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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 25 and discussions of ‘graphic accents’ and smileys as paralinguistic features of CMC conversation (Parks & Floyd, 1996; Witmer & Katzman, 1997). In either developing a close analysis of communication, from an insider’s perspective, of CMC in the City, Texas AOL chatroom, what I have found is that prior interpersonal—on or offline—relationships mediate all aspects of public CMC. This is not a particularly surprising finding given our knowledge of the effects of interpersonal relationship on communication (see Parks, 1996); however, this explicit analysis has been excluded from previous analyses of CMC and chatrooms. If this is characteristic of public CMC, this is a substantial step in understanding differences in communication patterns online. This may also help to explain why some research of CMC has found cyberspace lacking in rich and multi-modal interactions (e.g., Herring, 1999; Jacobsen, 1999) where other researchers have concluded that CMC is a rich medium (e.g., Danet, 1995; Pratt, et al., 1999). Findings from this ethnography also demonstrate the depth of possibilities of nonverbal expressions in the City AOL chatroom. The nonverbals not only reflect orientation to group (evidenced in the high prior relationship observations) and comfort in expressing individuality, but also reflect the written and oral character of CMC (Bechar-Israeli, 1995). This suggests that the nonverbal cues used here connote more than a graphic accent used to demark particular linguistic cues, but connote the development of a particularized vocabulary that reflects Internet saviness (e.g., knowing LOL means Laughing Out Loud) as well as more localized elements of spoken language (e.g., using y’all in Texas). Taken together, communication so rich—even in the observations without much evidence of prior interpersonal relationships had limited use of nonverbal cues—should not be considered lean or anonymous (Herring, 1999; Lee, 1996).

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
25
and discussions of ‘graphic accents’ and smileys as paralinguistic features of CMC conversation
(Parks & Floyd, 1996; Witmer & Katzman, 1997).
In either developing a close analysis of communication, from an insider’s perspective, of
CMC in the City, Texas AOL chatroom, what I have found is that prior interpersonal—on or
offline—relationships mediate all aspects of public CMC. This is not a particularly surprising
finding given our knowledge of the effects of interpersonal relationship on communication (see
Parks, 1996); however, this explicit analysis has been excluded from previous analyses of CMC
and chatrooms. If this is characteristic of public CMC, this is a substantial step in understanding
differences in communication patterns online. This may also help to explain why some research
of CMC has found cyberspace lacking in rich and multi-modal interactions (e.g., Herring, 1999;
Jacobsen, 1999) where other researchers have concluded that CMC is a rich medium (e.g.,
Danet, 1995; Pratt, et al., 1999).
Findings from this ethnography also demonstrate the depth of possibilities of nonverbal
expressions in the City AOL chatroom. The nonverbals not only reflect orientation to group
(evidenced in the high prior relationship observations) and comfort in expressing individuality,
but also reflect the written and oral character of CMC (Bechar-Israeli, 1995). This suggests that
the nonverbal cues used here connote more than a graphic accent used to demark particular
linguistic cues, but connote the development of a particularized vocabulary that reflects Internet
saviness (e.g., knowing LOL means Laughing Out Loud) as well as more localized elements of
spoken language (e.g., using y’all in Texas). Taken together, communication so rich—even in
the observations without much evidence of prior interpersonal relationships had limited use of
nonverbal cues—should not be considered lean or anonymous (Herring, 1999; Lee, 1996).


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