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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 7 online names—screen names—and ways of interacting), with occasional experimentation (Riva & Galimberti, 1998). However, there is an emergent ‘net’ culture identifying ‘newbies’ and collaborating to define and then sanction appropriate and inappropriate behaviors (Danet, 1995). As such, CMC should be considered a socially constructed phenomenon, which lends itself well to ethnographic analyses (Lindlif & Shatzer, 1998; Paccagnella, 1997). The job of ethnography is to describe and interpret cultural groups (Geertz, 1973). Thus, in ethnography of communication, we seek to describe and interpret communicative phenomena within particular communities. CMC affords communication scholars unique opportunities to ask questions of ‘what goes on here?’ or ‘how are relationships communicated?’ by exploring the dynamic processes of CMC in the course of building, maintaining, and understanding social relationships (Lindlif & Shatzer, 1998). Further, the job of the ethnographer to gain access to communities, rigorously observe, record, then interpret is made simpler with the study of virtual communities because people are interacting in a public space, ethnographers can gain access to natural interactions without disturbing those same interactions (Paccagnella, 1997). As long as ethnographers study public CMC (i.e., chatrooms), the discourse is public. While it may be very personal, it is not considered to be private and is therefore not subject to ‘Human Subjects’ restraints (Sudweeks & Rafaeli, 1995). In conducting ethnographies of CMC, we gain access to an emergent space of human interaction. Lindlif and Shatzer (1998) argue that employing the metaphor of community in referencing particular CMC locations (e.g., Austin’s AOL chat room) is an appropriate use of the metaphor. They further argue, that like in any community, ethnography may produce knowledge about community initiation and boundary maintenance, norms, culture, and ways or forms that people interact in such communities. Paccagnella (1997) suggests that while the use of the word

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
7
online names—screen names—and ways of interacting), with occasional experimentation (Riva
& Galimberti, 1998). However, there is an emergent ‘net’ culture identifying ‘newbies’ and
collaborating to define and then sanction appropriate and inappropriate behaviors (Danet, 1995).
As such, CMC should be considered a socially constructed phenomenon, which lends itself well
to ethnographic analyses (Lindlif & Shatzer, 1998; Paccagnella, 1997). The job of ethnography is
to describe and interpret cultural groups (Geertz, 1973). Thus, in ethnography of communication,
we seek to describe and interpret communicative phenomena within particular communities.
CMC affords communication scholars unique opportunities to ask questions of ‘what goes on
here?’ or ‘how are relationships communicated?’ by exploring the dynamic processes of CMC in
the course of building, maintaining, and understanding social relationships (Lindlif & Shatzer,
1998). Further, the job of the ethnographer to gain access to communities, rigorously observe,
record, then interpret is made simpler with the study of virtual communities because people are
interacting in a public space, ethnographers can gain access to natural interactions without
disturbing those same interactions (Paccagnella, 1997). As long as ethnographers study public
CMC (i.e., chatrooms), the discourse is public. While it may be very personal, it is not
considered to be private and is therefore not subject to ‘Human Subjects’ restraints (Sudweeks &
Rafaeli, 1995).
In conducting ethnographies of CMC, we gain access to an emergent space of human
interaction. Lindlif and Shatzer (1998) argue that employing the metaphor of community in
referencing particular CMC locations (e.g., Austin’s AOL chat room) is an appropriate use of the
metaphor. They further argue, that like in any community, ethnography may produce knowledge
about community initiation and boundary maintenance, norms, culture, and ways or forms that
people interact in such communities. Paccagnella (1997) suggests that while the use of the word


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