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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 6 Erickson (1999) suggests that computer-mediated communication does not allow people to use our skills and relegates individuals to being invisible and makes us unable to connect; yet he emphasizes the importance of conversation. Very simply, conversation can and does occur online. Donath, et al. (1999) indicates that chatrooms are examples of complex social interactions and typically have a number of conversations occurring simultaneously. Therefore, CMC—especially in the context of chatroom conversations—is defined as a process where people interact and negotiate the meaning of those interactions (Riva & Galimberti, 1998). This suggests that CMC is a socially rich medium where people share social identity in a highly engaging manner thus allowing for a rich communicative variety of outcomes, creation of social meaning, and expressions of individuality and even group solidarity (Baym, 1995; Postumes, et al., 1998). Chatroom communication is very much like talk (Baym, 1995). Bechar-Israeli (1995) argues that CMC has a combination of written and oral linguistic features. Badgett and Sandler (1993) argue that, “Learning your way around IRC’s [chatrooms] is a lot like learning another language, finding your way around a new town, or playing blind man’s bluff. But there’s also nothing like it” (p. 157). Just like other modes of communication, in CMC people seek to establish rapport and decrease uncertainty (Parks & Floyd, 1996). This implies that while CMC could be a lean-medium, people adapt the interactions to find ways around anonymity and uncertainty (Parks & Floyd, 1996), thus making it a very rich medium that requires an element of virtuosity to negotiate successfully. Ethnography in the Study of Chatrooms As people adapt to CMC, they are free to create any identity that they want; however, findings have suggested that people tend to select and then keep particular identities (both actual

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
6
Erickson (1999) suggests that computer-mediated communication does not allow people
to use our skills and relegates individuals to being invisible and makes us unable to connect; yet
he emphasizes the importance of conversation. Very simply, conversation can and does occur
online. Donath, et al. (1999) indicates that chatrooms are examples of complex social
interactions and typically have a number of conversations occurring simultaneously. Therefore,
CMC—especially in the context of chatroom conversations—is defined as a process where
people interact and negotiate the meaning of those interactions (Riva & Galimberti, 1998). This
suggests that CMC is a socially rich medium where people share social identity in a highly
engaging manner thus allowing for a rich communicative variety of outcomes, creation of social
meaning, and expressions of individuality and even group solidarity (Baym, 1995; Postumes, et
al., 1998).
Chatroom communication is very much like talk (Baym, 1995). Bechar-Israeli (1995)
argues that CMC has a combination of written and oral linguistic features. Badgett and Sandler
(1993) argue that, “Learning your way around IRC’s [chatrooms] is a lot like learning another
language, finding your way around a new town, or playing blind man’s bluff. But there’s also
nothing like it” (p. 157). Just like other modes of communication, in CMC people seek to
establish rapport and decrease uncertainty (Parks & Floyd, 1996). This implies that while CMC
could be a lean-medium, people adapt the interactions to find ways around anonymity and
uncertainty (Parks & Floyd, 1996), thus making it a very rich medium that requires an element of
virtuosity to negotiate successfully.
Ethnography in the Study of Chatrooms
As people adapt to CMC, they are free to create any identity that they want; however,
findings have suggested that people tend to select and then keep particular identities (both actual


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