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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 4 suggest that nonverbal communication is an important part of interacting, right now, in this community (See Table 1 for a typology of nonverbal expressions found in this research). My use and observation of the typed nonverbals has made me hyper-aware of these elements of online communication; however, that these are so apparent and have emerged as part of the online lexicon suggests that the online communication practices continue to evolve. In reflecting on my engagement of the City chat room for this ethnographic project, I have paid attention to a number of these nonverbal cues that I will probably enact as I continue to communicate with friends and strangers online. Further, the propagation of such a richly developed code that most of the conversants in the chat room seem to understand suggests that an online culture is not only emerging, but is emerging in ways that affects the way that people communicate. If we could take someone who had never interacted online, other than perhaps email or surfing the web, and place them into a chat room like the public City chat room, the interactions and slang used would probably be virtually foreign to that individual, much like a non-native speaker trying to understand the slang in any language. This suggests an evolution in the communication in this setting—just like any communicative setting—and suggests that this small picture of it is also likely to change over time. Grounding the Observations There is a wealth of opinions about the nature of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), especially in the context of communication that takes place in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) locations (i.e., chatrooms). Some see CMC as an incoherent and lean-medium (e.g., Herring, 1999; Walther, 1992) meaning that there are few channels for acquiring information about conversational partners. Others view any relationships that might be forged online as impersonal or shallow suggesting that the increased use of CMC is something to be mourned as we loose

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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background image
A Chatroom Ethnography
4
suggest that nonverbal communication is an important part of interacting, right now, in this
community (See Table 1 for a typology of nonverbal expressions found in this research).
My use and observation of the typed nonverbals has made me hyper-aware of these
elements of online communication; however, that these are so apparent and have emerged as part
of the online lexicon suggests that the online communication practices continue to evolve. In
reflecting on my engagement of the City chat room for this ethnographic project, I have paid
attention to a number of these nonverbal cues that I will probably enact as I continue to
communicate with friends and strangers online. Further, the propagation of such a richly
developed code that most of the conversants in the chat room seem to understand suggests that
an online culture is not only emerging, but is emerging in ways that affects the way that people
communicate. If we could take someone who had never interacted online, other than perhaps
email or surfing the web, and place them into a chat room like the public City chat room, the
interactions and slang used would probably be virtually foreign to that individual, much like a
non-native speaker trying to understand the slang in any language. This suggests an evolution in
the communication in this setting—just like any communicative setting—and suggests that this
small picture of it is also likely to change over time.
Grounding the Observations
There is a wealth of opinions about the nature of Computer Mediated Communication
(CMC), especially in the context of communication that takes place in Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
locations (i.e., chatrooms). Some see CMC as an incoherent and lean-medium (e.g., Herring,
1999; Walther, 1992) meaning that there are few channels for acquiring information about
conversational partners. Others view any relationships that might be forged online as impersonal
or shallow suggesting that the increased use of CMC is something to be mourned as we loose


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