Codes of Ethics in Discussion Forums

Codes of Ethics in Discussion Forums

Cãlin Gurãu (GSCM – Montpellier Business School, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2803-8.ch002
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Abstract

The development of the World Wide Web has created new opportunities for interpersonal interaction. The Internet allows one-to-one (e-mail), one-to-many (Websites, e-mail lists) or many-to-many (online discussion forums) interaction, which represent a unique feature in comparison with traditional communication channels (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). On the other hand, the Internet has specific characteristics, such as interactivity, transparency, and memory. These characteristics permit the development of online or virtual communities?groups of people with similar interests who communicate on the Web in a regular manner (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996; Goldsborough, 1999a, 1999b; Gordon, 2000). This article attempts to investigate, analyze and present the main patterns of the codes/rules of ethics used in the public discussion forums, otherwise known as Newsgroups, and their influence on the profile and functioning of the community.
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Introduction

The development of the World Wide Web has created new opportunities for interpersonal interaction. The Internet allows one-to-one (e-mail), one-to-many (Websites, e-mail lists) or many-to-many (online discussion forums) interaction, which represent a unique feature in comparison with traditional communication channels (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). On the other hand, the Internet has specific characteristics, such as:

  • Interactivity: The Internet offers multiple possibilities of interactive communication, acting not only as an interface, but also as a communication agent (allowing a direct interaction between individuals and software applications).

  • Transparency: The information published online can be accessed and viewed by any Internet user, unless this information is specifically protected.

  • Memory: The Web is a channel not only for transmitting information, but also for storing information in other words, the information published on the Web remains in the memory of the network until it is erased.

These characteristics permit the development of online or virtual communitiesgroups of people with similar interests who communicate on the Web in a regular manner (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996; Goldsborough, 1999a, 1999b; Gordon, 2000). Many studies deal with the ethics of research in Cyberspace and Virtual Communities (Bakardjieva, Feenberg, & Goldie, 2004), but very few publications relate with the Codes of Ethics used in Public Discussion Forums (Belilos, 1998; Johnson, 1997). Other specialists have analyzed specific categories or uses of online discussion forums, such as online learning (Blignaut & Trollip, 2003; DeSanctis, Fayard, Roach, & Jiang, 2003) or the creation of professional communities of practice (Bickart & Schindler, 2001; Kling, McKim & King, 2003; Millen, Fontaine, & Muller, 2002), and in this context, have also discussed briefly the importance of netiquette and forum monitoring (Fauske & Wade, 2003, 2004). The difference between these online communities and public discussion forums is the degree of control exercised on the functioning and purpose of the forum by a specific individual or organization. This article attempts to investigate, analyze and present the main patterns of the codes/rules of ethics used in the public discussion forums, otherwise known as Newsgroups, and their influence on the profile and functioning of the community.

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The Organization Of Discussion Forums

The discussion forum is a Web-based application that functions as a worldwide bulletin board (Fox & Roberts, 1999). Each discussion forum has a specific topic, or a series of related topics, and there are literally thousands of newsgroups available on the Internet, covering virtually any issue (Preece, 2001; Rheingold, 2000).

Typically, online discussion forums use a three-tiered structure (Bielen, 1997):

  • 1.

    Forums: Focus on individual topic areas, such as classifieds or current news.

  • 2.

    Threads: Created by end users to narrow a discussion to a particular topic, such as a car someone is looking to buy or a comment on a previously posted message. A thread opens a new topic of conversation. Once the topic is created, anyone can continue the ongoing conversation.

  • 3.

    Messages: Individual topic postings. A message is often a reply to someone else’s message, or users can post a message to initiate a conversation (thread).

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