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Cyberliteracy: Navigating the Internet with Awareness

Laura J. Gurak
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The Internet has changed our social spaces, our political and social realities, our use of language, and the way we communicate, all with breathtaking speed. Almost everyone who deals with the Internet and the new world of cyberspace communication at times feels bewildered, dismayed, or even infuriated. In this clear and helpful book, computer communications scholar Laura J. Gurak takes a close look at the critical issues of online communication and discusses how to become literate in the new mass medium of our era.In cyberspace, Gurak shows us, literacy means much more than knowing how to read. Cyberliteracy means being able to sort fact from fiction, to detect extremism from reasonable debate, and to identify gender bias, commercialism, imitation, parody, and other aspects of written language that are problematic in online communication. Active reading skills are essential in cyberspace, where hoaxes abound, advertising masquerades as product information, privacy is often compromised, and web pages and e-mail messages distort the truth. Gurak analyzes the new language of the Internet, explaining how to prepare for its discourse and protect oneself from its hazards. This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the impact of the Internet on the practices of reading and writing and on our culture in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13072-0
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In late December 2000, a man (MM for short) who worked as a quality assurance tester brought a bag of weapons to work and opened fire on his co-workers at a Massachusetts-based Internet startup firm, killing seven people and rocketing the United States back to a waking state after the consumer-induced hype of the winter holiday season. In initial news reports, people said the things we are by now sadly used to hearing after these sort of shootings: “He seemed OK, sort of quiet, kept to himself.” But within days, reporters atWiredmagazine had discovered what they claimed was...

  5. Chapter 1 Cyberliteracy: Toward a New Internet Consciousness
    (pp. 9-28)

    Fifty years ago, the above quotation fromNewsweekwould have been impossible to comprehend. As an early, pre-Web Internet user, I for one could not have imagined this technology becoming so common that the obscure UNIX term for the period, “dot,” would be a word used in daily conversation. Yet today, many of us live in a state constantly mediated between our physical lives and our electronic ones, moving between our physical spaces (homes, classrooms, and offices) and our private e-spaces (voice-mail boxes, email, and chat sites) without thinking much about it. We do this even though this way of...

  6. Chapter 2 Speed, Reach, Anonymity, Interactivity
    (pp. 29-46)

    How does cyberspace operate? What are the “action terms,” if you will, of communication on the Internet? They are speed, reach, anonymity, interactivity: the functional units by which most Internet communication takes place. These terms help us understand how cyberspace functions, how this technology is the same as and different from others before it, and how we can work with the technology to become cyberliterate.

    Any given set of features cannot be applicable to all instances of Internet communication. What takes place on a Web page for teenage girls will not be the same as what takes place on an...

  7. Chapter 3 Techno-Rage: Machines, Anger, and Censorship
    (pp. 47-64)

    In this introductory comment from a keynote presentation, I attempted to give my audience a sense of what I meant by technorage. But I barely needed to make the case. Everyone was nodding his or her head in agreement. They all knew what it meant to be flamed, because at one time or another, each person had experienced this feature of life in cyberspace. When I went on to discuss flaming in the context of other events, like road rage and annoying voice message systems, the audience seemed to agree that our machines, marvelous as they can be, seem to...

  8. Chapter 4 Gender(s) and Virtualities
    (pp. 65-81)

    Why did Sherry Turkle, after extensive research and experience with online life, feel that being a virtual man might be easier? Although MCI and others would have us believe the Internet is a utopian space where gender does not count, this is not the case. It is questionable both how much access women have to computers and how women and girls are treated once they get online. The answer, some would say, is right there on the Internet: if you don’t like being female, just change your screen name to a male one. Yet although gender swapping may be easy,...

  9. Chapter 5 Humor, Hoaxes, and Legends in Cyberspace
    (pp. 82-109)

    From cellular phones that might make gas pumps explode to virus email messages that will crash your computer to sick children in need of greeting cards, rumors and hoaxes abound on the Internet. Anyone with an email account quickly notices that certain messages seem to make the rounds. Hoaxes asking you to send a card to a dying child or to save box tops from cereal so that a family won’t starve are popular. So are messages about deadly computer viruses that will wipe out your hard disk. These messages come disguised in language that make them seem credible, but...

  10. Chapter 6 Privacy and Copyright in Digital Space
    (pp. 110-127)

    For much of the twentieth century, people attended to the tasks of their daily lives without giving privacy and copyright much thought. Yet as the twenty-first century begins, these topics have become common ones for discussion, in large part because of Internet technologies. It is almost impossible to open a newspaper without encountering a story about privacy, or the lack thereof, on the Web. These stories raise such questions as whether it is safe to buy merchandise online when personal spending data will be collected and spread across cyberspace, not only by the companies that collect the data but potentially...

  11. Chapter 7 Shopping at the E-Mall
    (pp. 128-144)

    On the Internet, you can buy almost anything—cars, books, CDs, software, clothing, kitchen products. Some Web shopping sites are friendly and neighborly. Others are designed to serve people who are looking for high-tech items like software or computers. This phenomenon—shopping at an electronic mall, not your neighborhood shops—is part of a bigger trend called ecommerce. One of the largest ecommerce sites to date is, which sells books, CDs, videos, electronics, and more.

    Like a traditional shopping mall, these sites invite you to visit, fill up a shopping cart, and use your credit cards. But unlike physical...

  12. Chapter 8 Think Globally, Eat Locally
    (pp. 145-160)

    Several years ago, I was on my annual vacation to the East Coast (“out East,” as they say here in Minnesota), staying with family along the Connecticut shoreline. One day I took a break from the sun and surf to drive north through Connecticut into the college town of Northampton, Massachusetts. I had been away from Minnesota for more than a week, and I was desperate to find an Internet connection, despite my earlier resolvenotto read email for the entire vacation. After a visit with friends and a quick lunch, I began to roam the city in search...

  13. Appendix: A Few Words about Method
    (pp. 161-162)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 163-166)
  15. References
    (pp. 167-174)
  16. Sites for Cyberliteracy
    (pp. 175-186)
  17. Index
    (pp. 187-194)