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03 March 2007


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Thanks for recommending Thomas Ryberg's paper. It is very interesting work. Chris Jones' work is obviously important but another good writer on strong and weak ties is Caroline Haythornthwaite. I have posted a blog entry with some refs and links over at http://elgg.net/francesbell/weblog/156904.html

Thanks for mentioning the paper (which I should have mentioned also to attribute to Malene Charlotte Larsen, who is the co-author). On the discussion of online/offline I have become fond of using the term on-life as an alternative. This is basically to get rid of the dichotomy and stress the interplay between online/offline. But this is sort of an academic viewpoint on methodology and also a theoretical discussion (though also thoroughly empirically founded)

However, I do also agree with you and Stan that there may be a need to describe the distinction, as often a lot of people do speak of a difference (as you mention with IRL)...so maybe a pragmatic or ethnographic approach would be to actually research when or in what situations people would talk about online/offline or real vs. virtual (which I don't like either).

My guess would be that some fields of activity would be described as more 'online' or 'virtual' than others, where e.g. instant messaging or mailing would be less 'virtual' than e.g Second Life or WoW. I would think that in people's own descriptions there would be a continuum that would - if not completely dissolve the dichotomy - then at least render it more diverse than polar oppositions. I think this is how I would approach the distinction.

Interesting point Thomas - I think you'rew absolutely correct in thinking the perceptions of online/offline/real/virtual aren't necessarily pure. My experience is the same as your - actually most people don't consider email to be "online" these days but do consider social technologies such as blogs and IM as online. It has occurred to me whether the real distinction is one of familiarity and maybe the terms "known" and "alien" might better describe the psychology here. Certainly, one of the key barriers I believe we're encountering here is one of the fear of the unknown "online" world that most of our students are engaging in and that such fear puts a significant pychological barrier in the way of considering how these "alien" technologies might be used in education.

So, maybe we're just back to square one again - we've dealt with technophobia on numerous occasions and perhaps it's just back to the drawing board to figure out our latest angle of attack on an old adversary!

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