online trust: that old chestnut?

every new generation needs to reinvent the wheel in some way.
below is an excerpt from an article in the WSJ on the old chestnut (for us cranky old netdynammers) of “How to tell if someone is lying to you in an email”.
you’ll note that the expert quoted on this is working for the military, and thank goodness us language experts can still get a job paid for out of tax dollars spent on defence.
but wait – why is this so old hat and ho-humifying to the likes of us over 50s?
a cursory search of the netdynam archives using, say, the term ‘trust’, will reveal that the topic was indeed thrashed almost to death back in 1996.. if my memory serves me well…

meanwhile, here’s a bit of what the article has to say on the topic:

It is possible to catch people lying because they often are bad at it, says Tyler Cohen Wood, an intelligence officer and cyber branch chief at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Science and Technology Directorate, and author of a 2014 book titled “Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life.” (Her views on the subject are her own and not those of her employer, she emphasizes.)

“The majority of people prefer to tell the truth,” says Ms. Cohen Wood. “That’s why when they are lying, the truth is going to leak out.”

There will be clues. To identify them, Ms. Cohen Woods suggests using a modified version of a law-enforcement technique known as statement analysis, which is a way to look for deception by analyzing a person’s words.

To begin with, pay attention to a person’s use of emphatic language. It doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is lying, but rather that he or she really wants you to believe what is being said. This is also the case when a person keeps saying the same thing over and over in slightly different ways. “They wouldn’t repeat it if it wasn’t important to them,” Ms. Cohen Wood says.

Look for language that distances the writer from the intended reader. In person, someone may unconsciously distance himself by crossing his arms in front of him. In writing, he can achieve this same effect by omitting personal pronouns and references to himself from a story.

Say he receives a text that says, “Hey I had a great time last night, did you?” He might reply, “Last night was fun.”

Another technique to watch out for is the unanswered question. You ask, and the other person hedges or changes the subject. Most likely, the person doesn’t like saying no, or doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. But he or she also may also be keeping something from you.

blast from the past

here’s an article describing how our electronic discussion list, the original “Netdynam”, looked to one of our members in its first year. the article was published in a newspaper at that time, and has recently resurfaced – and given us all a walk down memory lane… if you weren’t a member of this list, much of the same probably applied to any other mailing list at that time….

Dateline: February 4th, 1997

I decided to take the Great Leap Forward onto the Internet without
having a clue what that meant. A year ago I upgraded my trusty little
home word-processor to one with an internal fax-modem. At first, I was
disturbed by the interactivity of my new machine – it spoke back to me
in all sorts of ways, intruding upon what previously had been my
silent reverie in front of the screen. Yet when I finally managed to
get all the software programs to work and up popped an email from a
friend in Melbourne, I was startled and delighted. My computer was no
longer a static receptacle. Something was happenning in there.

I stumbled across a reference to a cyber-philosophy email list and
sent off a ‘subscribe’ command. The next day there were twenty posts
in my email In Tray, snatches from the middle of a lively, ongoing
conversation. I read them with fascination. The next day, there were
more. My computer seemed to be feeding me with ideas.

After ‘eavesdropping’ for a week, I took the plunge and sent a post to
the list. I was greeted and welcomed by the same cast of characters I
had been listening to. It felt like a soap opera, only I could step
right in and have an impact on the script. I felt ridiculously
excited, intoxicated with the possibilities of communication which
leapt out of my screen.

I quickly discovered there was a name for people like me: ‘newbie’.
And a whole new set of jargon and netiquette to get my head around, as
I browsed across a range of lists. Just like a television soap opera,
there were immediately recognisable characters in every list – the
attention seeker, the melodramatist, the pugilist, the harmoniser, the
challenger. List conversation went through its intrigues, climaxes and
denouements. On the happiest lists, participants were thrilled to have
found each other and often exclaimed at how the list had changed their

It changed mine. Procrastination was never so much fun…”This
assignment’s so dull, I’ll just dial-up and check my email, see if
those two bozos are still arguing….” There were all sorts of new
decisions to make, like should I save every post which mentions me by
name; all sorts of new experiences, like gossiping backchannel about a
‘stranger’ in New York with another ‘stranger’ who lives in Indiana.

It was clear that certain behavioural lessons had already been drawn
in the relatively short history of cyber-relating. Most lists send new
subscribers a Welcome message which sets out the list dos and don’ts:
writing in CAPS, otherwise known as shouting, is considered the height
of rudeness. Quoting the whole of someone else’s message and merely
adding ‘Me too’ at the end is also seen as very bad form. As is having
a wacky signature drawing which takes up half the screen.

Central to nearly every Welcome message is the cardinal list
commandment, ‘You Shall Not Flame’. ‘To flame’ is to attack, to sneer,
heap vitriol, sarcasm and hostility upon another poster. ‘A flame war’
involves multiple participants. Flamers never give the other person
the benefit of the doubt. Many Welcome messages point out that the
absence of non-verbal cues – smiles, raised eyebrows – can easily lead
to crossed wires in a text-only medium. Email is projection hell.

Flaming is mentioned so often in e-world that you’d think you were
travelling over scorched earth. I’ve seen plenty of trenchant
disagreement and good solid volleying. Nothing remotely resembling
the heat of a flame war – whatever I imagined that to be.

Mostly I was impressed by the civility of my fellow posters.
Especially considering they were nearly all Americans. That was an
initial surprise, as I had rather naively fallen for the idea of
Internet as global village. Wrong. Unless you join an email list for
English soccer fans, odds are that nearly everyone else on any list
you join will be American. Internet culture is American: list traffic
comes to a standstill for Thanksgiving. It also slows down in the
Australian afternoon, when those Yanks are tucked up in bed.

This American facade can lull non-Americans into a false sense of
privacy, as though the Internet is a personal playground remote from
everyday reality. For a time I belonged to a women’s computer list,
which seemed to be replete with the usual Californians, Oregonians
etc. So I was mildly surprised when another Sydneysider suddennly
chimed in in reply to a technical question. Even more surprised when
she told me she recognised my name from some local journalism. Not
long afterwards, I saw a post on the same list from a woman whose name
I in turn recognised. Muted alarm bells went off in my head. It’s a
small world after all and you never know who might be reading your
words on a list.

Lurkers are reading them, that’s who. Anyone can subscribe to a list
but that doesn’t mean they have to participate. There can be dozens if
not hundreds of people out there following the conversation but never
revealing their prescence. Fertile grounds for paranoia, or at least
heightened self-consciousness, you’d think. Yet it doesn’t seem to
stop some people from gushing about their rebirthing experience in
their very first post. That’s even when the list is dedicated to the
intricacies of a software application.

Occasionally someone de-lurks. That’s different from simply
introducing yourself. After all, only someone who has been lurking for
an indeterminate amount of time can be said to de-lurk. Sometimes
de-lurkers do a hit and run, lambasting the list for being
irrelevant/boring/aggravating before disappearing back into lurkdom.
My cyber-philosophy list has many more lurkers than active posters. I
know this because I finally worked out the listserver command which
tells me the names and email addresses of every subscriber. Most are
unfamiliar to me, even after a year of active participation.

Yes, I’m no longer a newbie. In fact, a year in email makes me an old
hand, almost a Net Veteran. I’ve met two fellow listmates who were
passing through Sydney – the world really is shrinking. I celebrated
the first anniversary of my favourite list by doing an IRC session
with the group – is this the definition of mixed media? I’ve learnt a
lot. Most of all, I’ve learnt a lot about boundaries – how to reach
out and connect with people without losing yourself in the process.
Now, I just have to check my email…..

article re listserv (originally posted to the list)

i think this deserves to be shown to a potentially wider audience, especially since it supports my own ideas, and also has a few comments in which links to other lists also appear. the article, in Slate ‘magazine’, is called The joy of mailing lists, and well worth a read…

blog affordances anyone?

1. Blog versus email list discussion

The affordances of the blog medium render discussions conducted there different, both in content and expression, from those previously conducted by the same people via a mailing list.
Reference to content and expression planes is meant to distinguish the meanings made possible by any text, and so we can say that while the expression plane refers to the materiality through which meanings are made (e.g. sound and articulation, movement, gestures, graphology and letters, etc), the content plane refers to meanings derived from the discourse made possible through these media.

In other words, BOTH the formal features of the posts and their responses  – what are labelled ‘comments’ in a blog environment –  are different in every respect when comparing the email-list versus the blog environment: formatting, colour, dispersion on the page, linking/nesting, inclusion of graphics AND  the content of the responses and posts are different. At the same time, what we say and how we say it are affected by our notions of ‘audience’ on the blog. The email list in the case of Netdynam was available by subscription and only subscribers are privy to the posts. The subscription list was small and the active posters became well known to each other. In the case of the blog on the other hand, it is not easily clear who is reading the posts since the web-log is public.

Audience potential appears to be the biggest difference affecting interaction on the blog – as contrasted with the experience of interacting on a mailing list. The technological contraints and enablements notwithstanding, the net effect of the extra appurtances is that blog-members now have open boundaries – or perhaps semi-permeable boundaries if the levels of administration and moderation are taken into account – and this does not make former members of a small list feel as ‘secure’ when faced with an open audience. For example, the projected audience affects how a writer addresses the content – this paper was originally written to fellow list-members and instead of third person referents, general nouns, and past tense, I used second person referents, and habitual or present (in the past) tense, i.e. whereas in the paragraph to follow I originally wrote “we have been spending many years defining boundaries…”, for general consumption, I now write something different…

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list anthropology II

i’ve been citing ross williams’ 2002 unpublished conference paper on shaming in email in a couple of my own papers – there’s not much in my area on this topic, so it looks as if i’m going to have to look into journals of psychology in order to get reports of any studies done in the area of group solidarity, and interpersonal alignment and positioning in the context of online groups.

i’ve asked ross whether i can post it here as a link for any others to follow up. whereas i’d have placed it in the list anthro resources page previously, it looks as if this has been moved down a rank to post-only status – hence i am announcing the link here: “The dynamics of shaming in an email discussion group”.
it’s in PDF form and is quite short so will download onto your desktop fairly quickly. members of netdynam in february 2002 will no doubt recall the discussion that the paper engendered at that time.

a short excerpt follows:

‘We are deeply sensitised to the occasions of shame, for ourselves and others, and the rules of etiquette and face-saving work to preserve our social systems against the disruptive effects of shame when the gap between embodied and ideal selves threatens to be revealed inadvertently. Conversely, the threat to reveal this gap and subject the other to shame is a powerful tool in expert hands; and we are all experts.

Threats to the public face can arise so swiftly and be handled so automatically that they pass in a moment, almost unnoticed, and only a careful record of gestures, glances, phrasing and vocal inflections allows us to interpret an interaction as an instance of social control based on shaming. In this paper I will analyse a shaming
interaction in an e-mail group, partly because it is inherently interesting to discover familiar group processes in a novel setting, and partly because the text medium of the email group is so congenial to the hermeneutic endeavour; generating an interpretable text from a face-to-face group is intensely laborious and subject to serious error and omissions, even when one has the best audio-visual equipment available. With email, the work is done for you.’

here’s a link to the previous list anthropology post for further context on netdynam the list.

relative affordances of blog v list: boundaries again

I’m a member of two other mailing lists which both address the same academic topics: SysFunc and SysFling. One is based in Sydney and was conceived of as being a more local venue for announcing Sydney and even Australia-based meetings, conferences, articles and so on, as well as for fielding the usual questions regarding the analysis of curly clauses. The other is based in Europe and is said to be more formal in its approach to similar concerns for systemicists. However, it is probably fair to say that most subscribers belong to both lists, and that most threads if they get going, get CCed to both lists, thus providing for a lot of overlapping.

Occasionally the beginnings of discussions are limited to one list, and then someone posts a CC to the other list as well. Those who are not members of both lists begin to wonder what is going on, but, as I say, these people are in the minority anyway.

After a recent spate of twin list activity, one of the moderators and keepers of one of these two lists, commented that amalgamation might not be a bad idea – especially in view of the fact that he was hoping to retire from list maintenance activities at the end of the year. Thereafter a slew of posts were made approving of the amalgamation – to the extent that a cry went up to the effect that perhaps any further messages on the topic be limited to those who were nay, rather than yea-sayers on the matter. A short period of silence thereafter seemed to suggest that the vote might be carried unanimously until one lone voice spoke up in favour of keeping both lists – aka nay-saying – providing affiliatory and affinity-related reasons for doing so. In other words, he cited boundary issues of the sub-grouping kind, arguing that each list has evolved their own separate identities. Thereafter, another one or two more timid types also ventured to add their nay against the groundswell of yea-sayers – but no doubt to little avail.

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