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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  10 New Approaches to the New Media and Civic Engagement Debate Reconceptualizing the Web So, why is the Web such a problematic variable in social science research? The reasons are numerous, but the most important can be summarized as follows. Even if we agree with the premise that doing the effects research on the level of the medium is acceptable (i.e. television effects, video game effects), we still need a magician or an alchemist to turn newspapers into television programs or comic books into video games (i.e. to transform ink into electromagnetic waves). In case of the Internet, a college dropout will do, just ask for Shawn Fanning of Napster. In the online world, it is just a matter of code and inspiration for new applications or transformations of the existing ones. Our problem is that the Internet has become a generic term used by researchers to describe anything from e-mailing and chatting, to watching political speeches and downloading music. In the offline world, we sometimes argue that medium is the message, so why should that be different in the online world? There are only two things common to all Internet applications, the packet-switching technology and the protocol, TCP/IP. Social scientists have not, however, rushed to investigate the effects of circuit switched vs. packet switched networks (or the effects IPv4 vs. IPv6) on human behavior, but they have instead focused on the Internet applications, most notably the Web. In general, studies have either analyzed the effects of using “the Internet” or “the Web” as a whole, or have examined the effects of specific software applications/technologies, like bulletin boards, chat-groups, e-mail, etc. While it can be argued that the former approach made sense during the mid-nineties, when the technology was still new, it is increasingly

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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New Approaches to the New Media and Civic Engagement Debate
Reconceptualizing the Web
So, why is the Web such a problematic variable in social science research? The
reasons are numerous, but the most important can be summarized as follows. Even if we
agree with the premise that doing the effects research on the level of the medium is
acceptable (i.e. television effects, video game effects), we still need a magician or an
alchemist to turn newspapers into television programs or comic books into video games
(i.e. to transform ink into electromagnetic waves). In case of the Internet, a college
dropout will do, just ask for Shawn Fanning of Napster. In the online world, it is just a
matter of code and inspiration for new applications or transformations of the existing
ones. Our problem is that the Internet has become a generic term used by researchers to
describe anything from e-mailing and chatting, to watching political speeches and
downloading music. In the offline world, we sometimes argue that medium is the
message, so why should that be different in the online world? There are only two things
common to all Internet applications, the packet-switching technology and the protocol,
TCP/IP. Social scientists have not, however, rushed to investigate the effects of circuit
switched vs. packet switched networks (or the effects IPv4 vs. IPv6) on human behavior,
but they have instead focused on the Internet applications, most notably the Web. In
general, studies have either analyzed the effects of using “the Internet” or “the Web” as a
whole, or have examined the effects of specific software applications/technologies, like
bulletin boards, chat-groups, e-mail, etc. While it can be argued that the former approach
made sense during the mid-nineties, when the technology was still new, it is increasingly


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