Portrait of the Portal as a Metaphor: Explicating Web Portals for Communication Research

By Kalyanaraman, Sriram; Sundar, S. Shyam | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Portrait of the Portal as a Metaphor: Explicating Web Portals for Communication Research


Kalyanaraman, Sriram, Sundar, S. Shyam, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Web portals are increasing in their presence as well as importance, yet suffer from lack of conceptual clarity. In explicating the concept of "portal" from a number of disciplinary frameworks, this article uncovers five different but inter-related metaphorical conceptions-gateways, billboards, networks, niches, and brands-which, in turn, suggest five dominant features of portal sites-customization, content, control, community, and commerce-for empirical examination as variables in future research on uses and effects of portals.

One of the unique features of the World Wide Web as a mass medium lies in the fact that message sources are indistinct from message receivers.1 The Web is literally a web woven collectively by all citizens of the Internet, resulting in massive amounts of information being disseminated by both professional gatekeepers and laypersons. For casual users interested in efficiently obtaining news and information on the net, this proves burdensome because they now have the arduous additional task of sifting through information of unknown pedigree and determining its veridicality instead of simply attending to news of established credibility. This might be the reason why portals, which help to make sense of information avalanches by establishing gatekeeping guidelines and streamlining information flow, are among the most popular sites on the Web, and why some scholars and practitioners believe that the portal is the key organizing unit for gaining a better understanding of the new medium.2

Literature suggests that although the term "portal" is widely used, a majority of existing perspectives consider the term a "buzzword" that requires little definition or explanation. This might be one reason why the term has been under-explicated and suffers from theoretical abstraction. Indeed, little progress has been made beyond early postulations of "portals like Yahoo" or portals as sites that "consist almost exclusively of absolute links to a large number of other sites."3 Although such definitions serve as a rudimentary starting point, they contribute very little toward a conceptual framework that is necessary for conducting a program of research on the topic of portals.

Even as portals are increasing in their presence as well as importance, the absence of suitable ontological definitions precludes us from not only developing a "portal typology" to facilitate better conceptual understanding but also makes empirical investigation difficult. Indeed, consistent with Strauss's opinion,4 portals suffer from "confusing and often contradictory definitions," which perhaps explains why, even though the "portal" has supplemented the "Web site" in Internet terminology,5 media researchers have devoted little attention to the topic of portals.6

The primary goal of this article is to delineate the applicability of portals as a promising venue of research in communication technology. Specifically, it proposes a classification system for portals by performing an explication based on metaphors that are useful for describing the different kinds of portals on the Web. In accordance with the metaphorbased approach, it identifies distinguishing features of portals and outlines pertinent theoretical propositions. Finally, it examines operational considerations for studying portals and advances useful propositions aimed at building a research agenda around the concept of "portals." We first discuss the importance of metaphors in communication research before explicating the concept of portals.

Metaphors and Communication

Metaphors in communication have received extensive attention, from the time Aristotle proposed that they can be seen primarily as analogies, commonly referred to as the comparison theory of metaphor.7 Metaphors are universally employed to illustrate something novel by orienting to something more commonly understood.8 Indeed, as several scholars have argued, metaphors are not just pretty linguistic artifices but critical devices when faced with the task of reducing an abstract concept to something that is easily comprehensible. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Portrait of the Portal as a Metaphor: Explicating Web Portals for Communication Research
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.