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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 12 Israeli, 1995; Danet, 1995; Jacobsen, 1999; Krikorian, Lee, Chock, &Harms, 2000; Postmes, et al., 1998; Riva & Galimberti, 1998). That is not to say that we should expect the same chatroom to express the same cultural values from day to day because of the fluidity of membership; however, in a particular interaction in a chatroom we should expect to see patterns of culture emerge. Postmes, et al. (1998) suggest this is because there is a range of conformity options available to any virtual community. In situations where there is higher knowledge of community members and desire to express belongingness to the group, they suggest this will strengthen conformity to group norms. However, in situations where there is a higher focus on individuals, it leads to less group cohesion and communication of particular norms (Postmes, et al., 1998). Virtual community experiences are thus shaped by reciprocal expectations (Riva & Galimberti, 1998). That is to say that if there are enough chatroom participants who have socially agreed to norms and implicit rules, they will seek to enforce those rules of appropriate behavior (Danet, 1995). Wellman (1997) further suggests that different types of relationships between people online will have different strengths and manifest themselves in different interactional patterns. All of this discussion of community, identity, and norms suggests that CMC, especially in chatroom situations is heavy with nuance. If, CMC has elements of both written and oral language (Bechar-Israeli, 1995), surely there should be elements of nonverbal communication evident. As I reflected in the opening narrative, I have found evidence of the use and functions of nonverbal communication in chatrooms as a reflection of knowledge and perceived interconnectivity with other chatroom community members as well as an expression of individual identity. This conclusion marks somewhat of an extension from the information available. In her work on humor in CMC, Baym (1995) indicates that the cues that are typically

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
12
Israeli, 1995; Danet, 1995; Jacobsen, 1999; Krikorian, Lee, Chock, &Harms, 2000; Postmes, et
al., 1998; Riva & Galimberti, 1998).
That is not to say that we should expect the same chatroom to express the same cultural
values from day to day because of the fluidity of membership; however, in a particular
interaction in a chatroom we should expect to see patterns of culture emerge. Postmes, et al.
(1998) suggest this is because there is a range of conformity options available to any virtual
community. In situations where there is higher knowledge of community members and desire to
express belongingness to the group, they suggest this will strengthen conformity to group norms.
However, in situations where there is a higher focus on individuals, it leads to less group
cohesion and communication of particular norms (Postmes, et al., 1998). Virtual community
experiences are thus shaped by reciprocal expectations (Riva & Galimberti, 1998). That is to say
that if there are enough chatroom participants who have socially agreed to norms and implicit
rules, they will seek to enforce those rules of appropriate behavior (Danet, 1995). Wellman
(1997) further suggests that different types of relationships between people online will have
different strengths and manifest themselves in different interactional patterns.
All of this discussion of community, identity, and norms suggests that CMC, especially in
chatroom situations is heavy with nuance. If, CMC has elements of both written and oral
language (Bechar-Israeli, 1995), surely there should be elements of nonverbal communication
evident. As I reflected in the opening narrative, I have found evidence of the use and functions of
nonverbal communication in chatrooms as a reflection of knowledge and perceived
interconnectivity with other chatroom community members as well as an expression of
individual identity. This conclusion marks somewhat of an extension from the information
available. In her work on humor in CMC, Baym (1995) indicates that the cues that are typically


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