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Constituting the ODAM (Online Discourse Analysis Method)
Use of mixed linguistic analysis methodology
Finding strictly regulated language practices
Main feature of online talk: Open/Creative practices
Building inwards from the broad user-perspectives of Reader Response, examining chat postings as actively received interpreted “wreaderly” communication, the ODAM has cut four deep and “rich descriptive” wedges from a multi-dimensional, multi-leveled set of chat actions. Beginning simply on an empirically driven arm: to cut into actual instances of chat practice using any existing research methods which could examine how online talk “works”. The study can now be seen to offer in the first instance, a set of interlocking research tools, any or all of which can be picked up, critiqued and re-applied, to be improved upon in future studies, by future researchers.
A second “wedge” or cut from the research findings however establishes that a key direction in linguistic research methodologies: the drive towards establishing the “regulatory” or rules-and-systems elements behind language use, is indeed given a different spin within online talk. Here it proves possible, again and again, from method to method – across the seven case studies “speech communities”, to reveal tightly regulated, recurrent and systematic talk practices, variant from those observable offline, even where there are equivalent interest or topic groups. Wedge 2 indicates those already established online practices which constitute the difference, and even expertise of online chat, this suggests that it may well be on its way to constituting its own “speech community/ies”.
But it is wedge 3: those descriptive features which reveal a markedly “open” or “creative” set of communicative behaviours online, which reveal how chat is being constituted. Here the evidence of complexity, semiotic and graphic play, consistent relational focus and creative expertise introduces the dynamic energy of online communication. Favouring members and strategies and expertise which reveal skill and creativity and fast-paced interpretive responsiveness.
Wedge 3 practices lead us on to the discourse-under formation of wedge 4 or discourse demanding continual enactment of familiarity, consensual strategies, relational work, and what CA would call “category maintenance” – of an exclusively “communal” kind.
Online chat, regardless of topic or the specifics of a participant group, appears directed to community itself. Not quite un-agentric as it dis-connects from action, it becomes meta-agentric: more about how to operate than about “what to do”, It is this, contrary to most contemporary public and media’s accounts, richer in value than in projects. It is a discourse largely about itself.
Having completed the seven differently-focused case studies designed to investigate these issues, it is now possible to see the quite distinctive directions these questions raise and the concomitant ways in which equally distinctive “clusters” of research focus have proven to have arise. The studies move from the fine focus of what can now be seen as technological and methodological questions (turn-taking; meaning-making; observational study) to a comparative emphasis cultural sensitivity in chat and in real-life talk; chat as reflective of real-life discourses; chat in comparison to natural conversation to the “postulatory” emphasis of much broader questions (chat as a useful area for new conversational research theory; chat as a new universal language). My own preliminary thinking indicated a three part study program, moving from existing linguistic-based observational and analytical methods, to an empirical evidence-founded description of actual online “talk” practice, and so to a deeper and richer set of hypotheses relating to online “chat” practices and behaviours. The study has thus begun the first stage of a methodological design for the study of chat – and perhaps of its future technologisations. The ODAM or Online Discourse Analysis Method proposed at the outset has evolved across the seven constitutive Case Studies:
Having revealed them both a tendency towards community-specific chat behaviours and at least the foundations for “chat universals”, it is time to revisit the research questions which orginally drove this project. How have they contriubted to, or contrained the findings? The five initial focus areas for this study were as follows:
Added to these mixed and incommensurable questions were an equally multi-level listing of my then-current assumptions on online communication:
Terrell Neuage 2005
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Leigh Neuage 6th July 1983 - 16th August 2003 every place I go I go with you ~ thanks for being always with me always. I only wish I could be with you. Everyday is more difficult than the one before. 04 September 2010.