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Table Summary of Case Studies combining theories with features of chatroom talk



Features of chatroom discourse. 1

Analysis of conversation. 1

Case Study Structure. 2

Case Study Summary. 3


Features of chatroom discourse


In this thesis I argue that it can be shown that in chatroom discussion for the period 1995 to 2001, there were new, unique features which made chatroom talk a new genre of writing. I provide evidence that these features included the use made of emoticons and abbreviations; threads and discontinuity; fleeting text; lurking; avatars and usernames and collaborated-selves as author. Another feature of chatroom discourse is grammatical errors and misspelt words. The nature of the spelling is not the same as creating new words or not knowing the spelling of words but words written in haste to keep pace with other ‘speakers’ in the chatroom.

Analysis of conversation


Several methods for the analysis of chatroom conversation have been developed. This was done firstly by applying a number of different theories so the analysis of the case studies in order to list the value of each in these instances. As a result, I have and I have modified each method in order to develop an Online Discourse Analysis Theory. The theories I applied to these case studies were Reading-Response Theory, Computer Mediated Communication, Semiotic Analysis and Pragmatics, Speech Act Theory, Discourse Analysis, Conversational Analysis, Linguistic schools of discourse analysis.

Case Study Structure


Through a series of selected case studies, I identified special features of chatroom talk evident in the time period of the case studies. Through my study of these cases and the analytical uses of certain theories in relation to these, I have developed a theory of ‘Online Discourse Analysis Theory’. This illustrates which examples from the chatrooms.






Methodological focus

Chatroom Features






Web of authorship, readership & subjectivity

  • 2-readings: title of chatroom and chat- text.
  • Reading text as fact.
  • Author-Reader same





Introduces the technology into the communicative act, and reveals the multi-layeredness of the chat

  • Real time conversation to many people in different locals.
  • Talk in more than one chatsites at one time.


Semiotic Analysis




Introduces a socially-embedded reading of communication still regarded as symbolic activity.

  • Emoticons, virtual chats[1], avatars (author as sign/symbol)
  • multiple author selves in same chatroom


Speech Act



What a 'speech act' is when it is conducted in written: an altogether different coding.

  • Disruption: Timed interruption from server’s ads.
  • Threads and discontinuity
  • Speech as home. Chatrooms as created place


Discourse Analysis



Symbolic (language) and the (embodied) social/cultural, as linked within practice.

  • Fleeting text
  • Chatroom graffiti





Focuses right in onto the details of communicative exchanges CREATE A CA CODING TO HANDLE CHAT ‘THREADS’

  • Lurking
  • Collaborated-Selves as The Author


(linguistic schools)





  • Abbreviation, spelling and grammar errors.


Case Study Summary


I have taken six existing theories used in analysing conversation, and applied these to text based chatroom conversation. Furthermore, I have used theories from several linguistic schools to further analyse online conversation. My research has revealed features of chatroom talk which are new as discourse devices and therefore which makes this form of communication different from other forms of communication, such as person to person conversation. There are also features of text-based chatroom conversation that are different than other online formats, such as email and discussion groups.

Drawing from existing theory, I have formulated new methodologies to analyse conversation in text-based-chatrooms. I have limited myself to describing only several of the unique characteristics in each of the chatroom case studies. In this way I have sought to keep my examples clear; though, in many instances, the material and new features I have described could apply to more than one of my case studies. I will demonstrate from the results of my research in this thesis, that the new and unique features of text based chatroom discourse make it  a new genre of writing.

Case Study Summaries continue at:




[1] List of chatrooms running 3D avatars and virtual worlds.