Date of Degree

2-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Susan Saegert

Subject Categories

Architecture | Communication | Psychology

Keywords

internet, mediated space, place, privacy, publicness, virtual and physical space

Abstract

This mixed-method study explored the experiences and understandings of the notions of privacy, publicness and place in mediated space among women who use the internet daily. Mediated space is experienced at the intersection of mass media, including the internet, and the physical environment. In this two-phased study, fourteen women were interviewed and sixty-one completed an online survey. Participants were asked about the physical places they preferred and the activities they undertook, whether for paid work, domestic work or entertainment, such as sending e-mails and gathering information, posting or reading posts on social network sites, shopping, banking, web browsing, watching TV shows and playing games.

Women in this study used the locational flexibility afforded by the internet to remain mostly anchored to a preferred location and to create portable private territories in public spaces when necessary. They also maintained a strong awareness of body and physical place, noting that they generally did not see their virtual identity as separate from their physical one, and remained connected to their immediate physical environment, including their location, ambient conditions and changes, and the presence of others. They also found the boundaries between private and public ambiguous, particularly because the privacy or publicness of their physical experience while on the internet was often at odds with their virtual experience.

Participants also highlighted the challenge of managing attention and anonymity in mediated space. Whenever possible, participants paired less demanding physical environments with more challenging internet tasks and vice versa. Anonymity was viewed as protective but questionable on the internet. Tied to affective connections, previous experiences and identifiability, privacy and anonymity were described as internal and personal notions rather than tangible or fixed aspects of a location or situation. Finally, participants experienced privacy and publicness as a continuum with multiple levels. Whether in a virtual or physical location, these levels were defined by the type and amount of personal information revealed, and by the relationship maintained with those to whom the information was disclosed.

 
 

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