Research Matters

Research Matters

Digital Connections


KU communications professor Nancy Baym recently published "Personal Connections in the Digital Age," a book that probes the 21st-century technological revolution in personal identity and the exchange of information.

Episode #72



2 minutes (2.7 MB) | Download mp3

Transcript


An investigator explores how Twitter, Facebook and mobile phones have produced a sea change in the nature of interpersonal communication. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

KU communications professor Nancy Baym recently published "Personal Connections in the Digital Age," a book that probes the 21st-century technological revolution in personal identity and the exchange of information.

Baym: We're steeped in so much rhetoric about how technology affects us - that it's good or bad, or artificial or human. This book should give people a research-grounded, sensible way to think through these things. I wanted it to be very readable - a one-stop shop for that person who wants to be able to understand what's going on with new technologies in personal relationships. While it's got a lot of personal examples and anecdotes, it's pretty packed with information as well.

In her book, Baym explores new forms of personal connection; online communities; relationships forged on the Internet; and misconceptions about cyberspace.

Baym: The boundary between where I stop and where my technologies begin is not quite clear. If we externalize our memories, our relationships, and things like that onto technologies, then we worry that we might be displacing what it means to be truly authentic and human. Someone might say, 'My Facebook friend is also my friend in real life' but why do we have to question that? These technologies really make us question what is real and what is artificial.

The KU researcher said that writing about digital communication is a challenge because the technology is constantly moving forward.

Baym: If people read this book in 10 or 20 years and say, 'Oh, I remember Facebook!' I think there still will be something there that's insightful for whatever technologies they're using then. The struggle is to extract the bigger role that communication technologies play, and what kinds of concerns and hopes and ambitions they trigger for us.

For more on digital interpersonal connections, log onto Research Matters dot KU dot EDU. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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