I'm sitting here at the Royal Society in a grand room with grand paintings of middle-aged, white, male intellectuals and listening to a series of presentations from people involved in the e-society program and the upcoming Handbook of Online Research Methods from Sage.
Much of what we have been discussing in terms of transliteracy has been focused around what can be thought of as the arts and humanities but an interesting concordance came up when I saw a banner for "survey monkey" as part of a discussion of the practicalities of using and creating methodologically sound "Internet-mediated" surveys. Social scientists have been wrestling with transliterating/translating survey methodology from face–to-face, postal, telephone media etc. to Internet media. So, however, have non-social scientists. What survey tools such as Survey Monkey have done is to provide the ability to conduct surveys to almost anyone who might want to.
Something that I have found interesting in social network sites is the popularity of blog based "surveys". I.e. you put 20 questions on a blog entry, answer them and then ask others to answer them. It's a blog-based version of the email question lists that are routinely circulated such as the snippet below.
- WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Robert the Bruce
- WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? It has to do with kittens, claws and bending over at the wrong time.
- DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? What is this handwriting of what you speak?
- WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Is that same as breakfast meat? Dinner meat?
- DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Nope.
Related to this is the fascination with quizzes such as the one which determines your inner supervillain.
You are Mr. Freeze. You are cold and you think everyone else should be also, literally.
Mr. Freeze 65%
Dr. Doom 59%
Lex Luthor 58%
The Joker 57%
Click here to take the “Which Super Villain am I?” quiz…
Last time I took this I was Lex Luthor and a previous girlfriend turned out to be Dr. Doom.
There is a serious side to this because what I think we see with online quizzes and surveys is a form of social interaction with offline antecedents. As with any type of social interaction, there are emergent norms about how and when to disseminate them. Transliteracy primes us to be aware that there is likely to be survey/quiz literacy which is what we draw upon to understand what is a “good” quiz and when the appropriate time to use it might be. As with social scientists who are doing their best to understand what can be thought of as survey literacy, there is an emergent survey/quiz literacy which has evolved at the vernacular level. Makes me wonder if there is a quiz out there along the lines of “which important, dead, white male scientist am I?”