Misbehavior in Cyber Places: The Regulation of Online Conduct in Virtual Communities on the Internet

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9780761860112: Misbehavior in Cyber Places: The Regulation of Online Conduct in Virtual Communities on the Internet

Misbehavior in Cyber Places studies computer-mediated, interpersonal communication on the Internet up to the turn of the century, portraying a technological universe that existed before social media, smartphones, and commercialism began to dominate cyberspace in the new millennium. Here, with amateurs prevailing over professionals, digital immigrants explored online frontiers and founded virtual communities. Based on early stages of Internet research, this book examines misbehavior across a wide range of online environments. Sternberg distinguishes misbehavior and rule-breaking from crime and law-breaking, and discusses cybercrime, cyberlaw, and the differences between local and global regulation. This book lays out the theoretical framework and fundamental ideas of media ecology, a branch of communication scholarship. Sternberg highlights pioneering media ecology perspectives on space, place, situations, rules, and behavior in public. These subjects are highly relevant for understanding digital media, mediated interpersonal communication, and behavior in online environments.

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About the Author:

Janet Sternberg is a native New Yorker who grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and earned her Ph.D. in media ecology with Neil Postman at New York University. From 2002 to 2013, Sternberg was assistant professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University in New York, and a member of their Latin American and Latino studies faculty. In addition, she has taught at Cornell University, New York University, Queens College of the City University of New York, and Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil. A former Fulbright scholar, she also served as president of the Media Ecology Association. Sternberg has been online since acquiring her first computer, modem, and email account in 1984.

Review:

To be programmed or to program? That is the question. For media ecology scholars, it is time to examine digital media from a new perspective. Janet Sternberg gives her answer to the above question in the book Misbehavior in Cyber Places: The Regulation of Online Conduct in Virtual Communities on the Internet. In comparison with monographs on digital media or human behavior, the book is intriguing because it revisits media ecology both from social and human behavioral perspectives and acts as an important call for scholarship on studies involving situationist-based medium theory. (International Journal of Communication)

[This book] is a foundational work on the new senses of place that are arising with digital media. Sternberg catalogues and analyzes the new genres of mischief and mayhem, nuisances and nastiness, and crimes and creative activism that have emerged in online communities. In so doing, Sternberg creatively reveals the social construction of new conceptions of normative behavior in virtual interactions and the development of the mechanisms to enforce the boundaries of what is seen as ‘acceptable.’ Sternberg is a lucid writer and clear thinker. Her book holds significant long-term theoretical value as a major advance in situationist-based medium theory. (Joshua Meyrowitz, professor of communication, University of New Hampshire, Durham, author of No Sense of Place)

The next real generation of media theorists in the spirit of McLuhan, Ong, and Innis has finally arrived as Janet Sternberg. She revisits media ecology in the social and behavioral landscape of the net, upscaling the study of media onto an altogether new playing field: human misbehavior. From cheaters to spoilsports to shamans, this is not your mother’s media analysis. (Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or Be Programmed)

This study represents an important contribution to the research on computer communication. Sternberg makes it clear that we cannot fully comprehend behavior online unless we first examine misbehavior, that rules and roles are most visible when they are violated. The media ecology approach that Sternberg employs, especially when incorporating symbolic interactional, relational, and situational perspectives, is essential to a comprehensive understanding of our new electronic environments. (Lance Strate, professor of communication and media studies, Fordham University, author of On the Binding Biases of Time and Echoes and Reflections)

Everyone who has ever used the Internet has experienced online misbehavior first hand. So why haven’t scholars written more about it? Janet Sternberg’s book Misbehavior in Cyber Places is one of the few comprehensive treatments of the issue. (Amy Bruckman, associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology)

A useful inventory of types of social and criminal online misbehavior, understood within a media ecology framework. Flamers, spammers, pranksters, virtual rapists, hackers—Sternberg captures the running battles between the Athenians and Visigoths of virtual communities, and shows us how netizens can control and police their cyber places. She examines digital skirmishes filtered through media ecology’s understandings of environment, space, place, and situation, allowing her broad generalizations about the Internet as medium as well as concrete assessments of particular online misbehavior occurring in concrete contexts. The prerogatives and limitations of the Internet’s rule-makers, rule-enforcers, and community pressures are illustrated with clear examples and envisioned with sensitive, pragmatic, ethical guidelines. Her award-winning research on and visions of cyber relationships is now available to all netizens. Bravo! (Bruce Gronbeck, A. Craig Baird Distinguished Professor of Public Address, University of Iowa)

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