The Role of Users in the Co-construction of Internet Relay Chat (IRC)

This Brown Bag Presentation occurred on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. 1169 BSB

IRC is an Internet application born in Finland in the late 80s. Before ICQ, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, etc., this synchronous computer-mediated communication protocol allowed millions of Internet users to have real-time written conversations. An interesting aspect of IRC is that it is a sociotechnical device resulting from an ongoing process of co-construction. The technical infrastructure is distributed in a number of independent networks of servers. Each “IRC network” is a distinct entity with a specific sociotechnical configuration enabling some chat practices and preventing others. This configuration is negotiated between various actors interested in the device. Drawing upon an in-depth case study of the creation and evolution of the first two major IRC networks (EFnet and Undernet), this presentation shows how “ordinary users” (called such by founders) managed to invite themselves as co-designers of the communication device, regardless of the denial of power and legitimacy they were facing from the co- opted group of operators.

Guillaume Latzko-Toth Guillaume Latzko-Toth is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Communication at UIC. He obtained his Ph.D. in Communication from University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM). He has taught several courses related to communication technology at UQAM, University of Montreal, and University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières. He is a founding member of the Laboratory on Computer-Mediated Communication (LabCMO) at UQAM, and an associate member of the Interuniversity Research Center on Science and Technology (CIRST). Besides his long-standing interest for social phenomena surrounding computer-mediated communication, his recent research looks at the dynamics of innovation in social computing.

Sponsored by the UIC Department of Communication

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