THE SELF AMONG OTHERS
A generation ago, a communication technology grabbed the nation's interest, and its enthusiasts eagerly incorporated the latest equipment for their systems, adopted quirky aliases for themselves, and spent hour after hour doing nothing more than talking to other enthusiasts. If this behavior seems a lot like the way people behaved when the Internet caught on in the 1990s, it is because there are some intriguing parallels between the previous popularity of Citizen's Band (CB) radio and the recent popularity of the Internet. Although amateur radio broadcasts had been evolving since the late 1940s, its popularity peaked in 1977, when an estimated 11 million Americans were taking to the airwaves broadcasting messages to one another (Drew, 1997). In fact, the film Frequency (Hoblit, 2000) nostalgically recalled the joys of this form of mediated communication. Although there are far fewer CB hobbyists today, people's interest in communicating with others who are not physically present has not diminished. Arguably, the introduction of e-mail into people's professional and personal lives has made such mediated communication an even more frequent occurrence.
Thus, today we can find people adding webcams to their computer systems, rechristening themselves with fanciful pseudonyms, and spending countless hours chatting with people they have never seen nor are likely to see. Yet despite the Internet's popularity, some people question the quality and effects of this latest form of mediated communication in our lives. This part of the book addresses both people's behavior in and the concerns about CMC. We consider behaviors like the creation of identities, the formation of relationships, and the maintenance of virtual communities. But we also address concerns like misrepresentation, hostile messages, and Internet addiction. In short, we discuss a host of issues that involve how individuals affect and are affected by the others they engage through communication.
Drew, K. (1997, March 20). Breaker, breaker: CB radio is back. Christian Science Monitor, P. 3.
Hoblit, G. (Producer/Director). (2000). Frequency [Motion picture]. New York: New Line Cinema.