CYBERLITERACY: Navigating the Internet with Awareness

Laura J. Gurak, Author . Yale Univ. $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-300-08979-0

Avid e-mailers and zealous Web surfers recognize that the Internet possesses its own linguistic system: grammar and mechanics are less important, abbreviations and "emoticons" are more so. But the differences in communication don't stop there. Gurak (Persuasion and Privacy in Cyberspace), an associate professor and director of the Internet Studies Center at the University of Minnesota, goes beyond examining the electronic world's free-and-easy wordsmithing to tackle the fundamental characteristics of how people online really communicate with one another. Becoming cyberliterate, she writes, means that one must "recognize that technologies have consequences, and that we can decide how we allow the Internet to be part of our lives." Cyberliteracy is a new skill: not only do online communications have aspects of both oral and written speech, they vary in their legitimacy—netizens must analyze them to separate logical argument from illogical rant and e-mail hoax from e-mail truth. When defining cyberliteracy and detailing its effects, the book is convincing; when Gurak describes what an e-mail flame is, or how easy it is to shop online, however, she treads on familiar ground. Her thoughts on anonymity and gender are shared by many of her colleagues and other writers, and the enduring online privacy debates are given a cursory glance that fails to advance either side of the argument. When she sticks close to her academic rhetorician's roots, Gurak's writing is lively and edifying, but when she strays into broader and oft-considered topics, the work falters. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-91610-3
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Paperback - 194 pages - 978-0-300-10157-7
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