Texts downloaded from this page should be be used only for not-for-profit and productive purposes (e.g., teaching and scholarship). Any use in teaching or writing to be accompanied by full citation information, including authorial credit. For permission to use my work for any other purpose, please contact me at amass [at] uic [dot] edu.

Massanari, A.L. (2012). DIY design:  How crowdsourcing sites are challenging traditional graphic design practice. First Monday, 17(10).

This paper analyzes the current debate over crowdsourced/do–it–yourself (DIY) design. Specifically, it highlights underlying tensions between discourse within the professional graphic design field and an increasingly sophisticated and global community of DIY designers who are challenging their professional norms and practices. Through an exploration of these sites’ approach to intellectual property, design education, compensation, and community, this research explain how crowdsourcing companies discursively frame (and challenge) traditional design practices. Specific recommendations as to how crowdsourcing sites and the professional design community might coexist peacefully are offered.

Hunsinger, J. & Massanari, A.L. (2012). Editorial:  Special Issue on Virtual World Cultures. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 18(4).

Massanari, A.L., (2012).  “Gendered pleasures:  The Wii, embodiment and technological desire” in Social Exclusion, Power, and Video Game Play (Eds. David G. Embrick, J. Talmadge Wright, and Andras Lukas). Lexington Books.

In this chapter, I explore the ways in which Nintendo’s Wii console has been designed and marketed specifically for “non-gamers” or those interested in casual gameplay: that is, women and older adults. I explain the waysin which the Wii has been marketed and discursively positioned to configure the domestic sphere in particular ways. In addition, I examine the ways in which Nintendo’s unique motion controller (the Wii remote) encourages players to use it as a prosthetic device that engages the body in play in new ways. I also explore Nintendo’s fitness game, Wii Fit, and describe how both the game’s marketing and the playing experience it offers, discursively reinscribes certain stereotypical gender politics and “disciplines” our bodies in new ways. I argue that Wii Fit proscribes a particular view of pleasure, one that focuses on a potentially problematic perspective of what it means to be fit.

Massanari, A. L. & Howard, P. N. (2011). Internet use and omnivorous information habits during U.S. presidential electionsJournal of Information Technology & Politics, 8(2). 177-198.

Technology convergence and rising expectations for interactivity have had a significant impact on the news diets of U.S. voters. While television may appear to be the most important single media in this system of political communication, for a growing portion of the population, news diets are defined by combinations and permutations of secondary media. What explains the changing distribution of primary media choice and the dramatic rise in secondary media? We offer a theory of omnivorous information habits to help explain the rising number of people who make active choices to get political news and information from several media technologies, sourced from multiple news organizations, and then engage with news and information through varied interactive tools. Data from 2000, 2004, and 2008 demonstrate not just the growing importance of secondary media, but the importance of the Internet in particular. Indeed, elections have become occasions in which people make significant changes in their information diets.

Massanari, A. L. (2010). Designing for imaginary friends: Information architecture, personas, and the politics of user-centered design. New Media & Society, 12(3). 401-416.

This article considers the problematic relationship between new media designers and users in current texts written about user-centered design (UCD) techniques. To better understand and solidify the importance of the user within the technological artifact, these designers often create ‘personas’ — prototypical users with names, faces, interests and preferences. Personas serve as boundary objects used as conceptual stand-ins for users when team members make design decisions. This article traces the discursive construction of the ‘user’ within web design texts and how these texts describe the persona technique. The analysis suggests that the use of personas is motivated as much by political realities within new media organizations, as it is by the desire to address user needs. In addition, it is argued that personas serve to reinscribe the conceptual separation between the user and designer despite technological developments (like Web 2.0) that blur this boundary.

Heider, D. & Massanari, A. L. (2010). Friendship, closeness, and disclosure in Second Life. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 2(3). 61-74.

3-D virtual realms offer places for people to go interact, play games, and even do business. As these realms themselves become more sophisticated, the number of participants grows and the level and type of social interactions change. Meanwhile, scholars race to try to keep up. There is a growing, but still developing literature about interaction in virtual world. This paper explores communication and social intimacy in one such world, Second Life. In this paper, results of a four year ethnography in Second Life reveal findings that refute earlier research on computer-mediated communications, and support others while offering new findings to contribute to the growing body of knowledge.

Howard, P. N. & Massanari, A. L. (2007). Learning to search and searching to learn:  Income, education, and experience online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(3).

Using data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveys, this article explores changing trends in reported sophistication and satisfaction with search skills and with search engines. We find that the proportion of Internet users searching online for answers to specific questions—as opposed to casual browsing—has grown significantly. Moreover, as users get more experience online, they increasingly become dependent on search engines, confident in their findings, and savvy about how search engines structure information, privilege paid results, and track users. When other factors are controlled, years of online experience is a strong predictor of the likelihood of a person doing specific searches on a daily basis, and experience can have an even stronger positive effect than education and income. We also find that years of online experience, frequency of use, and sophistication with multiple search engines can overcome socio-economic status in predicting how active a person is in searching across different topics.

Massanari, A.L. (2007) ‘In Context: Information Architects, Politics, and Interdisciplinarity’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Department of Communication, University of Washington.

This study considers the ongoing development and future trajectory of a particular aspect of new media practice, the information architecture field, focusing specifically on the years 1995-2005. Richard Saul Wurman coined the term “information architect” (IA) in the late 1970s (Knemeyer, 2004 January, p. 3), arguing that just as architects envision and structure buildings with their patrons in mind, individuals can structure information in ways that facilitate its use. IAs are responsible for making information understandable by creating useful classification/navigation schemes that help users find their way through complex libraries of information on the Web. The practicing IA is typically concerned with three domains: content, users, and context (Rosenfeld & Morville, 2002). IAs juggle these in tandem, attempting to organize content created by the technological organization, the informational goals of the end-product’s users, and the often-unstated technical abilities and cultural assumptions users are working under. IAs and other user-centered designers use a variety of techniques borrowed from fields like anthropology and cognitive science in an attempt to design intuitive systems (Kuniavsky, 2003).

This inquiry examines experts’ influence on the discursive development of a professional practice. As such, it extends the work of scholars such as Anthony Giddens (1991), who examined the importance of experts in structuring how and what we think. Three different sets of data comprise my study’s corpus: materials written about IA; postings to an open and unmoderated professional mailing list (SIG-IA); and interviews with experts within the field of IA. Using theoretical approaches drawn from actor-network theory (Callon & Latour, 1981; Latour, 1988, 1993, 2005) and cultural-historical activity theory (Engeström, 2001; Engeström, Miettinen, & Punamäki-Gitai, 1999; Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006; Nardi, 1996), and using discourse analysis methods outlined by Foucault (1972) and Gee (1999), I illustrate the ways this field has been discursively constructed by experts within it. First, I explore the tensions inherent in the practice of IA and its relation to other disciplines. Then, I examine the assumptions about the nature of intuitive interfaces, users, and the role of ethics in the discourse in the field of IA. Lastly, my study considers the political ramifications of the tools, methods, and rhetorical practices promoted in texts written about the field and the ways its practitioners construct it through professional discourse. I argue that the numerous contradictions contained within the IA activity system potentially threaten its formalization and acceptance within the larger user-centered design community.

Selected conference papers

Heider, D., Massanari, A. L. & Dougherty, M. (2011). Best practices for bloggers. Presented at the 11th annual Diverse Conference in Dublin, Ireland, June 28-30, 2011.

Massanari, A. L. (2011). Contradictions Within Information Architecture and Interaction Design: How Systemic Contradictions Influence Local Practice. Presented at the International Communication Association’s annual conference (virtual panel) in Boston, MA, May 26-30, 2011.

Massanari, A. L. (2010). DIY Design: How crowdsourcing design is blurring the boundaries of professional design practice. Presented at DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media conference at the University of Toronto in Toronto, ON, November 11-14, 2010.

Massanari, A. L. (2009). Advocating for users in new media design:  Contradictions and politics in information architecture practice. Presented at the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conference in Milwaukee, WI, October 8-10, 2009.

Massanari, A. L. (2009). “Understand users, then ignore them”:  The construction of the “user” within web design texts. Presented at the International Communication Association conference in Chicago, IL, May 21-25, 2009.

Massanari, A. L. (2009). Personas and politics: The discursive construction of the ‘user’ in Information Architecture. Presented at the IA Summit in Memphis, TN, March 20-22, 2009.

Massanari, A. L  & Foot, K. A. (2007). Blurring the lines between “users” and “designers”: Co-productive interactivity online. Presented at the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4s) conference in Montreal, Canada, October 10-13, 2007.

Massanari, A. L. (2006). New media, new literacy(ies), new ethics. Presented at the National Communication Association conference in San Antonio, TX, November 16-19, 2006.


Silver, D. & Massanari, A. L. (2006). Critical cyberculture studies:  Current terrains, future directions (Eds). New York:  New York University Press.


Massanari, A. L. & Dougherty, M. (2010). Best practices for bloggers:  Dimensions for consideration. Center for Digital Ethics & Policy. Available online: