This paper attempts to inform the rights and responsibilities that should be associated with emerging computer media through the metaphoric evaluation of established media and their associated rights and responsibilities. In the process it explores:
It is concluded that, although most current computer media should be highly similar to their established within-cluster competitors in terms of roles, rights, and responsibilities, that there are at least some computer media, including computer conferences and electronic bulletin boards, that clearly differ from established media and must be evaluated on the basis of actual experience of the medium.
This paper attempts to inform the rights and responsibilities that should be associated with emerging computer media through the metaphoric evaluation of established media and their associated rights and responsibilities.
When we grow up with a medium we don't need metaphors. Our understanding of the medium is phenomenal; the essential understanding that comes of experiencing a medium's reality through use. None of us ever needed an explanation of how face-to-face communication works. We simply lived its use. None of us ever needed an explanation of how a telephone works, what we can use it for, or what how we should behave when using one. We grew up watching others use telephones, made use of telephones ourselves, first in play, then for real if somewhat incompetently, later with a growing competence, and finally with sufficient facility that we simply assume its use and characteristics.
It is only when we seek to understand the unfamiliar -- new media, for instance -- that we need metaphors. Metaphor, under such circumstances, is to understanding what a kickboard is to swimming; a convenient support that gets us started. A good metaphor uses the essential characteristics of a metaphoric referent to inform the essential characteristics of the unfamiliar subject. It provides a set of familiar signposts that help to make an unfamiliar territory initially comprehensible; to operate somewhat effectively in unfamiliar waters. The value of such "signpost" metaphors is limited. The same kickboard that that provides convenient support when we are learning to swim becomes an encumbrance once we have learned how. Indeed, experienced swimmers often use kickboards as a "drag" that forces them to exercise harder.
If the task of this paper was to introduce emerging electronic media using metaphor, the task would be straightforward. Armstrong's (1992) "silicon handshake" metaphor nicely captures the congenial interactiveness that is generally associated with all electronic media when they are used in a business context. Foulger's (1992b) "party at which the participants get to participate in all the conversations" nicely captures the resolution of both mass and interpersonal media characteristics in computer conferencing. Foulger's (1991) "citizen's band Dear Abby", "slow conversation", "fast correspondence", and "instant classifieds" metaphors capture key characteristics of various electronic media and genre.
This paper's use of metaphor is much more detailed than can be satisfied by simple characteristic-oriented metaphors. Finding precedent for regulating new media in the rights and responsibilities associated with established media requires analysis that goes well beyond surface characteristics. We must be able to take are metaphors deep into the fundamental operation of our metaphoric media. Hence it is likely, especially given the new combinations of media characteristics that the computer enables, that no established medium will be entirely adequate to the job of describing the rights and responsibilities that should be associated with a new medium. It may be that, for at least some electronic media, there will be no substitute for the experience of directly participating in the medium.
This paper will attempt to overcome these hurdles by establishing:
It will be concluded that, although most current computer media should be highly similar to their established within-cluster competitors in terms of roles, rights, and responsibilities, that there are at least some computer media, including computer conferences and electronic bulletin boards, that clearly differ from established media and must be evaluated on the basis of actual experience of the medium.
Responsibilities, in the current context, describe societies expectations of the ways in which people are supposed to behave when they participate in a medium of communication. While it is possible to talk about fundamental responsibilities that transcend "rules", it is generally the case that responsibilities can be recognized directly and indirectly in the rules, whether formal, contractual, or informal, that people create, negotiate, and enforce in the course of using media. If, for instance, we describe "avoiding harm" as a responsibility associated with media, we are stating that people should avoid harming other people when using a medium. That statement is generally accompanied by both expectations concerning the kinds of things that people will not do in attempting to not harm others and a set of sanctions that may be imposed of an individual or collective fails to honor their responsibilities. Where, moreover, there are no such expectations and harm occurs anyway, we can generally expect people to bid for and negotiate such expectations and/or redress of that harm.
Rights, by contrast, describe behaviors and other things which people (collectively) have agreed should be protected from such rules. While rights are sometimes encoded as a set of high level rules or meta-rules, as is the case for the rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other constitutional amendments, they are more generally recognized in a set of well defined arguments that are routinely raised in opposition to new rules when they are bid and rules-based sanctions when they are administered. When, for instance, the "reviewer" (Foulger, 1991, chapter 16) of a computer conference deletes an append under the rules after it has been posted to the conference, it can be expected that, some percentage of the time, there will be an accusation (reasonable or not) of censorship; of an attempt to brook an individuals presumed right of free speech. Where, for instance, a law enforcement agency impounds all of the computer equipment of a company for an extended period of time because it suspects that an illegally obtained file may exist on one or another of those computer systems, it can be expected that there will be an accusation that the seizure was unreasonable.
We can, in general, define the realm of rights associated with media participants to include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, redress of grievances, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, privacy, anonymity, choice, ownership, access, editorial rights, knowbot exclusion, and those that are formally contracted. We can, in general, define the realm of responsibilities associated with media participants to include obeying existing rules and laws, enforcement of existing rules and laws, avoiding the harm of others, meeting fiduciary obligations, making correct attributions, protecting ones proprietary rights, acting in the public service, and meeting those responsibilities that are specified in any contracts we agree to.
The connection of media to rights and responsibilities is an indirect one. Communication media do not, in and of themselves, have either rights or responsibilities. It is the people who participate in those media, including interactants, speakers, audiences, writers, editors, artists, journalists, actors, directors, publishers, producers, exhibitors, retailers, and advertisers, among others, who are invested with rights and responsibilities. It is possible to identify at least nine generic roles that are associated with various media, including creators, consumers, production staff, selectors, publishers, distributors, retailers, advertisers, and regulators. Not all of these roles are inherent to all media. Indeed, the same role, when vested in different media, may entail very different rights, responsibilities, practices, and labels. Editors, television censors, television programmers, telephone operators, and museum curators all perform what is essentially a parallel function for their various media that one can label selector, but the observation of a newspaper editor in action would tell you very little about the role-related practices of the others. It remains the case, however, that specific media will generally have a highly predictable set of associated participants, each of whom is invested with a well-defined set of rights and responsibilities.
These rights and responsibilities may be formal rules that are specifically written down in formal statements of law, rules, policy, or contract. They may also be highly informal, encoded in tacit understandings between participants that may never have even been formally discussed. Clearly there are intermediate levels of formality and informality in between. Some rights, like speech, press, assembly, and redress of grievances, are formally protected. Other clearly recognized rights, like choice, privacy, and, in at least some contexts, anonymity and editorial control, have no such formal protections associated with them. Some responsibilities in the sphere of avoiding harm are specifically encoded in law and contract. Others are more a matter of interpretation and judicial process.
Media frequently differ in their mix of formal and informal rules. Interpersonal media like face-to-face communication frequently involve few formal rules and many informal rules. Participants in publication and broadcast media, on the other hand, frequently must negotiate a maze of contracts, formally encoded regulations, editorial policies, and ethical standards. This mix can vary considerably even in relatively similar media. Participants in C.B. Radio interaction, for instance, are expected to operate within the constraints of a set of formally encoded interaction rules. No such constraints exist for telephone users.
Rights and responsibilities also vary in their generality at at least four levels. There are some rights, including both freedom of speech and protection against unreasonable search and seizure, that should be considered transcendent. Unless constrained by a formal and reasonable contract, they should apply equally to all media. Other rights and responsibilities matter only in the context of a specific medium. Freedom of the press is only an issue in those media where a few people (e.g. the press) prepare messages which are distributed to a mass audience. Editorial policy is only an issue for those media where there is an ability to formally constrain the subject matter and content of messages to meet the needs and interests of specific audiences. Finally, there are many specific rights and responsibilities that are distinctive to specific "instances" of media (e.g. a given newspaper), or "genres" of message within a medium (e.g. talk shows, news broadcasts, advice columns, sports sections, or love letters).
Communication media are, and historically have always been, among the most central and familiar tools of humanity. Our civilization has been built largely on our ability to communicate knowledge across space and time. Adeptness in the use of well-established media as face-to-face interaction, public speaking, movies newspapers, books, magazines, letters, junk mail, telephones, C.B. radio, broadcast radio, broadcast television, and audio recordings is, in a very real sense, a precondition of successful participation in our society. This familiarity has made the practice of using established media as metaphors for emerging media commonplace. Indeed, the names that have been supplied to many new computer-based media, including electric "mail", electronic "bulletin boards", computer "conferences", electronic "yellow pages", electronic "publications", and electronic "newspapers", use such metaphors rather explicitly.
Such metaphoric naming is clearly not intended to constitute a detailed description of the subject medium in terms of the referent. Newspapers not only distribute broadcast information on a regular schedule in a particular format; they are encumbered with complex pricing, distribution, advertising, and content collection and refining systems as well as distinctive rules and traditions that regulate activity within these systems. Even if an electronic newspaper matches much of the obvious content, format, and scheduling characteristics of print newspapers, it doesn't follow that it should or will inherit the same complex of structures, activities, methods, rules, and traditions. The same is clearly true of other metaphorically-named computer media:
As may be inferred from the electronic media that have been named already, there is no single "electronic" medium. Indeed, among the well over 120 distinct media which people currently use to share information with each other, some thirty entail computer mediation as a prerequisite to their existence. Among the ninety plus media that do not require computer mediation, most are unrelated to each other. Among those that are, almost all evolved serially, with one medium establishing ground that allowed other often very different media to evolve. The telegraph enabled the telephone and, by serially intersecting paths, ham radio, wire services, telewriting, telex, and facsimile. Ham radio enabled both broadcast radio and, by a separate path, C.B. Radio. Broadcast radio cleared the way for broadcast television.
Electronic media represent a new path in which a large number of media were enabled in parallel by the introduction of a single new mediator: the computer. Almost all of these ninety plus non-computer media existed before Doug Englebart made the first practical demonstration of computer mediated interaction in 1968 or Murray Turoff started building the first usable computer conferencing software in 1969. Interesting, however, almost all of the new media that have evolved since then do entail computer mediation as a precondition of their existence. While these media are, for the most part, strongly related, most have evolved more or less in parallel. Even today one finds that completely different and minimally-interconnected software packages drive CompuServe's electronic mail, computer conferencing, and computer quip (C.B. Simulation) software; that differing minimally-interconnected software packages drive Prodigy's electronic mail, computer conferencing, and electronic publishing facilities; that both the user interfaces to and back ends supporting computer conferencing on UseNet (NetNews) and IBM's VNET (TOOLSRUN0 are distinct from the software and interfaces that support electronic mail.
This distinction of medium by software package is not a necessity. Most bulletin board systems (BBS) support several media, including, electronic mail, computer conferencing, electronic publishing, and electronic bulletin boards (note here the distinction of electronic bulletin boards, which can be regarded as a medium, from BBS, which are timesharing common carrier systems which can support a range of computer media), through a single BBS software package. Networked computer conferencing and electronic publishing systems (including UseNet's NetNews and IBM VNET's TOOLSRUN) frequently piggyback on the infrastructure that supports established electronic mail systems. Several computer conferencing packages also implement electronic mail, electronic forms, and electronic publishing capabilities.
The range of computer media is much larger than might be inferred from the above. Electronic publishing, for instance, can be productively subdivided into the realm of text-based electronic publishing, mixed text and graphics documents, voice annotated multi-media documents, video annotated documents, video games, hypertext documents, and virtual realities. Electronic publishing may be further divisible by delivery mechanisms like interactive facsimile, network accessible electronic publications, and CD-ROM electronic libraries that may apply to any of the above.
Among non-publishing computer media, one can readily distinguish open or public computer conferences from private or closed computer conferences, and identify a variety of other distinctive media including electronic mail, multi-media mail and conferencing, electronic forms, computer quips, decision rooms, distributed decision support facilities, synchronous interaction, computer synchronized conversation, split screen computer conversation, screen sharing, cooperative composition, voice over data presentations, voice over data conferencing and interaction, voice into data interaction, interactive video games, and interactive virtual reality.
Some of these media are real. Some are emerging. Some are in development. Some are simply imagined but inevitable. Many existing and probable media aren't listed above. The range of computer media continues to grow, moreover, as a function of the growing capacity and power of computers, the growing range of interfaces that can be driven by computers, and the imagination of the people who invent and reinvent media to meet their needs.
For experienced users in electronic mail, computer conferencing, electronic forms, computer quips, electronic publishing, and other more or less established computer media, the differences between these media are obvious and intuitive. Explaining the differences to non-users is complicated by the simple fact that the physical interfaces to these media are often nearly identical; that many key characteristics are highly similar. This is not our usual experience with media. We can immediately recognize the telephone, television, radio, movie, live theatre, facsimile, telex, telegraph, letter, sculpture, book, magazine, newspaper, and face-to-face communication media by obvious distinctive elements in the human interface to each of these media. The same can be said for most non-computer media. The obviousness of these differences has allowed a confusion of medium (a system that allows people to interact with each other) and mediator (a structural element of that system) whose result is an overly simple view of what constitutes a medium and what makes one medium different from another.
A model of the elements of media
The basic similarities underlying many computer media raise questions about the nature of media that Foulger (1991, 1992a) attempts to answer by introducing a theory of "Medium as Process." In this perspective (outlined in ) media exist and evolve as a system and process involving five intersecting spheres of invention: mediators, characteristics, uses, effects, and practices:
When we use established media to explore the possibilities of emerging media, the metaphoric comparison almost always involves the characteristics of those media rather than their physical mediators. Hence we equate computer conferences to real world conferences because of the relatively open and interactive communication it allows among large numbers of interactants rather than the conventional conferences use of verbal and non-verbal modalities, a convention center, individual conference rooms, or the usual panel structure of a chair, several presenters, and an audience. Similarly we tend to equate electronic mail and hard copy mail based on their point-to-point delivery and written characteristics rather than hard copy mails use of mailmen, deliver schedules, and physical addresses.
The principle value of characteristics is in enabling a set of uses for a medium. Indeed, it is possible, by describing different media in terms of their characteristics, to construct a "media space" in which media can be contrasted and seen to compete for such uses. This paper will attempt to use a characteristic-based media space as a basis for the metaphoric comparison of media.
All media have a set of applications for which they are routinely used. Paintings can be used to capture an image of reality for posterity, to recreate a set of feelings in the viewer, to make a political statement, or to reshape the way we view the world. Books can be used to provide definitions or encyclopedic description, to explore a topic in detail, to recount events past, project events to come, or invent realities for the reader. Letters can be used to share secrets, request information, provide information, recommend courses of action, or regale the reader with personal insults. One can go on. The mark of any successful medium of communication is a diversity of established uses which, quite inevitably, have effects on both on their viewers/readers/audiences/participants and the world around them.
There are two principle variants of effect. "Application effects" are those that were intended by the creators of messages within the medium. They are the effects users expected the medium to have when they chose to deliver their message with it. "Outcome" effects, by contrast, are effects that were not intended; effects that occurred, often unexpectedly, as a product of the mediums use. There is, for instance, a growing body of evidence that the simple act of watching television is unhealthy. Outcome effects don't have to be real to matter. All that is required for an outcome effect to matter is that people believe it to be real. When a politician accuses the media of unfair reporting practices that put his positions or actions in a bad light, the argument is one of an outcome effect that needs to be remedied, by implication, through reporting practices that are "fair" to his or her positions and actions.
Application effects matter because it is through such effects that a medium gains real uses. Advertisers, for instance, won't use a medium for advertising if they don't perceive it as being effective in obtaining and maintaining market share for their products. Application effects obtained are not, however, necessarily application effects optimized any more than outcome effects obtained are necessarily outcome effects permanently endured. The effects of media matter, not just because they occur, but because they enable practices that seek to optimize the application effects of media while controlling undesirable outcome effects.
These two views of practices contrast each other strongly. Where rules-oriented practices tend to originate in a negotiation process in which those seeking to control what they regard as an unpleasant effect convince the community at large that a specific change in communication behavior will reduce that effect, generic practices seem to evolve through emulation of what appear to have been successful strategies. Where adoption of generic practice seems to occur without any formal recognition that a pattern of behavior is emerging, rules-oriented practices often require enforcement through a combination of educational messages and sanctions against misbehavior,
It is through practice that the five spheres of invention come full circle. Successfully negotiated and enforced rules will reduce the occurrence of a medium's undesirable effects. Successfully implemented generic practices will optimize associated application effects of a medium, making it more effective when applied to specific applications. Practices will, in some cases, sufficiently constrain a media as to alter its characteristics. Highly successful practices, whether rules-oriented or generic, may come to be regarded as so essential that they are implemented as mediators.
Rights and responsibilities both clearly fall within the domain of rules. Responsibilities describe the rules we are expected to observe. Rights encompass a set of rules against setting rules that constrain certain human activities. When we set an editorial policy we describe a set of rules we are expected to observe in using a specific instance of a medium. While people may disagree with specifics of that editorial policy, they will generally agree that no instance-focused editorial policy impinges on their rights. When, however, people attempt to apply a specific editorial policy to all instances of a medium, many people will agree that that policy impinges on their right of free speech and perhaps other rights as well.
None of these five spheres of invention can be regarded as static. All change over time as people invent and reinvent media to meet their needs. No sphere provides a complete view of a medium. Each is, rather, a distinctive element in an ongoing process through which media change over time. No sphere causes or otherwise takes precedence over any of the the others. Media occur in their intersection, with each sphere of invention enabling possibilities in one or more of the others.
Consider, as examples of processual media, computer conferencing, electronic mail, electronic forms, and electronic publishing. The physical mediators of communication in these media, including keyboards, displays, computers, and networks, are the same. Indeed, the only mediators that typically distinguish these media is the back end software that processes messages as they are routed from one person to another and the user interface software with which messages are viewed and composed. In some cases, moreover, even the software is the same, with only configuration information differentiating electronic mail, electronic forms, computer conferencing, and electronic publishing. The software differences, even when reduced to configuration information, matter, as they result in differences on such characteristics as audience size, addressing, and message structure. What starts as small differences in mediators grows through larger characteristic differences into big differences in the uses to which these media are put, the effects they have, and, most particularly, the practices associated with them.
The very different media that emerge from these small differences in mediators and characteristics raise serious questions about how much can be inferred about the practice of emerging medium practices from established media with very different mediators and characteristics. The path from the characteristics which are the focus of our media metaphors to the practices we seek to inform is a very indirect one, and it should already be clear that small differences in mediators and characteristics can have big implications. Rights and responsibilities are far removed from characteristic-based media metaphors.
If it is the case that, as Foulger (1991, 1992a, 1992b) argue, that media with similar characteristics "compete" for the same uses, it may also be that, in competing for such uses, they will evolve similar practices in response to parallel effects. If so, we may well be able to use a characteristic-based typology of media or "media space" to inform the rights and responsibilities of emerging media using established media that are typologically similar. Media that appear to be highly similar in such media spaces may well have practices that will strongly parallel the practices in emerging media.
One such media space, an informal typology that contrasts media in terms of audience size (potential recipients) and interactiveness (potential for feedback), is shown in , two measures that can be regarded as differentiating interpersonal and mass media. These measures, the number of potential recipients of a message and the potential for feedback, are fairly clearly operationalized as stated. High levels of feedback (immediate and direct versus delayed and indirect versus very little or none) are clearly an inherent potential in any interpersonal medium. Where levels of feedback are clearly high, a medium will probably have interpersonal character regardless of how many participants are involved. High numbers of recipients (hundreds of thousands versus hundreds or thousands versus ones or tens) is clearly an inherent potential in any mass medium. The effectiveness of these dimensions as differentiators of mass and interpersonal communication media is apparent in the continuum from mass communication to interpersonal communication extends across the dimensions.
Foulger's (1991) informal typology of media
Nineteen media are depicted in this informal typology, with clearly interpersonal (face-to-face interaction) and mass (newspapers, books, radio, and television) media occupying the extremes. While only two computer media, computer conferencing and electronic mail, are depicted, it is relatively easy to project electronic publishing and other computer media. Electronic publications should have the same kinds of large audience, low feedback characteristics that we associate with mass media. Electronic mail is, in this space, a distinctly interpersonal medium, more so even than hard copy mail or facsimile. The most interesting medium depicted in this media space is computer conferencing, which occupies a previously unoccupied space at a third extreme of the typology. This extreme, encompassing both large audiences and high levels of interactiveness, presents a problem for the metaphoric projection of the kinds of rights and responsibilities associated with computer conferencing. There are no truly similar media. Computer conferencing is neither an interpersonal nor mass medium, yet it retains aspects of both. Even if we can make reasonable projections of rights and responsibilities for electronic mail and electronic publishing, it may well be that so such projections can be reasonably made for computer conferencing.
This informal view of the relationships between media is arguably incomplete. The space fails to adequately differentiate publishing media from broadcast media or interpersonal media from telephonic and correspondence media. The fault here is not with the measures. Each is effective in differentiating interpersonal from mass media. There simply aren't enough measures. Interactiveness and audience size are only two of many observable characteristics of media which should be accounted for when observing the relationships between media. It should be noticed, moreover, that most of the media in the informal typology (above) occupy locations on or near diagonal connecting interpersonal and mass communication. This visually-obvious and strongly-negative correlation between the informal typologies two dimensions suggests that the two measures would collapse to a single interpersonal versus mass media dimension in any formal analysis.
This collapse becomes a metaphoric reality in Foulger's (1991, 1992b) formal typology, a representation of which is shown below. This "media space" depicts two sets of relationships between 52 distinct media as measured by thirteen different characteristics of media. The first of these depictions shows these media in six distinct clusters. Each of these clusters represent a generalized range of uses to which media can be applied. Each is depicted in the figure with a specific color. The small green balls in the lower rear represent interpersonal media, including face-to-face interaction, small group interaction, and public speaking. The small yellow balls running along the rear left wall represent art media, including film. The medium sized pink balls in the lower right foreground represent telephonic media like telephones and C.B. Radio. The large light blue balls in the lower left foreground represent correspondence media including letters, notes, and facsimile. The dark blue balls in the upper right hand corner represent broadcast media, including radio and television. The large red balls at the top represent publishing media, including books, magazines, and newsletters. The grey balls that cut a diagonal from correspondence to broadcasting (the lower left to the top right) and between publishing and telephony are all computer media.
In this three dimensional media space, the distinction between interpersonal and mass communication occupies the vertical, with mass media found nearer the top and interpersonal media found closer to the bottom. While audience size dominates this dimension, feedback is also a strong corollary component. A second dimension, bandwidth, extends to the right from this vertical, with higher bandwidth media found near the left wall and lower bandwidth media found in the right foreground. Finally, dynamism (a combination of message speed and message persistence) extends to the left from the vertical, with more dynamic media found near the right rear wall and less dynamic media found in the left foreground.
The six clusters of media occupy distinct areas of this multi-dimensional space. Face to face media are found deep in the media space, extending up from the bottom rear and intersecting, about midway across the bandwidth wall, with an almost perpendicular vector associated with telephone media. Correspondence media occupy the bottom left foreground. Television and radio media occupy the upper right foreground. Publishing media occupy the middle upper foreground. Film and art media describe a vector across the dynamism wall, attracting larger audiences as dynamism increases.
Foulger's (1991) formal typology of media (e.g. "Media Space")
What is interesting, in this depiction, is the relationship of these media to each other and, in particular, the relationship of computer media to these media. Specifically:
It would appear, from these observations, that media with similar characteristics do indeed compete for the same applications. It would also appear, based on these observations, that the surest route to success for a medium is finding a way to fill a distinctive (e.g. previously unoccupied) location in media space.
With the observation that computer media occupy the middle ground, however, we begin to reach a better understanding of the role the computer plays in the media it participates in. Conventional assessments of the characteristics of computer media dwell on such characteristics as asynchrony, written form, transcripts, immediacy, shared memory, and the integration of the communication process with other activities (Turoff and Hiltz, 1987). Perhaps the most important characteristic the computer brings to its media, however, is flexibility. Computer media can create a middle ground between other clusters of media because the mediators associated with computer media are highly malleable and readily manipulated to highly specific ends.
Consider, for instance, computer conferencing. While open computer conferencing occupies the middle ground of media space, one can, however, by simply restricting access to a select group of people, create a variant of computer conferencing (e.g. closed computer conferencing) that clusters much more strongly with correspondence. One can also create a very publishing-like variant by simply inserting a person (an editor) that screens contributions before they are posted and schedules their distribution. One notes that these three variants of computer media form a nearly perfect vector between correspondence media and publishing media within media space. The changes entailed in this distribution are small. Indeed, all three variants can be implemented on some systems by enforcing different rules using the same software.
Many other variations of computer conferencing, electronic publishing, and electronic mail should also be possible with only small changes in the rules that govern existing computer conferencing software, the interfaces that are available for authoring and viewing computer mediated information, and the filters used in computer media to select, order, control, and systematically modify that information. The flexibility offered in these variations should be such that no computer media need never exactly match the characteristics or trades of an established medium. It can be expected, then, that computer media will continue to find success in flanking actions that work to merge the characteristics of established media in new ways. Indeed, as the range of interface and bandwidth possibilities associated with computer media increase, it is entirely likely that yet to be invented computer media will explore new uses of media in unoccupied areas of media space.
Perhaps the most important metaphoric implication of this media space for our projections of rights and responsibilities, is that many computer media cluster strongly with well defined clusters of established media. The close association of electronic publishing media with established publishing media suggests that these electronic media will compete for the same uses, have the same kinds of effects, and, perhaps, entail the same kinds of rights and responsibilities. The same is true for the association of electronic mail, cooperative composition, computer synchronized conversation and other correspondence-clustered computer media with established correspondence media; for the association of electronic quips with established telephonic media. These expectations are supported substantially in one of the few entertainment oriented implementations of electronic quips, CompuServe's C.B. simulator, adopts adopts many of the practices associated with one such telephonic media, C.B. Radio.
So long as it remains the case that the flexibility of computer mediators allows computer media to explore the edges of established media clusters, it will be difficult to state absolutely that the uses, effects, and practices associated with media will remain fully consistent with the media clusters that they most closely flank. Where these flanks trend toward other clusters of media, there may be some value in examining the rights and responsibilities associated with those clusters.
Where, moreover, a medium appears to defy easy categorization as open computer conferencing and electronic bulletin boards do, we must question our ability to find reasonable precedents in the practices of established media. There may well be media for which we have to discover practice as we go along. Computer conferencing and electronic bulletin boards appear to be two such media. It can be reasonably expected, however, that there will be more such computer media as computer technology improves:
Having established that it may be reasonable to use clusters of media within media space as a basis for inferring practice, it is reasonable to attempt a projection of the rights and responsibilities that might be associated with the participants in electronic media based on the metaphoric consideration of these media clusters.
Interactive media, including face-to-face interaction, small group interaction, and public speaking, are high-bandwidth, high-dynamism, interpersonal media that are characterized by small audiences and very high levels of feedback across parallel modalities. The only roles that are clearly associated with interactive media are those of interactants, including both speakers (creators) and listeners (consumers). The relationship of these roles to the various rights and responsibilities typically associated with media are summarized in . While none of the computer media depicted in the formal typology of media or discussed here, thus far, in any detail, cluster with interactive media, the continuing evolution of computer media makes it unlikely that this situation will continue.
|Right or Responsibility||Participant Role|
|Right||Redress of Grievances||Not typically||Not typically|
|Right||Unreasonable Search and Seizure||No||No|
|Right||Contractual||Not typically||Not typically|
|Responsibility||Obey existing rules and laws||Not typically||Not typically|
|Responsibility||Enforce existing rules and laws||Mostly informal||Mostly informal|
|Responsibility||Avoid the harm of others||Not typically||No|
|Responsibility||Meet fiduciary obligations||No||No|
|Responsibility||Make correct attributions||Sometimes||No|
|Responsibility||Protect proprietary rights||Sometimes||No|
|Responsibility||Act in the Public Interest||No||No|
|Responsibility||Honor contractual obligations||Not typically||Not typically|
Role-related rights and responsibilities in interactive media
One such possibility is found in interactive virtual reality, which should eventually make it possible for non-propinquitous individuals to interact in a manner that is distinctly interpersonal. While it remains to be seen whether virtual reality can or will eventually reach the fidelity of the "holodeck" in "Star Wars: the next generation" (e.g. enable a virtual physical intimacy including touch, taste, and smell), it is becoming increasingly clear that we will eventually be able to create the impression for two or more diversely located individuals that they are operating in the same physical space. Two distinct variants of such interaction should emerge. The first will present the interacting individuals realistically; as they might be if they were really meeting. The second and more interesting variant will allow participants to select animated surrogate depictions of either self or other and operate in artificial and even surreal surroundings. In either case the high bandwidth of the interaction must inevitably cluster more closely with interpersonal media than they with lower bandwidth telephonic media, and it can be reasonably expected that the kinds of rights and responsibilities associated with such media will, with a notable exception, strongly parallel the kinds of rights and responsibilities associated with established interactive media.
The exception relates to the infrastructure and possibilities inherent to the technology that makes such virtual reality possible. The infrastructure requisite to this kind of point to point medium, including connective networks, switches, and retailers, is analogous to that of a telephone company. Indeed, it is reasonable to expect that, in most instances, this kind of medium will be offered either as an enhanced service by telephone companies or as an enhanced telephone product that assumes existing telephone network infrastructure. It can be expected, then, that these computer-mediated interactive media will encompass both additional roles (selector, distributor, retailer, and regulator) and some modifications in the area of rights expectations, all of which should be consistent with the role expectations which will be associated with telephonic media.
Art media, including paintings/drawings, dioramas, sculpture, film, filmstrips, display automatons, and multi-media presentations, are relatively static, highly persistent, moderate bandwidth visual media that generally reach medium size audiences under conditions of little or no feedback. All require consumers to travel to messages. The path to computer art media is considerably shorter than the path to interpersonal computer media. Indeed, computer art is unquestionably real already in the form of fractal pattern generators, screen saver and screen background images and graphics, graphical computer/video games, computer visualization, and computer animation. There seems little question that such computer media would loaded with or near art media if they had been included in the analysis that produced the formal typology/media space. The increasingly graphical interfaces associated with computer and the growing reality of presentational virtual reality promise a growing computer media presence among art media.
|Right or Responsibility||Participant Role|
|Right||Redress of Grievances||Yes||Sometimes||Yes||Sometimes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Right||Unreasonable Search and Seizure||Yes||Sometimes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Obey existing rules and laws||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Enforce existing rules and laws||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Avoid the harm of others
|Responsibility||Meet fiduciary obligations||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Make correct attributions||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Protect proprietary rights||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Act in the Public Interest||No||No||No||Sometimes||No||No||No|
|Responsibility||Honor contractual obligations||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Role-related rights and responsibilities in art media
Seven distinct roles can be associated with art media, including creator, consumer, selector, production staff, publisher, distributor, and retailer. While shows the responsibilities associated with these roles, it is important to note that these not all of these roles are necessary to all art media. Indeed, the roles associated with most art media can be reduced to creator and consumer when the individual artist chooses, for either budgetary or creative reasons, to operate that way. The most common variations, however, in commercial instances of art media, is in the need for producers, distributors, and production staff. While these functions are frequently essential to complex production art media like film, they generally don't matter to painting/drawing and other art media that are more generally focused around a single artist.
Broadcast media, including broadcast radio and television, with their extremely large time synchronous audiences and highly dynamic, if moderate bandwidth, presentations, are very much a twentieth century phenomenon. Nothing quite like them existed before they came on the scene, and the new areas of media space that they opened has translated into tremendous success; often at the expense of publishing media, their nearest neighbors. While none of the media analyzed in the formal typology that produced the media space cluster directly with broadcast media, at least one publishing media, voice over mixed text and graphics, clearly stretches in its direction. The increasing graphical and video capabilities of computers promise that new computer media will continue to flank publishing media in the direction of broadcast media. Indeed, Multi-Media C.D. hypertext and games that include voice and video are beginning to push the boundary between these clusters strongly. Recent efforts to perfect and commercialize on-demand video programming and full motion videotext promise, moreover, to flank broadcasting in the direction of smaller synchronous audience and much greater choice of what programming will be seen when, and will probably be as difficult to classify in the intersection of broadcasting and publishing as computer conferencing is in the intersection of publishing and correspondence.
|Right or Responsibility||Participant Role|
|Right||Redress of Grievances||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Right||Unreasonable Search and Seizure||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Responsibility||Obey existing rules and laws||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Enforce existing rules and laws||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Avoid the harm of others||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Meet fiduciary obligations||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Make correct attributions||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Protect proprietary rights||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Act in the Public Interest||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Honor contractual obligations||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Role-related rights and responsibilities in broadcast media
The most interesting computer mediated possibilities for broadcasting, however, are found in the use of the computer as an proactive collector of broadcast video and other data. This kind of possibility is already a reality for stock market tickertape broadcasting in which computers and/or small programmable receivers audit the broadcast stream looking for information (generally quotes related to specific market listings). These programs will save such data and, in some cases will even sound alarms based on programmed thresh-hold settings. The same can readily be done with many broadcast signals provided, of course, that there is an computer-interpretable data stream that can be used by the computer agent. This datastream already exists, to a large extent, in close-captioned teletext, and could certainly be improved if the industry could agree on standards. The content of this datastream can be left to the imagination, but some of the more obvious applications, however, include:
One hesitates to make too much of these computer mediated possibilities, but the current state of technology is not a barrier to the implementation of any of them. Computer-mediation, it would appear, is set to make a strong run at uses associated with broadcast media with competitors that may well flank it in highly functional ways. These kinds of capabilities may radically reshape the nature of broadcasting as we know it.
There are, as can be seen in , nine distinct roles associated with broadcasting, including creator, consumer, production staff, selector, publisher, distributor, retailer, advertiser, and regulator. None of these changes are likely to change these roles or, with the exception of consumer robot inclusion/exclusion, the rights and responsibilities associated with broadcast media participation.
The telephone has, over the course of the last 100 years, revolutionized the way we communicate with one another, making it possible for people to interact with others quickly and easily, even when they are widely separated. It is basically a single channel variant on face-to-face communication, marked by high speed, low persistence, verbal messages. Several other forms of communication, including the intercom, Citizens Band Radio, and Ham Radio, are very similar to telephone communications in these essentials, differing from the telephone only in terms of their distance constraints, the way messages are switched, and their transmission medium. A fifth medium, teleconferencing, differs from typical telephone conversations only in the number of people involved, and the way the floor is controlled during conversation.
|Right or Responsibility||Participant Role|
|Right||Redress of Grievances||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Right||Unreasonable Search and Seizure||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Obey existing rules and laws||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Enforce existing rules and laws||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Avoid the harm of others||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Meet fiduciary obligations||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Make correct attributions||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Responsibility||Protect proprietary rights||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Act in the Public Interest||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Honor contractual obligations||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Role-related rights and responsibilities in telephonic media
The only computer medium in the typological analysis that clusters with telephonic media is the computer quip. This is, in some ways, surprising, as the electronic quip lacks the verbal characteristics associated with these other media. Still, this computer medium matches the general profile of other media in this cluster (high speed, low persistence, low bandwidth linguistic messages with high potentials for feedback). Importantly, the medium can be distinctly conversational. While a number of other computer media stretch over towards telephonic media, the medium itself is so efficient at what it does that it is difficult to imagine computer media competing with it directly except, perhaps, in areas like interactive voice into data interaction. With one distinct exception, most other possibilities involve distant flanking actions in the directions of publishing, interactive media, correspondence, and broadcasting.
That exception involves the use of a computer as a knowbot filtering agent that screens incoming calls, based on source identification information and perhaps other criteria, and makes decisions about whether to take such actions as ringing the phone, forwarding the call to somewhere else, taking a message, automatically recording interaction, or not answering the phone at all. Telephone companies are beginning to offer some of these services themselves, but so long as the information is provided, there really isn't any reason why customer owned equipment can't provide all of this function and more under the customer's program control.
Six telephonic roles are identified in . Three of these roles, selector, distributor, and retailer, are not associated with telephonic media like C.B. Radio. None of these changes are likely to change these roles or, with the exception of consumer robot inclusion/exclusion, the rights and responsibilities associated with participation in telephonic media.
If one were to construct a list of conventional print media, books, newspapers, newsletters, journals, and magazines would lead the list. This is exactly what occurs in the highly predictable Publishing cluster, which also includes audio recordings, video recordings, and several computer media, included text electronic publishing, mixed text and graphics, voice over mixed text and graphics, and on-line information (e.g. databases). There are no surprises here. Audio Recordings and Video Recordings are published and marketed in much the same way books are. The preparation time for computer-mediated documents that involve the use of both text and graphics make them improbable (given current interfaces) interpersonal media.
|Right or Responsibility||Participant Role|
|Right||Redress of Grievances||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Right||Unreasonable Search and Seizure||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Obey existing rules and laws||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Enforce existing rules and laws||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Responsibility||Avoid the harm of others||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Meet fiduciary obligations||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Make correct attributions||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Responsibility||Protect proprietary rights||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Responsibility||Act in the Public Interest||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Responsibility||Honor contractual obligations||Yes||Not typically||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Role-related rights and responsibilities in publishing media
Publishing as been a major focal point in the formal development of computer media. On-line database services have become a major industry and multi-media electronic publishing, as exemplified in both the news and information services of Prodigy and the growing computer C.D. ROM publishing industry, are becoming serious growth industries.
We may, in fact, be sitting at the edge of a major change in the nature of publishing. C.D. Rom publishing may well do to conventional paper-based book and journal publishing what the calculator did to the slide rule. Cost factors are a major issue here. It is now possible to become an effective low volume computer C.D. ROM publisher with an investment of less than $10,000. That figure is likely to drop to by nearly an order of magnitude over the next five years. High volume reproduction costs are so low (less than $2.50 per disk) using high volume production services, that the only barrier that keeps a small volume C.D. Rom publisher from doing high volume is an association with a good distributor.
From a consumer standpoint, the simple expedient of including C.D. Rom drives in laptop computers results in major advantages. All the books for five college classes can easily fit on the average C.D. Rom. Hence a student can carry all his books INSIDE the same computer that class notes are taken and papers are written on. This is a major convenience from the standpoints of weight, portability, the accessibility of information, the ability to annotate it, and the ability to manipulate it. Operating this way may very well influence some key elements of the way we view publishing, and it may well be that the college bookstore of the future custom creates a single C.D. ROM for a student based on the mix of courses he or she is taking, making low volume publishing much more lucrative in the process. Indeed, an instructor may include the course outline, lecture notes, and other information in the C.D. ROM materials delivered by the bookstore.
These same advantages apply with minor variations to anyone who reads books and uses reference materials. A whole book of CD ROMs, with each C.D. Rom potentially encompassing dozens of books and/or hundreds of software packages, could be carried in a briefcase along with the requisite portable computer viewer with plenty of room left over for papers or whatever; could be carried in one hand more easily than a single college textbook and a notebook. When a new medium fully encompasses the capabilities of another, but is both more convenient for consumers and less expensive for publishers, there exists a serious possibility that the new medium will eclipse the old one.
Periodical publications like newspapers and magazines are unquestionably less threatened by videotext electronic publishing media like those delivered by Prodigy than books probably are by CD ROMs, but there is still a very real threat. The advantages of periodical print media is found principally in their ability to deliver high volumes of relatively detailed information on a throwaway basis at low cost. Interactive videotext remains impractical in portable applications like commuting and discretionary (where one is) reading. Bandwidth constraints still restrict the rate at which videotext information can be delivered to workstations for most people, moreover, thus constraining the ability of videotext services to provide the kind of detail we associate with newspapers, including longer news stories and photographs.
Both of these obstacles can be overcome, however, and when they are, periodical publications are looking down the barrel of the same double whammy of publication costs and overall end-user convenience that makes C.D. Rom a threat to books and journals. Indeed, when they do it is likely that they will one up newspapers with the inclusion of sound bites and video clips. In the interim, the two major advantage of videotext electronic publishing services are timeliness and the ability to retain an accessible database. Reports of news events can appear on such services almost as quickly as broadcast media can deliver them. Indeed, when associated services like computer conferencing and electronic mail are factored in, the result can be both more timely and more personal. The ability to retain news stories and information for extended periods of time can be an outstanding convenience, moreover, as it can allow the interested reader to backtrack from a current story into the events that led up to it. At least three such examples of the value of this retention are currently accessible on Prodigy. The first is a database of many of the major campaign speeches in the 1992 presidential election, including the full text of the debates. The second is a database of the games and analyses associated with the current Fischer-Spassky chess rematch. A third, available through the Strategic Investor service, includes long term databases of both market prices and market analyses.
It is looking increasingly possible that computer media, which currently appear to be flanking publications in several directions, may end up taking over the cluster. While this would be a major change if it occurred, it is unlikely that the change will have much effect on who participates in publishing media or the kinds of rights and responsibilities they have (see ). The changes that are likely focus around the obvious: changes in the nature of publication interfaces and the economics of publishing. Consumers will be able to take advantage of such functions as knowbot exclusion/inclusion. Small publishers are likely to re-emerge as a major player in the publishing industry. Today's larger publishers will, as a matter of survival, be forced increasingly to focus on their distribution and high volume reproduction roles while increasingly focusing their distribution on the output of many small publication houses.
The view that correspondence is a dying medium of communication is not a new one. The telephone has been steadily eating into the markets associated with correspondence for most of a century now, and it can be argued now that personal correspondence is now more the exception than the rule. Most people in our society, which hit by the urge to tell somebody something, treat the telephone as the medium of first choice, and mail is really only important when you want to deliver the same message to a selective, but large and widely distributed, group. Some have argued that it isn't just convenience that has driven this shift; that it represents a fundamental lapse in the literacy of our culture. Most of the media associated with this cluster, including letters, notes, memos, telegrams, telex, and tape letters, have arguably been in decline for some time, and another, facsimile, has only taken off in a big way recently. The rapid movement of electronic mail into the mainstream of widely used computer media is, then, something of a surprise.
The reasons for the success of electronic mail and other correspondence-clustered computer media is relatively obvious from their positioning in media space; flanking correspondence media in the direction of telephony and publishing. These media have the same persistence and asynchronous character as established correspondence media, but achieve much higher delivery speeds such that two diversely located friends or family members can exchange several messages a day without ever having to formally co-ordinate. It is the convenience of this rapid, asynchronous delivery that makes electronic mail appealing to most people.
It should be noted that there appears to be some fairly substantial price sensitivity associated with the personal use of electronic mail. When Prodigy cut back from allowing its customers unlimited E-Mail usage to limiting free electronic mail to 30 messages a month, with a surcharge of 25 cents per message after that, electronic mail use on Prodigy fell through the floor and variety of other obvious effects could be observed, including a reduction in the frequency with which many members logged on, an increase in the amount of clearly private interaction on public bulletin boards, a reduction in the effectiveness of electronic mailbox-based advertising, and an obvious slow down in Prodigy's previously rapid growth rate. Transmission costs for electronic mail are quite low; at most pennies per message. While the Prodigy concerns with abuse that led to this action are easy to understand, the company would have done well to have thought through this pricing change more carefully. Alternatives that might well have prevented most of the negative effects associated with the change include a friends and family plan that allows unlimited electronic mail interaction with a circle of twenty or so user designated members or a more reasonable (but still highly profitable) message cost of perhaps ten cents per message.
|Right or Responsibility||Participant Role|
|Right||Redress of Grievances||No||No||No|
|Right||Unreasonable Search and Seizure||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Obey existing rules and laws||Yes||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Enforce existing rules and laws||No||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Avoid the harm of others||No||No||No|
|Responsibility||Meet fiduciary obligations||No||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Make correct attributions||No||Yes||No|
|Responsibility||Protect proprietary rights||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Act in the Public Interest||No||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Honor contractual obligations||No||No||Yes|
Role-related rights and responsibilities in correspondence media
Today's electronic mail is almost exclusively text-based. While the relative ease of producing text makes it likely that text only messages will continue to predominate computer mediated correspondence options for a long time, the increasingly graphical capabilities of computers are beginning to move multi-media electronic mail into the mainstream. Multi-media electronic correspondence, which should ultimately allow the inclusion of voice, images, graphics, and even video in individual messages, stretches correspondence firmly in the directions of greater dynamism and increased bandwidth (e.g. even closer to telephony and interactive media). The effort involved in composing multi-media correspondence varies depending on the nature of ones inclusions, but will clearly be greater than the effort entailed in just writing something down. This effort may put a drag on the overall use of the multi-media features of multi-media electronic mail.
None of this should have much effect on the nature of participation in correspondence media, which should continue to be constrained to creators, consumers, and distributors (e.g. the post office or network) with rights and responsibilities that, with the addition of knowbot exclusion for consumers, should be little different than those shown in .
Assessing rights and responsibilities for computer media that don't or won't cluster with these established clusters of media promises to be much more problematic, especially for media like computer conferencing that fall firmly in the gap between interpersonally-oriented media like correspondence and mass-audience oriented media like publishing. The rights and responsibilities associated with computer conferencing cannot clearly fall within the realm of either publishing or correspondence. It is clear, on the one hand, that messages reach large audiences in a way that makes "avoiding harm", for instance, a much greater concern on conferencing that it would be for correspondence in general. It is equally clear that there is an informality associated with computer conferencing that makes the burden of proving intent to harm much more problematic and therefore somewhat less of a concern than it would be in most publishing media.
Where, in Foulger's (1991) observation of computer conferencing in IBM, the harm inherent to a message became problematic, the tendency has been to find interpersonal solutions rather than judiciary or legislative ones. A whole class of fora known as meta-fora became the formalized places where the community of conferencers discussed and solved such problems, most often through the introduction of message conventions, but occasionally through changes in the nature of conferencing. The use of iconographs, the little sideways smiling faces that indicate emotion and intent in computer conferencing appends (e.g. :-) means this is intended as a joke), was one of the first such solutions in interpersonal practice identified through such meta-fora, and it can be argued that the first comprehensive encoding of such iconographs occurred as a result of the initial discussion in IBM's first meta-forum, SENSITIV FORUM. Many other conventions, including the general consensus opinion that while writers owed it to readers to not be offensive, readers also owed it to writers to not find offense where none was intended, have come from discussion in this one forum. Foulger (1991) records a number of such informal rules, most of which are oriented to preventing harm. The most important outcome of such discussion, however, was probably the addition of an append modification capability (a change in mediators) that allows writers to modify their appends when individuals find some aspect of those appends offensive.
Similarly distinctive solutions can be observed in the nature of rules and their enforcement. If conferencing were a true publishing media and treated as such, all contributions to IBM's computer conferences would have to be previewed by an editor before they were posted. The cost of this style would, however, have inevitably been found in an overall slowing of computer conferencing interaction that few conference participants would have found productive. If conferencing were a true correspondence media, there would be no need for content rules or enforcement of those content rules. The cost of this style would, however, have inevitably been found in a surfeit of non-business related interaction that would have driven away many consumers. The solution lies in the middle ground. IBM's computer conferencing has both an editorial policy and a set of review and enforcement mechanisms, but the editorial policy is largely self-policing, with creators following the policy and consumers enforcing it. There is a formal review process, but it is largely a post-review process that uses a knowbot excluder to identify those appends which, based on their content, are most likely to be problematic. There are formal "enforcer's" that can change any contribution to any forum, but they are only occasionally required to act. Most problems are solved in the interaction of contributors and consumers before anyone official knows that anything odd happened.
Reflecting on this computer conferencing reality in terms of the kinds of roles associated with other clusters of media, computer conferencing uses a superset of the roles associated with correspondence and a subset of the roles that are associated with publishing, as shown in Computer conferencing arguably has no need for the roles of publisher, retailer, or production staff. While some of these roles may wind up being important elements of the computer conferencing role mix at some point, the only major roles that computer conferencing appears to have borrowed from publishing so far appear to be those of advertiser (the advertising on Prodigy, for instance) and selector. The selector role in computer conferencing, which is discussed in detail by Foulger (1991) appears to primarily take the form of a post-review agent who has the power do erase anything that doesn't meet the editorial policy of the conference.
|Right or Responsibility||Participant Role|
|Right||Redress of Grievances||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Right||Unreasonable Search and Seizure||No||No||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Obey existing rules and laws||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Enforce existing rules and laws||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Responsibility||Avoid the harm of others||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Responsibility||Meet fiduciary obligations||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Make correct attributions||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Responsibility||Protect proprietary rights||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Responsibility||Act in the Public Interest||No||No||No||Yes|
|Responsibility||Honor contractual obligations||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Role-related rights and responsibilities in computer conferencing
This papers attempt to inform the rights and responsibilities that should be associated with emerging computer media through the metaphoric evaluation of established media and their associated rights and responsibilities opened with the establishment of:
The results, on balance, appear to be better than one might have hoped given rather indirect path one must follow from the media characteristics in which most media metaphors are grounded to the realm of practice where rights and responsibilities reside. Only two media, computer conferencing and electronic bulletin boards, truly appear to elude classification with one or another of the clusters of media. The rest not only classify well with existing media, but seem to entail similar roles and similar profiles of rights and responsibilities within roles. It is, in fact, the detailed analysis of roles within established clusters of media that seems to be most important here. The kinds of parallel uses of media that follow from placement in propinquitous areas of media space seems to result in highly parallel roles and role-related practices, at least when examined at the level of media-specific rights and responsibilities.
Large gaps still exist in media space where there appear to be no competitors at present, but which emerging technologies promise to invade under the control of computers. Computer media like computer conferencing have demonstrated that computer-based media can be molded into the middle ground between two existing clusters of media in a medium that clusters properly with neither. It can, then, be reasonably expect that there will be other computer media, probably including composites of electronic publishing and video and almost certainly including some variants of virtual reality, for which we will find no adequate precedent in existing media for assessing rights and responsibilities. Such media will almost certainly require, as was the case here for computer conferencing, detailed experience with the medium and the practices that emerge from such use. Metaphoric analysis based on adjoining clusters of media may help to inform early conclusions, but there will ultimately be no substitute for observing the medium as it is practiced by its various participants.
This study also appears to support the value to such analysis of the theory of medium as process and the characteristic-based media space it suggests. Media space can be better developed by considering larger numbers of media contrasted on larger numbers of characteristics (including, presumably) their associated role profiles). Work on just such an analysis is already underway. Refinement of the underlying theoretical perspective continues as well. It is hoped that, as elements of this work are completed, they will provide even better tools for understanding media, including the relationships of emerging media to existing media.
October 21, 1992