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Final Project- ENG 1302

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  1. Ask, Answer, and Discover: The effects of anonymity and the internet on self-disclosure

  2. The world wide web has many things to offer, including many informational and advice websites, such as Yahoo! Answers.

  3. Yahoo! Answers gives one a chance to Ask, Answer, and Discover questions from an anonymous, online community. Topics for both questions and answers vary enormously.

  4. Food and Drink What’s the best wine/food pairing you have ever had?

  5. Travel What are the best cruise ships for a family vacation?

  6. Family and Relationships How do the washing machines work again?

  7. Virtually any question or answer can be found on Yahoo! Answers. But not all questions are objective; some are more advice-oriented.

  8. Should I Move Out?

  9. What do I do?

  10. One might wonder if some of these questions would still be up if it everyone had to use their real name What if it were you?

  11. Would you still ask about a clingy boyfriend if he could find the question with a simple Google search?

  12. Would you still ask about a possible criminal record if anyone could look up what you did and find you out?

  13. This has important implications for larger scholarly conversations on literacy. How does being anonymous in a community ofmillionsaffect what you say?

  14. Literacy (n): The ability to read and write Not so much. This isn’t your grandma’s definition of literacy we’re talking about. But wait… literacy??? Really? I got that down in Kindergarten… right?

  15. If you think about it, the current definition is pretty vague. • What if I love reading comics, but don’t get Shakespeare? • What if I have a disability and read a lot, but need help? • What if I can read a stop sign in Swahili but not much else?

  16. What if I just don’t want to read one day… am I still literate? How about the kid who doesn’t have good social skills but knows 3 languages? Maybe I only read certain things because of my culture… does that make me more or less literate than you? What if I recognize the letters, but don’t know how they sound or what they mean? These are all important parts of {Literacy}

  17. One article says there are 5 elements of literacy that we are missing… Texts Contexts Functions Participants Motivation

  18. Even though the books we read in school are similar across the board, there is more to literacy than BOOKS.

  19. You also read differently in different situations (context) Hopefully, you heed the Wrong Way sign more than your cereal box.

  20. Context is also key for Yahoo! Answers users

  21. Context (under what circumstances we read/ write) influences literacy practices (what we do with our literacy). This is what my ENG 1302-H class was discussing the day I got the idea for my final project. Dr. Shannon Carter, our instructor, asked the class if they had any questions about the class structure. No hands went up. Then, she asked us to write down any questions we might have on a sheet of paper and turn them into her anonymously.

  22. Guess what? Every one of the 24 students had a question to write down.

  23. The context of anonymityinfluenced the literacy practice of asking questions. This interested me, and reminded me of how many questions are asked on websites where one may remain anonymous such as Yahoo! Answers.

  24. The internet has been throwing curveballs into our existing data regarding literacy: While the internet only accounted for 1% of telecommunications in 1993, by 2005 it was estimated that 84% of 18-28 year olds use the internet for school research, blogging, social networking, instant messaging, and gaming. While research suggested self-disclosure was rare over the internet in 1996, that is no longer supported by the data. Research on self-disclosure done in 1987 suggested that disclosure begat disclosure, but since the “boom” of the internet that trend has reversed completely.

  25. My Research Question: “How does anonymity on the internet affect self-disclosure?”

  26. My Hypotheses: Because of the opportunity to remain anonymous, users will be more likely to volunteer information online that they would not otherwise reveal about themselves. This affect will be enhanced because self-disclosure over the internet is so common, it has become a norm that people wish to follow.

  27. My Research Methods I chose to use field research to acquire most of the data for my project. Interviews and surveys, while valuable for other projects, could potentially inhibit the effect of anonymity for my research. (Field research would display behaviors directly, but self-report inventories only display behaviors individuals are aware of and wish to reveal to a researcher.

  28. While I researched, I took screenshots of select questions/answers and also took notes

  29. I coded my field notes to get the recurring themes emerging from my research When taking screenshots, I got proof that the questioner/ answerer was 18 or older, and obscured all faces and screen names to protect participants’ identities.

  30. Some of my participants were possibly confused about the point and mission of Yahoo! Answers.

  31. This user’s question seems directed toward the wrong web community (although I am not quite sure which community she could go to.)

  32. The answerers to this question most likely reflect how other users felt about the question; confused and dismayed.

  33. These users remind me of how accessible the internet is; for better and for worse. Anyone may search through, ask, or answer these questions. This also has implications for users who ask for romantic relationship advice.

  34. For this user, having a wide, accessible audience was an asset, as many users have had romantic experiences she has not.

  35. The factor of having a wide audience is also good for this user, who does not know whether to pursue this potential relationship or not.

  36. Being a part of a wide, diverse community is also useful when wondering what to do towards the end of a relationship, like this user.

  37. However, being a part of a web community where anyone and everyone can answer your questions is not always the best thing. Take, for example, another question from the same user, asked a short time after the last one:

  38. While this user is attempting to get help for her ex-boyfriend, putting the question up to Yahoo! Answers users may not have been the best choice.

  39. While this user claims she is asking for help from several sources, Yahoo! Answers, characterized by amateur advice, may not have been the best avenue for this delicate, time-sensitive question.

  40. Also, while the “best answer” chosen by community voters does emphasize the user asking needs to protect herself and her child, the answerer says nothing about calling 911, removing potential suicide devices away from the individual, or anything else recommended by professionals in the field.

  41. Having an audience of mostly non-experts also has potentially dire consequences for some of the questions asked in the “Health” category.

  42. Although these questions were not life-and-death matters as far as we can tell, I still wonder why one would choose to ask these problems to a community of non-experts instead of seeking medical advice.

  43. I also wonder why users choose to disclose so much information on their given issues.

  44. This user chooses to go into details that he perhaps never shared with others before.

  45. This user tells us details such as his feelings on his wife’s feminimity, his reluctance to trust her male friends, and her regressive behavior when faced with opposition from her spouse.

  46. This user feels it is necessary to relay all details that come to memory about a situation with her sister.