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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 3 conversations. For example, I would never type, “you all” I always type “y’all”, or words that end in “ing” are abbreviated to an “in’” as I would say them in informal conversations. These are just two examples of how I have included elements of sound or expression in my own computer- mediated communication, but that these permeate my interactions suggests that I am enacting a linguistic code that is grounded in the conversations that I have had online. As I see new ways of expressing nonverbal communication to make the interactions feel more “authentic” I find that I incorporate them into my own language. As a communication scholar, I find this an intriguing phenomenon because it makes me think about the ways that I use language in everyday non- mediated interactions so that I can replicate it when I interact with friends and strangers online. I certainly do not believe that I am a trend setter in the rich nonverbal communication that occurs online, but my habits are a reflection of what I see as a set of implicit norms that are developing by those of us who are increasingly using online communication to interact with friends, family, and interact with strangers. To that end, analyzing the nonverbal elements of online communication in chat rooms offers a way to engage my own habits and reflect the practices of the online chat room community—in particular those people who enter City 1 , Texas public chat rooms. Data in this analysis were formally gathered over four weeknights in one week and this remains as the formal ethnographic interaction with this community of people. The transcripts of the conversations were saved from the chat room discussion and it is from those that I draw the analysis of the trends I have observed in the City chat rooms. Many of the differences that I will describe suggest that there is not “one” way that members of the chat room community use nonverbal communication, but does suggest that there is a widespread use of nonverbal communication. Therefore, in highlighting my experiences and observations, I hope to 1 The name of the city has been eliminated, instead “City” will be used in its place.

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
3
conversations. For example, I would never type, “you all” I always type “y’all”, or words that
end in “ing” are abbreviated to an “in’” as I would say them in informal conversations. These are
just two examples of how I have included elements of sound or expression in my own computer-
mediated communication, but that these permeate my interactions suggests that I am enacting a
linguistic code that is grounded in the conversations that I have had online. As I see new ways of
expressing nonverbal communication to make the interactions feel more “authentic” I find that I
incorporate them into my own language. As a communication scholar, I find this an intriguing
phenomenon because it makes me think about the ways that I use language in everyday non-
mediated interactions so that I can replicate it when I interact with friends and strangers online.
I certainly do not believe that I am a trend setter in the rich nonverbal communication that
occurs online, but my habits are a reflection of what I see as a set of implicit norms that are
developing by those of us who are increasingly using online communication to interact with
friends, family, and interact with strangers. To that end, analyzing the nonverbal elements of
online communication in chat rooms offers a way to engage my own habits and reflect the
practices of the online chat room community—in particular those people who enter City
1
, Texas
public chat rooms. Data in this analysis were formally gathered over four weeknights in one
week and this remains as the formal ethnographic interaction with this community of people. The
transcripts of the conversations were saved from the chat room discussion and it is from those
that I draw the analysis of the trends I have observed in the City chat rooms. Many of the
differences that I will describe suggest that there is not “one” way that members of the chat room
community use nonverbal communication, but does suggest that there is a widespread use of
nonverbal communication. Therefore, in highlighting my experiences and observations, I hope to
1
The name of the city has been eliminated, instead “City” will be used in its place.


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