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One that has become popular in the last few years is ‘blogging’, the keeping of diaries, journals and log books on line (hence ‘webblogs’) and sometimes linked to Web cams, which link video surveillance to a personal Web site.‘Blogging’ has some of the appeal of soap opera, as vernacular ‘stars’ arise, who keep journals which detail their personal lives, or more insidiously in some of the blogs found on sites that celebrate anorexia.Our interviews suggest that part of the appeal of chatrooms for the young lies in the opportunities that they provide to experiment with extended or alternative identities.Ricki Goldman Segall (1998) has shown how this use of computers appeals particularly to teenage girls, who can use the computer to explore and extend their interests in fashion and appearance in intimate and novel ways.
Censorship does not work in cyberspace (or works in only partial and transitory ways) and what is generally agreed is needed is education in ‘responsible use.’ This includes developing educational strategies that take account of the appeal and attraction of the Internet and supports young people in reflecting on their own practice as Internet users and the consequences of their Internet interactions on others. Generally speaking we found that the fears that young people had about the safety of the Internet differed from those of adults.
We use it to check train times, the price of plane tickets, the weather forecast, the availability of books, as a place to leave messages for our children, to make contact with people, to announce family news, to exchange photos and music, to apply for jobs, to chat with friends and with strangers, to research, to learn and to teach.
The Internet has become, for many of us, not only our primary source of information, but has extended and changed the scale of our social networks and the pace and intensity with which we interact with people: it has changed our identities (Mitchell, 2003).
Many of the young people we spoke to said that they found this continual uncertainty exhilarating and very different from most of their daytoday interactions with others (in ‘meat space’), in which role, status and rules constrain interaction within routine and highly predictable forms.
Chatrooms provide more than a stage for trying on new selves; the setting itself can become hyperreal, as all those who participate in it interact in the knowledge that ‘noone is quite who they say they are’.
The fact that in chatroom interactions nothing can be taken for granted, when taken to an extreme, creates a Wonderland that can be compelling.