Because I write my posts offline and don't publish them immediately, I didn't see Nick's post before I wrote this. I haven't had time to think about memes much yet or look into his other links, but I definitely will. But here's my post anyway:
The Habitat is a good example of the differences between user/computer interaction, and user/user interaction via computers. An example of the first is SmallTalk, which was mentioned in the article about the Habitat, and comparing these two made if obvious that the complexity that human communication creates changes a lot. Also, the Habitat shows that communication is limited or changed by the medium.
This and a post by Chris made me consider what our expectations for online communication are. Though I think there are places online where quality conversations are taking place (ex. Sometimes scholarly blogs like (http://www.purselipsquarejaw.org) PurseLipSquareJaw, or the
(http://opensource.mit.edu/) Free / Open Source Research Community -- just a couple that I can think of right now), there are of course limitations.
But what are we looking for with communication online? There are definitely conversations online that aren't as high of quality, as Chris mentions. Banter on chat or some blogs is not all there is online, though it's often easy to see -- but it's the same offline. Even parts of cyberspace that are supposedly reserved for serious conversation may not be as conducive to discourse in some ways, but there are advantages. For example, some freedom from both time and geographical constraints, and also more control over revealing true identity.
So when I wrote that communication is limited or changed, I meant that the limitations are changed --
there are just different limitations on communication online, and different circumstances will determine what method of communication may be appropriate.
And I think that online, just as offline, conversations depend more on what people put into them than on the technology that communicates it -- for a couple of examples: whether there is a peer review
process, or whether people revise their online communications as extensively as those for offline communication could make a huge difference in the quality of discourse online. It depends more on the human input, and less on the technology, though the Habitat example shows that there are definitely lessons to be learned about the technology that supports communication online.
Note: Sorry about the manual links -- no buttons in this version of Mozilla available in the Memorial Lab and manually entering HTML wasn't working for some reason ... yeah, probably human error:)