Virtual Culture: Identity and Communication in Cybersociety


Edited by: Steven Jones

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    For Jodi—the greatest IRL and everywhere


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    Notes on Contributors

    Harris Breslow ( received his doctorate from the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois. He currently teaches philosophy and cultural history in the Mass Communications Programme at York University, Toronto, Canada. He is completing a manuscript on the relationship between architectural and economic spaces.

    Dawn Dietrich ( is Assistant Professor of English at Western Washington University. She has published articles on postmodern performance and electronic culture and is currently at work on a book-length manuscript about theater practitioner Robert Wilson and the politics of the postmodern stage.

    Nicole B. Ellison is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, focusing on the social aspects of computer-mediated communication. Before attending graduate school, she worked at the Voyager Co. and other software development companies in Los Angeles, California.

    Jan Fernback ( is a doctoral candidate at the Center for Mass Media Research, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Colorado. She is currently writing a dissertation on computer-mediated social relations which problematizes the concept of community as manifested in cyberspace. Her research interests include utopianism and new media technologies and the anthropology of cyberculture.

    Steven G. Jones ( is Professor and Chair of the Faculty of Communication at the University of Tulsa. A social historian of communication technology, his book CyberSociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community was published in 1995 and earned him critical acclaim. Jones has made presentations to scholarly and business groups about the Internet and social change and about the Internet's social and commercial uses. He also pursues research into popular music, youth culture, and communication. His first book, Rock Formation: Technology, Music and Mass Communication, was nominated for the BMI/Rolling Stone Gleason Award and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research Award.

    Richard C. MacKinnon ( after spending several years in Silicon Valley is a political scientist in the Government Department and the Advanced Communication Technologies Laboratory (ACTLAB) at the University of Texas at Austin. As a former police officer, he is able to draw on his law enforcement background to inform his theories for addressing computer-mediated crime and virtual offenders. His research interests are in the political anthropology, cultural study, and governance of virtual environments. He spends most of his online time dwelling in a community called Cybermind.

    Margaret L. McLaughlin ( is Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, and a member of the Faculty of the Integrated Media Systems Center. She is Co-Editor of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication and serves on the Editorial Boards of Text, Communication Research, and Progress in Communication Science. She has written, edited, and co-edited several books, including Conversation: How Talk is Organized; The Psychology of Tactical Communication and Network and Net-Play: Virtual Groups on the Internet (1996). Her interests include discourse analysis, group communication, and computer-mediated communication.

    Ananda Mitra ( is an assistant professor of communication at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. He has published in the areas of critical studies, popular culture, and technology, particularly about the conditions in South East Asia and about South East Asian immigrants. His interest in the Internet stems from his personal use of the Net and in teaching courses in communication, technology, and culture.

    Kerry K. Osborne ( is a doctoral candidate in the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She has coauthored a number of articles on electronic communities and is currently researching Internet participation among the elderly. Additional interests include pragmatics of computer-mediated conversation and impression management on the World Wide Web.

    Joseph Schmitz ( received his PhD from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California in 1990 and presently teaches at the University of Tulsa. His research interests include the uses and social consequences of new communication technology and the study of these technologies within organizations.

    David F. Shaw ( is a doctoral candidate at the Center for Mass Media Research, in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he is writing his dissertation on the AIDS Memorial Quilt. He has received fellowships from the Swedish Institute, Stockholm, and the International Media Centre at the University of Salford, England, where he studied Swedish, European, and international media responses to AIDS.

    Nessim Watson ( is an adjunct professor in the Communication Department of Westfield State College. His interests in modern communication, cultural studies, and the functioning of mass media systems are paired with a desire to infuse media literacy into secondary school systems and to provide students with an awareness of how culture influences our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. His current research involves how CMC technologies can be used to democratize both the cultural and political spheres of American society.

    Susan Zickmund is Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at Augustana College. Her research on American fascism appears in The Shepherd of the Discontented: Religion, Radicalism, and Rhetoric in the Discourse of Father Charles Coughlin and in contributions to Religion and the Social Sciences. She has ongoing collaborations with the Universität Bielefeld, Germany.


    Since writing and editing CyberSociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community little time has passed according to the clock and calendar. On the Internet, though, ages have gone by. When CyberSociety was in press the World Wide Web was merely a cool application, an interesting way to use the network. Now it has become a full-blown medium of communication gaining widespread use, one on which we pin hopes, dreams, fortunes, and fantasies.

    Still, CyberSociety is much more than a history of the Internet. I would like to believe its central themes and its examinations of social relationships online and their relationship, in turn, to ones offline remain relevant, and hopefully will continue to be so as long as we are interested in figuring out, as my colleague Joli Jensen might put it, what it means to live a valuable life.

    Virtual Culture: Identity and Communication in Cybersociety is by no means an update or revision to CyberSociety, and though it shares some of the concerns and methods of the earlier book, its focus is quite a bit different, and I hope as relevant. Whereas CyberSociety concentrated on the nature of online communities and social formations, Virtual Culture converges on the nature of social and civic life online, and asks (fairly begs) the question: what is it about life offline that makes us so intent on living online?

    In both the online and offline realms I am grateful to a number of people who have enriched not only this work but my thinking. In particular James Carey, Clifford Christians, Joli Jensen, and Ted Peterson are an inspiration. Sophy Craze and Kiren Shoman provided guidance, good care, and communication while I wrote and edited the book, and I am grateful to them, as I am to Margaret Seawell and others at Sage, for, without their help, you would not be reading it. Peggy Bowers at St Louis University, too, was very helpful as I sought to understand Charles Taylor's work.

    I particularly wish to thank colleagues on the Faculty of Communication at the University of Tulsa, and must single out Jan Reynolds for her support and hard work on behalf of the entire faculty. I also owe a special thanks to Lewis Duncan, Tom Horne, and Lars Engle. Joe Schmitz is all one could hope for in a friend and colleague, and I am fortunate to share an appointment in the same department as he. Frank Christel, Barbara Geffen, Reed Davis, the staff in Computing and Information Resources, students at the university, and other faculty and staff there too numerous to mention, have made it a valuable and interesting learning environment, and have also provided serious fun. Al Soltow continues to provide wisdom and guidance—the next Leinie's is on me. Tom, Karla, Casey, Chris, and Abby White provided unserious fun, as did Rick Holzgrafe, Arthur Vandelay, the Utz family, Alan Smithee, and Milly and Lilly. A special hello and thanks goes to Laza, Sofia and Boris Sekulic, Elizabeth White, Mel Eberle, and Gary Szabo.

    My parents, Sofia Jones and George Jones, have provided advice, comfort, and support in ever-greater quantity and quality, to the point where mere thanks are greatly inadequate.

    Just as inadequate is any thanks I could give to Jodi White, who continues to bear with me and lift me up. I'll log off soon. Really. I promise.

    Steven G.Jones, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, September 1996

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