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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 18 observation was taking place during one of the games of the World Series, so baseball was a persistent conversation topic. While these people seemed to be familiar with each other, initially it seemed as though they were only familiar with each other “online.” And, while there were some people who knew each other offline, there were also a number of people active in the conversations that did not have any prior relationship or interactions with room members. These people who had no prior contact (on or offline) often had troubles understanding who was speaking to whom because many of the discussants were using their first names in the interaction. This frustration was reflected by one “outsider” who said, “can everyone say their name in here so that I won’t be so confused?” Though no one followed up on this person’s request, this person remained an active participant. Participants’ familiarity with each other was also demonstrated in a number of conversations that could be classified as small talk. Topics for these conversations included inquiries about people’s days, how their semester was going, what classes people would take in the upcoming semester, and what people were planning for the weekend. As the conversation went on, participants began to identify that particular participants had met each other or knew each other offline. Examples of these identifications included: people relating that they one person had seen another at a club; that one person needed to find a motivational speaker for an organization which was followed up by a recommendation; asking where particular people were (who presumably were supposed to be in the chat room); talk about partying together; going to strip clubs (clarifying that the conversants should go to a male strip club); followed up by sex talk from women among the participants. Given the overtly sexual tone to this room, there was also a discussion about women’s relative attractiveness at different “weights” and body types.

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
18
observation was taking place during one of the games of the World Series, so baseball was a
persistent conversation topic.
While these people seemed to be familiar with each other, initially it seemed as though
they were only familiar with each other “online.” And, while there were some people who knew
each other offline, there were also a number of people active in the conversations that did not
have any prior relationship or interactions with room members. These people who had no prior
contact (on or offline) often had troubles understanding who was speaking to whom because
many of the discussants were using their first names in the interaction. This frustration was
reflected by one “outsider” who said, “can everyone say their name in here so that I won’t be so
confused?” Though no one followed up on this person’s request, this person remained an active
participant.
Participants’ familiarity with each other was also demonstrated in a number of
conversations that could be classified as small talk. Topics for these conversations included
inquiries about people’s days, how their semester was going, what classes people would take in
the upcoming semester, and what people were planning for the weekend. As the conversation
went on, participants began to identify that particular participants had met each other or knew
each other offline. Examples of these identifications included: people relating that they one
person had seen another at a club; that one person needed to find a motivational speaker for an
organization which was followed up by a recommendation; asking where particular people were
(who presumably were supposed to be in the chat room); talk about partying together; going to
strip clubs (clarifying that the conversants should go to a male strip club); followed up by sex
talk from women among the participants. Given the overtly sexual tone to this room, there was
also a discussion about women’s relative attractiveness at different “weights” and body types.


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