Archive for March 13th, 2010

Privacy of the individual in the global village of the World Wide Web (4th Post)   no comments

Posted at 2:20 pm in Psychology

This week I took the initiative to start reading a book that is not a textbook and is written by Irwin Altman, a social psychologist in the 70s. The book is called “The Environment and Social Behavior: Privacy, Personal Space, Territory, Crowding”.

In the first chapters of the book, Altman focuses on privacy. Below are some of the main points that he makes:

1. Privacy is an interpersonal boundary-control process, which paces and regulates interaction with others.

2. Privacy can be divided into desired and achieved privacy. Desired privacy refers to the ideal level of interaction with others; how much interaction we desire at a specific moment. Achieved privacy refers to the actual degree of contact that we achieve with others. If achieved privacy is less or more than the desired one a state of imbalance exists; otherwise if the two are equal to one another then an optimum state of privacy exists.

3. As a result of the above one may realise that privacy is an optimising process; the optimum state of privacy is the ideal.

4. Privacy is also a dialectic process. As Altman states “privacy is an interplay of opposing forces – that is, different balances of opening and closing the self to others.” In other words, desired privacy is something relative; sometimes we want to be in the company of others, but other times we want to be left alone.

5. Privacy is an input and output process. Regulating privacy takes place by looking at what comes in and what goes out while interacting with others.

6. Privacy may refer to a variety of social units (individuals, groups of people, families, nations etc.) and their interactions between them.

7. Finally, it is a dynamic process. Privacy boundaries may change over time and in order to analyse privacy it needs to be under continuous observation.

Later on, the author refers to the mechanisms that people use, in order to implement desired levels of privacy. These mechanisms include verbal behaviour (e.g. “keep out!”), nonverbal use of the body, environmental behaviours (e.g. personal space, territory, clothing for approachability) and culturally defined norms and practices (different cultures may have different customs to regulate between public and private).

I would like to point out that things have changed significantly since the ’70s the time when this book was written. The evolution of technology and the birth of the Web have provoked new privacy concerns, which are much more complex than the ones that existed in the ’70s. Apart from our lives our offline, our lives continue online; in the online world the situation regarding privacy is very different than in the offline world. Online there is no physical contact between people and anyone can gain access over someone else’s information. As a result, making use of the above mentioned mechanisms is rather difficult. Apart from that, private information can be available online and stored indefinitely and can be accessed by people at any moment, so none of these mechanisms can be applied in this case.

Written by az4g09 on March 13th, 2010

Roles, norms, and cohesiveness. Problems of decision making and brainstorming in groups.   no comments

Posted at 1:30 am in Psychology,Sociology

I have almost finished my reading of the book “Social Psychology”, 5th edition, S. Brehm et al and I will review material from other texts in psychology, and sociology. Mainly the textbooks already identified in the initial blog posting.

One of my aims for this week was to review some of the outputs of groups. After careful reading I decided that best approach is to review group processes and their affect on outcomes, rather than focus on outcomes. Two of main exercises that groups are engaged in are decision making and brainstorming. Decision making in groups often suffers from phenomenon known as groupthink. Groupthink describes polarization and bias in group decision making. Researchers found that group discussion usually exaggerates the initial leanings of a group. Group polarization is when group members simply find about other people’s opinions. It is an example of social comparison, when individuals forming a view of social reality by comparing themselves with others. They then distinguish themselves within the group by adopting more extreme position of the group norm. Social categorisation also plays part in groupthink. People want to be part of ingroup, distinguish their own group, and so they stay away from arguments or taking a stance that would leave them in a position of being viewed as part of an outgroup.

Creative ideas are second outputs of a group I will discuss. Group members who interact face to face actually produce fewer creative ideas when brainstorming than nominal groups (several individuals working alone). Computers making use of the network of the Internet offer promising improvements to group brainstorming. They combine freedom of being alone at a PC with the stimulation of new ideas over the Internet. Some recent studies of online groups have shown that in many cases online groups are even better at brainstorming than nominal groups.

In regards to projects, groups are even more prone to feeling entrapped by previous commitments and are less likely to withhold investments from failing projects. One other phenomena which I found very interesting was the resource dilemma. This describes when larger groups are more likely to exhibit selfish behaviour in a situation with limited resources than smaller groups. This occurs partly because in a larger group establishing norms of co-operation are less likely, people are less committed to each other and perceive that their actions have less impact. Do online groups suffer as much from resource dilemma than offline groups? Arguably less so and many have even referred to the Internet as the “Copying Machine” for digital artefacts. I had some difficulty finding cases of resource dilemma in online groups and it would be an interesting exercise for any Web Sicentist to find examples of this and document them. Scarcity of digital material or resources on Internet isn’t usually an issue. Bits are easily copied and easily reproduced, much to the angst of rightsholders who have problems with the “copy and share” mentality of filesharing groups. I may come to look at online and offline groups who engage in file sharing as this seems to be a highly debated and hot topic at moment, especially as Digital Economy Bill has several proposals to tackle groups and individuals engaged in this activity.

Written by cm7e09 on March 13th, 2010