network communication on the internet

The purpose of this project is to investigate communicative patterns of self-organized knowledge production and knowledge distribution in collaborative online communication locations. Weblogs are called on as paradigms and as a phenomenon of non-organized journalism. Wikipedia is another example of a collaborative internet creation—the open-content-encyclopedia. Currently, these are the most prominent examples of self-organized knowledge networks on the Internet. Both modes of communication can be considered both dynamic hypertexts as well as social networks. They feature discursive and media-focused aspects, which require an interdisciplinary approach in media science and linguistics.

Theoretically, the project is aimed at extending the linguistic-scientific and media-scientific communication concept which, in both disciplines, is not well-grounded in regard to network orientation. In contrast to the linguistic discourse concepts based on Foucault, the underlying discourse concept of our project is action-theoretically oriented (cf. Liebert 2004a). It is also capable of connecting to macro-structural analyses as they are suggested in media science (Bucher 2004e, 2005a). Whereas the linguistic discourse concept does not make the media-focused aspect of discourses a subject of discussion, or, like the English discourse analysis, additive over-plugging (cf. Fairclough in 2003), the main focus of media-scientific analysis lies especially in the integration of discourse structures and media structures. The media-scientific analysis attempts to analyze online discourses, introduces the concept of the network into the discourse analysis (Bucher 2004a, 2004e), and extends the discourse analysis by dimensions of technical and social linking (hyper-linking). Consequently, this allows them a connection to network research, which has notably regained strength—especially the Internet (Castells 1996, 2005; Rifkin 2002; Johnson 2004; Shaviro 2003).

From the perspective of both disciplines, this project is about extending the established description categories of the discourse dynamics and discourse structures in both interpersonal communication and mass communication. Furthermore, it involves forms of representation, coherence, quality of communication, addressing (esp. the expert's-laymen-addressing), linguistic form, and strategic principles of applicability of Internet-based network communications. Therefore, at a theoretical and methodical level, the project integrates the traditions of action-theoretical discourse analysis, Hyperlink Network Analysis (HNA) and Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis (CMDA) and develops them into a network-oriented discourse analysis featuring collaborative forms of communication.

Methodically, the project enters new territory in so far as it extends the discourse-analytic perspective by the drafts of the primary and secondary discourses. Primary discourses in Wiki- and weblog-communication are examined as well as secondary discourses in which participants link themselves to primary discourses by leaving comments or evaluations, thereby making their own discourse perspective a topic of further discussion. In the case of Wikis, the discussion pages of the respective encyclopedia article are accessed. In addition, secondary dialogs are experimentally evoked for Wikis and weblogs: in the lab, participation is simulated by test persons in both communication forms and is made accessible for analysis with the “thinking-aloud” method. With inter-textual analysis of primary and secondary discourses, the project is linked not only to studies which reconstruct media reception as "communicative appropriation" (Holly/Püschel/Bergmann 2001; Liebert 2000a), but also to online adoption research which assumes the concept of interactivity as a foundation (cf. Bucher 2001a, 2001b, 2004d). Network media can be seen as a textbook case for interactive use of media: the network only exists due to user activity, namely on account of productive activities as well as appropriation activities. This aspect is examined by means of the Hyperlink Network Analysis. In doing so, it is reverted to suitable digital tools and data protection possibilities.

To summarize, this analysis covers three aspects of network communication:
(1) Perspective of discourse dynamics (action-oriented, linguistic-rhetorical analysis)
(2) Perspective of network structures (media-scientific linking analysis)
(3) Perspective of network community (microstructure-linguistic and macro-structure-media-scientific analysis)

All three analysis aspects are either tested or used in this project. However, they are summarized into an integrative analysis strategy. By considering these three levels, it guarantees a construction theory that systematically links discursive microstructures and socio-cultural macrostructures. The selected items, Wikis and weblogs, are suitable for such a research project, as they constitute varied discourses, feature a user-driven dynamic component, and make educational processes of network communities accessible through the use of meta-discourses (discussion groups).