Patricia Lange, PhD: “Morality, Anonymity, Learning, and Friendship in a Fractalized World”

May 1, 2008 | USC ICT

Speaker: Patricia Lange
Host: David Traum

From online text games to YouTube, ethnographic insights have empirically challenged common sense assumptions about mediated interaction. These common sense notions include: 1) anonymity is the source of hostile interaction online; 2) children do not learn much by playing games or exchanging pointless, degraded, viral videos on YouTube; 3) the public/private dichotomy has collapsed in a post-Fordist, Internet era, such that notions of privacy are untenable. First, the talk will demonstrate that in many cases it is concerns about the known moral positions of interlocutors rather than pure anonymity that drives online hostility. Second, it will also show that children may learn a lot by participating in online groups, playing games, and circulating personal videos. Specifically, people learn how to accomplish forms of self-directed learning, how to create a mediated self-presentation in an increasingly wired world, and how to evaluate media by learning how it is put together. Finally, the talk will also illustrate how the study of video sharing practices has revealed more nuanced understanding of the public/private dichotomy. Applying theories from semiotics, it argues that the public/private dichotomy is actually a fractalized relationship, and it proposes intermediate forms that I call “publicly private” and “privately public” forms of video sharing. Based on ten years of ethnographic research that combines observation, participation, interviews, and analysis of discourse and artifacts, this talk will re-examine oft-cited conclusions about mediated interaction and will provide suggestions for future research in these areas.