Case study 7 raw data for IM

EXAMPLE IV.

Here is a fragment of an IM conversation between mutual acquaintance, who have never met physically. The conversation had started out about spirituality but the male (speaking in capital letters) quickly turned it into a sexual theme with the female finally ending with "thats (sic) what i (sic) thought you were going to say.....but i didnt want to go there!" At this stage the female writer (lower case text) could have been revealing a familiarity with social norms (ie. Male sexual behaviour) or with IRC practices or both. Without other cues: visual, knowledge of the participants and their familiarity with one another, it will be difficult to define the "talk". Here the grammar, fonts and abbreviations are all significant. Several of the abbreviations are shorthand for several words. Two in this IM I am not familiar with: IBE in line 14 and OBE in line 11. In line 10, LOL is shorthand for lots of laughs. It is also used for "lots of love", but in this context I believe it is "lots of laughs" as it follows the word "HE", as in "he he he". To some extent the textual "appearance" of IRC script is accidental. If people are not skilled at typing, they make a lot of errors trying to keep up with IRC conversation. This is especially true in chatrooms where there are several people all 'speaking' at the same time. Nevertheless, contributors do also use text forms in deliberative ways. I will reproduce the extract first as it downloads from the IM screen, where limited window and scroll capacity makes it visually confusing. Then I will provide a provisional transcription, highlighting some of the interpretive complexities of this dialogue.

1. ######: WE WERE TOGETHER IN THE HAREMS OF CHINAS THRONE, THE GOOD OLDL DAYS

2. ######: MINE

3. ******: ah...one of those past life miracles

4. ######: COOL LETTERS. I LIKE GRAPHICS AND BIG BLACK LETTERS, COOLNESS

5. ******: oops....better get a little more humble again

6. ######: WE WERE INDIANS IN THE NEW WORLD TOGETHER TOO

7. ******: WOW! far out man!

8. ######: YES, I GET TO CALL HER IN ABOUT 2 HOURS

9. ******: lucky you

10. ######: I PRACTICE THE 4 RULE. I HOPE YOUR NOT INTO THE EQUALITY TRIP BUT I FEEL THE MAN ONE THE WOMAN 4. THAT WORKS GOOD, SHE REALLY SMILES A LOT AFTER THAT HE LOL

11. ******: and where does she live....I hope not in Australia.....thats too far even for a good old fashioned OBE

12. ######: IN THE SOUTH OF SANTA CLARA, COUNTY

13. ######: CA

14. ######: WE DO A LOT IBE

15. ######: THE I FOR IN

16. ******: so she is near....that is good.......and a peice of down to earth advice from mother earth.....dont contract any viruses

17. ######: WE IS PURE AS THE FRESH FALLEN SNOW

18. ******: as long as it doesnt include too much nuclear fall out

19. ######: BUT IT MELTS AFTER A SHORT WHILE AND WERE IN THE CARRIBEAN

20. ******: dont want to loose any hair....that would be a real shame

21. ******: oh...ok........sounds like a plan

22. ######: NOT YET ON THE FALL OUT, BUT I HAVE HIT SPIRITUAL ATOMICS AND IT PUCHES HOLES IN THE ATOMOSPHERE LIKE THE EARTH ATOMICS

23. ######: HOW DID YOU KNOW MAMA MY HAIR IS THINING, BUT ONLY ON THE HEAD HE HE LOL

24. ******: I'm sure........we could invent a fix a flat for sub atomic stuff and get rich then, huh?

25. ######: HUUUMMMMM??? NOT BAD IDEA

26. ######: IF I GET RICH I M DOWNIN THE CARRIBEAN. WELL I WAS A PIRATE IN A PAST TIME HE HE .. IT WAS STILL GREAT AND WORTH IT.

27. ******: sorry........cant rewind that one....so forget it ever happened....your here now big guy!

28. ######: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MY 4 RULE?

29. ******: but I got your parrot...hahahaha

30. ######: HE HE I LOVE TUCANS, THE BIG BEAK ONES

31. ******: dont get it...please explain better for us illiterate unpsychic ones 4 what?....ask i thus

32. ######: THE WOMAN HAS FOUR ORGASIMS, A LEAST ONE VERY BIG TWO MEDIUM AND ONE OR MORE SMALL THE MAN HAS ONE BIG AND MAYBE A FEW SMALL ONES

33. ######: THIS RATIO KEEPS THE NIGHT ALL NIGHT.

34. ******: oh my god!...thats what i thought you were going to say.....but i didnt want to go there!

EXAMPLE IV-A (with notations)

1. ######: WE WERE TOGETHER IN THE HAREMS OF CHINAS THRONE, THE GOOD OLDL DAYS

2. ######: MINE

3. ******: ah...one of those past life miracles [3 1]

4. ######: COOL LETTERS. I LIKE GRAPHICS AND BIG BLACK LETTERS, COOLNESS [#]

5. ******: oops....better get a little more humble again [3 1]

6. ######: WE WERE INDIANS IN THE NEW WORLD TOGETHER TOO

7. ******: WOW! far out man! [7 6]

8. ######: YES, I GET TO CALL HER IN ABOUT 2 HOURS [8 ?]

9. ******: lucky you [9 8]

10. ######: I PRACTICE THE 4 RULE. I HOPE YOUR NOT INTO THE EQUALITY TRIP BUT I FEEL THE MAN ONE THE WOMAN 4. THAT WORKS GOOD, SHE REALLY SMILES A LOT AFTER THAT HE LOL [#]

11. ******: and where does she live....I hope not in Australia.....thats too far even for a good old fashioned OBE [11 8]

12. ######: IN THE SOUTH OF SANTA CLARA, COUNTY [12 11]

13. ######: CA

14. ######: WE DO A LOT IBE

15. ######: THE I FOR IN

16. ******: so she is near....that is good.......and a peice of down to earth advice from mother earth.....dont contract any viruses [16 12-13]

17. ######: WE IS PURE AS THE FRESH FALLEN SNOW [17 16]

18. ******: as long as it doesnt include too much nuclear fall out [18 17]

19. ######: BUT IT MELTS AFTER A SHORT WHILE AND WERE IN THE CARRIBEAN [# 19 17]

20. ******: dont want to loose any hair....that would be a real shame [# 20 18]

21. ******: oh...ok........sounds like a plan [21 19]

22. ######: NOT YET ON THE FALL OUT, BUT I HAVE HIT SPIRITUAL ATOMICS AND IT PUCHES HOLES IN THE ATOMOSPHERE LIKE THE EARTH ATOMICS [22>18]

23. ######: HOW DID YOU KNOW MAMA MY HAIR IS THINING, BUT ONLY ON THE HEAD HE HE LOL [23 20]

24. ******: I'm sure........we could invent a fix a flat for sub atomic stuff and get rich then, huh? [24 22]

25. ######: HUUUMMMMM??? NOT BAD IDEA [25 24]

26. ######: IF I GET RICH I M DOWNIN THE CARRIBEAN. WELL I WAS A PIRATE IN A PAST TIME HE HE .. IT WAS STILL GREAT AND WORTH IT. [26 24 6 1]

27. ******: sorry........cant rewind that one....so forget it ever happened....your here now big guy! [27 26 6 1]

28. ######: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MY 4 RULE? [28 10]

29. ******: but I got your parrot...hahahaha [#]

30. ######: HE HE I LOVE TUCANS, THE BIG BEAK ONES [30 29]

31. ******: dont get it...please explain better for us illiterate unpsychic ones 4 what?....ask i thus [31 29 10]

32. ######: THE WOMAN HAS FOUR ORGASIMS, A LEAST ONE VERY BIG TWO MEDIUM AND ONE OR MORE SMALL THE MAN HAS ONE BIG AND MAYBE A FEW SMALL ONES [32 31 29 10]

33. ######: THIS RATIO KEEPS THE NIGHT ALL NIGHT. [33 32 31 29 10]

34. ******: oh my god!...thats what i thought you were going to say.....but i didnt want to go there! [34 33 32 31 29 10]

Already evident is the increasing degree of regression in the dialogue. By line 24 participants are referring back across more than one exchange to continue the discussion. By the end, they refer back to multiple exchanges. Part of my analysis will focus on how far this is a specific condition of IRC/IM chat, not depictable in spoken texts.

EXAMPLE V.

This is another example of an Instant Messenger dialogue. And as I was one of the participants I am able to give a different interpretation than I would for Example IV. With any conversational analysis the interpretation is key to the understanding of the textual interaction. There are limitations to how people speak with others they are already familiar with. One of the areas of on-line conversation I will investigate is the differences between conversations of known participants and unknown. Most chatrooms conversations are between participants unknown to one another. Because of nick-names in chatrooms it is often difficult to know the gender, nationality or social positioning of the "speakers". In IM, the "speakers" are generally known to one another as they establish IM contact for a specific purpose. Instant messenger is thus similar to face-to-face talk in that participants already are familiar with each other, even if through only a few correspondences.

One person, with whom I no longer dialogue, I got to know quite well over a short time period on IRC. This person has a history of psychiatric illness, confirmed not only by her, but also several others on my buddy list. (IM has category lists such as Buddy, family, Class-mates) Most of our chats were just bantering and at times quite silly. Our IMs were more entertainment than anything and provided me with a break from the stresses of every day life. However, there were times when this person drifted into suicidal talk, wanting 'to return to her home in the cosmos', her cue that she "wanted to die." Mood and directional changes affect the dialogue even without having tonal or gesture signals. This can be read back within the flow of talk by creating a string of text of lines 1, 7, and 9, or as coded above: 1>7>9. It is line 9, when the person says "on this plane", that the message becomes clear. Even though it is using the same text: "on this plane", by line 9 it has taken on new meaning, following line 7 "I am am (sic) not going to be around too much longer". It is now clear the person is thinking of dying.

The following has the other party's name deleted. Until this scenario begins the respondent was telling jokes and seemed quite happy. As this stage I have only arranged the text into single exchanges, omitting the full transactional coding (as above.) Instead I have added interpretive commentary, to indicate the response processing I will undergoing as I anticipated in the exchange. At a later period I intent to use the more objective "coding" on this transcript as well, to test the efficiency of my own "intuitive" conversational responses.

@@@@@@: Terrell......we will probably never meet on this plane

@@@@@@: realize that

T Neuage: really we will never meet [at this point I thought she meant because she lived in California and a I lived in Australia - and due to the distance this would never go beyond a cyberfriendship.]

T Neuage: why not

@@@@@@: I dont know

T Neuage: but you believe that?

@@@@@@: I am am not going to be around too much longer [here I first realize she is talking about leaving the world]

T Neuage: that is not true

@@@@@@: on this plane

T Neuage: why do you say that

@@@@@@: it is so

T Neuage: that is silly stuff

T Neuage: it is not so

T Neuage: for what reason would you leave

@@@@@@: it ois time soon

T Neuage: i am not into control but you can't go

T Neuage: it is not time soon

@@@@@@: but I will always be with you [a metaphsical translation being that she believes she will die and her spirit will be with me]

T Neuage: who told you that that you will leave

T Neuage: it is not true

@@@@@@: I am not sure.....but I am am being taken soon [here begins the 'I will be taken' beliefs. She claims to be an 'experiencer' - an abductee.]

T Neuage: you need to be around different poeple

T Neuage: by whom [this refers back to 21]

@@@@@@: it is not people [this confirms she is not talking about earthlings]

T Neuage: if they take you can they come and get me too

@@@@@@: I have had a good life [proclaiming her death sentence here]

T Neuage: and you will have a better one Here on this planet

@@@@@@: I have to go home soon

T Neuage: where is your home

@@@@@@ : inside my heart

@@@@@@: because.....this is not my life

T Neuage: It is not fair for you to have information that yhou won't share with me

T Neuage: I thought we were mates

T Neuage: mates share

T Neuage: tell me

@@@@@@: I gave up my life.....so what is left is not up to me

T Neuage: what

T Neuage: come on you can't believe that

@@@@@@: I should be dead.....should be....and am not [proclaiming her death sentence again]

T Neuage: no you should not be dead

@@@@@@: yes

T Neuage: you can not trade or sell your soul

T Neuage: that is myth

@@@@@@: no

T Neuage: reality is what you are in right now

@@@@@@: my daughter was my dear friend and she died 26 years ago from an overdose of heroin

T Neuage: what about your daughter now

@@@@@@: I really better not tell you anymore

T Neuage: up to you

T Neuage: we can change the subject

@@@@@@: she is still my friend.....we are not like mother and daughter....not at all

T Neuage: what about the daughter you said died

T Neuage: mixed me up

@@@@@@: never mind

T Neuage: ok

T Neuage: how is your bird [time to # - change the topic]

The next day this respondent was back on-line, seemingly with little memory of the day before conversation. Apart from the psychological implications of such conversations, systematic analysis shows that such conversation may seem aimless in structure, but it is in fact a structured conversation. "Casual" format is carrying serious social, and maybe psychological, consequences. Yet I have never met this person. Nor am I sure of how our interaction operates within this construction of a social self.