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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 11 in other mediums (e.g., FTF or telephone conversations). Parks and Floyd (1996) suggests that we can measure interpersonal relationships forged online in the same manner that we measure others. People engaged in relationships typically display five characteristics: increased interdependence; increase breadth and depth of interaction; interpersonal predictability and increased understanding; increasingly personal ways of communicating and topics; and a convergence of social networks (e.g., other friends). Because the ways around barriers to physical identity are relatively easily overcome, physical identification is not typically as important, but with the development of personal contact physical identification increasingly matters (Bechar-Israeli, 1995). There are, however, other markers of identity online that contribute to relationship building. One of the opportunities afforded by CMC is that we can choose our identity—from screen names to attitudinal features of identity. Riva and Galimberti (1998) argue that these identities (and expression there of) are mediated by the social relationships that people encounter online. The identities that people create online are no more or less reflective (with the exception of deception about personal ‘facts’ like appearance or marital status, etc.) of what is ‘real’ about an individual than those identity markers that we create in ‘real’ life such as clothes, nicknames, or behavior (Bechar-Israeli, 1995). This analysis, taken together, suggests that people can be influenced online, just as they are in person. These features of identity suggest that interactions online can lead to the creation of new communities and identities, but that people are still fundamentally controlled by emergent processes of norms and rules established in the co-production of reality in a socially constructed world (e.g., Postmes, et al., 1998; Riva & Galimberti, 1998). Such establishment of group norms suggests that there are restrictions on the proper expression of identity defined by particular virtual communities in the emergence and reflection of particular cultures (Baym, 1995; Bechar-

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
11
in other mediums (e.g., FTF or telephone conversations). Parks and Floyd (1996) suggests that
we can measure interpersonal relationships forged online in the same manner that we measure
others. People engaged in relationships typically display five characteristics: increased
interdependence; increase breadth and depth of interaction; interpersonal predictability and
increased understanding; increasingly personal ways of communicating and topics; and a
convergence of social networks (e.g., other friends). Because the ways around barriers to
physical identity are relatively easily overcome, physical identification is not typically as
important, but with the development of personal contact physical identification increasingly
matters (Bechar-Israeli, 1995). There are, however, other markers of identity online that
contribute to relationship building. One of the opportunities afforded by CMC is that we can
choose our identity—from screen names to attitudinal features of identity. Riva and Galimberti
(1998) argue that these identities (and expression there of) are mediated by the social
relationships that people encounter online. The identities that people create online are no more or
less reflective (with the exception of deception about personal ‘facts’ like appearance or marital
status, etc.) of what is ‘real’ about an individual than those identity markers that we create in
‘real’ life such as clothes, nicknames, or behavior (Bechar-Israeli, 1995). This analysis, taken
together, suggests that people can be influenced online, just as they are in person.
These features of identity suggest that interactions online can lead to the creation of new
communities and identities, but that people are still fundamentally controlled by emergent
processes of norms and rules established in the co-production of reality in a socially constructed
world (e.g., Postmes, et al., 1998; Riva & Galimberti, 1998). Such establishment of group norms
suggests that there are restrictions on the proper expression of identity defined by particular
virtual communities in the emergence and reflection of particular cultures (Baym, 1995; Bechar-


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