According to the author's description, The Psychology of Cyberspace is a "multi-media hypertext book" which is continually being revised and expanded and which "contains a variety of articles on how individuals and groups behave online." There is a special section devoted to psychotherapy and clinical work in cyberspace. The author (John Suler, PhD) is a clinical psychologist in the department of psychology at Rider University (Lawrenceville, NJ).
There are a number of learning goals that could be achieved with this work. The
major one is to explore "the psychological aspects of environments created by computers and online networks" (author quote). More specific learning goals may be achieved by reading individual chapters such as "Cyberspace Humor," "Personality Types in Cyberspace," "Addiction to Computers and Cyberspace," "Adolescents in Cyberspace," "Cyberspace Romances," "Social Psychology of Online Groups," as well as several chapters on research methods and ethics in online research. The book also contains chapters that have more applied learning goals such as "Coping with Spam,
" "How to Resolve Conflict Online," "Extending a Work Group into Cyberspace," and "Managing Deviant Behavior in Online Groups." Instructors in online classes may learn from chapters such as those titled "Making Virtual Communities Work" and "Using Discussion Boards in Teaching."
Target Student Population:
Although the entire work probably should not be assigned to Psychology 101 students, assigning one or two chapters to students in lower division psychology courses could lead to interesting class discussions. Larger portions of the work could be assigned to upper division and graduate students in a variety of psychology courses including clinical, abnormal, personality, research methods, developmental, and especially social psychology. Faculty, especially those teaching online courses, would find certain chapters helpful.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
No prerequisite knowledge or skills are needed.
Type of Material:
This hypertext book is a collection of articles on the psychology of cyberspace. There are a few graphics for the purpose of illustration but the work is mostly text.
The articles in this collection could be used to increase faculty knowledge base in the area of psychology and cyberspace or to assign to students for outside reading preparatory to assignments or class discussions.
No particular technical requirements are needed to use this material. However, one of the member reviews commented that the site is difficult, if not impossible, to view if using an older browser version (perhaps because of the built-in pop-up windows used to define some of the terms in the book).
Evaluation and Observation
Dr. Suler is widely published in the area of the Psychology of Cyberspace. In fact, several of the articles included in this hypertext book have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Suler's expertise as evidenced by his publications, educational background, and experience in clinical settings is evident in this book. Both the information and the writing are of high quality as is the organization of the site.
The downloadable version of the book is dated November, 2004. However, some of the articles are much older than that. As quickly as information related to computers and online networks changes, more frequent updates would make the information of higher quality. For example, the statistics in the article on Internet Demograpics are from 1998. That Dr. Suler does regularly update his site is indicated by the fact that several of the articles list both an original date and a date of revision, and by the fact that one can e-mail the author to be added to the Psychology of Cyberspace newsletter to receive information about updates and additions to the book.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
There is a wealth of both scholarly and practical information contained on this site. Faculty and students in a variety of psychology subdisciplines (e.g., social, developmental, clinical) could use this information for assignments, discussions, and research planning. In addition to the high quality of the material, additional features on this site contribute to its effective use as a teaching tool. These include: links to information about the author; a link to the Psychology of Cyberspace forum; ability to download the book in its entirety as a .zip file; links to other cyberpsychology resources; a key word search engine as well as article,
page, and subject indexes; and some pop-up windows with definitions of key terms. A particularly useful page on the site (at least for students citing this work in a list of references) is one on which Dr. Suler gives information on copyright and how to cite portions of the book.
The sheer amount of information on this site (the table of contents lists around 80 articles although some may be duplicated in more than one section)might limit its usefulness as a teaching tool. It would be difficult, for example, to utilize this site in a classroom situation except to show students how to get to and navigate the site. Thus, this site might be more appropriately called a "learning tool" (as a great deal can be learned from it)than a "teaching tool" (implying that two or more individuals are present when used). Additionally, although some of the articles are quite short, others are extremely long (up to the equivalent of 80 pages of hard copy).
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
I found the site to be very user-friendly as did MERLOT members who have commented on the site. The author states on the first page of the site that he wrote the book in a "style that is not overly abstract or technical" and placed more emphasis on practical concepts than on purely academic ones. This makes the text easy to read and understand regardless of background in psychology. The site is easy to navigate with a table of contents on the first page listing all the articles (and each title is a link to that article). In addition, clicking on a bullet for an article produces a small pop-up window containing an abstract of the article. At the top of each article are links to the homepage, an article index, a subject index,
a search engine, Dr. Suler's homepage, Rider University, and a page on how to cite articles. All graphics and pop-ups work, and the site contains a feature that will make it difficult for students to get "lost" on the site: each article when its link is clicked opens in a new browser window.
I went through each page of the site and tested each link (both internal and external). To Dr. Suler's credit, of the hundreds of links included, very few were dead - but there were a few.