E376S: Assignment 1
Topic Proposal/Preliminary Description
Due: February 12, 2001
- The purpose of this paper is two-fold: (1) to serve as a topic proposal for the longer, twenty-page paper you will complete by the end of the semester; (2) to provide me and a classmate (your writing "buddy") with a preliminary description of the online forum/community you propose to study.
- In this assignment, you should identify the medium in which your community exists (chatroom, IRC, MUD, newsgroup, interactive mailing list), you should identify the topic usually discussed in the forum, where relevant, and you should provide some preliminary sense of the participants. You may not have detailed information about the latter until you have studied the forum for awhile, but you should at least be able to identify the audience as, for example: people from around the world interested in educational MOOs; people from around the world interested in knitting; people (normally from the Austin area) interested in gardening in central Texas; students from the University of Texas enrolled in a particular class that uses a local newsgroup; people from the U.S. interested in a particular soap opera; or people from around the world collaborating in building a virtual environment (e.g., a MOO). Some of this information will be provided by a FAQ, newsgroup charter, or AUP, but you may, in the course of your study find interesting interactions between regular participants in the forum and various kinds of visitors (wanted or unwanted). You may also find that your community is in the process of changing its topic/interest/focus, or that it is dividing into factions that might produce a split. You may find interesting "meta-discussions" about the purpose or functioning of the community.
- You should also describe what you find interesting about this forum as an object of ethnographic study. For example, it may be highly interactive; it may raise interesting questions about how gender (or perceived gender) affects online communication; there may be explicit or tacit "rules" for communication (e.g., speech-like, vs. well-written and edited). It may be a community in the process of change or a community that is sometimes under attack; it may be a community that fosters affiliation and support; or it may be a community that encourages competition; there may be "net.gods" or "net.goddesses" who provide leadership, or it may be a group in which certain kinds of status are well-defined or in constant flux, and you are interested in how status and authority are established and maintained within the community.
- Finally, you should provide a brief description of how you will collect and store data concerning interactions (logging, archives, saving messages etc.).
- Please remember to bring two copies to class: one for me and one for your writing "buddy." I will ask you to write the name of your "buddy" on the paper you hand in to me, and I will ask "buddies" to return the version of the paper with their comments to the write within three to five days.
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Comments to: Sara Kimball
Last updated January, 2001