT intervention and eager to learn the outcome of their research through feedback. A convenience sample was chosen based on women who were interested in being interviewed. With the help of project field workers and volunteers, who provided information about project beneficiaries using ICT and not using ICT, data were collected by going from house to house and asking who was available and prepared to give an interview. In addition, student trainees and project staff were interviewed at the project offices. At and Amader Gram project offices, non-ICT participants were also interviewed along with ICT participants. Figure 3 shows the location of the participating villages.

Figure 3. Location of ICT projects in Bagerhat district in Bangladesh (, 2009) Since 2002, the project has been working with children, youth and women to increase health care, education and social awareness. Under the Computer Learning and Education Program, this organization has been working since 2005 to teach students and

ROLE OF ICT IN WOMENâ€&#x;S EMPOWERMENT IN RURAL BANGLADESH 225 youths of the village about computers. Through this project, a student or trainee can learn computer skills and attain a certificate from Microsoft under the curriculum of Microsoft Unlimited Potential. The program also disseminates information among villagers, especially to rural women, through computers, Internet and movies. Specialist advice for health is passed on through mobile communication. The project provides information to villagers depending on the livelihood problems and the needs of rural people. The information on livelihood includes problems which people in the village face in their everyday lives such as communication, agriculture, health, education, employment, sustainability, human rights, natural disaster management, government forms and provision of services (, 2007). In 2007, there were 16,000 participants in their project of whom 10,000 were female participants in the Bagerhat sub-district. In the village of Boitpur where the project has been established, 20 women who were using ICT tools like mobile phones, computers, or the Internet and were beneficiaries of the Village Information Project, were interviewed. Another 30 women in the village, who were part of but not part of the ICT project or who were not part of any project, were also interviewed. Though Amader Gram was established in 1998 in Srifoltala village, since 2003 it has been working to motivate the young generation morally, and change their mindset through ICT education. The six programs on which they are working are: (i) Breast Cancer; (ii) Amader Gram Database Program; (iii) Knowledge Center; (iv) Literacy for Livelihood; (v) Monitoring and Evaluation; and (vi) Rural News Online. They have about 691 enlisted beneficiaries in Srifoltala village. In the Amader Gram online project in Srifoltala village, 20 women were interviewed who were participating in the project using Telemedicine or ICT for education and knowledge. Seventeen other women in the village who were not using computers or the Internet for education and knowledge agreed to participate. Mobile phones were available to these women, generally for communication.

4. Analysis As noted in Section 3.1, the data was collected from participants using convenience sampling from two different villages in Bangladesh. The interviewees were rural women whose demography is given in Table 1. It can be seen that the highest percentage of women respondents were from age group 21–30 years (61%). Most of the women were married (77%) and had no employment (67%) outside the home. On the other hand, although a high percentage of women have some form of education and can read (80.46%), only a small percentage of women who can read had completed secondary school (10%) or higher secondary education (24.3%). The majority of women can use a mobile phone as an ICT tool (83%), but only few women could use the Internet (14%) and computers (17%). From Figure 4(a), it can be seen that the purpose of involvement in ICT projects in the two villages is quite different. In Boitpur, as most of the ICT women are student trainees and employees of the project, they can use a computer, and the Internet and they are involved in paid training programs of at least 3 months. So, they are gaining more knowledge and education because of the depth of project purpose. On the other hand,



from Figure 4(b), it can be seen that in Srifoltala village, there are combinations of various categories of purpose of involvement for women. Most of the women participated in the „Computer for allâ€&#x; program, which is a one-day program to introduce computers to rural people. In this program, project staff members carry a computer on a three-wheeler from door to door, to show groups of people what the computer is, how it works, how important it is and engage the women by allowing them to touch it and use it so that their fear of new technology can be eliminated. Table 1. Demographics of participants (N = 87). Demographics


Age group

ICT Non-ICT (N = 20) (N = 30) 6 0

< 20 years

Marital status

Level of education

Employed ICT use

Srifoltala ICT (N = 20) 0

Non-ICT (N = 17) 0

Total (N = 87) 6

21-30 years






31-40 years






41-50 years






>50 years
























Unable to read






Non-formal schooling






Primary school






Lower secondary






Secondary school






Higher secondary












Yes No Mobile

12 8 15

5 25 22

5 15 20

7 10 15

29 58 72















0% J ob

10% 10%

Training Health c are

C omputer for all 85%

O ther

Training Health c are

V illage Info s ys tem C hildren educ ation

J ob



V illage Info s ys tem C hildren educ ation

5% 0%

C omputer for all O ther

(a) (Boitpur) (b) Amader Gram (Srifoltala) Figure 4. Purpose of involvement in ICT project.

ROLE OF ICT IN WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT IN RURAL BANGLADESH 227 From Figure 5(a), it can be seen that the purpose of involvement in Boitpur for most of the women without ICT is the village information system (90%) and only few are taking advantage of children education and health care. So, non-ICT women are also being advantaged indirectly from ICT through field workers of the project who move from door to door and inform rural women about their livelihood problems. On the other hand, from Figure 5(b), it can be seen that in Srifoltala village, though the Amader Gram project has a village information system, the women without ICT tools are involved in various programs such as micro-credit loan program (33%) and health care program (28%). Therefore, their programs are focusing on various issues instead of training and learning. 3%

7% Job



Health care

Health care

Village Info system

Village Info system Children education

Job Training


Children education Micro-credit


Computer for all

Micro-credit 90%

Computer for all

(a) (Boitpur)



(b) Amader Gram (Srifoltala)

Figure 5. Purpose of involvement in non-ICT project

5. Discussion of Results The responses to the questions exploring perceptual changes are plotted in Figures 6, 7 and 8, using average values to compare women who are using ICT tools with women who are not. It can be seen from Figure 6 that women with ICT skills have a higher confidence level, more self-esteem, self-awareness and dignity, and they feel freer and much more independent than non-ICT participants in Boitpur village under the project. But for the Amader Gram project (Figure 7), there is less change in women with ICT. These women are showing less confidence, self awareness, dignity, freedom and independence than non-ICT participants. Only self-esteem is slightly more than non-ICT participants. When we compare the two groups of ICT users‟ perceptual change (Figure 8), we find that ICT users are showing a higher perception of empowerment than Amader Gram users in Srifoltala village except for the category of self awareness. But it is interesting to note that average changes in all cases are more than the average value, which is “no change”. This is a positive sign for ICT intervention projects. The development of ICT skills in women is said to produce perceptual changes in their mental spaces, such as level of confidence, self esteem, self respect, freedom and so on (Chen, 1997). The analyses in this research give us an interesting insight. The results show that, after gaining knowledge and ICT skills, women‟s perceptual change is higher in the project than the Amader Gram project. The reasons for this differential result could be the depth of involvement in the project, i.e. purpose and length of involvement in the project by the participants. The



average length of involvement for students and trainees in the project is 106 days (i.e. more than the minimum 3-month program described above), whereas the average length of involvement for students, trainees and “computer for all” participants in Amader Gram project is 14 days. So, it is important that ICT projects working with rural women look at their needs and inspire them to become involved in the project more actively and for a longer length of time to benefit rural women. Though women in Srifoltala village have computer and Internet facilities within their village, they are not getting the full benefit of ICT for enriching their knowledge and education because of the lack of active participation in the projects. So, the ICT project in Srifoltala is failing to meet their goal to empower women in that rural village. Perceptual Change-Boitpur

Perceptual Change-Srifaltala ICT-Amader Gram vii) Independence

vii) Independence

vi) Free from dominance

vi) Free from dominance

v) Feeling of freedom

v) Feeling of freedom

iv) Dignity

iv) Dignity

iii) Self aw areness

iii) Self aw areness

Non-ICT-Amader Gram

ii) Self esteem

ii) Self esteem

i) Confidence

i) Confidence 0












Figure 6. Average perceptual change of ICT and non-ICT respondents of project.











Figure 7. Average perceptual change of ICT and non-ICT respondents of Amadergram project.

Perceptual Change comaprison-Boitpur and Srifaltala vii) Independence

ICT-Amader Gram

vi) Free from dominance v) Feeling of freedom iv) Dignity iii) Self aw areness ii) Self esteem i) Confidence 0






Figure 8. Average perceptual change of ICT and ICT Amader Gram Projects respondents.

6. Conclusion This paper discussed the issue of women empowerment using ICT tools, and a model was developed to measure perceptual change in women‟s mental space leading to empowerment. Even though the result was not positive in one village, we can conclude that if women‟s engagement in ICT is active and in-depth in terms of learning and

ROLE OF ICT IN WOMEN‟S EMPOWERMENT IN RURAL BANGLADESH 229 education, then women could become more empowered. Moreover, poverty could be alleviated in rural populations in Bangladesh by women acquiring knowledge and education.

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Obayelu, A. E., & Ogunlade, I. (2006). Analysis of the uses of information and communication technology for gender empowerment and sustainable poverty alleviation in Nigeria. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 2(3), 45-69. Prasad, P. N., & Sreedevi, V. (2007). Economic Empowerment of Women through Information Technology: A Case Study from an Indian State. Journal of International Women's Studies, 8(4), 107-119. Ranadive, J. D. (2005). Gender, power, and empowerment: an analysis of household and family dynamics. In D. Narayan (Ed.), Measuring Empowerment Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives (pp. 103-121). Washington DC: The World Bank. Save the Children (2008). Country profile: Bangladesh Retrieved March 31, 2008, from Szirmai, A. (2005). The dynamics of Socio-Economic development: An Introduction (1st ed.): Cambridge University Press. The World Bank (2001). World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking poverty. New York: Oxford University Press. The World Bank (2008). Empowerment Retrieved April 15, 2008, from RMENT/0,,contentMDK:20245753~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:486411,00. html United-Nations (2005). The Millenium Development Goals Report 2005 Retrieved April 3, 2008, from UNPAN (2007). Connecting People in Rural Communities through ICT: Grameen Telecom Experience. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from

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Abstract. When an online community has been set up to support members living with heart disease, it has a responsibility to provide a safe environment in terms of emotional security and accurate health information. Unfortunately, in online communities as in communities generally, relationships developed among members can sometimes go awry. Situations can arise where private exchanges between members exacerbate public discord and conflict erupts: occasionally with both sides having legitimate reason to feel aggrieved. At this point, a usually selfregulating community can polarise and request the moderator's intervention. What happens when the moderator is perceived to be doing nothing about the situation and members of the community take matters into their own hands? This paper discusses the implications and challenges of conflict in a therapeutic community. It acknowledges that sometimes the situation can be too complex for simple resolution and that in such circumstances, one or both of the conflicted parties may have to withdraw from the site for a period of time.

1. The Importance of Constructing a Safe Environment Online communities are now an acknowledged additional resource for many people looking for an alternative to face-to-face support when dealing with long term health issues (Andrews, 2002; Bonniface & Green 2007). Once people met face-to-face (F2F) or communicated via telephone; now they can also connect via computer networks in a virtual community where they share common interests and interact socially, while not restricted by time, place or geography (Uridge, Green & Rodan, 2008a). In the case of online health support groups, the common interests shared can include members‘ medical history and ongoing medical challenges. Confidentiality is encouraged and most sites recommend that members withhold information about their real identities and locations. Many communities utilise moderators to reduce the risk of harmful or inappropriate behaviours, keep topics on track and where necessary encourage active participation. As will be discussed, the role of moderator is a complex one and is made more challenging when a community has been constituted as both an e-health support site and as a research locale. Where a site is used for research, the research approach used is often either virtual ethnography or Netnography. Virtual ethnography can be defined as research that studies communities that routinely utilise electronic communication (Hine, 2000): the implication here is that the community may have an already-existing presence prior to members engaging with each



other on the web. In contrast, netnography is described by Nancarrow (cited in Beckmann & Langer, 2005, p. 63) as a specific methodology that studies cybercultures and virtual communities that do not have a prior existence in F2F contexts. In either case, however, the researcher is required to observe and interact with the community online. When carrying out this kind of investigation, researchers can enter a ‗virtual‘ community in the online environment and adapt participant observational techniques such as ― gathering and analysing data [...] conducting member checks and conducting ethical research‖ (Kozinets, 2008). The authors have been involved in researching such a community. HeartNET is a semi-moderated lay community which principally serves a heart patient membership and which supports and encourages members‘ emotional health as well as facilitating therapeutic behaviour change. It achieves these ends by offering members the opportunity to help each other, and their family and friends, in a relatively safe environment (Uridge, Green & Rodan, 2008a). The fact that it is a lay community means that the moderator is not required to have professional health care skills, but would effectively be ‗one of us‘ if they were also a heart patient. The moderator‘s role is based on social and administrative functions, rather than according to a professional or knowledge hierarchy; yet the person in the moderator role is often asked to mediate when conflict erupts between members. In such cases the only reasonable outcome may be withdrawal from the site by one or both warring parties until the dispute blows over. The safety of the HeartNET environment is influenced in a range of ways, and two kinds of safety are supported: physical safety and emotional safety. In terms of physical safety, the fact that the community has a lay moderator means that no specific treatment or medication options are recommended on the site. Members are always referred to their General Practitioners (GPs) or specialist Cardiologists where queries or concern with treatment regimes are expressed. However, the accepted fundamentals of positive health are encouraged and reinforced: exercise (Bonniface, Omari & Swanson, 2006); plentiful fruit and vegetables; the cessation of smoking; and the active seeking of professional opinion and help when specific symptoms of physical or mental health cause concern. A more positive attitude towards heart disease and the belief that it is possible to increase the quality and length of life with daily health choices can help people feel more empowered in the face of a negative health prognosis and the development of a positively supportive environment which supports daily optimism is one of the aims of the site (Bonniface, Green & Swanson 2005). This aspect of the operations entails a change in focus from physical to emotional safety. Emotional safety is supported in a number of ways. Firstly, the site is set up and constituted as part of an ethics framework which was evaluated in principle prior to the commencement of the research and which is monitored in practice by people outside the research team. Secondly, members give informed consent to establish explicitly that they realize that research is being carried out using the site and that all interactions are eligible to be used as materials for research. Thirdly, members agree to a range of conditions every time they use the site: As a member of HeartNET, you agree not to post messages that, threaten, solicit, offend, harass, embarrass or impersonate any other person. You also agree not to post messages that violate any persons‘ privacy or other rights. In particular, you agree not to make slanderous comments by disclosing the name of your doctor or other health professionals. If you wish, you can make comments by referring to ‗Your Doctor‘ in general. (HeartNET, n.d.)



A flashing icon greets members logging in whenever the terms and conditions are changed, or whenever there is an administrative message from the moderators. This beacon is used to flag an occurrence or a change while a general caveat is carried on the terms and conditions page to the effect that these are periodically updated and should be checked regularly. If there is conflict between members, or there are other concerns with the way the site is operating, the terms and conditions are reviewed and if necessary amended to create the most robust framework possible to support respectful and therapeutic communication. An environment supporting responsible interaction is the fourth strategy for the promotion of emotional safety. Members who ‗do the right thing‘ are applauded by the moderator and others on the site. Positive member-activity might include reminding other members that they should make no changes to their treatment regime without first consulting their health professional. This situation may arise when there is a health scare in the media involving one or more heart medications and a member asks the site whether s/he should stop taking that medication, and what other people think about the media coverage. The climate of responsible activity is particularly important on a site that is only intermittently moderated. Since irresponsible statements or speculations can remain on the site for up to a day or so without a moderator seeing and countering these, it is important to recognise and reinforce members‘ safety-promoting interventions. Crucially, HeartNET‘s moderator acts as a check and balance after the event since members are free to post as they choose. Posts are not filtered or checked by another person before they appear on the site. Even so, the fifth way in which emotional safety is promoted is via moderator support and interaction. Moderators occupy a complex role. Over time they are likely to spend more time on the site than any other community member, but they also have a role which is separate from that of community member. One of the features of online communities is that the quality and quantity of connection that each member has determines whether or not ‗interaction on a website‘ becomes, for them, membership of a community (Green, 1999). This is one reason why Rheingold‘s definition of an online community, as ― social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace‖ (2000, p. xx), has had such an influence. It suggests that community is brought into being through affective investment. The people entrusted to moderate almost any community, but particularly one for heart patients, are required to be empathetic. It is almost impossible for an empathetic lay moderator to communicate effectively and regularly without seeing themselves, and being treated, as a member of the community. Even so, the HeartNET moderator has a responsibility for maintaining a critical distance from the workings of the community and monitoring the appropriateness of posts and exchanges and their usefulness for the overall research project. Green (1998, p.15) identifies the moderator as being like a good umpire: ― never leaving the game having the players and fans talking more about the umpire than the game‖. Indeed, a moderator needs to be able to ensure the online site is comfortable to all, non confrontational, sets the right tone and stays within the defined rules of netiquette while maintaining and establishing trust within the community (Williams & Cothrel, 2000). The moderator is an integral part of the site and must be accepted by members as being able to deal with any and all situations that arise in an honest, acceptable and legitimate way, while ensuring that the integrity of the site is maintained. This is no easy task and the moderator of HeartNET supports the following objectives of



good moderation identified by Williams and Cothrel (2000, pp.83-84): to clarify but not edit or police the site except where there is offensive language or personal attacks on other members; to understand members‘ needs even if this necessitates reading between the lines and, if necessary, addressing the issue in private with the member; to keep the conversation going and on track; and to ensure members are always at the centre of attention, showing a human side and allowing members the chance to vent even if it makes others and herself uncomfortable at times. It is this interaction and uncertainty of responses that makes the online community unique, with each participant bringing their own agenda to the site (Green, 1998). HeartNET members have a range of online communication options. They can read and exchange information and support on the site‘s bulletin board, chat with others in the chat room in real time and share private messages with each other. Often newer members will lurk without actively participating, in order to learn the norms and customs of the site, and the natures and personalities of some of the most active members (Preece, Nonnecke & Andrews, 2004). People do not have to be a member to lurk on the site: HeartNET provides visitors with the option of logging in using guest status and visitors are able to read and observe public interactions and open messages on the site. This facility is designed to communicate that the site is welcoming, safe and unthreatening. Visitors are unable, however, to access the chat room or private message facility, or post messages to the bulletin board: such activities are reserved for full members. The site currently has over 800 members and on average there are 120-150 messages posted per week (Uridge, Green & Rodan, 2008b). Given that the terms and conditions of the site support its socially acceptable, understandable and practical functioning (Lazar & Preece, 2002), there should be no issues about inappropriate communication. However, the site would not be an authentic community if feelings were not involved. Talking about some of the earliest communities, at a time where the definition of an online community was controversial, Shaun Wilbur reflected that ― for those who doubt the possibility of online intimacy, I can only speak of […] hours sitting at my keyboard with tears streaming down my face, or convulsed with laughter‖ (1997, p. 18). Even though in many cases they will never meet, people on HeartNET may make immediate connections with others, because they have found people of like mind who are prepared to listen, share and provide support. Given that there is a strong emotional investment in HeartNET, however, it is inevitable that conflict will arise. At such times the carefully constructed, and painstakingly supported, safe online environment can be shattered for one or more members. As one HeartNET member ruefully commented: ― it only takes one nasty comment to ruin the site for everyone‖. Fortunately, even where there has been significant conflict on HeartNET, the majority of site members continue with their everyday interactions and mutual support. For those involved in the conflict, however, the impact of discord can have devastating consequences for their engagement with the site, and with other members (Green & Costello, 2009). The sixth way in which safety is promoted on many sites, including HeartNET, is through the injunction from the researchers and moderators that members should use pseudonyms and not reveal information about their personal details: While HeartNET is a secure site for you to share your thoughts, concerns, feelings, and experiences we must remember that we are not exempt from the rules and



regulations that cover how we interact with each other in real-world settings. You should feel comfortable here to discuss issues that are important to you... However, a word of caution...You should always use your nominated nickname to protect your identity online. …Some people will ignore this warning and instead choose to be completely transparent with their identities...this remains your choice...However, as a general guideline, if you wish to exchange real names with each other, best to do this outside the public domain of the Discussion Board…That, of course, is why most online sites have nicknames...they‘re not only fun but necessary. If you stick to this simple rule, online communication will be valid and safe. (Standing moderator message for all new HeartNET members, sequences of … occur as in the original: there have been no deletions.) This can set up a Catch-22 situation, and is a contrary impulse from the one which prompts the use of a self-help site in the first place, where people seek to give and receive reassurance and support in authentic ways. Self disclosure, whether on-line or F2F, can lead to greater levels of trust and can strengthen already existing ties (Preece, 1998). It can also open vulnerable people to additional risk should conflict arise.

2. Trouble in Paradise Research undertaken by Wright and Bell (2003) found that people requiring a solution to a problem can find the internet useful as a locus for communication, since it allows them to place distance between themselves and the problem. For the person writing the post, internet communication can be a less emotive way of dealing with a situation than F2F. While this can have a positive result for the person making the post, enabling them to express themselves in an uninhibited manner, the negative implications also need to be considered. By being authentic and expressing online the fears and emotions that would usually be kept hidden in F2F interaction, individuals may open themselves to ridicule, harassment, or unwanted attention from other members who are their readers. Even given the ‗distancing‘ effect of communication online as opposed to F2F, some matters may be unsuitable for open discussion. On other occasions, disclosure may be beneficial for the writer, but may be inappropriate or cause distress to the reader (Wright & Bell, 2003). Online communication is very different to F2F communication with social cues such as body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and eye contact absent. Reduced social cues can be a major issue in the online environment with people exhibiting emotions that would be deemed inappropriate in F2F interactions without necessarily realising the effect that these communications are having on others. Goffman (1959, p.12), discussing face-to-face interactions, said: At such moments the individual whose presentation has been discredited may feel ashamed while the others present may feel hostile, and all the participants may come to feel ill at ease, nonplussed, out of countenance, embarrassed, experiencing the kind of anomy that is generated when the minute social system of face-to-face interaction breaks down. So, in F2F communication, participants are more inclined to be inhibited in order to save face. Yet somewhat strikingly similar to computer-mediated communication is that



individuals whose presentation has been discredited online (as our examples in HeartNET show) can feel hostile, embarrassed etc. Reducing, ameliorating and negating such exchanges is one of the major roles of the moderator and is as appropriate a sphere of activity for a lay moderator as it is for a trained health professional. Active moderation is a reassurance to many members. Wise, Hamman and Thorson (2006) found that moderators in online communities reduced harmful or inappropriate behaviours, thus encouraging more active participation by members. They also maintained the site, and kept topics on track. As with other online communities, there have been some occasions where the moderator on HeartNET has had to deal with difficult situations, on a case by case basis, as and when the problems occur. Comments have sometimes been made that affect the smooth functioning of the site. Preece recognises that ― one person‘s clever joke is another person‘s offensive insult‖ (2004, p.56) and this dynamic may have as much to do with the emotional circumstances of the reader as it has to do with any intent on the part of the writer (King, 1995). Conflict can eventuate from factors far more innocent than ‗clever jokes‘. When norms of netiquette are broken (Shea, 1994), or seem to one or other party to have been broken; distress, anger, annoyance, frustration, and confusion may occur. Any response from a moderator has to tread a fine line between allowing people to feel confident that they can express themselves authentically, which is one form of safety; and recognising that such statements, particularly if made in an uninhibited way, can affect the sense of safety and security felt by other members. Members will only have their active status removed and be denied access to the site when all other avenues to resolve conflict have been exhausted (Green & Costello, 2009). Some situations can start out very innocently, yet rapidly acquire a negative momentum. Denise posted a message after being out one evening and coming onto the site frustrated and angry. She had been socialising with people who were not terminally ill, as she saw herself to be, and who had been talking about their temporary aches and pains as if these were important. Denise felt she had to deal with heart-related issues far greater than a minor cold: Denise: I was at a party this evening and was surrounded with people with all those slight ailments... you know the stubbed toe... or a common cold or some other insignificant illness... you know not life threatening... and found myself thinking you people are the biggest bunch of whimps I have ever met... mind you I knew none of these people before tonite. As well as feeling irritated by her fellow party-goers, the superficiality of their health concerns underlined to Denise that she was dealing with a life threatening illness. Whereas the interactions with the other guests had frustrated her, they also made her feel as though she was possibly becoming uncaring. She posted on the thread for reassurance that she wasn‘t uncaring or thoughtless. Other members quickly joined in to reassure her that she had no reason to be concerned about her reaction, and that it was quite normal to feel this way especially when she was going though a life altering experience that these people whom she had met for the first time that evening would have no idea about. Helen: Seriously, I hear where you are coming from - it is sometimes difficult to show sympathy / empathy to people when they grizzle about what we can



sometimes see as slight and / or minor ailments, especially when many of us have life threatening (or at the least life altering) conditions. Mandy: [to Denise] Don‘t concider yourself to be less compassionate than the next…PLEASE don‘t go keeping things to yourself. We don‘t want that ..You spill anytime you like. Joe: We are here to not only seek help about our problems, but also to help each other in time of need. As in any conversation, others joined in and offered examples of their own. Another member posted about how she had to cope with a woman in her workplace who had taken a large number of days sick leave due to severe headaches. She wrote: ― oh a little headache…boo hoo‖ (Josephine). Margaret took offence at Josephine‘s comments about headaches and told Josephine publicly that the comment had put her back up. Margaret explained that she also suffered from severe headaches and had in the past required many days of sick leave from her own place of work. HeartNET members rallied around the two disputants and tried to calm the situation. Behind the scenes, however, Margaret had also communicated to Josephine in a private message that the comments had offended her, so while the public thread quietened down, there was an escalation of the situation into a flame war (King, 1995) in exchanges between the two of them. Messaging Margaret privately, Josephine suggested that Margaret‘s condition was only psychological in nature, whereas she was waiting on a heart transplant and was therefore much sicker: Josephine: I know a lot more about you and what you‘ve said about me than you realise I could find out too, by the way. I also looked up Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia and I see that it may be a psychological illness. Just pretty much as I thought! Hypocondriac syndrome! If you wish to bitch at me, have the guts to say it to me, like this in a PM and stop whinging behind my back to people about (boo hoo) what I‘ve said to you. This is a conversation now between you and me, not other ppl. There was an almost immediate response from Margaret, even though silence and avoidance might have been a wiser course of action: Margaret: Hmmm you‘ve only made below the belt personal attacks on my condition, called me a hypochondriac and nutcase, made nasty comments to me on the public forum. Then you accuse me of ― bitch attacks‖ but what do you call your private personal attack like PM‘s to me. Seems like you‘re able to dish it out but can‘t take it can you!!! Would you like me to starts some personal attacks on you???? Following on from these private exchanges, one of the parties requested that the moderator intervene, and this is an appropriate role for a moderator to take. Instead of calming the situation down, however, the request for moderator involvement inflamed it further, with the member who hadn‘t sought help accusing the other of being a ‗wimp‘ for seeking moderation. After communication between the moderator and the two members, seeking to resolve the conflict and move on, Josephine chose to leave the site as she felt that on balance it was no longer helping her, since she felt unable to put the matter behind her. At her request, Josephine‘s membership was withdrawn, the thread was locked and the discussion on to site began to focus on other issues. Several weeks later the moderator received personal communication from Josephine outlining her reasons for choosing to leave the site:



You know I left because of Margaret sooking [sic] over her headaches and backstage bitching with me and then ... the first time I went into the Thursday night chats, where no one ever goes anyhow, except the group who THINK they are the bosses... I want to comment about the site. It‘s not helpful to heart patients at all. It is a clicky [sic] little group of gossiping sooks... It‘s a gossip column and the regulars always want to outdo each other with who knows what and posts it first or telling people they don‘t want to get lost. Josephine was still very angry and hurt about the situation and continued for several months to vent her frustrations via personal communication with the moderator. There was little that the moderator could do in the circumstances, apart from wish Josephine well for the future and thank her for her comments. Several months later a different misunderstanding occurred between Jacinta and Lucy. Jacinta had posted about how discouraged she was following a medical procedure which did not give her the results she had expected. She followed this up by stating that she did not think she would go back to the medical profession for help in the future and would just get on with life and treat herself. Most members picked up that Jacinta was disappointed and frustrated with the outcome, and had come onto the site to vent her anger and sadness. The moderator, believing that Jacinta was using HeartNET as a safe space within which to vent her negativity, did not intervene. While several members supported Jacinta by agreeing how sad and challenging it was to have the procedure without experiencing a positive outcome, Lucy was upset that the exchanges were so negative: Lucy: I am sorry Jacinta but your attitude has both confused and concerned me, I think I should add a positive to what you are saying… I find your posts very disturbing ... I am new to this disease and hopefully have enough common sense to make correct inquiries, so please do the right thing and consider what you are doing, and make appropriate enquiries. Lucy‘s feedback caused Jacinta a great deal of distress and she subsequently deleted all her posts on the board, replacing them with the comment ― It doesn‘t matter‖. While Jacinta acknowledged that her initial comment may have been subject to misinterpretation she could not understand why she was the one ‗singled out‘ and ‗targeted‘ by Lucy, when others had written similar comments in response to her first post. Both parties made public apologies for any misunderstanding that may have arisen. They continued to debate the issue via private messaging, however, and then resorted to personal attacks. Lucy: I need positive people in my life, and unfortunately you are not one of the positive people in the world. Maybe it would be an advantage instead of just working at your church that you actually started praying and prising [sic] God, and then you may be blessed with an approach that will help you deal with this disease. Jacinta: I‘m happy that your Doctors have been able to provide answers and support…I really am…Bit I don‘t appreciate being called a liar about things you know nothing about. I would love to be bubbly and appreciative and have all the answers and problems solved. Its just, for no, [sic] not what is happening in my life. I still would not give up mine for yours in a heartbeat. The moderator became involved when several members commented about the fact that Jacinta had removed her posted messages. Both parties were emailed and the



moderator offered to speak with each of them to see if she could help resolve the issue. There seemed to be legitimate expectations held by both sides of the dispute. Jacinta had hoped that the site would allow her the freedom to discuss issues that she could not discuss in her immediate social group, and the site had provided Jacinta with that opportunity for self expression. Further, Jacinta had found she was not alone because others had experienced similar situations and appeared equally frustrated by their experiences. Unfortunately, Jacinta‘s right to express the negativity she felt conflicted with Lucy‘s hope that HeartNET would provide an optimistic and positive environment which would aid her own recovery. The moderator spent some time in e-mail correspondence with Jacinta but ultimately, like Josephine, Jacinta decided that HeartNET could not provide her with what she was seeking and chose to withdraw. Lucy also left but chose not to make contact with moderator or respond to the messages and offers of help and support. While Lucy has never returned, Jacinta was still seen occasionally on the site for about three months after this incident, but never posted again. These vignettes prompt the question: What is the difference between the culture of a community and an imagined community? Drawing on HeartNET members‘ comments it appears that many come online imagining a particular kind of community: for some, one that is supportive and nurturing; for others a community that is authentic and where individuals are accepted as they are; and still others where they feel a sense of belonging etc. But participants may find online that not everything said and posted in the community can be taken at ‗face value‘. In other words, the culture of the community is different to what they imagined. Many imagine the culture of a good online community ― as a place in which one feels comfortable and where one can enjoy easy conversations‖ with ― ‗like-minded people‘‖ (Gauntlett cited in Ferreday, 2009, pp.27-28). Here Gauntlett suggests that ― a sense of belonging‖ springs from identifying with others online—that is, a shared online culture is a result of ― feeling comfortable within a community of shared interests which is, crucially, based on likeness‖ (cited in Ferreday, 2009, p.28). However the notion of a sense of belonging does need to be explored further. Later research into online communities revealed that paying attention ― to the ways in which specific online communities create norms, and provide spaces‖ can illuminate how identification and dis-identification works (p.29). Furthermore Ferreday claims that questions can be asked as to ― why belonging sometimes fails‖—as is illustrated in the HeartNET instances (p.30). Thus, by focusing on community norms and spaces it becomes possible ― to make visible the processes by which some subjects might feel excluded or rejected by particular communities‖ (p.30) Cultural attitudes when using technology do differ from F2F interactions. As Gunawardena, Walsh, Reddinger, Gregory, Lake and Davies point out (2002), when individuals use ― the computer as an avenue for communication, lower private selfawareness allows one to feel less inhibited when changing or voicing opinions (this allows one to change opinion without losing face)‖ (2002, p.93). Other studies coincide with Gunawardena (see Siegal, & Matheson & Zanna cited in Gunawardena, 2002, p.94). Their research found that ― the anonymity available to those using the computer to communicate can be used as a permission slip to be less inhibited‖ (p.94). Consequently, lack of physical face can tempt individuals ― to act irresponsibly‖ (p.94).



3. The ‘Julie’ effect Comparatively rarely, but always unfortunately, a situation may arise that requires the moderator to reproach members for inappropriate behaviour and take further appropriate action. The examples which are to follow resonate with an example of discord and distress from the early days of the internet. Allucquère Rosanne Stone‘s (1991) classic case study of ‗Julie‘ demonstrates how easy it can be for well-meaning people to be deceived about important matters of fact when the only evidence for the truth of what someone is saying is their internet-based communication. In this early case, the community of Julie‘s confidantes thought they knew all about her: Julie was a totally disabled older woman, but she could push the keys of a computer with her headstick. The personality she projected into the ‗net‘—the vast electronic web that links computers all over the world—was huge. On the net, Julie‘s disability was invisible and irrelevant. Her standard greeting was a big, expansive ― HI!!!!!!‖ Her heart was as big as her greeting, and in the intimate electronic companionships that can develop during on-line conferencing between people who may never physically meet, Julie‘s women friends shared their deepest troubles, and she offered them advice—advice that changed their lives. Trapped inside her ruined body, Julie herself was sharp and perceptive, thoughtful and caring. (Stone, 1991) There was a small catch: ‗Julie‘ was a fabrication. A middle-aged male psychiatrist had joined an online conversation. He was mistaken as a woman online, and his female conversant had shared her thoughts with the male psychiatrist as if he were a woman like herself. ― I was stunned,‖ said the psychiatrist later, according to Stone (1991), ― at the conversational mode. I hadn‘t known that women talked among themselves that way. There was so much more vulnerability, so much more depth and complexity. Men‘s conversations on the nets were much more guarded and superficial, even among intimates. It was fascinating, and I wanted more.‖ He dreamed up Julie‘s persona as a disabled single woman with no social life of her own who wanted to talk to other women so that he could access more women‘s talk. It worked for years, until one of Julie‘s devoted admirers, bent on finally meeting her in person, tracked her down. The news [of the pretense] reverberated through the net. Reactions varied from humorous resignation to blind rage. Most deeply affected were the women who had shared their innermost feelings with Julie. ― I felt raped,‖ one said. ― I felt that my deepest secrets had been violated.‖ Several went so far as to repudiate the genuine gains they had made in their personal and emotional lives. They felt those gains were predicated on deceit and trickery. (Stone, 1991) To accept someone onto the HeartNET site, and give them encouragement, support and compassion, and then start to suspect that the new member may have been manipulating the situation for their own ends, raises a range of strong emotions. Further, unlike the resolution eventually wrought in the case of ‗Julie‘, it is often the case that noone can know for certain what is fact and what was fiction. For some members the unresolved suspicion that they may have been duped and taken advantage of means the site will never be the same for them again. According to how easy-going people are, or to how sensitive they may be to the possibility of betrayal, well-established and



authentic members may find themselves frustrated, angry, and in a lather of uncertainty; choosing sides and supporting members who feel that a challenge is in order, or allying themselves with members who feel that it is better to ignore the entire situation. In extreme cases such an incident can cause the site to implode, requiring that it be shut for a short period or even closed down permanently (Feldman, 2000). On occasion, members may take action themselves, especially if they feel the moderator is not doing as they wish. This is what happened in the following incident. There had been speculation for several weeks that some members were not who they said they were, or were not experiencing the trials and health challenges they described. They presented as a couple, and one partner, the fitter of the two, kept the site updated on the trials of his wife. Initially, the events were so distressing that the moderator sent flowers as well as the more usual good wishes and personal support. In a matter of months this couple experienced a heart transplant; a multiple pregnancy; a stroke, coma, intensive care and flood. The biblical trials undergone by Job seemed easy in comparison. It did not take long before some members felt that too much of a bad thing was stretching their credulity. While several members used private messaging to speculate about the veracity, indeed the possibility, of some of the circumstances described; and brought their concerns to the attention of the moderator; others chose to ignore their feelings and simply began to distance themselves from communication with the suspicious members. Even though the reported chaos became worse, the messages of support and concern quickly fell away as each new situation compounded the last. One member however, after privately voicing his suspicions to the moderator decided that she was not doing enough and chose to bring matters to a head. He sent the unfortunate couple the URL address of a site set up to address the issue of people faking illnesses online in order to gain attention. Within minutes the moderator received an email from the recipients accused of faking who requested that they be withdrawn from the site immediately and stating that they would have no further contact in the future. The moderator did as she was requested but her action, and the absence of the crisis-prone duo, did not reduce the speculation and suspicion circulating among some members. Instead, a number of people saw the withdrawal as confirming their worst thoughts. Capuch and Metts (cited in Gunawardena et. al, 2002, p.91), describe the conflict that can arise when an individual offers an ― identity that he or she wants to assume and wants others to accept‖. This conflict between what was written, and what many members of the HeartNET community believed to be falsehoods, is an example of ― negotiating face‖ (p.91). In this case it triggered conflict within the community at large where HeartNET members became involved in a struggle about the nature of the site‘s culture: gullible, or gritty? The moderator, on balance preferred to be gullible, rather than accusatory (appropriately or not). The URL-sending challenger preferred to risk HeartNET‘s culture of acceptance rather than collude with what he saw as falsity. Some other members expressed their relief that someone had finally tackled the situation. The whole episode had a pervasively unsettling effect. In a personal communication Sarah, a long term supporter and stalwart of HeartNET, said to the moderator that ― paranoia is very healthy on the NET [...] I dunno why people get so offended, it‘s the bloody NET for Gods sake [...] Bound to get the odd faker.‖ Another member constructed the two suspect members as harming the site, and stated they felt



they‘d ― been kicked in the teeth and spat out‖. Someone else commented that they had invested a lot of time and energy in HeartNET: ― how dare another member take us for a ride‖. A few disgruntled members started plotting revenge, even going so far as suggesting that they would get the police to visit the suspect duo and check whether they were legitimate. Others wanted to publicly ‗out‘ the members for lying. Even given this negativity, however, the overwhelming response was one of concern for the wellbeing of several members of the site who had taken ― these people under their wing and given their heart and soul into the relationship‖. People empathized with how it must feel to learn that these people may have been deceiving them. The moderator and researchers had been observing and evaluating the interactions, prior to the URL challenge and it was considered that the new members had actually been helpful and supportive on the site in several instances, but had exaggerated or fabricated aspects of their situation for attention. However without proof, no action could be taken, and the seeking of proof seemed to go well beyond the ethics framework and the bounds of the role of moderator. As Bob stated to the moderator, sympathizing with her comparatively powerless situation: ― We all know there have been some doubts about them - you‘ve expressed them to me, but if one read their postings [of support] there was nothing untoward about them - in fact they were encouraging for some... Patients come in many weird shapes and sizes.‖ While a couple of members choose to remove themselves from the site rather than see the culture they valued undermined (as they interpreted this), the member who privately voiced his suspicions compromised the site‘s culture himself by flouting the HeartNET conditions of use by sending the URL to the couple. By taking this action the member could be seen to be violating the couple‘s privacy and their other rights as members (HeartNET, n.d.). It was later revealed by the member who took action that he had been hurt in the past on forums other than HeartNET. It will never be certain whether, and to what extent, these people were faking their identity and their heart story, but the fall-out from the trauma has made other HeartNET participants wary of trusting newer members. Chloe summed up the general feeling in the community with an insightful comment stating: ― it will be disappointing if they are fakers and a great shame if they are not.‖ Ultimately both parties chose to leave the site and have sought support from alternative sources; however, one person still stays in regular contact with some of the HeartNET members F2F in the real world. From the moderator‘s perspective, the reality is that unless she visits each new member and asks for identification and a medical certificate, it will never be known on initial contact whether a person is genuine or not. Gundawardena (1999) describes five phases that people utilise when they are exploring areas of ― inconsistency or disagreement‖ (p.6) in an online community that need to be resolved (such as in these HeartNET examples). These stages are: 1) ― Sharing/Comparing; 2) ― Dissonance‖; 3) ― Negotiation/Co-construction‖; 4) ― Testing Tentative Constructions‖; 5) and ― Statement/Application of Newly-Constructed Knowledge‖ (p.6). In all the HeartNET examples given in this paper there was continuing ― dissonance‖ on the site, despite the moderator‘s attempts to ameliorate the conflict. Like with F2F communication the members involved expected that others would behave in an appropriate way and that ― an individual who implicitly or explicitly signifies that he has certain social characteristics ought in fact to be what he claims he



is‖ (Goffman, 1959, p.13). Even with the moderator‘s best intentions and efforts, computer-mediated communication, as with all other human communication, can ultimately founder and break down. Looking to the literature, other research has shown that people create, develop and discard identities online. Catterall and Maclaran (2001) propose that many participants in online communities have at least ― two bodies - the corporeal and digital‖ with people having only a vague knowledge of who each other are until they get to know and interact with them over an extended period. Even then, people may only know what that other person is prepared to divulge. Notwithstanding the occasional troubling exception, the majority of online community members are open and honest, providing empathy and support when it is needed. Research undertaken by Preece (2000) explored interaction in 20 messages from each of 100 bulletin boards and Usenet communities and found that 36% of these samples contained at least one hostile message (pp.25-34), while in 8% of the communities more than 25% of the messages sampled were hostile. This would seem to be a generally reassuring result, and possibly in line with what might be expected if extrapolating from samples of F2F interaction in circumstances which can include ‗hot button‘ topics. Ultimately, the credibility of information and the validity and accuracy of what people write online must be assessed by each member for themselves. In online communities F2F cues are absent, and even in the wider society people cannot always be believed regardless of whether there are F2F cues or not. It must be accepted that people can deceive others about their illnesses, their medical conditions, and their online identity (Walther & Boyd, 2002). The examples discussed from HeartNET—a grassroots initiative—raises questions about the importance of self-expression online. The authors found that while there were differences from the breakdown of communications in F2F situations, there were also similarities. Overall the major difference with a communication breakdown in computermediated environments is that the preservation of face is handled differently, and as a consequence some participants are far less inhibited. Even so, emotional investment is still at stake and is often evident in the emoticons and expressions people use. This HeartNET research contributes further to a debate in which other studies within the research tradition of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (see Haddon, 2005, pp.81-89) also examine the culture of sharing personal information.

4. Conclusion While the HeartNET site has had its share of problems, the vast majority of interactions are friendly and supportive. The site is set up to provide a safe space in which people can share the emotional and physical challenges arising from a heart event and it is possible to see that some conflict can arise from the legitimate expectation of two or more members to have the site embody a particular culture which will meet their needs: even though these needs may be temporarily incompatible. The example given here was when one member wished HeartNET to be a place of positivity, while another wished it to be a site for authenticity. In an ideal world, where such a conflict of ‗rights‘ exists, one or both of the disputant members will be calmed and supported via the personal



messaging system. In reality, however, personal communication at such times tends to inflame rather than calm tempers. The role and the presence of the part time, intermittent, moderator is critical to the appearance and reality of safe online interaction in HeartNET. This is even though the moderator may be perceived by members to be comparatively unwilling to act to ‗protect‘ the site, for example by challenging people who may be fabricating information about themselves. This may be because the moderator believes that the cultural risks of ‗gullibility‘ are less than those involved in ‗grittiness‘. The moderator is in a unique position whereby she needs to see the whole scope and functioning of the site, both as a research site and as a viable, supportive, interactive online community. While members have their own agendas and needs, the moderator needs to retain autonomy, objectivity and most of all a sense of humour. A netnographic approach which involves immersion in the online community is a useful strategy when a researcher wishes to investigate issues raised by negative interactions online. This discussion of some of the negative exchanges between members on HeartNET can provide useful insights for other moderators and researchers when dealing with future events. Sometimes there are few options available for those who wish to ensure the overall smooth functioning of the site, however. In these cases it may be necessary to withdraw the community membership of one or more parties involved.

Acknowledgements This research is funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage Program with the support of the industry partner the National Heart Foundation (WA division).

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F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 247-262.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ON THE SAUDI INTERNET YESLAM AL-SAGGAF School of Computing and Mathematics and Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia AND JOHN WECKERT Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) School of Humanities and Social Sciences Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia

Abstract. Much of the attention given to freedom of expression online in the past has focused on countries such as China and Burma and very recently on Iran but less on the Arab world. This paper explores freedom of expression on the Saudi internet from a Saudi Arabian social and cultural perspective. The paper uses findings obtained from several studies conducted between 2006 and 2009. After a short introduction which highlights the countryâ€&#x;s profile, a brief overview of the studies from which the results were obtained, are presented. A discussion about the internet in Saudi Arabia based on a survey conducted in 2007 by the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) follows. The paper then discusses the factors that could be responsible for limiting freedom of expression online. Interestingly, censorship is not the only factor; culture and peopleâ€&#x;s political orientation play a significant part too. Next, the paper examines the groups of people, specifically women, political dissidents and liberals who are especially affected by the limitations on freedom of expression on the internet. The paper will end with an exploration of the Western philosophical perspective on freedom of expression issues.

1. Introduction Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers (UDHR 1948). This implies that restricting freedom of opinion and expression is a violation of a right. However, popular consequentialisti arguments are brought to bear against restricting freedom of opinion and expression, and some of the most compelling of these come from John Stuart Mill (Mill 1859, chapter 2). The only justification for restrictions is harm to others, his harm principle.



Freedom of expression is more valued in some cultures than in others and its importance is closely linked with views on individualism and collectivism. Here we will explore the situation in the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia. While it is difficult to make a case that freedom of expression is a right in that culture, the disagreement with Mill is largely related to the interpretation of the harm principle. While restriction on freedom of expression is seen as a problem for people everywhere, restrictions in the Arab world are even more problematic and more worrying making any research that looks into it a significant contribution to the dialogue about the topic. What is more worrying but should not be surprising given it is a sensitive, and possibly dangerous, topic to study is that researchers in the Arab world have not seriously looked at the situation in their countries. While this article scratches the surface of freedom of expression online, it is hoped that this research will stimulate further research in this area. Researching freedom of expression on the Saudi internet from a Saudi social and cultural perspective, highlighting the factors that could be responsible for limiting freedom of expression and the members of the society who are affected by the problem and applying a western philosophical analysis to the case study is important for enriching the dialogue about the topic. Philosophers particularly ICT ethicists who study the ethical issues involving computer and communication technology may find this article useful for their understanding of freedom of expression in the Arab world. Hopefully the discussion will challenge their current assumptions about the region and stimulate further debate. The aim of this paper is to explore freedom of expression on the Saudi internet from a philosophical perspective. The situation will be described in this article by synthesising results from several studies about the internet in Saudi Arabia conducted by the first author between 2006 and 2009ii. The paper begins with a brief background about Saudi Arabia and a brief overview of the research for these studies. To allow the reader the opportunity to see these findings from within the Saudi context, the paper presents a discussion about the internet in Saudi Arabia based on a survey conducted in 2007 by the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC). Next, the paper discusses the factors that could be responsible for limiting freedom of expression online. This will be followed by a discussion about the groups of people who are especially affected by the limitations on freedom of expression on the Saudi internet. Finally, the paper will offer a Western philosophical analysis of the freedom of expression issue in order to place freedom of expression on the Saudi internet in a broader context.

2. Background: Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia is one of the countries in the Middle East officially referred to as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 1902 Abdul al-Aziz Ibn Saud captured Riyadh and set out on a thirty-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula. Geographically, Saudi Arabia is one of the large countries in the region in terms of size occupying a total area of 2,149,690 square kilometres of the Arabian Peninsula (CIA World Factbook, 2009). The major cities in the country are Riyadh (capital), Jeddah (commercial capital) and



Damm‟am (eastern province). Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy with a population, according to latest estimates, of 28,686,633 including 5,576,076 non-nationals (ibid). The population is predominantly Arab who strictly adheres to Islam. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, where Islam emerged and the Quran revealed by Prophet Mohamed (sawiii), the last messenger. The Saudi society is one of the most conservative and religious societies in the Arab world. Despite its serious attempt to join the modern world, religion and culture still play a vital role in shaping people‟s attitudes and behaviours and defining their norms, values, and practices. As an example, casual or unnecessary mixing between unrelated males and females is forbidden according to the society‟s religioniv and culture. With more than 20 per cent of the world‟s total reserves of oil, which was discovered in the 1930s, Saudi Arabia is also one of the richest countries in the world in its reserves of oil and the largest exporter of petroleum. These religious and economic factors earned Saudi Arabia a strong position in the Arab world allowing it to play a leading role in the politics of the region. The article uses Saudi Arabia as a case study and hopes that researchers from other Arab countries can look at the situation with freedom of expression in their countries to facilitate comparison of the results. That said, most of the Arabs share similar cultural traditions and religious values. Most Arabs are also politically polarised. They either lean towards this ideology or the other. Arab governments also share similar political agendas for example they all censor the internet to protect their regimes. So most likely there will be great number of similarities between the situation in Saudi Arabia and those in the other Arab countries. It should be noted that the discussion will focus mainly on freedom of expression on the internet in Saudi Arabia i.e. not on traditional media like television or press.

3. The research This research describes freedom of expression on the Saudi internet by synthesising findings obtained from several prior studies conducted by the first author between 2006 and 2009. The broader aim of those studies was to provide a rich description of what Saudis did online, how they used the technology and how the technology affected them. The aim of those studies was achieved through a qualitative research design that adopted the method of ethnography. The research used three ethnographic techniques: semi-structured in-depth interviews with key informants (both online and face to face); silent observation of several online forums; and thematic content analysis of several online forums. Findings obtained through these techniques were triangulated to assist in establishing validity and reliability of the research results (Lincoln and Guba 1987; Maxwell 1996; Bow 2000). Silent observation of several online forums was conducted over a year in the case of some online forums and a year and a half in the case of some others. For the whole of that period, observational field notes were recorded daily in a journal, along with the researcher‟s reactions, reflections and interpretations about his observations. The process of observation involved the researcher focusing his attention on the discussions



on these online forums as well as the nature of interaction between the members of these forums. Thematic content analysis was used to examine thousands of topics (and their replies) that were posted on these forums. The topics were selected randomly. The unit of analysis was each individual post. The focus of the analysis of these topics was on the occurrence of selected themes within each topic. The context in which each topic posted was placed under was also taken into consideration when assigning themes to topics during the process of analysis. For information about sampling, the process of coding, and the process of categorisation in detail see Al-Saggaf (2007). The first author also conducted with tens of key informants both online in-depth interviews and face to face in-depth interviews. Both of these types of interviews which were conducted in Arabic had a semi-structured format and open-ended questions. The main purpose of these interviews was to report the informants‟ perceptions of the nature of interaction on the observed online forums. Potential interviewees were selected from the observed online forums depending on the availability of an email address in the key informant‟s profile in the observed forums. Data were analysed using a grounded theory approach similar to that detailed by Strauss and Corbin (1998) in a sense an open/thematic coding and analysis was adopted. However, a selective and axial coding, which is common in grounded theory data analysis was not carried out in this study. Data obtained from all the above techniques, except for thematic content analysis, were analysed as collected. Field notes and interview transcripts were entered daily into NVIVO, a software package for managing qualitative data. Next, themes revolving around a specific concept were located and coded as nodes after the first author thoroughly read through the field notes and interview transcripts. To illustrate this step, an example is used. Consider the following comment taken from a longer passage posted on one of the popular political online forums: „I wish you took care of your house and children, if you have any, and stayed away from politics‟. Here the theme developed from the keywords „took care of your house and children‟ and „stayed away from politics‟ was „Politics a „male thing‟‟. The good thing about these nodes is that they acted as „buckets‟ in the sense that they held all the information covering a specific theme. Finally, all themes were again divided into groups or categories so that a broader sense about the results could be gained. The thematic content analysis was carried out using a software program developed by the researcher for an earlier study using Microsoft Access.

4. Internet service in Saudi Arabia Saudis gained access to the internet on December 15, 1998 (Internet Services Unit 2009). In the beginning, the Internet was offered by King Abdul Aziz City for Science and technology (KACST). Later, in 2003, the service was handed over to the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC, 2009). Today, there are 7.7 million internet users in the country as of the end of 2008, according to the CITC Annual Report (CITC, 2009), which is about 30 per cent of the total population. While in the early years the vast majority of people in Saudi Arabia accessed the Internet through dial-up telephone lines and modems (Internet Services Unit op cit) which meant accessing the internet was really slow and frustrating, today only half of the internet



population still uses dial-up telephone lines; the rest use DSL/Broadband connections (CITC op cit). In fact, according to a recent survey conducted in 2007 by the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC), of the 30 per cent proportion of individuals in Saudi Arabia who use the internet, 15 per cent access the internet using Broadband connections while 14 per cent access it through dial up telephone lines. In addition to its coverage of some of the important points regarding the internet service in Saudi Arabia such as the penetration levels, habits, and usage patterns, the CITC survey provided some interesting results with regards the users‟ perception of the internet in their country. For example, with regards to the satisfaction levels of the internet users, almost two-thirds of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the internet service. This is interesting given a survey conducted in 2003 by the ISU revealed that 80 per cent of those who completed it wanted the speed of access to be improved. The CITC survey involved interviewing, in Arabic, participants from all areas in Saudi Arabia and all walks of life and filling a structured questionnaire that included both close and open-ended questions. The participants were selected based on Stratified Area Sampling and Snowball Sampling. The survey was conducted by Nielsen (CITC 2009). The CITC survey involved interviewing 7570 Saudi Internet users, 54 per cent of whom were men while 46 per cent were women, which is unlike the sample of the previous survey in which the majority of participants who took part were men (95 per cent). It should be noted however that the estimated proportion of women who use the internet in Saudi Arabia is actually 41 per cent suggesting that men are more represented online than women. Another point about representation is that a larger proportion of the internet population are among the younger generation according to this 2007 CITC survey. 79 per cent of the participants were Saudis and 21 per cent were expatriates. In terms of their age, 29 per cent aged between 15-24 years and another 29% aged between 25-34 years while 21% were between 35-44 years. Participants also mentioned that it costs them on average 270 Saudi Riyals a month to access the internet, which is a lot lower than what they used to pay (700 Saudi Riyals a month) in 2003. In relation to the usage timing, about 84 per cent of those who use the internet in the country use it in the evening; a figure not too far from that revealed by the 2003 ISU survey, which was 60 per cent. With one half of the internet population access the internet via broadband, the reason people access the internet in the night is probably not because in the night the demand on the internet access is less and thus internet access is faster as earlier thought, but could be due to the fact that people in that society prefer to access the internet in the night. While the results of the 2003 ISU survey which indicated that the majority of users access the network from the two big cities in Saudi Arabia –Riyadh and Jeddah remained accurate, the results of the 2007 CITC survey show that the people in the Eastern province are also among the most who use the internet. The 2007 CITC survey has also shown that the people in regional provinces like Jizan and (south of Saudi Arabia) and Hail (north of Saudi Arabia) continued to use the internet the least. It is not clear why access in regional provinces is low but it could easily be attributed to the absence of the technological infrastructure in those areas. The internet in Saudi Arabia has experienced tremendous progress in recent years. For example, the number of domain names under the „.sa‟ domain name registered by



SaudiNIC, which is the domain registering authority in the country, has more than doubled since 2005. While in 2005 the number has reached 7067 of which 5599 are „.com‟ (Internet Services Unit, 2009), in 2009 the number has gone up to 16617, of which 76% are „.com‟. While in the past the internet in Saudi Arabia is linked to international lines through only one gateway (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology), today the international internet enters Saudi Arabia via three data services providers. Clients access the internet via licensed internet Service Providers (ISPs) who receive the internet from these three data service providers. The number of ISPs in the country has also risen from 23 in 2005 to 53 in 2009 reflecting a drastic change in the provision of internet service in the country. With respect to the reasons for accessing the internet, for the vast majority of internet users browsing and communication, that is, emails, chatting, participation in blogs and forums are the most important things they seek when they visit the internet, as highlighted by the 2007 CITC survey. The survey also showed that half of those surveyed have also indicated that they use the internet to obtain information about goods and services, health, and entertainment. Under the category of the frequency of internet usage, the survey showed that 60 per cent of the internet users access the internet at least once a day and 35 per cent access it at least once a week. In terms of location of usage, nine out of every ten users access the internet from home, while onethird mostly men working access the internet from work and 20 per cent of the internet users access the internet from internet cafes. Table 1. Summary of key finding from the survey % of internet users in Saudi Arabia in comparison with total population Out of the 30% who access the internet using Broadband connections Out of the 30% who access the internet using dial up telephone lines % of female users in comparison with male users of the internet % of people satisfied with the internet % of people who use the internet in the evening Number of domain names under the „.sa‟ Number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) % of people who access the internet at least once a day % of people who access the internet at least once a week % of people who access the internet from internet cafes

30% 15% 14% 41% 66% 84% 16617 53 60% 35% 20%

5. Factors that could be responsible for limiting freedom of expression online 5.1. CONTENT FILTERING One of the major factors that could be responsible for limiting freedom of expression among online users in Saudi Arabia is the strict filtering of the internet content that the government applies. Any website that that contains pornographic, illegal, or otherwise objectionable material is blocked (CITC, 2009). It is understood that objectionable



material may also mean in addition to those listed above, anti-Islamic, criticism of Saudi Arabia, the Royal Family, or other Gulf states. Pages that contain information about drugs, alcohol, gambling and terrorism are also blocked. Although the internet access for the whole country is now controlled by three nodes, that is, three data service providers, unlike in the past only a single node is used, that still makes the government the ultimate arbiter on what is permissible to view online because all these three data service providers receive the same list of blocked sites from CITC (CITC, 2009). The filtering takes place at the country-level proxy servers of the three data service providers. These servers, which contain massive lists of banned sites provided by CITC, are placed between the state-owned internet backbone and servers in the rest of the world. All users‟ requests that arrive via the country ISPs travel through these proxies, where they can be filtered and possibly blocked. When a request arrives at one of these proxy servers it is first compared to the list of banned sites. If the site is on the list of the banned sites, the user is redirected to a page that informs him/her that he/she has tried to access a blocked site. If the site is not on the list then the user will be granted access to the requested site. CITC claims that the time lost checking whether a site should be blocked or allowed is not more than half a second, which according to them, is too small for human beings to perceive. But the 2007 survey they conducted shows that 40 per cent of the internet users in the country, particularly younger participants and interestingly also women, found content filtering problematic. Their reason for that is because filtering makes them „miss out‟ on a lot of important information and also limits their freedom to browse online. Filtering the internet in this way earned Saudi Arabia a reputation of being one of the countries that allows the least freedom of expression (Reporters Without Borders, 2009). In fact, a report by Reporters Without Borders has described Saudi Arabia and 11v other countries as „enemies of the internet‟ because, according to the report these countries „have all transformed their internet into an intranet in order to prevent their population from accessing “undesirable” online information‟ (Reporters Without Borders 2009). 5.2. CULTURE The culture of the society itself is another factor that could be responsible for limiting freedom of expression among online users in Saudi Arabia. Saudis are largely religious. Most people‟s practices are influenced by their religion. One example of that is the expectation from people not to view, or contribute to, content that touch on sex, slander or obscenity. It is not common to utter inappropriate language in the presence of others. Uttering obscene references is considered as ayb or shameful, and can make people feel embarrassed. On the other hand, uttering decent language is a cause for reward from Allah. It is also uncommon for adults to view obscene material online even if they are locked in their rooms browsing and searching to their heart‟s content and escaping the possible embarrassment of detection. To them it is just bad because Allah would still see them. On the face of this, it maybe safe to assume that fear of uttering obscene references or fear that some of the material they are about to view may contain obscenity must discourage people from accessing information that could be beneficial, educational, or even informational. This cultural barrier means many people can not



fully benefit from their access to the internet. Accessing material that could have an obscene nature means committing a sin and so many people would still feel discouraged from doing that. But Saudis are also traditionalists and there are many practices in Saudi Arabia that do not necessarily stem from religion. An example of this is hierarchy in family structure or power distance as Hofstede (1997) calls it. Hierarchy in Saudi Arabia is mainly a result of tribal traditions. In the real life and particularly during the social events and family gatherings, elders or high status individuals often dominate discussions. Younger individuals, to show respect for the senior members of their tribe, do not normally speak out. This makes it difficult for them to voice their opinions. This practice, it was observed, was also carried over to the online world. Although, the anonymity inherent in the medium helped some people hide their age, gender, wealth and race and thus the effect of hierarchy is weakened, for most others anonymity did not help much simply because the members have been operating in these forums for years. Assuming a different persona is difficult. This is because if participants pretended to be someone different from their original identity their friends in the community may discover that when they seek to call them on the phone or meet them outside the community, as is often the case. This allowed members with high status and artistic writers to enjoy most of the attention online while many others were left unnoticed. It is possible that this practice discouraged many individuals from speaking up their minds in online forums. If they felt they will be ignored if they posted comments in comparison to the well-known they might wonder why bother talking. 5.3. POLITICAL ORIENTATION Politics, particularly world politics, to men in Saudi Arabia and indeed elsewhere in the Arab world, is a „hotâ€&#x; and controversial topic; and is a salient feature of life style. In fact, people in Saudi Arabia regard politics as their favourite and dominant topic of discussion because the region itself is politically agitated. In the offline community when people visit their friends and relatives, or take them to coffee shops, or during social functions such as the marriage of a relative, they often discuss politics. Similarly, people used online forums as places to get together for the purpose of expressing their views on matters that are important to them, sharing with others what they think or know, making sense of what is happening in their world, exchanging and challenging different ideas, and making and offering their interpretations about local and world events. But then not everything can be said online. In one study, several interviewees said online forum moderators deleted any topics that supported the terrorist ideology or Bin Laden or those topics that supported Mujahideen in Iraq and Afghanistanâ€? or criticised the government or included personal slanderous attacks against public figures or supported Saad Al-Fagiah (a political dissident), or criticised the religious police. This clearly suggests that for political reasons voicing opinions online is restricted which is something the majority of interviewees in that study lamented. Despite this, online forums means a great deal for members because according to one interviewee in Saudi Arabia there are not many channels for people to express themselves which is a sentiment shared by two other interviewees who said the forum is the only avenue



available for them to „breathe‟, let their voices be heard, discuss their problems and concerns, and complain about their situations. The government, however, according to one interviewee is not in favour of people expressing themselves online. In fact, several interviewees have mentioned during the interviewees that they had been arrested by the police and some served jail sentences because their writings in online forums have touched on one of the taboo topics mentioned above. This is inconsistent with the conclusions made in an earlier study (see Al-Saggaf 2007) that concluded that political online forums in Saudi Arabia, unlike traditional media tools, which are largely controlled by the government, are perfect tools for people to express themselves and get their messages across to others. This suggests that fear of being caught for uttering derogatory remarks against an individual or a government authority put a lot of pressure on what can people say online. Incidents like the above will no doubt have an effect on the minds of those who regard the forums as „an opening‟ or a „gateway‟ for voicing their opinions. But government restriction on what can be said to the internet is not solely motivated by their political agenda. It is also based on religious and cultural grounds.

6. Saudis affected by restricting freedom of expression online: a few examples 6.1. WOMEN While the 2007 CITC survey showed the percentage of female users of the internet is 41 per cent which suggests that women are not poorly represented online, the findings that transpired from the first author‟s research revealed a notable absence of females in political forums. The vast majority of topics and discussions were dominated by men with only a couple of female participants observed operating in these forums. But this absence of women in the political forum was not also witnessed in the other forums like „the social‟, „the women issues only‟, „the kitchen‟, „the family and society‟ and the „beauty and fashion‟ forums. This suggests that only in political forums the vast majority of topics and discussions were dominated by men. With this mind it can be easily speculated that women exclusion from the online political public sphere may make it difficult for them to improve their situations, for example demand the government to grant them the right to drive cars. Two obvious reasons for the notable absence of females in political forums stand out. One could be because women in Saudi Arabia are less interested in discussing politics and public affairs compared to men and discussing politics hardly among their favourite topics. Two, could be because men are less tolerant towards women when it comes to discussing politics as they, men, consider politics a „male thing‟. The studies conducted by the first author showed that although some male members responded positively to the participation of the few women in the observed political forums, many male members appeared very critical and attacking of these few women. Many of their comments were sexist in nature making the women experience in these forums unpleasant. The following quotations from male members towards female contributors demonstrate this point: „I wish you took care of your house and children, if you have



any, and stayed away from politics‟ and also „looks like you said this while you have your period” and “women, are deficient in both mind and religion‟. A third reason for the notable absence of females in political forums could be because discussing politics sometimes involves „talking back‟ and engaging in confrontations and upfront arguments which are things Saudi women normally try to avoid as these things do not go along with the traditions of Arab women (Al-Saggaf and Weckert, 2004). Their culture demands that they be shy, reserved and modest so that they meet the society‟s expectations. Being shy, reserved and modest in the case of women means, among other things, that they should not be too outgoing and should not utter obscenities, should not talk across gender lines etcetera. Arabs overall consider shyness a good thing because it puts pressure on people to behave themselves. In other words, Arabs raise, in particular, their female children to be shy so as to regulate their behaviour. This is important as the family honour and reputation are to a large extent in the hands of the female member of the family. If it was discovered that a woman committed adultery or engaged in an illicit sexual relationship with a man or just met secretly and privately with him in the real world, the family honour and reputation will be destroyed. The story in the pressvi about the Saudi woman who was murdered by her father for chatting with a man on Facebook clearly shows that the family honour and reputation are seriously taken by Saudis. It is fear then that their acts may undermine cultural values that may make women less interested in joining political discussions. Women who are very conservative or attached to their culture and religion may not find it easy to join these political discussions and benefit from the experience and for this reason they maybe considered disenfranchised. The above cultural factors not only limit women‟s freedom of expression but also deny them equal access to political participation. 6.2. POLITICAL DISSIDENTS Political dissidents are another group of people who are ostracised from the online political public sphere. The government has always succeeded in stopping their web content from arriving to Saudis internet users‟ computer screens. Regardless how frequently these political dissidents changed the domain names of their web servers, the Saudi government would always swiftly update their list of banned sites. This no doubt makes political dissidents‟ mission to introduce reform in the country a lot tougher if not impossible. Saudis accessing the internet from overseas or through satellite or via proxies, however, can still access political dissidents‟ sits. But the internet is not the only medium where political dissidents are not allowed to express their views. They are also not welcomed in local radios, satellite television satiations and local newspapers. One reason the government does not like the political dissidents is because of their potential to create chaos and threaten the stability of the country. Saudis to a large extent don‟t like political dissidents either. In online forums they are harshly attacked and severely criticised by most of the members in these forums. The following quotation from one of the members in one of the political online forums demonstrates this point: Al-Massari and Fagih are traitors. They are filthier than a used tissue but the difference between them and those used tissues is that they don‟t have



dignity or abstinence for they don‟t mind being used more than once and to be retrieved from the garbage bins to be used later. While qualitatively speaking the above criticism is no doubt very harsh, quantitatively speaking the number of criticisms towards political dissidents has dropped a lot compared to the last five years. In a 2004 study, for example, 2.6 per cent of the total content during one month was dedicated for the criticism of political dissidents where as in a 2007 study that number dropped to 0.32 per cent. The study has also shown that political dissidents had no supporters at all in these forums. The reason political dissidents are less heavily criticised on these forums in recent years is perhaps because the dissidents political activity has weakened in recent times which meant the political dissidents critics have lacked the excuse to attack them. But then political dissidents are not allowed to contribute to political forums and if they tried their contributions will be deleted. As can be guessed from the above quotation, the most renowned political dissidents in Saudi Arabia are Dr Saad Al-Fagih and Dr. Mohammad Al-Massari. Dr Saad Al-Fagih is a physician by training and was one of the authors of the famous Letter of Demands and the Advice Memorandum that were presented to Saudi government in the early 90s. Dr Saad Al-Fagih and Dr. Mohammad Al-Massari (also in exile) were both involved in the formation of the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights. In 1996 each went his separate way and Al-Fagih created the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA) for which he became the director and spokesperson. The movement was born on 11 March 1996 and has been operating since the beginning from London. Initially the movement aimed at educating the public about, what they believed to be, „prevalent malpractices of the government‟, but later MIRA decided that it is not enough to just inform the public about their rights; they should start to get them to demand these rights. To that end, MIRA championed many peaceful protests and demonstrations in the streets of Saudi Arabia that demanded political, economic and social reforms which was something unheard of in that society. 6.3. LIBERALS Liberals are not only prevented from co-existing in political discussion forums dominated by fundamentalists, but even in their own forums they receive intense criticism from these fundamentalists. In a study conducted in 2004, the percentage of topics that were derogatory and belittling towards liberals was 7.12% and in a study conducted in 2007, the percentage of topics that were also derogatory and belittling towards liberals was 7.69 per cent. The reason liberals are not given a chance to operate in these other political sites is because the majority of members in these sites are Islamic fundamentalists, as a recent study has shown, who hate what liberals stand for. The following quotation from one of the members in one of the political online forums demonstrates this point: And whoever enters their forums discovers the truth about their ideology. They are either astray, or ignorant who cannot comprehend what they say or Shi‟a who take advantage of this current (liberalism) to corrupt Muslim‟s ideologies or hypocrites who admit their atheism and hatred for religion and the religious people.



But liberals are very active in their own forums like Dar Al-Nadwa and Tuaa. Liberals are also very active in the local press. Many of them are columnists in popular media outlets like Alsaraq Al Awsat, Al Hayat, Al-Riyadh, and Al Arabiya. One reason Islamic fundamentalists do not like liberals is because they fear liberals will change their approach to life and to practising their religion. According, to an interviewee, liberals question certain accepted tenets of Islam, questioning why, for example, women cannot work along side men. They support the independence of women and their right to drive cars. They want to see theatres, cinemas, and discos in the country – all cultural forms of entertainment believed, by even moderate Muslims, to be forbidden by Islam. They call for freedom and the separation between the state and the judiciary system. They fight the Islamic religion, according to the same interviewee, in every way they can yet they defend and promote western ideals and values in every occasion. Their goal is to get people to give up their culture, religion, traditions, identity so that they can join the western civilisation. But the Saudi society does not want all that and is ready for neither the ascendancy of the liberals or the changes they want to see happening in the country like women driving. Most Islamic fundamentalists who are a majority online are also sceptical of liberals. They feel that liberals in the country are agents who receive their salaries from western governments. That is why liberals try to be active online. In addition to using the internet to communicate with the public, and advocate their plans for social reform, invite people to adopt a less strict version of Islam and adopt secularism as a way of life, they also need to refute the accusations that surround them. But their exclusion from the online political public sphere will result in an absence of a dialogue between them and the Islamic fundamentalists in the country. Not allowing them to co-exist will mean that Islamic fundamentalists will continue to have misguided ideas about the agenda of liberals. Thus the liberals‟ strife to make Islamic fundamentalists in the country enter into a dialogue that could make them become open-minded in their views and accepting of others will not have a big effect. They will continue to be alienated and criticised and their motives questioned while on the other hand the beliefs of the majority will continue to remain beyond doubt.

7. Freedom of expression from a philosophical point of view To individuals, particularly Islamic fundamentalists, who hold on to their traditions and values to some degree through isolation, the presence of women, political dissents and liberals in the online public sphere is understandably threatening. While censorship, which the government in Saudi Arabia applies strictly, is number one enemy to freedom of expression there, Saudis themselves, motivated by political and cultural concerns, play a significant part in restricting freedom of expression. Attempts to censor internet content are often hotly contested in liberal democratic societies, commonly on the basis of John Stuart Mill‟s arguments. One of Mill‟s arguments is that an opinion which is not allowed to be heard might just be true, and the second that it might contain some truth. Therefore restrictions on the freedom of opinion can, and most probably will, deprive the world of some truths. His third reason is that unless beliefs and opinions are vigorously challenged, they will be held as mere prejudices, and finally, those opinions



are themselves in danger of dying if never contested, simply because there is never any need to think about them. A fourth argument concerns his conception of a good human life, which for him is one in which we think, reflect and rationally choose for ourselves from different beliefs and lifestyles according to what seems most true or meaningful to us. His central tenet here is that people ought to be allowed to express their individuality as they please “so long as it is at their own risk and peril” (Mill 1859: 53). The basic argument is that the diversity created has many benefits. One is that “the human faculties of perception, judgement, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice” (ibid: 55). And exercising this choice makes it less likely that we will be under the sway of the „despotism of custom‟ (Mill 1858: 66). If there is this diversity, each human will be more aware of the various options available, and so more competent to make informed choices in lifestyle and self expression. These and other such arguments for freedom of speech and expression do support the claims for lack of restrictions on internet content in general. However the support is qualified for several reasons. Some of the arguments, particularly the first mentioned, only apply where there is some information or opinion given, that can enhance the search for truth, and second, one person‟s right to freedom of speech or expression can infringe on another‟s rights, and can clash with other goods. For example, my freedom to openly talk of your financial or medical situation would infringe your rights to privacy, and I clearly cannot be allowed the freedom to express myself through torturing you. It follows then that the idea of complete freedom of expression for everyone is not a viable option. The boundaries of what is acceptable freedom and what is not must be established. As mentioned earlier, Mill‟s „harm to others‟ principle is endorsed by many. I should have complete freedom of expression providing I harm nobody else. Admittedly this is not without problems, because many actions which appear to be selfregarding in Mill‟s sense, that is, they harm nobody except the person performing the action, can harm others indirectly, although he qualifies this by saying that he is talking of action that harm others „directly, and in the first instance‟, but even this does not make the distinction clear and sharp. However, it is a useful criterion for all that. Many distinctions that are more or less vague are useful, for example, that between day and night. There are all sorts of restrictions on what can be said, and in general there is little opposition to this. There are libel and defamation laws and laws against perjury, blasphemy, abusive language, disclosing personal information, and so on. There is debate about what should and what should not be allowed, but little argument that anything and everything ought to be. The value in having some restrictions on what may be said seems just too obvious. Mill also recognised this, and claimed that if some kinds of utterances are likely to cause riots for example, there ought to be restrictions placed on them (Mill 1859: 53). One way to explicate the claim that language can harm, is to draw on the speech act theory of John Austin (Austin 1962). He distinguished between locutionary acts; that is, expressing propositions, illocutionary acts, that is, expressing beliefs, and perlocutionaryacts, the creation of some effect on listeners. Consider for example, the following case of „hate‟ language, „People of race X are mentally and morally inferior.‟ The locutionary act here is the proposition that people of race X are mentally and



morally inferior, the illocutionary act is the expression of the belief that this is the case, and perlocutionary act might be to incite racial hatred or even violence. Considered from this perspective, the claim for freedom of speech entails the claim for freedom to perform any sort of perlocutionary act, but now it is a claim that looks decidedly weaker. While it might be argued that it is the violence that causes the harm and not the language, if the language is highly likely to incite the hatred and violence that leads to harm, a strong case can be made on Millian grounds that the there should be restrictions on the language (as Mill does in the example above).

8. Discussion and conclusion The article discussed freedom of expression from the perspective of the Arab world. The article has shown that while in most parts of the world restriction on freedom of expression is the result of censorship of the internet and government‟s control of what can be said online, in the case of Saudi Arabia it is also a manifestation of people‟s political orientations and culture. People‟s freedom of expression online especially women, political dissidents, and liberals, is adversely affected by these two last factors. While it is unusual it should not be surprising. The Saudis live in a collectivistic culture. Collectivism emphasises pursuit of common interests and belonging to a set of hierarchical groups where, for example, the family need might be placed above the individual need. The individual in the Arabic culture is subordinated more and high conformity and submission to authority is expected from him/her. Arabs also emphasise society wellbeing, communal feeling and social usefulness. That Dr Saad Al-Fagih, for example, is rejected by the majority of the members of the society should not be surprising. The views he aired were sensitive to the public and the protests and demonstrations that he championed, which resulted in several arrests among those who participated in them, were unacceptable acts and could not be tolerated. If he was allowed to continue to talk online, his speeches could have created more chaos in the society and possibly incited violence. Sacrificing his freedom of expression for the sake of protecting the society from his harmful views was the right thing to do in this case from the point of view of his society. That is why most of the members of the political online forums always took it on their shoulders to give him a hard time online if he tried to talk. Given these online forum members‟ interference is to stop harm to the society, it could easily be interpreted as an application of Mill‟s harm principle. As mentioned above, when an opinion is likely to cause harm to others such as inciting violence as in the case of Dr Saad Al-Fagih‟s opinions, Mill allows for some restriction on freedom of speech and expression. Fair enough, but what about Dr Saad Al-Fagih‟s opinions that are not likely going to incite any violence? Can the online forum members‟ interference be justified on the basis of Mill‟s harm principle? Certainly the line between what can incite violence and what can‟t is grey, but it still makes sense from the Arabs point of view to restrict someone‟s freedom if some of what that person says may cause harm to others. This is based on the rule of thumb in Islam that mandates the prohibition of acts that might violate the law by blocking all the means that could lead to such a thing.



After all this is a collectivistic society and the act is taken for the protection of the welfare, good, happiness, needs, interests and values of the society. The Arabic perspective outlined above is rather different from a typical western one. For westerners, restricting the freedom of speech of a political dissident like Dr Saad Al-Fagih is problematic not only because in his case some members of the society (other online forums members) did want to hear what Dr Saad Al-Fagih had to saybut also because westerners doubt that a political dissident normally causes harm to society. In fact, to many westerners, political dissidents offer people a way to think about things that may actually be useful to the society. For one thing, they could be right about what they say which is what Mill has alluded to above when he said an opinion which is not allowed to be heard might just be true or that it might contain some truth. That said, not all western societies have the same views on freedom of expression and differences tend to emerge with respect to giving offencevii. In the recent case of the Danish cartoons Denmark defends freedom of expression to a greater extent than does Australia, for example, which has a law that bans racial vilification. Even given these differences however, there is a considerable gulf in freedom of expression between liberal democracies and the Saudi Arabian situation described here.

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Internet Services Unit (2009) User‟s survey. Available online at, accessed on 29 July 2009 Lincoln, Y. S. and Guba, E. G. (1987) Effective evaluation, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Maxwell Joseph A. (1996) Qualitative research design: An interactive approach, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Mill, J. S. (1975) On liberty: Annotated text, sources and Background Criticism. W.W. Norton and Company, New York, original 1859 Reporters Without Borders (2009) The enemies of the internet. Available online at, accessed on 26 July 2009 Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory, Thousand Oaks: Sage, second edition UDHR. (1948) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations. Available online, accessed on 15 November 2009

Notes i

Ethical theories that argue that the primary goal of a moral system is to produce desirable consequences or outcomes for its members. So if choosing between acts A or B, the morally correct action will be the one that produces the most desirable outcome ii For more information see the first five articles in the list of references above. iii Similar to saying „peace be upon him‟. iv Religion here should be understood as referring to the Saudi understanding of the Islamic religion as Islamic discourse is interpreted differently from one Arab/Muslim country to another and even within the same country. As there are several interpretations of the Islamic religion in Saudi Arabia, the view of the sate and the majority of people is taken here. v The other countries mentioned in the report, in addition to Saudi Arabia, are Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. vi For more information see vii For more information see Weckert, J. (2007) Giving and taking offence in a global context, International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction pp 25-35.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 263-276.

ARTICULATION(S) OF CULTURE(S): Mobilizing knowledge, ecological justice, and media convergence DON KRUG AND JENNY ARNTZEN Faculty of Education Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada

Abstract. This paper draws on articulation(s) as a multi-method countermethodology in the design of educational research. We use this form of critical inquiry to examine ecological literacies and digital epistemologies associated with Dow’s 2006 worldwide advertising campaign, “The Human Element”. Articulation(s) draw from research that continues to evolve reflexively and that openly questions deterministic institutional explanations. Our interpretation of articulation(s) include(s) critical processes for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data. A critique of Dow‘s “The Human Element” ad is provided as an example of how multimodal forms of information have been mobilized, (re)presented, (re)mixed, and (re)mediated using media convergence, how various points of view intersect formations of everyday digital media networks, and how communication practices entail subtle and complex relationships associated with social and political meanings and values. Our focus is on social justice issues of ecology as mobilized through media convergence. We argue that an integrated and negotiated approach to critical inquiry linking ecological justice through education can help researchers, teachers, and students analyze conditions of culture(s) within the contexts of complex political and social conditions that are prevalent in most societies.

1. Introduction In 2006 Dow unveiled a new worldwide advertising campaign, ― The Human Element.‖ According to their press release, ― Dow‘s Human Element campaign is about reconnecting the company with the faces and values of the people Dow touches in a positive way.‖ Toby Sachs, senior vice president/group management director at FCB Chicago stated, ― Our creative approach was driven by the need to capture visually the commitments Dow has made to use its expertise and influence to make a difference in the lives of real people around the world i.‖ The campaign vision (re)presented Dow‘s identity as compassionate for some of the most pressing economic, social and environmental concerns facing the global community.



The Dow ad was comprised of five elements: soundtrack, voiceover narration, short video clips, colour scheme, and graphics. The soundtrack featured a solo violinist playing a Celtic melody. An adult male native English speaker narrated the ad in a friendly tone. (See complete scriptii). The 90-second film was composed of forty-five scenes. The ad imagery was gathered from locations on four continents. The first half of the ad was dominated by satellite images of pristine environments. The second half of it showed solitary humans in remote, rural and agricultural locations. The majority of people in the film were visible minorities, although there was one scene of a European male sculptor working in his studio and another of a male and female swimmer performing an underwater ballet in an emerald green lagoon. The palette of the film was soft, muted earth tones, grays, beiges, and greens. A brilliant pink jacket was used in the scene introducing the Hu (Human) Element symbol. The Dow logo appeared in the last 3 seconds and it was the first and only reference to Dow in the ad. At first, when we viewed this Dow Hu (Human) Elementiii Commercial, it seemed like any other film-based advertisement promoting itself and its products. But as we probed into related information, we soon uncovered a complex web of communication practices at play. From the Dow website we read that Dow‘s campaign motivation was to re-brand its corporate identity. We asked, why does Dow need to re-build trust with its customers, employees and communities? How has Dow‘s previous reputation been negatively affected by past business practices? In what follows, we discuss our processes of investigating emerging social and ecological justice issues by articulating different views in relationship to different forms of information. In this article, we use articulation(s) (Daryl Slack, 1996) as a way to study the social circulation of information associated with art, digital and analogue media and issues of social and ecological justice. The (s) is used after articulation to indicate that there can always be another relationship identified contingent on ones selection of multiple contextual conditions. We began by examining the following research conceptual dimensions of articulation(s): counter methodologies, nomadic, communicative, moments of arbitrary closure, situated and pragmatic, and reflexive. We examined how digital media can be used to (re)presents, remediates, and remixes information. Then, we used articulation(s) to examine the social circulation of different points of view and different forms of information about the Dow ad over TV and the Internet. We grouped various perspectives by applying Hall‘s (1980) theory of dominant-hegemoniciv, oppositional, and negotiated reading positions. We used a web browser application to search for comments that characterize these points of view. Next we situated these three reading positions among five communication practices: information, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, and _nformation (incomplete) in relationship to the various forms of Dow media. In conclusion we suggest resisting methodologies that claim to explain information through conclusive results. Instead we favour reflexive research perspectives and practices that support identifying, gathering, analysing, and interpreting data and that allows questions to be asked and that emerge as a consequence of engaging in research.



2. Media Convergence In our inquiry we looked critically at the Dow Human Element ad and some of the social justice issues of ecology as mobilized through media convergence. Media convergence has increased in the past ten years as broadcast and digital media have been integrated in unique and unusual ways. Jenkins (2005) described the concept of media convergence as ― the flow of content across multiple media platforms…Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes depending on who‘s speaking, and what they think they are talking about… Some of its circulation depend on tactics of grassroots appropriation, whether in North America or in the Middle East‖ (p. 2-3). In most societies worldwide mobile communication is not just circulated and distributed through broadcast and analogue media, but is being pushed to and pulled from communication sources over wired and wireless communication systems (Castells, M, Fernandez-Ardevol, M. Linchuan Qiu, J. & Sey, A. (2004). Contemporary communication systems employ vast networks of networks that allow for mobilizing knowledge, ideas and issues for a variety of purposes.

3. Critical Inquiry and Dimensions of Articulation(s) To examine the Dow Human Element ad and the complexity of media convergence we conceived of critical inquiry as an assemblage (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) of ideas, theories, and processes. For researchers, teachers and students critical inquiry can be used for examining, questioning, and deliberating on both the limits and possibilities of interpretations in relation to complex contextual conditions. Critical inquiry is premised on cultural study theories, which have demonstrated that experiential phenomena are not necessarily meaningful (Hall, 1980). Researchers, teachers and students should seek a fuller investigation into the interpretations of social, political, historical, cultural, technological contextual conditions (Krug, 2003). Critical inquiry about media convergence is a necessary area of study in education. Our investigation also considered ways to identify a range of viewpoints and ideas at issue. The acceptance, resistance, and negotiation of contextual conditions are ascribed to particular human encounters filtered through forces of socially interested agency. Describing, analyzing, and interpreting symbolic cultural production in rich contexts necessitates that researchers, teachers and students examine how meanings and values of experiential phenomena will always be struggled over by people with different social interests. Identifying dimensions of articulation(s) afforded us ways to identify, organize, analyze, and interpret relationships among the many possible forms of information to choose from. As researchers, teachers, or students one can ask under what circumstances are connections forged or made? These so-called relations of discursive discourses then can be the articulation(s) of different and distinct cultural characteristics, which can be (re)articulated in different ways because they have no necessary belongingness. Bakardjieva (2003) wrote ― It is my belief that the careful examination of actual Internet use in its numerous forms should be organized by the



task of discerning, recognizing and articulating the empowering aspects of the technology as they arise out of the everyday lives of real people in particular situations‖ (p. 311). When conducting critical inquiry, dimensions of articulation(s) are presented as acts of connecting that can make relations of two or more different ideas or objects, under certain human forces of agency and contextual conditions, which are not necessary, determined, absolute, or essential for all time. Below we briefly describe a few research conceptual dimensions of articulation(s). Articulation(s) are counter methodologies. Researchers use counter methodologies in order to struggle against the institutionalization of research methods. In other words articulation(s) are counter-normative processes that contest institutional tendencies to embrace proscribed research methodologies (philosophies) and methods (ways). Articulation(s) indicate that there can always be another relationship identified, contingent on the multiple contextual conditions in societies including the person/people employing these processes or the situations being researched. Articulation(s) do not necessarily begin by identifying a research question or research objective. Conventional research methodologies require researchers to pose questions prior to undertaking research. These questions are based on a hypothesis or thesis argument that underscores the research. The research is designed to address these questions. Articulation(s) can be based on questions, but these questions should also emerge from experiences that lead one to ask about the presence or absence of particular objects, activities, participants, or other contextual conditions. For example in the Human Element advertisement, the Dow Chemical logo was revealed only in the final seconds of the commercial. From this experience we began to ask questions about the visual, audio, and design information of this advertisement and how and why this information was being (re)presented in this particular way. Articulation(s) are nomadic. Research methods need to change and adapt to particular cultural and contextual conditions. Researchers using articulation(s) can choose methods applicable for particular research contexts each time. They can draw multiple methods from various fields and disciplines of study in order make connections with similar, diverse, divergent and convergent forms of information. Articulation(s) are communicative. Language is used to examine particular communication practices. In 1980, Hall described how images are encoded with meanings during their production and decoded by viewers when they are read within a particular cultural context and he argued these communication practices are not a linear process. Hall identified three reading positions viewers might take as decoders of information: dominant-hegemonic—the unquestioned identification with dominant points of view; negotiated—a reflexive interpretation of multiple perspectives; and, oppositional— the outright rejection of most points of view including a dominant perspective. Articulation(s) are moments of arbitrary closure. Information is partially produced and circulated through fluid temporal and spatial dimensions. Researchers can only hope to represent information in a limited way by capturing a fleeting moment in time and space. Information is understood as a partial story of any given complex situation. Articulations are situated and pragmatic. Researchers cannot explain phenomena solely by drawing on scholarly theories. Traditionally, researchers have focused too much attention on ―w hat‖ rather than ―w hose‖ knowledge is of most worth. Education



is highly situational (Kliebard, 1986). For example ― best practices‖ are interpretations and what is a best practice for some people and educational site might not be the best solution for all instructional settings. Research models in education cannot necessarily be generalized to all educational settings. Articulation(s) are reflexive. Research should be recursive and critical and not linear and explanatory. Researchers using articulation(s) continue to question not only the subject of the research but their own act of conducting the research as well. Reflexivity is an act of self-reference or looking back in a continuous motion of deliberation and analysis. Articulation(s) are more than we can report here. The dimensions of articulation(s) listed above can be applied to conduct research in a number of different ways. Our purpose was to learn more about the Dow ad in relationship to education, digital media and issues of ecological justice.

4. Virtualities: (Re)presenting, Remixing and Remediating Virtualities or the reality of the virtual, to use a Deleuzian notion, recognizes that the virtual does not just imitate reality, reproducing human experiences in an artificial medium. Realities and virtualities are mutually inclusive. The reality of the virtual consists of actual effects and consequences (Zizek, 2003). In The Virtual (2003) ― Rob Shields puts virtuality in with the key categories of contemporary social theory such as subjectivity, agency, structure, and the spaces and temporalities between the modern and the postmodern. Shields has rescued the term and the idea of the virtual from utopian futurists like Howard Rheingold and Nicholas Negroponte who use it to hype emergent technologies and forms of culture as the magical vehicles and entry points to new worlds and identities‖ (Kellner & Thomas, p. 1). Levy (2002) added, ― Virtuality is not the opposite of reality. Even if we see it out there, the virtual parts of living organisms, human beings or complex situations are probably the most important parts of their identities. A seed is oriented by a virtual tree, but we cannot describe exactly the shape of the tree. We even cannot be sure that there will actually be a tree. The (virtual) tree is the problem of the seed, and it is at the same time the essence of its identity‖ (p. 7). In other words, conceptually and physically, virtualities are the potential of possibilities. Media convergence continues to create potential for the way people can possibly use not only the technologies, but also more importantly the information created in different and unique ways. For example, the Human Element ad was produced by Dow and distributed primarily through television. To begin creating a case we searched the Internet and selected five Dow ad related forms of media convergence to examine: 1) the Hu (Human) Elementv Commercial film by the Dow Chemical Company (Dow Ad video); 2) Dow Chemical Company—Human Element film by the Dow Accountability Network (Remixed video); 3) The Dow Accountability Network (DAN webspace); 4) the Dow Interview Hoax on the BBC by The Yes Men (BBC Dow Hoax video); and 5) the Dow Global Playground webspace by The Yes Men ( These five media texts were selected because they promote or subvert Dow‘s campaign by applying aspects of virtuality through media convergence. For example one website



subverted the Dow ad by remediating the Dow ad and appropriating the soundtrack and remixing different images and video clips from the 1984 Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) chemical disaster in Bhopal India and other Dow chemical incidents (e.g. agent orange). This remixing drastically altered the meanings and values associated with the Dow ad. 4.1. (RE)PRESENTING The Dow Hu (Human) Element ad shows how a corporate identity can be (re)presented through media to promote hidden social, political, aesthetic, and ecological issues. (Re)presenting is a process of intentionally constructing and depicting information to influence viewers (Bolter & Grusin, 2000; Manovich, 2002). In Dow‘s case, their campaign was to change its global corporate image and reputation. From our inquiry we learned Dow‘s campaign motivation was to change its reputation and re-brand Dow. Dow corporate vice president, Julie Fasone (July, 2006) discussed the Human Element vision in a company publication, ―O ur reputation work is motivated by several factors... a strong reputation builds trust with customers, employees, and the communities where we operate... an outstanding reputation positively affects the bottom line.‖ (p. 2) This campaign statement begged several questions, ― Why does Dow need to build trust with its customers, employees and communities?‖ ― How has Dow‘s previous reputation negatively affected the bottom line?‖ 4.2. REMIXING Remixing is an act of assembling different media to produce a hybrid form (Bolter & Grusin, 2000; Manovich, 2002). On December 3, 2006 a remix of Dow‘s ad appeared on YouTube. The remixed video attracted 35,553 views and over 90 comments. Eightysix seconds long, it contained 43 scenes of still photographs and short film clips. The scenes changed in sequence with the soundtrack as an ironic parody of Dow‘s ad. For example, the Dow ad‘s opening sequenced a collection of satellite images of unpopulated landscapes. The remixed video, accompanied by the narrator‘s voiceover, ― For each of us there is a moment of discovery, we turn a page, we raise a hand, and just then...‖ combined a series of industrial site images including a factory plant with a large neon sign, ― Dow Chemical Company.‖ In the Dow ad, accompanying the narration, ― ...we look around and see the grandness of the scheme...‖ a satellite camera pans across a pristine river delta. In the remixed video during the same narration a camera pans across a field of dead water buffalo, killed by the 1984 UCC chemical disaster in Bhopal. The final scene of the remixed video used the same scene that closed the Dow ad. The Hu Element symbol changed into the Dow logo, with one important addition. Just as the Dow logo appeared, ― Visit‖ also appeared in the upper half of the frame. We followed the link and discovered a network of people concerned with Dow‘s production and use of dangerous chemicals, including survivors from India, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Michigan. The Dow Accountability Network (DAN) included public health advocates, chemical disaster survivor groups, legal experts, investors, environmental justice organizations, corporate accountability groups, and human rights organizations. Many of DAN‘s members were with activist organizations concerned with past and present conditions of the UCC disaster in Bhopal



such as, Amnesty International, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, and the Pan North America Pesticide Action Network. These groups admonished Dow‘s long, toxic legacy. The DAN webspace also included a review of Jack Doyle‘s book, ― Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical and the Toxic Century.‖ Noam Chomsky wrote, ― Trespass Against Us‖ is a chilling expose of corporate deceit and crime, with the collusion of the state authorities. It is a grim warning of what lies in store unless an aroused public places existing institutions under its supervision and control, and in the longer term dismantles illegitimate structures of power. The terrible story of Dow can provide an awakening and a stimulus to serious action.‖vi The remixed video was part of a much larger effort to prompt Dow to be responsible for the tragic human suffering that resulted from its corporate activities. From this inquiry, we learned why Dow invested so much time and money into its new ad campaign. 4.3. REMEDIATION Remediation is the process whereby contemporary media (i.e., digital media, virtual reality and the Internet) appropriates and refashions earlier media (i.e., painting, photography, television, and film), (Bolter & Grusin, 2000; Manovich, 2002). Before Dow unveiled its Human Element campaign, The Yes Men performed the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) hoax. It was in response to Dow‘s outright denial of any responsibility concerning their subsidiary company UCC. It coincided with the 20th anniversary of the UCC chemical disaster in Bhopal. The BBC contacted The Yes Men through their imitation Dow webspace (, not realizing it was fake. The Yes Men invented Jude Finisterra, aka Andy Bichlbaum to act as a Dow spokesperson and hinted to the BBC that he had an important announcement to make during the broadcast. On December 3, 2004, Finisterra, appeared on the BBC and claimed that Dow ―tak es full responsibility for the very real Bhopal tragedy of December 3, 1984.‖ He also claimed Dow established a $12 billion fund to compensate victim‘s families and survivors of the disaster. vii The hoax garnered world-wide attention to Dow‘s negligence in Bhopal, where a contaminated industrial site remains derelict, and the health issues of the disaster continue to plague both survivors and current residence. As a result of the BBC interview, Dow‘s stock price dropped and they had to publicly deny that any funds or other resources were allocated to help in Bhopal. From this inquiry, again we learned why Dow invested so much time and money into its new ad campaign. The Dow — Chemical Company on the Global Playground ( webspace was also created by The Yes Men. It imitated the Dow webspace layout, graphics, colour scheme and fonts and included Dow‘s logo. Dow press releases were juxtaposed with subversive documentation and transgressive innuendo. For example, ― We understand the anger and hurt,‖ Dow spokesperson Bob Questra said and arrogantly added, ― But Dow does not and cannot acknowledge responsibility. If we did, not only would we be required to expend many billions of dollars on cleanup and compensation—much worse, the public could then point to Dow as a precedent in other big cases. ‗They took responsibility; why can‘t you?‘ Amoco, BP, Shell, and Exxon all have ongoing problems that would just get much worse. We are unable to set this



precedent for ourselves and the industry, much as we would like to see the issue resolved in a humane and satisfying way.‖ viii On the first page of the webspace, a satirical tagline read, ― Did you know… Dow is responsible for the birth of the modern environmental movement. The 1962 book Silent Spring, about the side-effects of DDT, a Dow product, led to the birth of many of today‘s environmental action groups.‖ix Obviously, Dow does not claim this accomplishment. We articulated relationships among three aspects of digital media (representing, remixing, and remediation) and five web-based examples to give a sense of the complexity of conception, production, and distribution taking place through digital media in relation to issues of social and ecological justice and education. In the next section we used these examples to discuss articulating points of view.

5. Positions: Articulating Points of View 5.1. DOMINANT-HEGEMONIC Dominant-hegemonic positions take information at face value. From these perspectives, it does not occur to viewers or they do not consider that their own, or other peoples‘ philosophical positions, re-enforce this world-view. A dominant-hegemonic perspective overwhelmingly accepts Dow‘s message that they are global caregivers of people and environments. 5.2. OPPOSITIONAL Regarding the remixed video, someone stated, ― This is so transparent—like all PR garbage—and nausea inducing that I‘m having trouble believing anyone could find it inspiring; if only because it‘s so insulting to anyone who thinks about it for 2 seconds (jbrownil)‖, ― This is why I hate marketing and advertising. The art of lies and deception. I can‘t believe people are offended by this video because they found the original inspiring. The original is a big lie!! (funfnalas),‖ and ― … so sad… I‘m sick of greenwash...‖ (elparrot).x Greenwash is the use of disinformation by an organization to conceal its abuse of the environment in order to positively (re)present themselves. 5.3. NEGOTIATED Negotiated positions are based on analyzing information from various perspectives and across disciplinary boundaries. It requires placing personal memories into specific contexts in order to examine relations with ones philosophy on which to deliberate about an issue. As we researched perspectives about the Dow ad we found that ―A sa result of its merger with the Union Carbide Corporation in 2001 Dow has inherited the legacy of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. This is not only the world‘s worst industrial disaster to date but its physical and emotional repercussions continue to traumatize the capital of the central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh to this day.‖ xi Dow refused to address its liabilities in Bhopal. In India, Dow‘s subsidiary CEO (Anderson) still faces manslaughter charges and is considered a fugitive from justice for a pending criminal case related to the 1984 Chemical disaster. Dow‘s and UCC‘s lack of culpability in the disaster continue to affect lives in Bhopal to this day.



Is Dow responsible for the tragedy of the UCC disaster in Bhopal? Political struggles over issues are not a matter of simply answering yes or no. Negotiated positions weigh issues understanding that information can be both positive and negative at the very same time. Negotiated articulation(s)s raise important issues of power. Whose articulation(s) matters? Who ultimately controls how these meanings and values are produced, used, circulated, reproduced and/or consumed? Negotiated articulation(s)s use various methods of critical inquiry in order to ascertain the positionality associated with the social construction of meanings and values ascribed to the information. It is a process of trade and compromise, which involves political dialogue and debate. Sturken and Cartwright (2001) wrote, ― Interpretation is thus a mental process of acceptance and rejection of the meanings and associations that adhere to a given image through the force of dominant ideologies‖ (p. 57). Teachers and students should actively struggle with the meanings and values of dominant, residual, and emerging points of view (Williams, 1961; Krug, 2003) during processes of political and social analysis and interpretation. Articulating negotiated positions are not limited to a single interpretation of an advertisement from either a dominant or oppositional perspective. These positions resist homogenizing processes of understanding in favour of multi-accentualities (Volosinov, 1973). In other words, media (re)presentations, remediations, and remixing are polysemic as individual self and social identities are different. Negotiated positions require adequate time for one to experience, observe, reflect, deliberate and critically analyze communication practices. In the next section, we discuss these positions in relationship to characteristics of certain communication practices.

6. Mobilizing Knowledge: Communication Practices The mobilization of knowledge requires that people have an understanding associated with and how they know and use particular information and communication practices. ― Knowledge is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as (i) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject; (ii) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information; or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.‖xii In our articulation of information, we connected five communication practices: information, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation and _nformation. Drawing from Kirk‘s (2001) research on communication practices, we share our sense of the slippery relationships below for both social and political analytic processes. 6.1. INFORMATION Information is data set in context for relevance (Kirk 2001). Information becomes knowledge when someone uses it critically and adds it to what they already know (Kirk, 2001). Webster‘s Online Dictionary defined information as knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction.xiii Dominant-hegemonic information conveyed by the Dow ad connotatively associated poetry, nature, and pre-industrial society with Dow. The DAN webspace remediated information about Dow by negotiating views



from multiple respected international human rights organizations in a way that justly uncovered information, some of which Dow did not want known about their inhumane corporate activities and responsibilities. 6.2. PROPAGANDA Propaganda uses verifiable evidence in such a way as to provoke a desired response (Kirk 2001). It is ― The systematic propagation of information or ideas by an interested party, esp. in a tendentious way in order to encourage or instill a particular attitude or response‖ (Oxford Dictionary, 1989). Propaganda spreads ideas, information, or rumors for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. xiv Dow used an idyllic image of a lone man dressed in traditional, middle-eastern robes sitting in solitude staring off into limitless sand dunes as the narrator said, ― stand fearlessly and face the future....‖ Connotatively the images linked Dow‘s dominanthegemonic corporate activities with ideas of spirituality, heroism, and courage. The remixed video oppositionally linked Dow with industrial wastelands, human disfigurement, and death. The Yes Men‘s BBC interview also oppositionally and intentionally used incorrect information to pressure Dow to make a public announcement about their corporate and humane responsibilities with the Bhopal disaster. The remixed video showed a young boy framed in a doorway made of rough boards with hanging shredded fabric. His facial expression showed concern or worry and a sense of hopelessness and extreme poverty. The image connoted oppositionality to the exploitation of people in underdeveloped countries struggling to challenge the will of a large foreign corporation. 6.3. MISINFORMATION Misinformation differs from propaganda as it refers to something that is not deliberately misleading, just wrong or mistaken. Misinformation is erroneous or incorrect information (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989). Many of the webspaces we visited listed a dominant-hegemonic views of the Bhopal death toll at 2,500 - 5,000 people. However that number has steadily grown to well over 20,000. Satinath Sarangi (2002) wrote, ― On the night of December 2-3, 1984 the chemical disaster at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, left a half million people surrounded by deadly poison clouds while they slept. The disaster killed more than 8,000 people in its immediate wake (Morehouse and Subramaniam, 1985). The death toll today is well over 20,000 and rising (Dinham, 2002), with over 30 survivors dying every month (Madhya Pradesh Government, 2001). Today, well over 120,000 survivors are in desperate need of medical attention for chronic exposure-induced diseases (Dinham, 2002), including breathlessness, persistent cough, early-age cataracts, loss of appetite, menstrual irregularities, recurrent fever, back and body aches, loss of sensation in limbs, fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and depression. Thousands of families are on the brink of starvation because the breadwinners are dead or too sick to work.‖ Various points of view regarding misinformation can be easily published and distributed through digital media and the Internet.



6.4. DISINFORMATION Disinformation is ―Falseinformation deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion….‖ xv When viewing the Dow ad from a negotiated position, we asked ― What is the relationship between Dow and the people portrayed in their ad?‖ The film (re)presented people as if they were appearing in the ad on behalf of Dow, thereby supporting Dow‘s dominant-hegemonic perspective. But Dow corporate activities do not directly connect to a figurative sculptor, Mexican blacksmith, or an African mother living in a mud hut. Dow circulated this disinformation to imply a correlation with these peoples‘ artistic and hand made practices and pre-industrial ways of living. From an oppositional position, The Yes Men also circulated disinformation performing as a phony Dow spokesman (Jude Finisterra) to announce a ― radical new direction for the company, one in which Dow takes full responsibility for the [Bhopal] disaster.‖xvi They intentionally mislead viewers provoking Dow to acknowledge their refusal to be accountable for the ongoing health crisis in Bhopal. 6.5. _NFORMATION _nformation is incomplete information absent by omission. xvii For example, in Dow‘s dominant-hegemonic ad there was no information concerning the corporation‘s past negative impact on environments around the world. Dow used the ad to distance themselves from ideas of industrialization, modernism, colonialism, consumerism and urbanization. On the other hand, negotiated and oppositional articulation(s)s found the environmental devastation wrought by Dow‘s manufacturing of pesticides and insecticides; the military use of defoliants; and the degradation of the world‘s water supplies by the proliferation of chemical dispersal was purposefully omitted from the Human Element campaign. The remixed video was an oppositional indictment of Dow as a polluter of third world countries. But it too failed to similarly show any positive effects of chemical research. A negotiated view would acknowledge that Dow has delivered ― a broad range of products and services to customers in around 160 countries.‖xviii Dow has researched and developed chemistry to help provide fresh water, food, pharmaceuticals, paints, packaging and personal care products. In addition a negotiated view would also indict the consuming habits of developed nations. Dow exists because there are markets willing to consume cheap goods at the expense of citizens in countries struggling to protect themselves and their communities. _nformation obscures the value of life associated with those who do not enjoy the participatory privileges of democratic government. In addition, the remixed video did not mention the role the Indian government played in the Bhopal disaster and their lack of action in the clean up. The South Asian online forumxix reported that Dow made improper payments to regulatory officials in India.xx Later, the Indian government negotiated a settlement with UCC without the Bhopal survivor‘s consent. The settlement did not cover adequate health care ($300-$500) for the survivors and made no provision for cleaning up the contaminated industrial site.xxi Articulating positions and communication practices can be used to conduct critical inquiry about a wide variety of information per se.



7. Conclusion In conclusion, we have overviewed the use critical inquiry and dimensions of articulation(s) to understand how knowledge can be mobilized through media convergence. In this case, our research involved issues of social and ecological justice, communication practices, positioning points of view, and the application of virtuality. We used articulation(s) because they provided a way for us to be resilient in the presence of institutional forces that expect us to use scientifically proven methods. As our society changes we need our research to change: we want the ability for our philosophy and methods to also change and adapt. We showed how this nomadic approach to critical inquiry can be used to temporarily visit applications of virtuality such as (re)presented, remixed and remediated forms of media convergence knowing that upon our return at another time these same processes will have been changed based on particular social, technological, political contexts. Because language is used to provide moments of arbitrary closure, meanings and values will continue to need to be uprooted and re-established. Dow attempted to (re)present its identity through the Human Element campaign, but action groups around the world used Dows own ad to remix its meaning and link it back to the industrial disaster in Bhopal, India, and its aftermath. We learned media convergence could be mobilized to support particular points of view. In our study, we reflexively returned to interrogate our own perspectives in connection with dominant-hegemonic, oppositional, and negotiated points of view in order to study historical and contemporary accounts and emerging, multiple, and complex relations. The Dow ad could be analysed by articulating it with various forms of communication practices. We selected five texts, fully realizing there are others. Finally, articulations are moments of arbitrary closure and these research dimensions acknowledge the fluid, dynamic quality of conducting critical inquiry in a rapidly changing social, cultural, political and historical landscape. We have come to realize the limits of our research perspectives are arbitrary constructs of representation that researchers employ to make data manageable. Moments of arbitrary closure make it possible to acknowledge the dynamic states of multiple realities, without being overwhelmed by them. Articulation(s) enable researchers to learn from their investigations by travelling, stopping, travelling, stopping and deliberating beyond one set of questions that might limit our ability to imagine other relationships at the outset of our study.

References Bakardjieva, M. (2003). Virtual togetherness: An everyday life perspective, In Media, Culture and Society. 25(3): 291–313. Bhopal gas tragedy relief and rehabilitation department, Bhopal. (2001, 12/01/2009). Retrieved January 14, 2009, from Bolter, J. & Grusin, R. (2000). Remediation: Understanding new media, The MIT Press. Castells, M, Fernandez-Ardevol, M. Linchuan Qiu, J. & Sey, A. (2004). Mobile communication and society: A global perspective. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.



Daryl Slack, J. (1996). The theory and method of articulation in cultural studies. In David Morely and Kuan-Hsing Chen (Eds.), Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, New York, Routledge. Dinham, B., & Sarangi, S. (2002). The Bhopal gas tragedy 1984 to the evasion of corporate responsibility. Environment and Urbanization, 14(1), 89-99. Hall, S. (1980). Cultural studies: Two paradigms, Media, Culture and Society, 2(1), 57-72. Kirk. (2001). Information and its counterfeits: Propaganda, misinformation and disinformation. Retrieved January 14, 2009, from Kliebard, H. M (1986). The struggle for the American curriculum, 1893-1958. Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Krug. D. (2003). Symbolic culture and art education. The Journal of the National Art Education Association, 56(2), 13-19. Levy, P. (2002). Welcome to virtuality. In C. Beardon, C. & L. Malmborg, Digital creativity: A reader. The Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger. Manovich, L. (2002). The language of new media. The MIT Press. Morehouse, W., & Subramaniam, M. A. (1986). The Bhopal tragedy. USA: Council on International and Public Affairs. Oxford English Dictionary (Eds.). (1989) (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. Sturken, M., & Cartwright, L. (2001). Practices of Looking. London: Oxford Press. Williams, R. (1961). The long revolution: An analysis of the democratic, industrial, and cultural changes transforming our society. New York: Columbia University Press. Volosinov, V. (1973). Marxism and the philosophy of language. Boston: Harvard University Press. Zizek, S. (2003). Organs without bodies. On Deleuze and consequences. New York: Routledge.

EndNotes i

(Retrieved on January 6, 2009 from

For each of us there is a moment of discovery, we turn a page, we raise a hand, and just then, in the flash of a synapse, we learn that life is elemental, and this knowledge changes everything. We look around and see the grandness of the scheme: sodium bonding with chlorine, carbon bonding with oxygen, hydrogen bonding with oxygen. We see all things connected, we see life unfold, and in the dazzling brilliance of this knowledge, we overlook the element not listed on the chart. Its importance is so obvious; its presence is simply understood. The missing element is the human element, and when we add it to the equation, the chemistry changes. Every reaction is different: potassium looks to bond with potential; metals behave with hardened resolve, and hydrogen and oxygen form desire. The human element is the element of change, it gives us our footing, to stand fearlessly and face the future. It is a way of seeing, that gives us a way of touching: issues, ambitions, and lives. The human element, nothing is more fundamental, nothing more elemental. (Retrieved from: ii


See for more information. ― In June of 2006, Dow Chemical promoted a large magazine and video advertising campaign in which each person is considered as abstract ― human element‖, symbol Hu, atomic mass number, and 7E+09 (in reference to global population count). The idea was to showcases individual human profiles



and circumstances to communicate the power of harnessing ― The Human Element‖ to foster solutions to human problems around the world.‖ iv

The processes by which dominant culture maintains its dominant position.


See for more information. ― In June of 2006, Dow Chemical promoted a large magazine and video advertising campaign in which each person is considered as abstract ― human element‖, symbol Hu, atomic mass number, and 7E+09 (in reference to global population count). The idea was to showcases individual human profiles and circumstances to communicate the power of harnessing ― The Human Element‖ to foster solutions to human problems around the world.‖ vi

Retrieved from on January 3, 2010


See video at:


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ix x

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Retrieved from on December 6, 2009


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Retrieved from on December 6, 2009 xvi

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F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 277-287.


Abstract. In the diverse cultures of an increasingly transnational world where academic literacy in English or Englishes is required for advancement in universities, communication technologies play critical roles. This paper integrates scholars from diverse cultures through online technology which allows for participants from several universities to develop their awareness of diverse cultures and academic English across disciplines. This research addresses the issue of how online collaboration among scholars can develop their technological, cultural and academic literacies which are essential to their academic progress. By creating electronic discussion forums that include scholars from universities worldwide it is possible to engage in transcultural dialogue regarding how diverse cultures view technology as a means to advance academic and cultural literacy. Through combining the wealth of academic Open Course Ware (OCW) through the consortium and linkages with international universities it is possible to create credit courses for students in each of their home universities thereby overcoming the major limitation of OCW by providing access to credit for OCW courses.

A large proportion of the world’s population lack access to advanced education because many ESL programs throughout the world do not produce a high level of academic literacy in English even though students may study English in schools abroad for more than a decade. The global move, in the last 50 years, to a more unilingual English world of publication (Carli and Ammon, 2007) demands English literacy. The number of people who have high academic literacy in both English and French is small in Canada, and this is also true of the majority of the world’s bilingual population in any country. High academic literacy is also a challenge for many, even in their first language and is an often insurmountable barrier in their second language, due to limited immersion and sociolinguistic opportunities for academic literacy. Yet academic literacy in English for the world’s English as an Other Language (EOL) population has spread beyond its original identity within a few countries to be fully recognized as the world language of business, government and academia (Canagarajah, 2002a; 2002b; Crystal, 2001). As a world language English is no longer affiliated with any specific culture or nation but permeates and has been permeated by all cultures and nations, thus producing a variety of Englishes (Canagarajaha, 2007). English continues to increasingly dominate the



knowledge economy and academic publication globally, with over 80% of academic publications in the humanities and social sciences worldwide published in English (Carey, 1991b; Hamel, 2007) and over 90% of academic publications in the natural sciences published in English (Ammon, 2006; Hamel, 2007). As Flowerdew (2001; 2007) argues, this leaves many scholars worldwide who are not academically literate in English on the periphery of scholarly publication because of the worldwide requirement that university scholars publish in English for academic recognition. These global inequalities of access to knowledge and education for those not academically literate in English cause pervasive constraints on the economic and educational development and dissemination of knowledge and thus contribute to the perception of poverty and ignorance in many developing and developed countries (Guardiano, Favilla and Calaresu, 2007). Consequently, for those millions of scholars who are limited in their English academic literacy, the cost to global knowledge generation is increasingly staggering to the world economy. In addition, countries around the world from China to France value academic publications in international English journals to a greater degree than in Mandarin or French respectively, in terms of university tenure and promotion. In spite of this threat to the academic well-being of many universities internationally, there are few, if any, proposals that deal with this predicament of academic scholars worldwide who lack a venue in which they can realistically improve their English academic literacy in their discipline and area of publication in a manner that is efficient and highly motivating and that does not involve expensive travel, tuition and time away from their employment and families. In this paper I propose a tested pan-university model of online immersion academically credited seminars and courses that can allow EOL students and faculty from developing and developed countries to jointly advance their academic literacy in those academic areas that are of paramount importance to their academic career. This model builds on the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement, which provides access to thousands of university courses without requiring students to pass English literacy access tests such as TOEFL or pay tuition at many of the world’s leading English speaking universities. At present the OCW movement receives expression in the OCW Consortium which consists of hundreds of online courses contributed from more than 200 of the world’s leading English speaking universities (see and ( These Open Educational Resources (OER) which are freely available to the public constitute vast stores of public knowledge. However, this open access to such academic riches has not included mechanisms for how EOL students could improve their English or gain credit for studying these hundreds of open access courses. This paper reports on the successful attempts to overcome these inadequacies for EOL students worldwide by exploiting the best principles of online EOL immersion in academic courses and combing that with open online courses. These courses were developed consistent with principles of sociocultural theory (Lantolf, 2000), new literacies (Street, 1984) and current theories of language acquisition within a systemic functional linguistics perspective (Halliday and Mathiessen, 2004) that incorporated both dilemma theory and activity theory as well as the social and cognitive presence perspectives of Anderson (2004). In designing critical discussion of research articles, questions were posed that dealt with the dilemmas and contradictions that diverse ethnic groups were faced with in their particular knowledge



ecology. The collaborative socio-cultural approach to critically examine diverse cultural perspectives was promoted to push the expression of conceptual distinctions in order to develop new vocabulary, technical terms and expressions in their second language. The combined approach of the merits of each of these theoretical orientations produced an online socially constructive community which was socially and intellectually both challenging and supportive. This online community highly valued the diverse cultural, language and knowledge ecologies that each member could contribute both in terms of their individual prior knowledge and aspirations. The online discussions via the WebCT discussion forum also encouraged the collaborative critical thinking and analysis of academic papers that would promote intellectual growth, by requiring students to push their capacity to express abstract theory, concepts and dilemmas in their second language. Thus concepts of social presence and cognitive presence were combined with principles of intellectual and social contradictions or dilemmas to foster academic literacy development. The replications of this model of pan-university credit courses with diverse cultures of a EOL and English first language students and faculty from universities in developed and developing countries has produced impressive self reports for improvement in academic literacy in specific academic areas of interest. This is due to the focus on intensive and sustained scholarly online immersion in communication and debate on topics of high interest with individuals who are extremely motivated to improve their English academic literacy for publication and academic advancement. These replications have included universities as diverse as the Yakutsk State university in Russia, the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superriores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico, the Ritsumeikan University in Japan and finally the University of British Columbia in Canada where international students with more advanced EOL from 14 countries and first language English speakers participated. This paper also highlights the need to go beyond current models of international online communication at all levels of university education, including the post doctoral level and stresses the point that we need to implement the concept of a global university that includes the viewpoints and situations from numerous universities around the world in order to rapidly communicate and educate all students on such global crises as sustainability and global survival (see and This concept also entails the understanding of English as an international language which has local variations from standard English (Canagarajah, 2007, 2002a; 2002b) and which includes exposure to different variants of English.

Current Open Models Since MIT’s highly acclaimed move to make its educational resources freely available, the number of open learning initiatives has continued to grow (see, There has been considerable effort on the part of international organizations such as UNESCO, Open Universities (see ), and public and private institutions to make educational content and courses freely available through the internet. In particular, at the time of this writing, the OpenCourseWare Consortium



( has brought together more than 200 universities and organizations providing open educational resources. What began as an effort to provide content has inspired the development of OER course models, ranging from largely selfdirected/access-on-your-own style learning to open-course-with-open teaching without credit.

Language, Culture, and Academic English Literacy Graduate students who are denied access to higher education due to low TOEFL or IELTS scores over the last few years would be in the hundreds of thousands internationally in spite of the extensive industry that exists to help boost TOEFL, TOEIC and IELTS scores. New Literacy Studies (Street, 1984) have identified a nuanced view of academic literacy from a sociocultural perspective, going beyond interpretations of simple skill development and into a realm of academic socialization. For example, a study on academic writing from student and staff perspectives (Lea and Street, 1998) revealed the contrasting expectations of various modes of writing present at one higher education institution. The study of literacy as situated semiotic practices has further exemplified the complex nature of academic literacy. Similarly, Duff (2007) highlights the complexity of academic discourse socialization regardless of whether native or non-native speakers of English. In the context of OERs, this research suggests that the accessibility of OERs, in particular where accreditation is needed, is challenged by academic literacy components, especially when participation in English is required. The current practice in scholarly publishing, where, as Flowerdew (2007) has pointed out, the combined pressures of “globalization and marketization of the academy” (p.14) has created a situation where more and more scholars need to write in English for international journals and one where writing in English is perceived as “a sort of ineluctable necessity (related to both international prestige and editorial needs) rather than a matter of free choice” by non-Anglophone scholars (Guardiano, Favilla, & Calresu, 2007).

Reconceptualizing Course Delivery This model provides an opportunity for international students from developing and developed countries to efficiently develop their EOL academic literacy, now essential to provide access to reading and publishing research in the international academic community (Carey, 1999b, 2002; Carey and Morgan, 2005; Thorne and Black, 2007) and academic tenure and advancement (Flowerdew and Yongyan, 2007). Another purpose of this paper is to stimulate thinking about how OERs and internationalization can converge in a way that addresses the challenges and the opportunities created by the rapid expansion of internet capabilities and the necessity of further developing EOL academic literacy. It is critical to address two issues related to OERs: (1) how an open model can take advantage of existing university structures and their attributes (quality control, access to instructors, credential systems) and allow students globally to participate in a more open



environment, and (2) how EOL students can develop their academic literacy at English medium institutions. In this respect, an open model can capitalize on existing institutional structures and what they offer (credential systems, instructors, infrastructure, students) through reconceptualizing course delivery. Both online and blended modes of delivery can provide an opportunity to enable global participation and to greatly increase access for students from developing countries. For example, there are opportunities to share academic interaction components where students would be.

Evolution of the Model Because it is recognized that social interaction is as critical component of most learning, including EOL academic literacy (Carey, 1999b, 2002; Carey and Guo, 2003) much of this research is grounded in the social constructivist principles of Vygotsky (1978, 1986) and Lee and Smagorinsky (2000) and the sociocultural perspectives of Lantolf (2000). Recognizing that discussions are such a critical activity for EOL learning, particular attention was paid to promote collaborative critical thinking and writing through the use of an asynchronous discussion forum between English first language and EOL students. This form of immersion in a community of scholars and an online community due to its asynchronous nature makes it possible for students to play the role of both teacher and student in a reciprocal nature that can produce levels of knowledge creation and sharing that were superior to some conventional face to face courses. Comments such as “I acquired more academic English literacy in this course than in the decade I studied ESL.” Or “I came to know my colleagues in this course and to critically discuss knowledge to a much greater degree than in any previous university course I have taken”, were examples of the advantages of the collaborative nature of the online forum. Again, because of the asynchronous nature of the immersion, there is a greater chance of more thoughtful and well constructed communications than would be possible for EOL students in face to face courses with native speakers. Further, striving to critically think about complex ideas was instrumental to developing technical vocabulary, phrases and content. The asynchronous forum allowed EOL students time to compose their messages before posting (Carey, 1999a). Furthermore, EOL students consistently reported that their academic English improved more from the online than the traditional live face-toface components in these mixed-mode classes. This was consistent with their more active online collaboration in the online component of the course when compared to the face-to-face component. In 2001, in order to further enrich the perspectives and engagement in this online discussion, students enrolled in a graduate course at Yakutsk State University in Russia were invited to participate in the online discussions of my graduate course, Asia Pacific Narratives as Inquiry on Intercultural Aspects of Language Education, at the University of British Columbia. All students received academic credit for their participation in the international online forum via their credit course graded by their respective professors in their home university either in Russia or Canada. In an initial study a detailed analysis of the forum protocols (Luo, 2004) from a systemic linguistic perspective yielded insights into the intricacies of how interrelated the conceptual development in course content was related to EOL literacy development



and further supported the utility of the asynchronous online forum for enhancing academic literacy as predicted by social practice theory (Halliday, 1994) and the sociocultural perspective (Lantolf, 2000). The recorded histories of all students’ online participation provided a corpus to study the interplay of sociocultural factors and discussions on the academic conceptual development of course content on promoting EOL academic literacy. This permitted us to complete an analysis from a systemic functional perspective on comparing native English and EOL students’ participation in this online graduate seminar. A detailed account of this research is found in the dissertation of Luo (2004). This recorded corpus of all communication in these courses also allowed us to contrast this approach with that of studying the corpus from the perspective of the roles of cognitive and social presence (Gunawardena. and Zittle, 1998; Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, and Archer, 2001; Anderson, 2003, 2004) as important perspectives for understanding language acquisition as we report in the doctoral thesis of Liang (2006). In independent research we then analyzed these online forums from the related perspective of the social presence and cognitive presence (Garrison and Anderson, 2003) and activity theory (Engstrom, 1999, 2001) in the dissertation of Morgan (2008). This extensive research gave us insights into the value of online forums for generating collaboration and debate between students and thus promoting EOL academic literacy. A more detailed analysis (Gallant, 2009) of the same set of online course protocols from these graduate courses examined how the tensions and conflicts pertain to the interactions between dilemmas and learning in an online community and illustrate some of the sociocultural and discursive features of the online academic discussions. By examining the discursive data and looking at the conflicting exchanges in this qualitative case study we explored the dilemmas or contradictions in the students’ reflections and their negotiations by using attribution theory. In addition, we studied how students use referencing as a linguistic strategy to open up dialogic possibilities to promote interaction in asynchronous academic discussion from a Systemic Functional Linguistics perspective (Halliday,1994) which views language and its context as socially situated and functionally interconnected. Briefly stated, whether we approached the online corpus from a dilemma approach within Systemic Functional Linguistics or other sociocultural approaches (Lantolf, 2000) that view language as social practice, our joint research consistently supports online asynchronous communication as an effective venue within which to provide the academic content for EOL academic literacy development, Carey and Morgan (2005). The model was also adapted to engage undergraduate students for whom English was a second language in another global forum. This project involved undergraduate students at three different universities: Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), Yakutsk State University in Russia and Ritsumeikan University; where students from Japan were on a one-year exchange program at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. All students were enrolled in credit courses taught in English at their three respective universities and as part of their course requirements participated in an online discussion forum involving a total of 123 students from the three universities. The content in all three courses at the three participating universities were focused on intercultural understanding and socio-political issues and were conducted both face-to-face and online exclusively in English. Three English



language instructors (two of the instructors had EOL histories) located in Mexico, Russia, and at UBC were looking for an opportunity to engage students who were learning in an online dialogue about global issues including EOL from a sociocultural perspective. For six weeks students discussed a variety of issues as part of their course work at their host institution. Each institution allocated and assessed this activity differently and separately, according to their own course syllabus. Students received credit for their participation towards the established requirements of the course that they were enrolled in at their particular university. In this way, considerable institutional red tape was avoided and students appreciated the discussions across country borders (Basharina, 2005, 2007; Basharina and Carey, 2007; Basharina, Guardado and Morgan, 2008; Carey and Morgan, 2005). Research on these online forums also assumed an activity theory as a framework for investigating how the activity system will influence and be influenced by teaching presence. A detailed analysis of this research is described in the doctoral dissertation of Morgan (2008) and in Carey and Morgan (2008). A comparison of entry and exit scores showed enhanced TOEFL scores relative to other years for the cohort of Japanese students at UBC but this enhanced EOL performance cannot be attributed exclusively to this model since there are other simultaneous influences that could influence TOEFL scores. Other evidence for the utility of this model comes from the students’ online protocols as well as the interviews of students and instructors. We also conducted a study that asked how teaching presence was negotiated in these online courses and what were the constraints and affordances that influenced this negotiation. These case studies (Morgan, 2008) found that even though online courses may share common design features, ultimately the instructor’s conceptualization and implementation of the design will influence how the instructor creates online instructional space in this community of enquiry. The combined research dissertations by Morgan (2008) combined with that of Gallant (2009), Basharina (2005) and Luo (2004) all elaborate how dilemma theory, activity theory and functional systemic linguistic analyses when combined with concepts of social, cognitive and teaching presence can guide curriculum design for optimizing EOL academic literacy, by providing professors and students with the context to develop their academic literacy in the genres and registers that were appropriate to their discipline and area of publication through the extensive communication with colleagues in the online forum. They communicated with whom they chose, when they chose, on a topic they chose. Furthermore, viewing academic literacy from the perspective of a situated semiotic practice and recognizing the importance of practice in communicating in the appropriate genre and register (Carey, in press) for scholarly communication is critical. Beyond the development of academic literacy for EOL students and faculty, the model allowed for other benefits which are also transferable to other disciplines: 1. Ease of international course transfers While universities are making progress in establishing course equivalence and credit transfers across universities within countries, admission procedures, transfer credits and advanced standing on an international level involve complex and time-consuming bureaucratic barriers. This model obviated such complexities by maintaining the specific course requirements and course credits within each course and its home



university while simultaneously allowing international inter-cultural collaboration of students and professors across universities. Thus each professor determined the proportion of their course grade that the shared component represented and each professor was responsible for grading their students within their particular course at their university. Consequently, the model allowed all participating faculty members and institutions to greatly enhance the academic depth and effectiveness of their courses at no expense. 2. Breadth of professorial exposure for the students Instead of a single professor, students can have access to collaboration with two or more professors, each with different cultural perspectives and domains of research backgrounds and academic expertise. In implementation, the varied backgrounds and perspectives promoted an appreciation for intercultural understanding and provided a rich interdisciplinary English learning experience for the professors as well as the students. 3. Breadth of background of international students from different institutions The highly varied backgrounds and training as well as educational and professional experience of the diverse students provided an unprecedented opportunity for each student in each institution to selectively engage in a discussion in English with students from a myriad of different perspectives. 4. Flexibility of this approach It allows for different professors from different geopolitical co-ordinates to be recruited for successive academic terms or years in an academic program. Thus each professor can cover a much wider range of subjects in a given program. In turn, the enhanced development of the cooperating professors in their fields of interest and expertise through online discussion with other collaborating international professors can constitute a major motivation for professors to participate in these online collaborations and improve their academic literacy in their discipline and domain. 5. Course credit for participation Most importantly, students were receiving credit for their participation in the discussion forum in the context of their local courses and programs at their home universities. Thus collaboratively edited assignments, term papers and subsequent theses could focus on local issues that were of most interest to individual students and provided maximal breadth for the enhancement of academic literacy. The reading of native speakers’ communications provided a rich and continuous exposure to academic literacy which was greatly appreciated by the EOL students and faculty. This value was greatly increased due to the students’ high interest in the content and being able to communicate with who they wanted, when they wanted on topics of their choice.



Future Directions By creating online communities where the students are intensely involved in collaboration and knowledge generation through their pooling of knowledge from their diverse knowledge ecologies the students can more efficiently advance their academic literacy in their second language. Although the use of this model has centred on international discussions using asynchronous technologies, it could be applied to students working together on research such as case studies or joint projects using a much wider selection of available technologies. In particular, the benefits are evident when applying this model to courses in implementing international aid and disaster relief research, world health, global warming issues, pandemic emergencies or any topic where rapid international and intercultural cooperation is required or where local concerns of developing countries need to be addressed. The model could also be applied within a bilingual university, professional faculty or any tertiary institution with programs that were looking for ways to be more inter-disciplinary in their content and approach to second language acquisition. Therefore, the model could facilitate both inter- and intra-university exchanges between developed and developing countries where promoting academic literacy in a world language is important.

Conclusions This flexible model is particularly appropriate to the majority of EOL students in developing countries who lack TOEFL entrance scores and who cannot afford the luxury of travel and tuition for expensive exchange programs. Unlike conventional faceto-face immersion programs where less proficient students are denied participation in the discussion, this asynchronous forum allows all students to have sufficient time to compose their messages and collaborate. Hopefully this model will also encourage institutions to think differently about how their students can engage in global collaborative academic conversation that benefits both the local and international partners and breaks down the barriers to participation faced by EOL students in academic contexts. This model provides a context in which OCW cannot only be adapted to local situations and contexts, but can also provide a far more integrated and scholarly venue for academic discussion through the inclusion of scholars from a wide diversity of cultures and professional viewpoints. Perhaps in conjunction with the wellestablished open education and research resources as well as OCW initiatives, it will help contribute to a shift towards a culture of openness in the academy (Wiley, 2006) academic publication which have been such a difficult barrier to overcome.

References Ammon, U. (2004). Theory and practice of online learning. Athabaska University Press. Athabaska University. Anderson, T. (2003). Getting the mix right again: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction. International Review of research on Open and Distance Learning, 4(2).



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F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 288-299.

COVERING YOUR FACE ON FACEBOOK Managing identity through untagging and deletion MICHELE STRANO AND JILL WATTAI Bridgewater College, VA, USA

Abstract. This paper describes the ways in which Facebook users manage their online identities through untagging and deleting photos to make sure images are interpreted in a desirable way. Using data collected from an online survey and thirty in-depth interviews with American adult Facebook users, the authors argue that identity management can best be understood as the combination of constructive and destructive practices through which users control not only their self-presentation (projection), but also the statements others make about them (suppression).

1. Facebook Images and Impression Management Facebook images, including profile pictures and photo albums, are one means through which users present a favorable image of themselves to other users. Indeed, existing research on the use of photographs on social networking sites demonstrates that users are deliberate about the choices they make when presenting themselves online (e.g., Siibak, 2009; Author, 2008; Ellison, 2006). As Siibak (2009) argues, the posted images most often convey an “ideal self” (the self one would like to be) or the “ought self” (the self one believes one should be in order to be accepted by other users). These findings corroborate Goffman’s (1959) claim that people strategically “perform” identities that they believe others will approve. Goffman (1959) argues that our self-presentations are made up of those impressions we "give" through explicit verbal communication (like that which might be offered on Facebook user's "Info" page) and implicit expressions "given off" through visual appearance. Facebook profile images can be seen as a form of "implicit" identity construction (Zhao et. al, 2008) in which users display personal characteristics through images. Zhao et. al.’s (2008) content analysis of Facebook accounts shows that users rely heavily on implicit modes of self-presentation in this venue, with an average of 88.4 photos per account. Although existing research shows that users will emphasize positive images of themselves online, the nonymous nature of networking sites like Facebook limits the extent to which users can fabricate identity (Zhao et. al. 2008; Ellison et. al., 2007; Zarghooni, 2007). Studies of online dating sites show that users reconcile the tension between their need to portray an accurate as well as a desirable vision of themselves by



constructing an idealized or “hoped for” self-presentation (Ellison et. al., 2006; Yurchisin et. al., 2005). While Goffman’s theory of impression management is often used by those who study Facebook, Zarghooni (2007) argues that the online environment necessitates certain revisions to our understanding of how impression management is deployed since Facebook technology opens up new possibilities for self-presentation. For example, Reese et. al. (2007) argue that Facebook offers the opportunity to display new types of image-enhancing information such as the size of one’s social network. Another way that online networks may impact impression management is through the integration of social groups that were traditionally separated by space and time. Since impression management stems from a desire for approval, the self-presentation strategies we employ are dependent on our understanding of the social values of the group we hope to impress. We often try on different persona in order to test whether they will be accepted by others. Attempts to impress several different groups by using divergent self-presentation strategies (Zarghooni, 2007), will be thwarted unless we can isolate one group from the other and avoid cross-pollination. Online environments complicate the process of separating different audiences from each other, since images are often posted to a broad audience of “friends” that includes schoolmates, colleagues, family, and employers. On the other hand, Facebook’s privacy settings allow a certain level of control over who sees what, although users are more aware than they are in real life that they are being blocked from viewing some presentations. While efforts to manage self-presentation may have a significant impact on one’s overall reputation, much off our image is shaped by what others communicate about us in various social situations (Craik, 2009). As Mazer et. al (2007) point out, while a Facebook user may meticulously manage their self-presentation through text and images they post themselves, other users may post images or wall messages that undermine or destroy the image the user has attempted to cultivate. In support of this idea, Walther et. al. (2008) find that the attractiveness of Facebook users is impacted by the attractiveness of their friend’s photos and the valence of the postings on their wall. In contrast to face-to-face interaction, however, Facebook offers new impression management tools that enable users to not only project a desirable image, but to suppress the images that others circulate about them. Untagging and deleting allow Facebook users to limit the circulation of undesirable messages about themselves. In order to explore the use of these impression management tools, this paper draws on examples from two data sources: (1) unpublished data from a question on an online survey one of the authors conducted in 20081 (author name, 2008) and (2) thirty indepth interviews with American Facebook users in three age groups (18-25, 26-31 and 31+). The interview guide is attached as an appendix. Our goal in this paper is to describe different types of suppression activities and speculate on how these activities point toward a modification of impression management theory in social networking environments.


The question asked: “Have you ever removed a "tag" identifying you on a photograph posted by another Facebook user? If yes, why did you remove the tag?”



2. Suppression of images friends post on Facebook This discussion centers on two main tools that Facebook provides for suppressing photographic images, untagging and deleting. When users post images on their Facebook page, they have the option to “tag” the photo by placing the cursor over a portion of the image, causing a list of their Facebook friends to appear. The user can then choose the name of a friend, thus labeling a person in the photograph. Users can only tag people who are part of their Facebook friend network. The notification settings on the site allow users to set up their account so that they receive email alerts, wall postings and news feed alerts when someone else has tagged a photograph of them. In addition, the photo posted by another user will appear in the “view photos of me” section of the user’s profile. Since users can tag themselves and others in photographs that have been posted by others, the tagging function is often used as a projection tool in impression management. The users in this study report that they will tag themselves in other people’s photos for many of the same reasons that they report posting particular images of themselves, such as thinking they look attractive in a photo or liking the image a photo portrayed of their personality. Tagging yourself in an image posted by another user can seem like a particularly authentic form of projection. If the photograph is posted by another, the visual claim being made about a user seems to stem not from the user’s self-interest, but from an unbiased viewer of natural behavior. The fact that the site does not record who has added a tag to a photo allows users to project an image of themselves without drawing attention to their efforts at impression management. While tagging may be used as a tool of projection, “untagging” may be used as a tool of suppression. Once users know that others have tagged them in a photo, they have the option to “untag” the photo, removing their name from the posting. The photograph will still appear in the original album of the person who originally posted the image, but the name label will no longer appear in association with the image and the photograph will no longer be included in the photos of me section of the user’s profile. Thus, by untagging a photo, a user does not completely eliminate an image from Facebook, but significantly reduces the number of people who will connect the image with the untagged user. However, to ensure that other users will not see a particular image on Facebook, the image needs to be deleted from the site. While users can tag their posted photos as well as images posted by others, the site only allows users to delete photos that they have posted themselves. This means that users need to ask another user to remove their photographs if they wish completely suppress the image. While untagging can serve as a stealth form of suppression, deletion requires negotiation with another user and, thus an open acknowledgment of the suppression strategy. 2.1. UNTAGGING The survey data shows that of the 423 users who answered the question about untagging, 55.6% have removed a tag from a photograph posted by another user. The reported use of untagging varied by both gender and age. While 61.6% of female respondents



reported having untagged a photo that another user had posted, only 42.3% of the male respondents reported using untagging (χ2 = 13.2, p=.000). Younger users were more likely than older users to report that they had untagged a photo posted by another user, with 66.4% of 18 to 21-year-olds, 57.4% of 22 to 30-year-olds, and 14.5% of those 31 years and older answering yes to this question (χ2 = 53.1, p=.000). This age data corroborates reports we gathered in the in-depth interviews that older users were not even aware of the option to untag a photo on Facebook. Sometimes people will untag a photo in order to correct misidentification: The photo was not actually of me. The person posting had falsely identified another person as me because we looked similar. In other instances, users will untag duplicates of similar photographs, as when a large group of friends is at an amusement park and everyone gets a picture of the group in front of the same attraction. When all of the friends then post virtually the same photographs, users will report that the duplication is “pointless” and untag all but one of the images. Likewise, users will sometimes remove a tag if the photograph does not show a recognizable image of them: Sometimes people tag me and I untag myself. If it's the back of my head or like, it will be from a top view and you only see the side of my face. That's pointless. I was barely visible in the picture (so I didn't see any point in my being tagged). Finally, the tagging function of Facebook is sometimes used to play practical jokes and users may choose to remove those tags, as articulated by this survey respondent: Because it wasn't me. My friend was trying to play a joke on me by tagging me as a man with eyes on the side of his head like an iguana. However, using untagging to correct mistakes is not a particularly compelling example of impression management. More interesting are the examples of users untagging photos based on their evaluation of the photo content and how other viewers may respond to that content. In these instances, users cite their motivation as being to (1) suppress an unattractive physical depiction, (2) avoid misrepresentation, (3) hide their actions from disapproval or (4) dissociate from a particular social group. Each of these motivations is described below. 2.1.1. Physically Unattractive Images Many users reported that they would untag a photo because they didn’t like how they looked physically. Many explanations were vague references to not “looking good” and many were specific references to looking “fat”. The use of suppression to privilege attractiveness is not surprising in light of the evidence that ideal images of attractiveness also drive projection choices users make in posting profile images (e.g. Siibak, 2009; Author, 2008). In addition, the survey data showed that 65.2% of women as opposed to only 34.0% of men cited their physical appearance as a reason for untagging a photo (χ2 = 15.7, p=.000), again reflecting previous research showing that female projection practices are more likely to be driven by concerns with appearing attractive (e.g. Siibak,



2009; Author, 2008). This was the only reason for untagging that showed a difference according to gender. 2.1.2. Misrepresentation Some users reported untagging a photo because they felt the photo told an untrue story about their character. Underlying these explanations is an understanding that photographs carry multiple interpretations, yet also have evidentiary force. So, for examples, these users explain their untagging choices in terms of why the image misrepresents who they “really” are: Because it had me by alcohol and I do not drink, so I did not want people to get the wrong impression. Because it [the photo] wasn‟t a good depiction of who I was. It made me look drunk and I wasn‟t. [My] friend posted a picture of me along with 15 other people trying to fit in one hot tub. The situation had not been inappropriate, but the picture made it look like it had been. Notice that in these explanations, the users see their actions themselves as being unproblematic. Instead, they find the photographs to be faulty. Thus, suppressing these images seems to be interpreted as an instance of correcting misinformation rather than hiding information or deceiving other users. Sometimes these acts of suppression are aimed at particular viewers whom the user knows will misinterpret the photograph. For example, one male user told a story about his girlfriend getting angry about a photograph in which he and a group of other girls had fallen in a pile on the floor. When the image was posted on Facebook, his girlfriend interpreted the image as being some sort of sexual scene. The male user says he learned from that episode to untag photos of things that “look more incriminating” than they are, because it is “just going to cause unneeded conflict.” 2.1.3. Hiding Actions from Disapproval Guernsey (2008) reports in a New York Times article that college users engage in a Sunday “ritual” in which they untag the partying photographs posted from the night before. Our data supports her claim that users suppress accurate depictions (as opposed to misrepresentations) that they do not want others to see: I had a tagged picture in which I was holding an alcoholic beverage. I didn't want those pictures to be overly public. Notice that this user is not denying that he drinks (as in the misrepresentation examples), but he is suppressing the photo because he thinks some others may disapprove of the fact that he does drink. Often users have very specific audiences in mind when they suppress part of their identity. Many young users talk about untagging photos so that potential employers, professors or parents can not see them. On the other hand, professors tend to suppress the same types of images from their students:



I thought I looked silly and didn't want other people to see the photo. Now that I teach I want to make sure that none of my students see ridiculous photos of me. I am a grad student and have students as "friends" on my Facebook account. Some things they just don't need to see - like me with a giant beer in my hands celebrating Oktoberfest. In general, it seems that suppression is often aimed at managing one’s impression to people of a different age or social standing. We have gathered few examples of users suppressing images specifically from peers, except from romantic partners in an effort to avoid jealousy, as in the example above. One final note is that usually users are basing their evaluations of what content will provoke disapproval on prior experience. The boyfriend in the example above, for instance, makes suppression choices based on prior conflicts with his girlfriend. However, sometimes the rules of disapproval are more formally codified, as in the example below in which an athlete refers to an explicit college policy about what athletes are allowed to post on Facebook: Because there was alcohol in the background - can not have any alcohol, or red cups, in pictures if you are an athlete. In this case, the social sanctions for posting an image that invokes disapproval are clear: suspension from the sports team. In other instances, users may expect a fight with a romantic partner or the loss of a job opportunity if they do not suppress inappropriate images. 2.1.4. Dissociation from Social Group A fourth reason that users cite for suppressing images is to disassociate themselves with people whom they once had a friendship or some other social connection: There were certain people I no longer wished to be affiliated with at one point. [My] ex-girlfriend tagged an awkward photo of homecoming in high school on my profile - something my current girlfriend could see. In both of these cases, users were worried that their reputation would be damaged by depicting an association with certain individuals. This emphasizes the point that impression management is not only about controlling the dissemination of who you are, but also who you know. Finally, there is some evidence, with younger users at least, that untagging is a Facebook social norm: [When asked if he untags photos of himself] No, but I've really thought about it. No I haven't [untagged myself]. I should have but haven't. I've also untagged pictures with alcohol in them, though I haven't done that for a while, maybe I should do that right now...



In all of these quotes, there is an implication that untagging is an acceptable, even desirable thing to do. While suppression could be seen as a deceptive activity, it doesn’t seem to be interpreted that way by most Facebook users. 2.2. DELETION As discussed above, untagging offers somewhat limited suppression of images, since the photographs are still posted on Facebook and other users may chance upon an undesirable depiction. In some instances, this chance seems too great and users desire for the photo to be completely deleted from the site. As mentioned above, users can only delete images they have posted themselves and, therefore, must ask their friends to delete undesirable images on their pages. Only a few participants mentioned having asked a friend to delete a photograph, as in this example: If I look fat or it‟s a bad angle I'll untag it. There have been a few pictures where I'm drunk that I had my friends remove the picture completely. It is not clear from the data collected how often deletion requests are made between friends or whether such requests are awkward to make. In future data collection efforts we will need to ask more specific questions about deletion practices in order to better understand these suppression practices.

3. Suppression of your own projection While the section above addressed user efforts to suppress the visual statements others make of them, sometimes suppression involves undoing a user’s prior act of projection by untagging or deleting an image he or she previously posted. There are several reasons why users might rethink their earlier self-presentation. First, comments made by others may cause a user to take down a profile image. For example, one interviewee talks about how her dad will express his displeasure over her profile image: He [dad] actually will be very simple and just put on my wall „Let‟s fix this.‟ In one instance this user’s father disapproved of her profile image because it looked too tough and like she “was up to no good.” Other times he has urged her to take down images with alcohol. The user reported that she does not necessarily delete the images from her page completely, but she will take them down as her profile image. The one time the same user completely deleted a profile image from her page is described in the passage below: It was a picture that a friend of mine had tagged me in and it was at a party. I think it was a girlfriend of mine‟s 22nd birthday or something and I had a cup in my hand, a red solo cup and the more I thought about it and once I started doing interviews and stuff I was like “I don‟t really know if that‟s really what I want them to see when they open up my profile. It‟s like „Hi, I‟m an alcoholic, please hire me.‟”



Here we see that a shifting understanding of audience prompted the user to delete a photograph she had previously captured from her friend’s page and posted as her profile image. This is a common story for young users as they reach the end of college and desire the approval of a different social group. While many users will simply untag a photograph if they want to disassociate with former friends or romantic partners, some relationships are severed more severely by deleting photos from a profile. For example: [I deleted the photo]…because I didn‟t want him [ex-boyfriend] to think I was stuck on him. I went there [the location in the photo] with my girlfriend at the time...and those pictures were taken out [deleted]…Main reason was because it took a while for her to get over I kind of severed it [the relationship] so she wouldn't get any ideas. In both of these examples, the users want to send a very clear message to their former romantic partners that the relationship is over. What is interesting about how they describe their motivations is that they seem to frame their decisions as direct messages to their ex-partners, not as public statements about their dissociation from their past relationships. If this is the case, this type of deletion may not fall under the umbrella of impression management through suppression. However, more data is needed before a sound conclusion can be reached. While untagging and deletion are tools that Facebook users may employ to suppress content from all other users, privacy settings can be used to block categories of users (by setting it to “friends only” or “only me”) or even particular users from seeing photographic content (by entering the names of specific people you do not want to see your photographs). For example, Guernsey (2008) relates that one woman excluded the “supervisor from her internship who 'friended' her but is many years her senior” from viewing her photos (p. 2). Utz and Kramer (2009) have recently demonstrated in their study of two European SNS, Hyves and StudiVZ, that users may be beginning to use the privacy controls on social networking sites more aggressively than previous studies suggested. Often, this type of self-suppression happens at the time of the projection, rather than as an after-thought as in the examples above. Our interview participants would sometimes spontaneously explained their projection choices by first clarifying their privacy settings in order to make clear to whom they were projecting a particular image. However, other users, when asked about their privacy settings either did not remember and had to check, or asked the researcher to show them how privacy levels could be set (the latter was mostly older users). In addition to restricting access to the photographs that they post themselves, Facebook users have the ability to restrict access to tagged photographs posted by others. While we did not collect data specifically about privacy settings for tagged photos, this seems like an obvious topic for future research in order to help us understand the differences between self-suppression and the suppression of others.



4. A culture of suppression When we look at the suppression activities of Facebook users in conjunction with what we already know about projection practices from previous research, a culture of impression management begins to emerge. While self-presentation is part of all human interaction, social networking sites codify and encourage deliberate impression management in a way that everyday interactions do not. The very structure of a Facebook page encourages an idealized and normative vision of self that is wrapped in a colorful display of popularity and consumerism. However, at the same time, emerging social norms about Facebook usage also reveal a value system that respects the individual’s right to their own personal identity and the right to manage it as they please. Multiple users report that they or their friends have stopped tagging other people in the photos they post, opting instead to send out a message that says “I have put up a new album, take a look and tag yourself if you choose.” While suppression could be negatively portrayed as the deliberate denial of the “truth,” Facebook users seem to have a more nuanced understanding of the nature and importance of truth as it relates to identity. More research is needed, however, in order to better understand the social norms in the Facebook environment. For example, we need data to help us understand the reactions of users if someone untags or asks them to delete a photo they have posted. One survey respondent wrote: I am actually a firm believer in NOT untagging photos, but I have untagged one in my life. It was an embarrassing photo because I was taking pictures on my Mac while on the toilet, and one of my friends made a comment saying "hey, you're in your bathroom right now!" and for some reason I did not want people to know that. Almost all of my friends untag unflattering pictures of them, and I yell at them. I say, "that's how you looked once, it got documented, get over it." Half the time, it's all in their head that they look bad. This is the only evidence we collected that there might be a backlash for untagging a photograph, however, we did not specifically ask about how people feel when others untag, so conclusions about the prevalence of this attitude would be premature. The quote provides an interesting example in that the user admits to breaking her own rule in certain circumstances, suggesting that it might be productive to further explore whether any social stigma exists for users who untag or delete “too much” or who have excessively strict privacy settings. It would also be interesting to explore whether users have different standards for images that they would not post themselves (projection) versus images they would untag or ask a friend to take down (suppression). As opposed to avoidance of projection, suppression practices involve a degree of negotiation with others and a semi-public admission of evidence removal, since users can rarely untag or request deletion of images before anyone has seen them. It is possible that the knowledge that others will be aware of a user’s suppression may shift the boundaries of what gets suppressed versus what is simply not projected. Understanding how identity is defined and managed on social networking sites is central to understanding the culture negotiated by users of these sites. We need to start



looking at impression management not only as a set of projection choices, but also a system of suppression of self and others. A key question should be how users understand their own right and ability to shape not only their own identity, but the identity of others online.

Acknowledgements This research project was funded by a Faculty Research Grant from Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, VA, USA.

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Research on Cyberspace, 3(2), article 2. Retrieved February 15, 2010 from Walther, J.B., Van De Heide, B., Kim, S-Y., Westerman, D., & Tong, S.T. (2008). The role of friends’ appearance and behavior on evaluations of individuals on Facebook: Are we known by the company we keep? Human Communication Research, 34, 28-49. Yurchisin, J., Watchravesringkan, K., & McCabe, D. B. (2005). An exploration of identity recreation in the context of internet dating. Social Behavior and Personality, 33, 735-750. Zarghooni, S. (2007). A study of self-presentation in light of Facebook. Retrieved February 13, 2010 from Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1816-1836.

Appendix – Interview Guide Go over the consent form with the participant and ask them to sign it. Ask the participant to open their Facebook profile page. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Tell me about this profile image. a. What do you personally think about when you look at this photo? How long have you had it up? What prompted you to choose this image? How do you think other people on Facebook react to this image? a. Has anyone commented on the image? In general, what makes a “good” profile image? a. Are there types of profile images that you dislike? What things do you think about when choosing a profile image? a. Do you imagine anyone in particular looking at the images you choose?

Ask the participant to open their profile album (if they haven‟t already in response to one of the earlier questions). Write the number of images they have in that album on the questionnaire. 7.

Let’s just look through some of these and maybe you could tell me why you chose each of these images or what you think is interesting about some of them. 8. Do you ever look at your profile album – if so how often and why? 9. Have you ever deleted an image from your profile album – if so, why? 10. Have you changed your approach to posting profile images over time? Ask the participant to go to the part of the page where their photo albums are posted. Write the number of albums they have posted on the questionnaire. If they do not have any albums, ask them why they do not have albums and whether they have ever had any albums that they deleted. Then, skip to question # 21b. 11. Why do you have these albums?



12. What may occur in your life to make you decide you want to make a Facebook album? a. How do you decide what photos are grouped together in an album? b. Does each album have similar content or does it vary? c. Approximately how many photos does each album contain? 13. What are the privacy settings on your photo album(s) (only friends, everyone, friends of friends)? Why? 14. How long will you keep an album up on facebook? Why? 15. Have you ever deleted an album or certain pictures within an album? a. What caused you to do this? 16. What kind of editing do you do to your photos in an album(s) (cropping, color change, adding text, etc.)? a. How often do you edit photos? b. Why do you edit photos? 17. How do you pick which photo you want as your “album cover”? 18. How do you come up with a title for your album(s)? 19. How do you write captions for your photos? a. What are you trying to do with the writing (inform, be funny, etc.)? 20. Do you “tag” people in your album(s)? a. How often? b. Do you ever request to be tagged in someone else’s photo album? Why? c. Do you ever “untag” yourself from someone else’s photo album? Why? 21. Do you ever you leave a comment on someone else’s photo album(s)? a. Under what circumstances?

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds). Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology 2010, Murdoch University, Australia, 300-314.

DIFFERENT DISCUSSIONS ON ROBOETHICS AND INFORMATION ETHICS BASED ON DIFFERENT CULTURAL CONTEXTS (BA) Discussions on robots, informatics and life in the information era in Japanese bulletin board forums and mass media

MAKOTO NAKADA University of Tsukuba Tennoudai1-1-1, Tsukuba-shi Ibaraki, 305-8571 Japan

Abstract. In this paper, I will analyze „what sort of invisible reasons lie

behind differences of discussions on roboethics and IE (Information Ethics) in Japan and “Western” cultures‟, focusing on (1) the recent trends of researches in roboethics in „Western‟ cultures, (2) the tendencies of portrayal of robots, ICTs, Informatics, life in the information era reflected in news papers reports and talks on BBSs in Japan. As we will see in this paper, Japanese people have difficulty in understanding some of the key concepts used in the fields of roboethics and IE (Information Ethics) such as „autonomy‟ or „responsibility (of robots)‟,etc. This difficulty appears to derive from different types of discussions based on of different cultural contexts (Ba) in which the majority of people in each culture are provided with a certain sort of shared/ normalized frames of narratives. In my view and according to some Japanese critics or authors, senses of „reality‟ of Japanese people are strongly related with „emotional sensitivity to things/persons/events in life‟ or „direct-<non>mediated-intuitive awareness/knowing‟ (Izutsu, 2001). These tendencies in Japanese minds seem to influence their limited interest in the „abstract‟ discussions as well as in straightforward emotional expressions with regard to robots and ICTs.

1. Introduction I want to start discussions in this paper with my personal experiences in my university class during which I dealt with one of Yasujiro Ozu‟s well known films, „Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story).‟ A lot of „foreign‟ graduate students were in my class, from Ukraine, China, Korea, Indonesia and they talked about their impressions on this film and how to „analyze‟ this film as a work symbolizing Japanese culture. The remark of one of the students from Ukraine was very interesting. He said that in order to



understand this film we have to avoid critical eyes tied with critical minds, abstract concepts, dogmatic views like the eyes they (people in the former Soviet Union) used to have. And he added, „This film has a topic of changing family relations after the world war but Ozu‟s intention is not directed to critical portrayal of this phenomenon, he seems to show us the importance of aesthetic acceptance of sensitivity to this matter in life.‟ (I added some supplements to his words.) And some Chinese students said that they were surprised to find out restraint of direct emotional expressions among family members in this film because there is no remoteness or indirectness of human relations among Chinese family members. I my view, these remarks show some of the fundamental traits of Japanese culture and ways of Japanese narratives used in this modern era as well as in the previous eras: (1) tendency to avoid abstract concepts in various aspects of life; (2) tendency to avoid straightforward emotional expressions; (3) as a result, almost everything, subjects of ethical discussions, human relations, evaluation of things, incidents in war time, lies in the cultural contexts based on „orientations to “direct bonds among persons-things (Mono), inner minds (Kokoro)-outer events (Koto), persons-persons, things (Mono) and events (Koto)” through “mediated –indirect ways of expression of common/shared senses or emotions”‟ (with regard to Koto, Mono, see Bin Kimura, 1994). Take for instance the following poem (Haiku) by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). Furu ike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto (an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water) In my own interpretation, within this poem, through this poetic expression, we experience some sort of oneness (Ichinyo) of the poet, flog, old pond, sound of jumping flog, Basho‟ ears, our own ears, i.e. direct connection(s) among facts/expressions, Mono/ words, persons/ objects. It seems that we have difficulty in explaining this sense of oneness by logical sentences using abstract concepts. „Oneness‟ is an abstract concept on the one hand but in the case of Basho‟s Haiku, „oneness‟ has no meaning without „emotional sensitiveness to‟ these connections. In addition, senses or emotions found in this poem, or in this „oneness‟, can‟t emerge without indirect-mediated ways of expression. In this sense, this direct connection of Mono, Koto is based on indirect expressions. One of the scenes in the film produced during the world war shows direct bonds (connections) among persons (soldiers) and persons (soldiers), things (Mono) and events (Koto) through a sort of „ emotional senses to body‟ as something similar to „schème corprorel (body schema) (Merleau-Ponty,1945 ).‟ The following shows the talks of soldiers in the front line to whom some good cigarettes and cigarettes of medium quality are rationed. The soldiers‟ emotional sensitivity to life or their destiny emerges through restrained-indirect referring to their mortal bodies, or through calm talks at this special moment between death and life. Soldier A: Let‟s try these medium ones. Good cigarettes should be reserved for better occasions. Soldier B: Nonsense! We might lose our life at the next moment. If we might miss good ones, we would regret not having tried these good ones forever.



Soldier A, other soldiers: (Silent) Soldier A: I see. Let‟s try these good ones. (Goninn no sekkouhei =5 scouting soldiers) (1938,directed by Tomotaka Tasaka) In my view, in the previous eras and also even in the modern era, some Japanese scholars or authors, who are sensitive to this kind of phenomena or experiences associated with „intersubjective sensitivity‟ or „common-shared forms of narratives‟ (based on emotional sensitivity to the beings in this world), have tried to put these intuitively/ metaphorically expressed phenomena or experiences into more clear terms. For instance, according to Toshihiko Izutsu, Dougen, a famous Zen Buddhist priest (1200-1253) in Kamakura era of Japan, tried to bring Being ,which is dried up by process of articulation of beings or by grasp of essence based on the process of articulation of beings, into the state of „articulation of beings without grasping of essence‟ and he (Dougen) also tried to bring Being into its original fluency (Izutsu, 1991). And in this sense, in the case of Basho‟s Haiku too, things, persons, events lie in the situation of fluid or active process of interchange of articulation and inarticulation: oneness. Yujiro Nakamura suggests us that Kitaro Nishida tried to regain meanings of beings based on Mu (nothingness) or „predicative substrata (substratum)‟ which is in contrast with subjective substrata. In this sense, Mu is not understood as mere emptiness but as a source of beings (Yu) on which articulations of beings is founded. According to Nakamura, oneness of Mu and Yu, or oneness of subjects and objects, oneness of events (Koto) and words (Koto=Gen) needs Ba (or Bamen) (Place, Feld) where „coming together‟ of subjects and objects, events (Koto) and words (Koto=Gen) is possible. This Ba or Bamen includes, Nakamura insists (while citing the works of Motoki Tokieda, a Japanese linguist (Tokieda, 2008)), things, scenes, subject‟s (someone‟s) attitudes, subject‟s feelings, subject‟s emotions (Nakamura, 2001). In the case of Basho‟s Haiku and also in the case of Goninn no sekkouhei, it seems that events, flog pond, sound, silence, soldiers‟ minds, cigarettes are located upon (or within) the Ba or Bamen. I agree with Nakamura in this sense. Bin Kimura, a Japanese psychiatrist who is influenced by Kitaro Nishida, ZenBuddhism and Heidegger, says that in every case of our perception, we feel, if we carefully see what happens, that the objects of our perception have some kind of active selfness, i.e. the objects as reflection of our own self-experiences (Kimura, 1975, p.6). In my view, these remarks shown here including my own ones can provide people, who are unaware of these presuppositions in Japanese culture, with starting points on which they can see where the main problems dealt with in this paper lie: robots and high-tech products in different cultural contexts or Ba (Place). I think that at least those who know about some of the typical robots in Japan (Aibo, Asimo, Paro, Wakamaru) can now easily imagine what „Ba (Place)‟ or „emotional sensitivity to things‟ means with regard to Japanese robots: Japanese robots seem to emerge with some sort of images such as „Iyashi (healing, peace of mind, calmness)‟, „Kawaii (cute)‟, „Itukushimu (loving)‟, „Nagoyaka (harmonious, gentle), „Kizutuku-kokoro (sensitive inner minds)‟ which can‟t be separated from Japanese „intersubjective sensitivity‟ or „emotional Ba (Place).‟



To put this another way, Japanese robots are (seem to be) interacting with people in the cultural contexts (Ba) where abstract concepts and talks based on abstract/logical concepts are far less important than communication based on indirect-mediated emotions and feelings.

2. Robots and roboethics in Japanese cultural contexts and ‘Western’ culture(s) 2.1. ROBOTS IN JAPANESE CULTURE As I said somewhere else (Author, 2009), in my view, Japanese people including myself have difficulty in understanding „why some of the main topics, i.e. „autonomy‟, „responsibility (of robot, or of artificial agent)‟ (and the topic „robot and ethics‟ itself) in robotics and roboethics in “Western” culture(s) are so eagerly discussed by scholars and authors in „Western‟ culture(s).‟ According to Veruggio and Operto (Veruggio and Operto, 2006), “the name Roboethics was officially proposed during the First International Symposium of Roboethics (Sanremo, 2004), and rapidly showed its potential.” In fact, so far as I took a look at the related papers or journals, I have to agree with Veruggio and Operto when they point out in such way: Robotics (and perhaps roboethics) is a new science still in the defining stage and needs a bottom-up Interdisciplinary discourse (...). (Veruggio and Operto, 2006). But whenever I asked the graduate and undergraduate students in my classes (dealing with the information society and particularly with values and ethics in information society) about the importance of this new field of studies and also the importance of discussions in this field, most of them answered, „no.‟ And it seems that these negative and passive attitudes towards roboethics are not confined to my students. In fact, some Japanese scholars have similar opinions in this regard. For example, Naho Kitano says that Japanese scholars in robotics have been showing very limited interests in ethical discussions with regard to usage of robots, while they have been focusing on enhancing the mechanical functionality of robots and that in this sense their attitudes and interests are different from those of scholars in the West(..). (Kitano, 2006). But the important fact we should take into consideration is that these negative and passive attitudes don‟t necessarily mean Japanese negative attitudes towards robots and robotics themselves. Quite the contrary, as we know, Japanese have strong interests in robots and interactions with robots, Tamagochi, cartoon-like robots, robot images in Manga (comics), pet robots. In fact, according to the report of Japan Robot Association, Japan is No. 1 in the world with regard to use of robots (http://www/ In this sense, as I said before somewhere else (Nakada, 2009), this unawareness of the importance of roboethics itself might be considered to be a subject for ethical discussions for Japanese people themselves. Because just as I suggested before in this paper, if this unawareness is due to the differences in the cultural contexts (Ba) where robots in different cultures find their own cultural/spiritual/practical meanings, Japanese people might be under unexpected influence by both robots from „foreign‟ cultural



contexts (Ba) or their own cultural contexts (Ba), because people might not be able to see these cultural contexts (Ba) clearly, even if they live in these cultural contexts (Ba). The case of the research by AIST (the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) using Paro as Japanese pet robot shows us that the true sources from which the „healing‟ (Iyashi) effects of Paro come might remain invisible, because the scientific and objective data reported in these researches can‟t give us any concrete information on which aspect(s) of the „therapeutic‟ interaction with Paro has (have) real effects. The following is part of PR about the „therapeutic‟ results of the research by AIST. According to this report, this research done in 2003 and 2004 in Japan was fantastic in that aged people‟s minds and health improved better after communication with Paro. In this way, the contact with PARO proved to be therapeutically effective: psychologically, cheering up (Fig. 3), exhilarating, and improving the depression (Fig. 4); physiologically, remitting stress (Fig. 5); and socially, augmenting interaction among the aged and with nursing personnel and bringing bright atmosphere. The normally tight-lipped elderly become smiley and willing to talk about pet animal he/she had kept before. (AIST press released on September 17, 2004 (

The problem of this research is that the „true‟ causes of the effects remain unclear. These effects might be due to the synergistic influence by communication with AIST research members or with the other subjects as well as to invisible cultural contexts (Ba). 2.2. AUTONOMY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF ROBOTS IN „WESTERN‟ CULTURE(S) As I said before, I think that Japanese people including myself have difficulty in understanding the importance of some of the ethical topics of robots/roboethics. Especially, in the case of ethical discussions on „autonomy‟, the distance between „East‟ and „West‟ seems to be far greater than we might expect. I understand that this topic, „autonomy‟ and the related topics such as „responsibility‟ are considered to be among the main and the most important topics in the fields of roboethics or HRI (human-robot interaction) in Europe and the USA. And as we will see later in this section, not in a few cases, discussions on „autonomy of robots‟ in the fields of robotics and roboethics in Europe and the USA are closely related with discussions on „responsibility of robot.‟ In this respect, the ethical distance between „East‟ and „West‟ is growing. It seems to be possible for Japanese to understand the discussions on „morality‟ or „responsibility‟ of users, designers or manufactures of robots. But „morality of robots‟, „responsibility of robots‟ or „autonomy of robots‟ (the meanings of „autonomy‟ which can‟t be reduced to „automatic functions of robots‟) are beyond their (our) understanding or even imagination. The following can be regarded as typical cases of discussions on these topics in „Western‟ culture(s). John Sullins‟ discussions on „autonomy‟ or „morality‟ of robots are among the typical ones which appear to be „strange‟ for people with „Eastern‟ eyes. Sullins writes: “In certain circumstances robots can be seen as real moral agents. A distinction is made



between persons and moral agents such that, it is not necessary for a robot to have personhood in order to be a moral agent (Sullins, 2007).” According to Sullins‟ views, we can see a robot as a moral agent, on condition that the three requirements are fulfilled, i.e. „autonomy‟, „intention‟, and „responsibility.‟ The requirement of „autonomy‟ as a moral agent will be achieved when “the robot is significantly autonomous from any programmers or operators of the machine.” And „intention‟ can be achieved when “one can analyze or explain the robot‟s behavior only by ascribing it to (its) some predisposition or (its) „intention‟ to do good or harm.” And „responsibility‟ means, in this case, that “robot moral agency requires the robot to behave in a way that shows and understanding of responsibility to some other moral agent.” In my view, and perhaps in the views of authors in the tradition of Hermeneutics (Heidegger, 1953, Gadamer, 1960), in any case, we can‟t be perfectly free from some theoretical or cultural presuppositions. I think that in the cases of those discussions of „Western‟ scholars and authors, we can see some invisible/hidden presuppositions, for example, „standing points of scholars and authors.‟ When we take into consideration the main purpose of this paper, we can‟t get into inner structures of „Western‟ minds and cultural contexts, but it might not be so difficult to see that in the discussions on robots in „Western‟ Ba (Place), „abstract‟ concepts are important, while, on the other hand, the standing points of „real‟ humans using these „abstract‟ concepts are sometimes/often invisible. And this means that, in the case of Sullins‟ discussions, the necessity for such discussions remains invisible or hidden. It is clear that robots are not merely abstract and logical beings but they are beings in our common world where people are motivated by a variety of concrete necessities. And when we notice that these hidden/deleted necessities are associated with the use or selection of abstract concepts/terms, the deletion or erase of the standing points might bring about unexpected influences on the „logical/ scientific‟ discussions themselves. The following is citation or summarization of Floridi‟s views on „mind-less morality‟ by Sullins. In my view, we have to pay careful attention to the deleted necessities and the deleted or hidden term „ascription‟ as well as to „analysis (by human beings)‟ and „explaining (by human beings)‟ in this citation. Otherwise, we might not be able to see the important fact: The „autonomy‟ and „morality‟ of robots can‟t be divided from „ascription‟ or „interpretation‟ by human beings. Sullins seems to sometimes forget to use the term „ascription (by human beings)‟ in a clear way. And this lack of the term „ascription‟ itself might bring about unexpected/invisible confusions or misunderstandings in regard to „the meanings of autonomy, responsibility of robots‟ just as in the case of discussions on „mind-less morality.‟ If an agent‟s actions are interactive and adaptive with their surroundings through state changes or programming that is still somewhat independent from the environment the agent finds itself in, then that is sufficient for the entity to have its own agency (Floridi and Sanders, 2004).

It is clear that we can (or should) add the deleted terms or descriptions, „to ascribe‟, or „can be seen by us or someone (for example, the authors themselves)‟ to this sentence. In this sense, Rafael Capurro is completely right when he says: „It is, following the Kantian argument, impossible to create an artificial living or non-living moral being



because freedom and autonomy are not a quality of sensory natural and/or artificial beings (Capurro, in print).‟ I agree with Capurro in that „autonomy‟ and „responsibility‟ of robots can be embodied into robots by „ascription‟ of human beings. The following is part of Brian R. Duffy‟s discussions on the morality of robots (Duffy, 2006). The issue of moral rights and duties arises from two perspectives. The first is whether a machine should be programmed to be morally capable of assessing its actions within the context of its interaction with people (this includes the evolution of behavioural mechanisms and associated moral “values”). The second perspective is whether it is necessary to have human capabilities in order to be able to assess morality.

Although these discussions sound interesting and objective at first glance, but just as in the case of Sullins‟s paper, the starting points of discussions, the necessities of paying attention on these topics, „morality‟ and „autonomy‟, are invisible. In the case of Veruggio‟s paper too, the necessities of starting discussions on the morality of robots are not clear (Veruggio and Operto, 2006). In his paper on „Roboethics Roadmap‟ he (they) starts (start) his (their) discussions on roboethics with the simple question: “Could a robot do „good‟ and „evil‟?”; “Could robots be dangerous for humankind?” These are very simple questions, but we can‟t find any particular reasons why he (we) has (have) to start from this point. Veruggio cites Galvan‟s remarks on the relations between technology and human beings in order to show the validity of his views on robots, i.e. „Robots have ethical dimensions‟, or „An ethical dimension is intrinsic within robots.‟ In this view, an ethical dimension is intrinsic within robots. This derives from a conception according to which technology is not an addition to man but is, in fact, one of the ways in which mankind distinguishes itself from animals (Galvan, 2003).

It is true that „technology is not an addition to man but is, in fact, one of the ways in which mankind distinguishes itself from animals‟, but this doesn‟t lead automatically to the different conclusion: „Robots have ethical dimensions.‟ In Peter Asaro‟s paper, he tires to combine the concepts, „autonomy (of robots)‟ and „morality (of robots)‟ with the other concept, „rights (of robots)‟, asking “how legal theory, or jurisprudence, might be applied to robots?” In order to avoid the impression, „robots‟ rights‟ are completely absurd and ridiculous‟, he tries to show the validity of his discussions, while insisting as follows (Asaro, 2007). Most notably, the case of unborn human fetuses, and the case of severely brain damaged and comatose individuals have led to much debate in the United States over their appropriate legal status and rights.

But again in these discussions, the presuppositions and the necessities of discussions on morality, autonomy, legal rights of robots are still invisible.



3. Robots, ICTs, Informatics, Life in the information era in Japanese culture with emotional sensitivity and with limited abstract concepts 3.1. ANALYSIS ON PORTRAYAL OF ROBOTS, ICTS, INFORMATICS, LIFE IN THE INFORMATION ERA IN JAPANESE MASS MEDIA AND WEBSITES As I said before in this paper, in my view, we can‟t be completely free from any theoretical or cultural presuppositions, especially when we want to talk about the meanings of technologies, science in our everyday life, because technologies and science of today are part of our life which is based on our necessities, desires, beliefs, human relations. In the case of the ongoing discussions on ethical aspects of robots and information technologies, as we have seen, the implicitly or explicitly chosen starting points as presuppositions seem to exert influence on the directions of discussions. In my view, it seems that Japanese robots are (seem to be) interacting with people in the cultural contexts (Ba) as in the case of Paro. And it seems that these cultural contexts (Ba) influence upon the contents and tendencies of discussions in a such a way: People prefer „discussions based on “intersubjective sensitivity”‟ to discussions based on abstract and logical concepts. In order to confirm the validity of this hypothesis (at least partly), I have attempted to analyze the contents of discussions, news reports, talks in Japanese mass media and in Japanese web bulletin boards, focusing on the terms used in these discussions, news reports and talks. The reason for adopting this type of analysis, i.e. focusing on the terms used in mass media and websites is due to my interests and the present situations regarding ethical studies on robots as well ICTs in Japan: (1) The efforts of presenting the overviews of the discussions on robots and information technologies in Japan have not been done yet; (2) At this first stage of studies or of presenting an overview, it might be a better choice to focus on the terms which can be analyzed (counted) objectively; (3) By combining the objective methodologies of analysis with qualitative analysis, we might be able to find out some invisible traits of Japanese cultural contexts (Ba). 3.2. METHODS AND FINDINGS OF CONTENT ANALYSIS The following shows the methods used in this content analysis and the subjects of analysis. Methods: quantitative content analysis using KH-Coder and ChaSen. KH-coder is free software for text mining developed by Kouichi Higuchi (University of Oosaka). ChaSen is a tool for morphological analysis of natural language (Japanese) developed by NAIST (Nara Institute of Science and Technology). Language structures of Japanese as a natural language consist of a sequence of letters and characters in the following way: Kinouwatashihakarenitokyodeatta. By using ChaSen, we can change this sequence into groups of letters and characters (i.e. morphemes) in this way: „Kinou watashi ha kare ni tokyo de atta.‟ By combining KH-coder and Chasen, we can get a list of terms (morphemes) used in a certain set of texts, i.e. a list of frequencies of the terms which



provides us with hints about the tendencies and the directions of discussions and discourses in the set of texts. The subjects of analysis: (1) News reports of A