"an emerging global village represents only one outcome from a range of possibilities. It is also possible that improving communications access through emerging technology will fragment society and balkanize interactions"
Van Alstyne, M & Brynjolfsson, E. (1996). Electronic Communities: Global Village or Cyberbalkans?, MIT.
The first publication of the word “cyberbalkanization,” the phenomenon the researchers proposed could result from the global information infrastructure, leading to “the division of the internet into narrowly focused, like-minded individuals who dislike or have little patience for outsiders.” (definition from WordSpy).
The researchers propose an integration model to counteract this possible outcome of information technologies.
In a nutshell:
If IT provides a lubricant that allows for the satisfaction of preferences against the friction of geography, then more IT can imply that people increasingly fulfill their preferences. A preference for contact that is more focused than contacts available locally leads to narrower interactions. Thus local heterogeneity can give way to virtual homogeneity as communities coalesce across geographic boundaries.
See also: WiseGeek.
"Plato observed that even a habitually just man who possessed such a ring would become a thief, knowing that he couldn’t be caught."
Online, Anonymity Breeds Contempt. A historical perspective on anonymity from an article on internet trolling on NYT.com in 2010.
BUT! Anonymity isn’t the only issue. Here’s a report from The Guardian in 2007 including this quote from Dr Chris Fullwood, “internet researcher”:
Removing anonymity may have some small effect, but not a massive one. This is because a number of factors contribute towards what psychologists call online disinhibition. Removing one of them - the anonymity - and not removing any of the others means it will probably still occur as people remain invisible and so can disassociate their online from their offline persona.
(note many of the links in the guardian article are broken/old!)
"In this work we examine the complex interplay between the needs and desires of news commenters with the functioning of different journalistic approaches toward managing comment quality."
Diakopolous, N. & Naaman, M. (2011). Towards quality discourse in online news comments. Proceedings of the ACM 2011 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperarative Work. New York, NY.
A few notes/quotes from the article:
Early work in Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) has documented how a lack of status cues and social context can introduce unwelcome low-quality contributions into online communication systems. Quality in this context refers to a degree of excellence in communicating knowledge or intelligence and normatively includes notions of accuracy, reliability, validity, currency, relevancy, comprehensiveness, and clarity [30, 31]. In the realm of online comments low-quality contributions might include “flaming” and more impulsive remarks  and are often implicated with anonymity, with less anonymity linked to higher quality comments.
crowd-based moderation has been effective, but this relies on two things: 1) pervasive and consistent online identities and 2) a homogenous attitude about what’s “good” and what’s “bad” amongst community members.
"While online, some people self-disclose or act out more frequently or intensely than they would in person. This article explores six factors that interact with each other in creating this online disinhibition effect: dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority. Personality variables also will influence the extent of this disinhibition. Rather than thinking of disinhibition as the revealing of an underlying “true self,” we can conceptualize it as a shift to a constellation within self-structure, involving clusters of affect and cognition that differ from the in-person constellation."
Suler, J. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, Vol 7(3): 321-326.
Just the abstract. AKA GIFT.
Over the next two months, I’ll be untangling the effects of the World Wide Web from six more human social phenomena, documenting findings from the academic research and interviews with experts here and in the fortnightly columns in The Observer.
I’ve already looked at a whole host of topics including social change, love, hate, sex, health, family, religion, disability and Britishness - among many others. You can read the research on each of these topics by clicking on their tags at the bottom of this post.
Looking forward, I’ll be asking how digital media has - or hasn’t - transformed the experiences and functions of serendipity and discovery, education, life stages (from birth to old age), home, intellectual property and death.
Send your thoughts on these topics to firstname.lastname@example.org or to @aleksk, and I’ll try to include your responses on the blog and in the column.
I wrote in my column about online hate, published on Sunday 12 December 2010, that Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo had conducted research that described how the context of anonymity was as important as the deindividuating effects of the anonymity itself. In fact, the authors of the study - Deindividuation and valence of cues: Effects on prosocial and antisocial behavior - were Robert Johnson & Leslie Downing. The article was published in JPSP in September 1979.
The argument I made using this evidence still stands.
Mea maxima culpa.