Nancy K Baym, A Call for Grounding in the Face of Blurred Boundaries, 2009, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Human communication and technology begins with the invention of writing. It includes pitching training, ink, wood blocks, 16th–century books, and 17th–and 18th–century pamphlets. It includes photography, audio recording, radio waves, moving pictures, the Telegraph, television, and countless other technologies, more of which have been from London remembered. There are long traditions of scholarship into these other once–new technologies. – p720
Although Internet research is often seen as a relatively new area of research, in A Call for Grounding in the Face of Blurred Boundaries Baym suggests that it should not necessarily be ascribed as ‘new’ because this blinds us to the areas of new media which are already familiar. Today’s new communications technologies create much the same dilemmas as new technologies through history such as quality of interaction, the nature of community, the effect on relationships, the idea of fake identities, the safety of children, and trust and privacy issues. Social theorists have to work out what is new and what is recycled and the key to the future of communication can often be found in the past.
One of the main areas that Baym focuses on in this article is the idea that online realms are no longer separate and distinct from each other. They lack boundaries and, although they appear to be many singular communities, their identity is multimodal. Group members connect with one another in multiple locations using multiple media such as YouTube, Flickr, blogs, websites etc. The main presiding point in this article is that what happens on one medium is much the same as what happens another medium or communications device be it online and telephone or face-to-face. It is largely a matter of what is convenient.
Most people connected online are also connected offline. Online and offline are not different entities to be contrasted. What happens via new technology is completely interwoven with what happens face-to-face and via other media–the telephone, the television, films, music, radio, print. Even behaviors that only appear online are put there by embodied people acting in geographic locations embedded in face-to-face social relationships and multimedia environments that shape the meaning and consequences of those online practices. - p721
Finally, Baym suggests that academic researchers should take note of this practice and consider dipping into other disciplines for influence, inspiration and ideas.
We need to think about how to transcend academic boundaries, while recognizing what we have to offer that is distinctive. There is little that we study under ‘‘human communication and technology’’ that is not also being studied by those in Sociology, Women’s Studies, Political Science, English, Law, Business, Psychology, Linguistics, and many other fields in this and many other nations. We need to draw on that work. We need to speak to scholars in other traditions. We must avoid insularity. p722