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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 5 ‘real’ interpersonal relationships (see Parks & Floyd, 1996). Still others (e.g., Parks & Floyd, 1996; Pratt, Wiseman, Cody, & Wendt, 1999) view CMC as a way that people can connect with one another, building meaningful relationships centered on a negotiated reality. Even those who view the CMC as a tool often do not agree about the nature or virtue of building social identities online (e.g., Lee, 1996; Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 1998). What does remain constant in the analyses is that as CMC emerges as a popular form of communication is will have implications for human interaction, communication processes, and language use (Bechar-Israeli, 1995; Herring, 1999; Lee, 1996; Morris & Ogan, 1996; Parks & Floyd, 1996; Riva & Galimberti, 1998). As a means to enter into this conversation, this section will: establish definitions as a grounds for common understanding of the phenomena; address the role of ethnography in the study of chatroom interactions; and develop a discussion of virtual communities, norms, and the use of nonverbal communication online. Each of these discussions will serve to ground the findings from the ethnographic study of the Austin AOL chatroom. Defining Computer Mediated Communication Riva and Galimberti (1998) describe online communication as being one of two types. Asynchronous online communication involves interactions that are not simultaneous, meaning that the interactants do not necessarily have to be online at the same time to interact. Examples include bulletin board, email, and list serve communication. Synchronous communication is therefore descriptive of those interactions where two or more users interact simultaneously. In chat rooms, this suggests that the computers have to be linked in real time and messages typed appear on all participants screens at approximately the same time (Donath, Karahalios, & Viegas 1999; Riva & Galimberti, 1998). Examples include instant messaging systems and chatrooms (including real time newsgroups).

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
5
‘real’ interpersonal relationships (see Parks & Floyd, 1996). Still others (e.g., Parks & Floyd,
1996; Pratt, Wiseman, Cody, & Wendt, 1999) view CMC as a way that people can connect with
one another, building meaningful relationships centered on a negotiated reality. Even those who
view the CMC as a tool often do not agree about the nature or virtue of building social identities
online (e.g., Lee, 1996; Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 1998). What does remain constant in the
analyses is that as CMC emerges as a popular form of communication is will have implications
for human interaction, communication processes, and language use (Bechar-Israeli, 1995;
Herring, 1999; Lee, 1996; Morris & Ogan, 1996; Parks & Floyd, 1996; Riva & Galimberti,
1998). As a means to enter into this conversation, this section will: establish definitions as a
grounds for common understanding of the phenomena; address the role of ethnography in the
study of chatroom interactions; and develop a discussion of virtual communities, norms, and the
use of nonverbal communication online. Each of these discussions will serve to ground the
findings from the ethnographic study of the Austin AOL chatroom.
Defining Computer Mediated Communication
Riva and Galimberti (1998) describe online communication as being one of two types.
Asynchronous online communication involves interactions that are not simultaneous, meaning
that the interactants do not necessarily have to be online at the same time to interact. Examples
include bulletin board, email, and list serve communication. Synchronous communication is
therefore descriptive of those interactions where two or more users interact simultaneously. In
chat rooms, this suggests that the computers have to be linked in real time and messages typed
appear on all participants screens at approximately the same time (Donath, Karahalios, & Viegas
1999; Riva & Galimberti, 1998). Examples include instant messaging systems and chatrooms
(including real time newsgroups).


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