Re: Why Lurk...

From: Dale Cyphert (
Date: Mon Apr 04 2005 - 15:56:16 PDT

Oh, Mike, that's such an easy question. For those of us who are
fringing around, the whole point is that we ARE eavesdropping. If we
were participating enough to check a discussion board--well, we'd be the
other not-so-fringy-kind. For those of us on the edges, for whatever
reason we might be here, the mail MUST drop into our inbox, or we'd
never see it at all.

This actually touches on one of the things I do read/write/post/research
about these days--the functioning of virtual groups and problem-solving
discussions (as opposed to "communities" like xmca that have no
particular decision-making function).

A web interface does have advantages for those who are actually
following a discussion or trying to keep track of threads (for
record-keeping purposes, for instance, or to follow the arguments around
a decision). It will create a crisis of participation, though, in that
ONLY those who are willing to take an active step to participate will
"show up" at all. If the desire is to maximize participation, email
works better simply because it minimizes the cost of participation.
Participation requires only a "reply" click, while the "cost" of having
to sort message threads in our own brains is relatively small--something
humans actually do very efficiently--and the reward is that we at least
overhear the whole conversation, even if we don't choose to participate.

As you can see, we are still here enough that we CAN show up when the
conversation turns to something that strikes a cord.


Mike Cole wrote:
> Dale, Fern, Heather et al--
> My question about those who read but do not write or otherwise make
> their presence known on xmca was a little
> different than the one answered. In seeking to fix a whole in the
> (always holey, never holy) xmca infrastructure (e.g. the
> people who one sees listed under members are mostly not and the only way
> to find those who are is to act like you are signing up) I was
> fascinated by how many people took the trouble to sign up, sort of
> describe themselves, but never posted a question or observation.
> This interested me in particular because I get a lot of email and I
> think the threaded discourse data base for xmca, which is updated daily,
> is a great way to follow discussions. Why, I wondered, would anyone want
> to go to the trouble of signing up just to read? I figured some people
> might not like using the web and prefer to get stuff through email. But
> its so difficult to keep the threads in mind! (Witness the discussion on
> development, learning, breaking away, etc.).
> I appreciate the replies to the question of why people like to read but
> don't post-- lots of different legitimate reasons. I personally benefit
> from the diversity that sometimes blossoms on xmca to beat down the
> myths of orthodoxy that over-representation of specific people (I am far
> and away the worst offender over-reprentation-wise) engenders (a word
> chosen not at random).
> So, I'll keep mixing it up as best I can, as you will see. But it still
> puzzles me that there are so many signed up members when the discourse
> is so wonderfully googleable.
> Cousin mike
> On Apr 4, 2005 1:21 PM, * <>*
> < <>> wrote:
> In response to Mike's and others' postings about lurking.
> First of all, I really don't like the term
> sounds too predatory to me. And, as a lurker, I don't see
> myself as carnivorous at all in my reading of other's
> postings. Okay, well, maybe a little bit. It's delicious
> stuff! Anyway...
> I think of the XMCA list as sort of like a family reunion.
> When a family gets together, there are all different kinds
> of networks and relationships that become relevant as people
> interact with one another. Cousins and "play cousins"
> interact with each other, Aunts and Uncles, Uncles and
> nephews, etc. The family reu ion metaphor also throws a
> dimension of temporality/spatiality in there that I think is
> important. There are different generations present, and
> people "living" in different places who come together at the
> reunion.
> Many times, I envision myself as one of the "youngins"
> listening to the words and stories and ideas of the four or
> five or ten old folks (I mean that in the most respectful
> and caring way) who I consider to be both more
> knowledgeable.
> But...while I'm in the circle of people listening to these
> conversations, I'm also doing many other things that young
> folks do, and I don't want to be disrespectful to other
> people who are more thoroughly engaged in the
> conversation/literature. And I don't want to appear foolish.
> In "real" family reunions, there are ways to cover up what
> might be construed as comments that are not quite at the
> same level as that of the grown folks, but email/threaded
> communication has a kind o linearity and reflective delay
> embedded in it that doesn't allow for that.
> So, that's my reason for not contributing more.
> Take Care,
> Heather

Dale Cyphert, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Management
University of Northern Iowa
1227 W. 27th Street
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0125
(319) 273-6150; fax (319) 2732922

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