THESIShome ~ Abstract.html/pdf ~ Glossary.html/pdf ~ Introduction.html/pdf ~ methodology.html/pdf ~ literature review.html/pdf ~ Case
Study 1.html/pdf~ 2.html/pdf~ 3.html/pdf~ 4.html/pdf~ 5.html/pdf~ 6.html/pdf~ 7.html/pdf~ discussion.html/pdf ~ conclusion.html~ postscipt.html/pdf~ O*D*A*M.html/pdf~ Bibliography.html/pdf~ 911~ thesis-complete.htm/~ Terrell Neuage Home
Below is saved from the Languse Discussion List March - April 2002. I have included the date and contributor’s name. This has been saved and copied for referencing in my thesis: Conversational Analysis of Chatroom ‘talk’, completion date 2/2003. I hope that a completed rough first draft will be online mid-June 2002 at:
My current research is working with various linguistic theories to discover mapping procedures within online communication (including SMS messaging and Palm Computers). I am interested in electronic communication as I believe, like music, there will be a universal notation formed via emoticons which may help in shared meaning between different cultures and beliefs. I hope that this is not the beginning of a wider globalization which threatens to homogenize the world but a bridge to improved communication.
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>In chatrooms would a person signing in and lurking be considered a TCU?
If 'turn-constructional unit' (TCU) is the name for the units out of
which turns at constructed, then you might ask yourself the question,
is lurking something that is turn organized? That is, is there an
organization that distributed opportunities to lurk to lurk among
participants in the chatroom? Some forms of human activity are
turn-organized (e.g. speaking in conversation) and some human
activities are not (e.g. eating dinner at home). One would only want
to ask about what constitutes a TCU for activities that are turn
organized - that is, for activities that participants can be seen
doing specific work to maintain the allocation of opportunities at
My answer is 'no!' 'turn' stands for 'turn at speaking' (or it's
equivalent). When no one speaks after a turn, there's a silence, a pause,
that's not a turn. When someone does not answer a question, that's a
failure to take a turn, etc.
Actually, I think there is not a turn because there is not interaction. In
the chatrooms, the presence in the channel is not a guarantee of
communication. (Think, for instance, the continous failures in the beginning
of a conversation. Many times the participants don't receive response to
their appeal to others and they left out the channel. When someone does not
answer a question, and does not talk, there is "nothing" but a supposition
of his presence) If the cooperation is presupposed in the presence of a
person (actually, a nickname), not to talk is a way of no cooperation (in
the sense in which Grice defined it). So it is impossible think in a chat as
a discoursive form of communication, a conversation without words, and
without another forms of interchange meanings. Less possible is to think in
>Thank you for the comments from different folks on TCUs in chatroom lurking.
>Often times someone will enter a chatroom and it is obvious he or she is
>as it will say <****> has entered...
>Some of those present in the chat-area will offer a 'hello' or (usually in
>chatrooms) 'are you a male or female'. What happens then is if the person
>not respond then others will start probing into why they are not saying
>anything. This changes the discourse of the room especially if some of the
>chatters become agro about it. That is what I meant by does lurking
>a turn taking. Or another example is when someone leaves and enters several
>times and <****> has entered...will show on the screen and one assumes for
>whatever reason that is a particular utterance that is a turn taking.
I think the expression 'notable absence' fits very well here. That's from
the early papers on adjacency pairs, prob. Schegloff & Sacks, 1973, or
>Another TCU I am interested in and which is part of my exploration of how
>people communicate in chatrooms (and how it may effect us in real life -
>http://se.unisa.edu.au) is the interpretation of emoticons, abbreviations and
>sounds in a chatroom.
>For example, if there is a discourse between several chatters and one of the
>chatters uses the sound device (most chatrooms have them) which sounds like a
>fart or burp or giggle (leading to the question is a fart a TCU as when in a
>person-to-person conversation someone is annoyed or wants to express
>they do so by farting, burping, giggling etc. is that their utterance? For
>example, my younger son use to annoy me to no end when I would ask a question
>and he would just grunt and that was his response. Now he is a pitcher for
>LA Dodgers in Spring
>people there or was it just at me? I think most teenagers do this).
>A turn in a chatroom could just be an emoticon; :), that is their turn, their
>response, their utterance, their meaning.
These all full under the rubric of 'activities', don't they?
>Also, may I use some of the comments from before from you all on this in my
>thesis (in my footnotes in my current case study and I will reference that it
>was from email from this listserv?). Especially, Valentina Noblia, Paul ten
>Have (whom I have referenced several times already in my thesis) and Gene
>Lerner so far. I am not sure of how to reference from listservs as there does
>not seem to be an excepted protocol yet.
I think the name of the list and the date of posting will do.
Hi Terrell, when I was doing my thesis on chat rooms I
wondered about the same thing and in the end I decided
to go with treating 'lurking' as members oriented to
it. That is, the members in the chat rooms I studied
seemed to treat 'lurking' as 'presence' rather than a
'turn' in conversation. They treated it in the same
way as someone standing near you, who could be a
possible conversant but wasn't actually one until they
or someone else initiated a sequence. It's interesting
that with the new type of chat rooms that have
avatars, chatters can now 'face' one another with
their avatars and increase the physical proximity,
adding a dimension to the chat that was absent from my
data. Best of luck.
Ecole des Hautes
Etudes en Sciences Sociales in
You are very right to bring up some of the differences between chat and
face to face interaction especially in regards to the expectations of
interactions and responding to turns (eg. when a lurker prefers to remain
"silent" at least in the public arena, because we don't know really if he
or she is pursuing a private conversation on a different level... hmmm).
A turn then can be understood as a volontary means of conveying a message
to others in the chat room. This includes emoticons, sounds and even
manipulation of the server messages such as "topic" changes and nickname
changes. Indeed, in IRC the turn takes on a visual aspect (including sounds
which are volontary or associated with certain types of messages).
Afterall, almost ALL of the interaction is visual and cannot be spoken,
contrary to the definition given by SSJ and by Paul ten Have, more
recently, have expressed.
This definition is problematic for IRC because it either bars this type of
interaction from the status of a "converstional activity" (I won't discuss
the question if it is conversation or not), or it demands the reevaluation
of the definition of a turn in CA terms.
Then there is the question of the TCU. Turns in Chat are limited by the
technical system. They cannot go on forever, for pages and pages, which is
a major difference from the definition of a turn given by SSJ. Indeed, a
person cannot even techincally guarantee that he can keep his turn without
a server message or other contribution introjected between the lines.
So, how do we deal with this? I suggest in my PhD that a turn is this
volontary contribution to the chat room, that they are visual elements and
that each turn is exclusive. Turn internal TCUs can be evaluated in terms
of the grammar used in the turn, or in terms of a visual layout of the turn
which uses punctuation or icons or emoticons etc, but in IRC the difference
between a turn and a TCU is almost a moot question. The TRP is after the
person has composed and sent his/her message.... Besides, the participants
may not even be aware that a turn is in the making until it is sent (see
the partner deems a TCU has been accomplished, is not possible.
This turn/TCU question is already difficult in the spoken word, but when we
start adding new techniques to our analyses, it seems to complicate things
further. However, it does provoke us to reflect on the original
definitions. Are they still valid?
As a final note concerning the breath units: The technical limitations on a
turn in IRC can be seen (literally) as having these types of physical,
natural boundaries, like a breath unit. Poets in the 50s and 60s also
experimented with the breath unit. Alain Ginsberg, I believe (or perhaps
charles olsen), wrote poems based on this breath unit meaning that a line
was composed of as many words he could utter in one breath unit. These
poems were not only seen as written works to be read in a book, but
performed in front of (or with) others.
Hope this stimulates more discussion,
Mon 4/1/2002 6:45 PM
Thought I might weigh in on the Chatroom TCU discussion.
I think we need to be clear that the questions of whether 'turn-taking'
'exists' in chatrooms and whether lurking is an instance of a chatroom TCU
are of two different orders. The first is more abstract than the second.
The first seems definitional, while the second seeks to categorize an
empirical observation by virtue of an existing definition (of some kind,
maybe the first).
Whether 'turn-taking' 'exists' in chatrooms is a difficult question. I
agree with Rhyll Vallis's answer (glib generalization: 'it depends on how
members orient to it') and Hillary Bay's answer (glib generalization: 'the
system's technical structure makes turn-taking very different from FTF
interaction turn-taking, so it needs to be evaluated on its own merits'),
but think that a more interesting question is what work (for academics, for
users, for designers) would proving that it 'does' or 'does not' exist (and
'is' or 'is not' similar to FTF turn-taking) do? What do we gain from the
answer (explanatory power, political power, etc) ? In all cases, too, we
need to be more focused on the 'place' - which chatrooms in which media.
I'd ask the same of the question of whether 'lurking' is an instance of a
chatroom TCU. However, in this instance there are a couple of further
wrinkles. First, what is lurking, and what kind of problem is answered by
saying "it is a form of chatroom TCU"? From whose point of view are we
considering the lurking to be occuring, and why are we considering it? I
ask this question because I wonder if the example of lurking that Terrel
used (not talking directly upon entry into a chatroom, but being
automatically introduced) might not be a 'lurking' problem but an 'opening'
problem. It matters, I think, what kind of communicative/relational problem
is being solved in any given situation, and 'lurking' as opposed to
'opening' are different problems with different kinds of answers. For some
of my answers, from the point of view of the 'opening problem', see my
article "First Things First: Internet Relay Chat Openings."
I think that technical definitions of what is or is not here, or what is or
is not in comparison, need to be secondary to dealing with questions about
the point of human interaction: what problem is being dealt with using
communication (whatever it consists of) in this instance, and how is its
manifestation and solution being achieved?
Tue 4/2/2002 3:17 AM
E. Sean Rintel
University at Albany
State University of New York
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY, USA, 12222-0001