Study Guides for Shedletsky and Aitken
Chapters 1 and 2
As you read these chapters work out answers to the following questions that
will shape our class discussion:
- What distinct modes of communication are encompassed in the internet? Email?
Discussion groups? Chat rooms? Websites? Blogs? Instant messaging?
- Are there others?
- Which of these are similar enough we could think of them together?
- Make a list of features that makes each mode distinct.
- What do we mean when we say "The internet is rhetorical?" When
we say "The internet is a place for communication"?
- Answering these may require your exploring the definitions of the terms
"rhetoric" and "communication."
- Make a list of the characteristics of the internet that allow us to
discuss it as rhetorical. as a place for communication.
- Compare oral literacy, written literacy, and computer literacy.
- Doing this comparison requires that you think about what is meant by
each type of literacy. You may be helped by thinking about how religion
or government changes when it is in a culture that has each type of literacy.
- Make a chart of differences.
- Make a list of the characteristics of computer literacy.
- Does the internet alienate communication from people? disembody communication?
With what effect?
- We often believe that the intense face to face quality of communication
is important. Communication is best when we can see, fully respond to,
those with whom we are communicating. Does the internet diminish this
human connection quality? If so, with what effect?
- Do internet messages weaken the linkage between a source and a message?
Between a source and his/her listener/audience?
- Read the middle paragraph on p. 9 carefully. How does internet communication
(remember their may be more than one mode) change the cues we attend to as
we construct the meaning of messages?
- Make a list of the cues that are used to construct meaning on the internet?
- Is meaning as important in communication on the internet as it is in
other message environments?
- Read the case for discussion on p. 12. Where is power on the internet? Who
controls the internet?
- How do your answers to these questions compare to your answers to similar
questions about writing? Who controls print? Where is the power in print?
- Shedletsky and Aitken write about the convergence of intrapersonal, interpersonal,
public, and mass communication on the internet. Do the distinctions among
these types of communication still make sense for describing communication
on the internet
- You will need definitions of each of these types of communication.
- Be prepared with reasons for your answer.
- What does it mean when Shedletsky and Aitken say "The Internet is a
human activity"? (p. 21)
- What would some similar "activities" be?
- How does calling the internet a human activity change how we would study
- Examine the chart on p. 25. Make a list of the ways the internet enhances
communication. Make a list of the ways in which the internet diminishes communication.
- After completing your lists, think about what your lists say about what
- Now compare your list with Shedletsky and Aitken's list on p. 27. Which
of their items would you delete? Defend the items you have added to their
list with your list.
- Study Shedletsky and Aitken's linear model of communication as information
transfer on p. 28-29. Explain the various modes of communication you decided
existed on the internet in the first question above in terms of the terminology
of this model.
- There are other models of communication. For example, one model views
communication not as a method of information transfer but as a method
of understanding - giving meaning to things we encounter - through interaction
with others. Do the same exercise with this alternative model of communication.
There are concepts important to considering chapter 4 that Shedletsky and Aitken
do not introduce. First, is the difference between information and framing.
|Information is built by reducing things we know to facts --
isolatable pieces of knowledge that can be conveyed and memorized.
||Framing is built by putting facts together into a new or old
way of thinking about a subject. Thus, framing takes a piece of information
and reinterprets it by relating it to other facts.
|Information is measured in bits.
||Framing is understood as different frames for information
|Information is ultimately analytical: that is, we reduce complexity
to single, isolated facts that we can present through communication.
||Framing is ultimately synthetic: that is, we take a set of
facts and give them a relationship to each other by tying them together
with the frame.
|The power of communication with relationship to information
is the power to pass the information from one person to another.
||The power of communication with relationship to framing is
the power to alter or reinforce a framework within which facts are interpreted.
|Example: How many people of color are there in the United
||Example: Should we be asking questions about race in a census?
Aren't there more significant ways in which our people differ than race?
Doesn't the question assume that there are people without color? Thus, isn't
|A search engine responds to the cyberworld as information,
focusing on particular words and phrases.
||How do we gather different frames from the internet?
This chapter does not show full awareness of this distinction, and it is an
- Are either information or framing dominant on the internet?
- Does the internet have structures that privilege information? that privilege
Second, I think you need to think of this chapter as developing an example
more than as about a "function" itself. To help set that up:
- Make a list of the kinds of information you rely on the internet for.
- Make a list of kinds of information for which you still rely on print.
Review this website
that teaches how to evaluate websites. Be prepared to evaluate the advice on
- What advice seems to you faulty?
- What advice is missing?
- What assumptions does the site make about what makes information reliable?
Go to the UM Library website. Find "Communication and Media Complete,"
a data base of research in communication. Use the website to find the following:
- Locate an article by Sonia Livingstone on Media Literacy.
- Locate an article in Media Week entitled "Politicians Log On"
- Describe how a resource such as this alters your use of the library.
Take a look at "Undergraduate
Library Services in the 21st Century." Read at least the Executive
Summary and as much else as you wish.
- Where was the Task Force right? Where wrong?
- Evaluate the Library's achievement of the report's vision.
Bring in the URL of your favorite search engines.
- Why do you like this search engine?
- How does it differ from GOOGLE?
- List the uses of the internet that you consider "entertaining."
- Look at the definition of "internet play" on p. 74. Do you have
recommendations for altering it?
- Do you believe that the internet is inherently playful? Explain why or why
- Review the chart on p. 77. Do you believe the internet intensifies experiences
as indicated here?
- Examine pp. 82-83. Now design a set of rules for the use of the class website.
Place them on your server and bring the URL to class.
Return to the COMM 498i home page
- Bring in a copy of a flame that you have encountered in an email or in a
listserv you belong to.
- Make a list of the lines along which the digital divide separates.
- Visit the following websites. What strategies do these websites use to unite
their adherents? What strategies do they use to divide people?
- Review the chart on pp.104-105. List additional metaphors you have encountered
on the web.
- Define intrapersonal communication. How is it different from thinking? Describe
a moment when you engaged in intrapersonal communication (that you can discuss
- What is "voice"? "tone"? "intention"? How
often when you are reading email messages or visiting websites do you take
these into consideration?
- Make a list of rules that you use to decode a website. What questions do
you seek to answer that influence how you interpret websites?
- Make a list of rules that you use to decode email messages. What questions
do you seek to answer that shape your development of meaning in the messages?
- When you are using the internet (websites) do you think of yourself engaged
in communication with another person? If not, how do you think about the communication?
- When did you last meet someone new on line? How does the internet change
the way you meet people for the first time? Be prepared to provide a narrative
of one recent encounter.
- How does the internet change your relationship with friends that you meet
occasionally (such as old high school friends)? What role does the internet
play in such relationships? Be prepared to provide a narrative of one such
- How does the internet influence your relationship with your best friend
or life partner? In what ways is the relationship weaker? Stronger?
- Do you know anyone whose facility in face to face human relationships is
eroded by his/her interaction with the internet? Be prepared to explain how.
- Do you know anyone whose facility for face to face human relationships is
enhanced by the internet? Be prepared to explain how.
- Review Table 8.1. Are there elements you would add to the table?
Drawing on your study of websites of organizations and your reading in the
book, think through the following:
- What are some of the functions which organizations and groups perform on
- Prepare a list of the kind of internet functionalities that groups can sponsor
and how they relate to developing group communication.
- Make a list of rules that you would use in managing a listserv.
- Make a list of the five most significant implications you think the internet
has on the way we view communication
- Make a list of the five most significant ways our knowledge of communication
informs an understanding of the internet as a communication medium
- How has commercialization influenced the internet as a communication medium
- Shedletsky and Aitken call the internet "a more humane medium"
than various forms of mass communication. Do you agree? Why or why not?