Getting Hold of Cyberpsychology

Cyberspace: In the Eyes of the Beholder

Table of Contents

Instructions for this Report
What the Previous Generations had to Say
Dr. James Take on Cyberpsychology
Links to Cyber-Psychology Sites


What the Previous Generations Had to Say


Since this class is based on the generational curriculum, it is pertinent to include what I have learned from the previous generations about Cyber-psychology.  So these are some of the previous fellow generationers that I thought had some interesting ideas about Cyber-psychology.....


Cynthia J'Anthony's (G10)  report I have to say was really well done.  She had a very good layout for her report and it was very thoroughly done.  It appears that she did an in depth research on cyber-psychology. I especially love a phrase that she had in her report: "Understanding the mind is like holding on to a drop of mercury: as soon as you think you have it, it slips away."   In a way this line summarizes for me the relationship between the mind and cyberspace, it is not something physical like the brain, or visual like an open space. And as soon as you think you understand the notion of mind, it alters itself.

Ross Takara's (G5) report was to the point and informative for me.  It helped me construct my own definition of cyber-psychology and also assisted me as to where I can look for other links to find out more about cyber-psychology for this report.

Jill Umetsu's (G5) report was also very informative.  I really liked her answer to what the spiritual significance of clicking on a link means.  She wrote, "Spirituality, as defined by the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, is "devotion to spiritual things instead of worldly things" and spiritual is defined as "of or having
something to do with the spirit or soul." I think that clicking is spiritual because it shows your interest and intentions which is a part of your soul."


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Dr. James's Take on Cyber-psychology


Dr. Leon James' article, Cyberpsychology: Principles of Creating Virtual Presence, covers a number of topics concerning the mind and its relationship to
cyberspace. The first subject is an explanation of hypertext. Hypertext, he explains is text "above the normal" and it is displayed "in a fourth dimension relative to normal printed text." Hypertext allows one to travel electronically by clicking on a word. Hypertext navigation is displacing yourself in cyberspace. You can meet someone by following a link, searching, or knowing their address. The hypertext links are navigation vehicles and roadways in cyberspace. It creates a virtual highway between two locations. Presence in cyberspace is the linking the creates presence. Bookmarks may be one example of potential links. These links are like using a car to get someplace. In cyberspace, you can get to anywhere just by the link itself. Hypertext is like a library, where you can look for anything without any limits. Its forever growing as a representation of the communal mind.

Dr. James then brought up the subject of cyberspace and mind.    He points out that some feel threatened by the growing presence of cyberspace due to the lack of face to face contact. However, he suggests that even though a person is immensed in the computer, the great desire to communicate is the motivating factor. He goes on to express that, "computers are convenient and powerful extensions of the human mind." Dr. James goes on to explain that like the mind, cyberspace as a virtual reality has no physical form or mass. It is through interactivity that it exists.

Virtual Reality deals with the communal mind. It is created by interactively. In cyberspace, we all create one mind. It is doing something together that you cannot do alone. In addition, it could be mind sharing the same space together. Cyberspace allows us to put our mind together and reveals how we put things together. Again, virtual reality has no physical form or mass. The most simple form of interactivity, on the Internet, is a clickable title or word which enables you to go off to another place in cyberspace. Communal mind exists and grows in cyberspace. The communal mind creates virtual communities. Virtual community means a group of people who relate together using on-line technologies to become a virtual reality.

This communal mind, Dr. James explains, is created through the linking process which is not and can not be owned by anyone. Ownership does, however, exist in
the, "hardware, the copyrighted software, or the intellectual property rights to textual and audiovisual creations."  Minds interact through organized content. That is, our mind communicates with other minds and the content of the exchange is organized by topic and by attitudes towards the topic. Cyberspace is made up of topics and access doors to these topics... Cyberspace is in effect the communal mind, the area to which all the users may come together and create a virtual community.

Another analogy Dr. James calls "The Virtual Book," wherein, each page is linked through the table of contents made up of hypertext. A virtual electronic library
exists that is unlimited and continually growing. Herein too is a representation of the, "communal mind which is vast in comparison to the individual's mind." Further
on, Dr. James explains that when one begins the process of creating a Web page, there are three basic properties that are of importance: appearance, content and
access. Just as we are IRL, appearance takes on initial importance.  However, if there is no substance to the content then interest in the page will soon wane. And,
as any commercial realtor would say "location, location, location," in cyberspace it's "access, access, access." As Dr. James would say,
"In virtual reality, what doesn't
get used, does not exist."

After explaining the basic concepts of the mind and cyberspace relations, Dr. James goes on to explore the spiritual connection to virtual reality. He proposes that
the act of clicking on a link is a spiritual act in and of itself. His explanation for this is thus: The term 'psyche' contains both mind and spirit. Interests and
intentions are mind and spirit driven so that action taken due to interests and intentions (such as clicking on a hypertext link) is a spiritual one. By clicking on a link,
one is creating a presence in virtual reality and thus keeps up its existence. By making conscious choices on what to click, one is performing moral, ethical,
economic and psychological acts. Dr. James continues to explain that while methods are being developed to filter out or block clicking, it would behoove us to
develop self-witnessing and self-modification within ourselves in order to create freedom in choice that is educated and from love.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some informative (if not fun) facts if you are truly interested in cyber-psychology......

What is cyber-psychology?

Cyber-psychology, as Dr. James puts it, "studies mind through virtual reality as it evolves on the net."   As we progress towards the future, we are beginning to have a different relationship with computers.  As Sherry Turkle wrote in her book Life on the Screen, we are seeing computers not as a mere calculation machine, but a source of communications, networking, word processing, etc. (if you want to know a little more about this subject, check my oral presentation).   With the emergence of the Internet, we have, in my eyes, created a parallel universe: Cyberspace.  In cyberspace, we have created cyber-reality, or virtual reality.  This is where the users, through their computers, access the cyberworld. 

Cyber-psychology, in my own definition, is therefore the study of users behavior in cyberspace.  Unbeknownst to the majority, there are so many psychological aspects to clicking on links, creating web sites, interacting in chat rooms, and other actions that we take while we are in cyberspace.  For example, in Dr. James article Cyberpsychology: Principle of Creating Virtual Presence, he states that, "An individual's cumulative lifetime bookmarks or history file constitutes a spiritual biography of that person." We are where we link ourselves to.  Every site we visit can tell an observer how we are and what we like, thus in a way, creating us as individuals.  This is what cyber-psychology studies, our behavior and attitude towards cyberspace.


What are the principles of Cyber-psychology?

Cyber-psychology is the study of our behaviors, thus we need to understand what the principles of cyber-psychology are in order to understand the psychological impact that cyberspace has on us.

Affective factors- the emotional and motivational factors of a person while in cyberspace. What types of emotions are experienced by people in cyberspace? Are there norms for the types of emotions experienced for specific situations? What motivates people to be involved in cyberspace? These are some of the questions that need to be answered as cyberspace expands and becomes a major component of society at large. The affective factors in cyberspace can also generalize into
the person's emotional and motivational state in the "outside" world.

Cognitive factors- How do people think in cyberspace? Are there organizational patterns in the patterns of thinking? Cyber-psychology has a great resource for studying the cognition of people, because cyberspace is equivalent to the human mind. People are interacting exclusively with their minds through the internet.

Sensorimotor factors- The least important factor involved in the interaction in cyberspace. There is practically no sensorimotor factors involved when people interact over the internet. Everyone is seated in front of a computer screen and is either using a mouse or a keyboard to input or receive information. However, the implications of the absence of sensorimotor factors in the interactions of people will become very significant as more people use the internet as a communicating device. These are three main principles involved in psychology and cyber-psychology as well. The difference is that cyber-psychology deals with the human mind inside and outside of cyberspace. As the internet grows to be more accessible to all people world-wide, cyber-psychology will become a major field of study.


Who would be interested in it?

I think that the question should be who is NOT interested in Cyber-psychology and cyberspace.  In my opinion, everyone, to a certain degree, is somewhat involved in building and creating cyberspace.   It is obvious that psychologist and sociologist are probably the prime interest parties because this is within their field of studies.  Yet for people who are not in those fields they are still involve in cyber-psychology.  As Cynthia J'Anthony, (G10) puts it, "...if they are not already aware of this field of study, ought to learn about CyberPsychology are those involved in creating web sites, selling on-line, or anyone who wishes to be noticed in cyberspace since CyberPsychology can offer many insights to how people respond to web page designs and the type of information contained."  The interest doesn't lie in just the observer, but also in the ones that are being observed.  What I am trying to say is that anyone who owns a computer and have access to the Internet is in their own way showing interest in understanding cyberspace and virtual reality (even if they don't consciously realizes it).  I believe that interest lies in the action and reaction of something, thus I am not overemphasizing when I say that everyone is interested.


What are its directions and topics?

There is a wide variety of topics that are covered in cyber-psychology.  I think one of the best outlines of these topics would be in Dr. Suler's site.  Here is a brief summary of it:

1. The Basic Psychological Qualities of Cyberspace

   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Cyberspace as a psychological space
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) The basic psychological features of cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Networks as "mind" and "self"
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) The psychology of avatars and graphical space
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Cyberspace as dream world
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) The black hole of cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Online lingo

2. The Psychology of the Individual in Cyberspace

   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Transference to one's computer and cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Identity management in cyberspace   
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Regressive behavior in cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Online gender-switching
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Personality types in cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Adolescents in cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Unique roles in cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Addiction to computers and cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Wizards: The heart of an online community
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Y2K and apocalyptic thinking
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) On being a "god"

3. The Psychology of Cyberspace Relationships

   bullet.gif (845 bytes) In-person versus cyberspace relationships
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Transient and long term online relationships
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) E-mail communication and relationships
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Transference among people online
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Cyberspace romances
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Subtlety in multimedia chat
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Online psychotherapy and counseling
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Computerized psychotherapy

4. Group Dynamics in Cyberspace

   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Social psychology of online groups and
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Developmental stages of mailing lists
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Making virtual communities work
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Early history of an online community
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Wizards: The heart of an online community
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Therapy and support groups in cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Unique groups in cyberspace
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) TextTalk: Communicating with typed text in chat
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) A simple decision-making method for e-mail   
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Group games using avatars
   bullet.gif (845 bytes)The Geezer Brigade: Steps in studying an online
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Managing deviant behavior in online communities

5. Research Methods in Cyberpsychology

   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Publishing online
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Intensive case studies
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) One of Us: Participant observation research
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Steps in studying an online group: The Geezer
   bullet.gif (845 bytes) Brigade

6. The Palace Study

   bullet.gif (845 bytes)This subsection of The Psychology of Cyberspace is a collection of articles about my ongoing, intensive case study of the online multimedia community known as the "Palace." Combining features of MOOs and chat rooms, the Palace is a visual and spatial environment where members interact with text, sounds, and graphical representations of themselves called "avatars."

Mind you, these are just the tip of the iceberg.  Dr. James's article also covers other points that are not shown on the list. 


What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality, as Dr. James puts it, "is created by interactivity--its number, direction, and type."   VR is created within cyberspace. In my opinion, VR is a tangent of our own reality.   It is an extension of our own mind. In virtual realities, we create a world that is different from the one that we live in.  in chapter 2 of Sherry Turkle's book Life of the Screen, she talks about how our society have now become a society of simulation.  We imitate our life, or the general construct of our life, on to the screen.  It is shown through the video games that we play, the chat rooms that we go on, our just surfing the net.   But, simulation of reality is, of course, only a depiction or imitation of reality and not actually real. But what is real?  We are the makers of our own reality. 

Thus what is virtual reality?   In my opinion, virtual reality is just another state of reality.  We create this reality through the use computers.  It also is a conglomerate of users coming together in cyberspace to form, in a sense, a virtual community.  As Dr. James best puts it, "Cyberspace is a virtual reality that facilitates communication and encourages the formation of real communities."  


What is the relation between cyberspace and the mind?

Cyberspace, in a way, is the mind.  The relation is that the mind IS the creator of cyberspace, thus everything is relative when we speak of its relations.  Like the mind, cyberspace is not contain in the physical sense.  You cannot see your mind, nor can you see cyberspace. Cyberspace is a concept that we created to describe the exchange of social interaction with other humans via computers. Yet we cannot contain it physically.  I will mention Cynthia J'Anthony's phrase in her report again because it is so fitting to do so.  She wrote, "Understanding the mind is like holding on to a drop of mercury: as soon as you think you have it, it slips away." 

As a child, your mind was like a clean board, blank.  But as you mature and progress, your mind becomes a filter, you choose what to experience and forget what you don't want to remember. Your mind is constantly evolving, changing. As you mature, your mind grows and changes with your experiences. The only confinement that you create is wall that you build yourself.  I see cyberspace as a clean slate also, and each of us perceive the concept of cyberspace differently because it is our individual minds that are the creators.  We create our reality within this space and understand the concept of VR and Cyberspace through our experiences.


What is spiritual significance of clicking on a link?

Like the example that I used in the definition of cyberpsyhology, the spiritual significance of clicking on a link is that you create who you are in virtual reality by clicking to the sites that you do.   Using the word "spiritual" may confuse many people because we are so use to relating the word spiritual with religion.  But, there is a spiritual significance, and that is the CHOICE you make when you click on a link.  What do you base your choices on?  For me, I choose by interest, and by my moral standards.   I would not, by choice, click on to a site that talks about hate and racism because those are not my beliefs. At the same time, I choose to surf on the net to gain knowledge through looking at websites that are created by others. In that sense, my choice is the spiritual significance. 

Dr. James writes that, "Spiritual psychology studies mind through self-witnessing of one's thoughts and feelings on the daily round of activities. They overlap in their focus on interests and intentions. Clicking acts, under the influence of interests and intentions, create communal mind in virtual reality. This is cyberpsychology. Similarly, in spiritual psychology, self-witnessing of one's interests and intentions, creates the opportunity for moral self-assessment, for repentance and a change of heart, for a new direction in living and becoming."  We develop and mature because of how we assess the choices we make in our lives.  It is the same when we are clicking on a link.   We assess what we choose to see, and decide whether it is good for us or not.  


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Links to Cyber-Psychology Sites

Here are some links that pertains to this report on Cyber-psychology...

The Psychology of Cyberspace - This site is created by Dr. James Suler.  It is basically a site that contains articles about cyber-psychology.  He calls it a "Hypertext book" that, "explore the psychological dimensions of environments created by computers and online networks. It is intended as an evolving conceptual framework for understanding the various psychological components of cyberspace and how people react to and behave within it." If you are doing research on Cyber-psychology, I would recommend that you look up this site.   It has topics from the Basic Psychological Qualities of Cyberspace, Psychology of the Individual in Cyberspace, Psychology of Cyberspace Relationships,Group Dynamics in Cyberspace,Research Methods in Cyberpsychology, and finally the Palace Study. 

Roger Clarke's 'Encouraging CyberCulture'- This paper is written by Roger Clark about the psychology of cyberculture.   The paper is a brief review of formal and semi-formal authority in the Internet context, followed by comments on communities and community authority. There are also series of mini-case studies, in a search for commonalties in emergent CyberCulture. These include content-regulation, Spam and Cookies. Lessons are drawn from these cases, and suggestions made as to ways in which community-based control mechanisms can be encouraged.

Cultural Formations is Text-Based Virtual Realities: This is a thesis written by Elizabeth Reid that talks about what she defines as virtual reality. She uses MUDD as her example of "text-based" virtual reality.  She defines virtual reality as, ".. exist not in the technology used to represent them, nor purely in the mind of the user, but in the
relationship between internal mental constructs and technologically generated representations of these constructs. The illusion of reality lies not in the machinery itself,
but in the users' willingness to treat the manifestation of their imaginings as if they were real." 

Cyberpsychology: Principles of Creating Virtual Presence- This article is written by our own very professor, Dr. Leon James.  It covers the social and psychological aspect of cyberspace and virtual reality. I will talk about Dr. James's article more in depth later.

Cyberlibcypsyhogology -This site is the web museum cyberculture research library. It contains links to numerous articles written about cyber-psychology and cultural psychology.  It is a great site to check out to look for varieties of opinions on cyber-psychology.

CMC Magazine- Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine, which ran issues from May 1994 to January 1999, reported about people, events, technology, public policy, culture, practices, study, and applications related to human communication and interaction in online environments. 


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