Return to Mappings Wednesday, 14 February 2001 SUPERVISOR’S COMMENTS VERSION OF INTRODUCTION

It is my belief that through the interactive forms of the day that society evolves. terrell


This thesis proposes that through the interactive forms of the day society changes. The more accessible communication is to all the quicker ideas can be exchanged. Through the exchange of ideas and information we become better informed and we are able to make decisions, which affect not only ourselves but also the world in which we live.

          From the era of pictographs of accounts written on clay tablets in Sumeria 5500 years ago to the first evidence of writing during the Protoliterate period (Sumerian civilization, to about 28 B.C.) form of communication had advanced. For example, by 2800 B.C., the use of syllabic writing had reduced the number of signs from nearly two thousand to six hundred. (1) Communications codes for meaning exchange at a distance or across time were becoming accessible to more users.

...........All communication involves interaction and thus forms a basis for relationships. Chatrooms are no different in this regard. More needed here about exchange of meaning as social...Establish this before you go into selecting an analytical system... you cannot jump from Sumeria to Chatrooms!  Unless you do so or a “functional” thesis of langujage.  Use Halliday to show that if function drove the development of writing, it continues to drive the development of chatrooms. (And may even obliterate them, as commercial functions wipe out “sociability” on the Web.)  your task then is to examine e-chat now, show what it does, to show how it might develop - or die!!! Whether we use Halliday’s (1994: 68-71) approach to interaction from a functional-semantic perspective; or Crystal’s (1992: 409) listing of theoretical approaches to grammatical analysis (Case grammar, Relational grammar, X-bar (x) grammar, Montague grammar, Generalised phrase structure grammar, Functional grammar, Realistic grammar, and Network grammar (2). (which may be the closest to the study of on-line grammar using emoticons and abbreviations)

........... I. Statement of the problem

........... .......     a. Why examine chatroom dialogue?

........... .......     b. Is electronic talk comparable to verbal talk?

........... II. Analysing Chatroom 'Talk'

........... .......     a. research questions

........... .......     b. research hypothesis

........... III. How 'chat' differs from natural conversation



........... I. Statement of the problem This is too specific: see above for a way to capture the “problem” of your research.

            Research on-line is different from face to face research. why/how? If the social science’s two roles are observation and explanation of human behavior then it is the chatethonographer’s responsibility to explain what is going on in chatrooms. Researchers such as Robin Hamman ( a doctoral student at the University of Westminster, London currently studying online communities take an ethnographic approach to researching chatrooms. WHY? what does ethnography offer?

Rarely do we research human interaction without including the subjects involved. I am making the assumption in my work that the snatches of dialogue I have captured are actually from humans. A program could be written that would put up a selection of words every few turns in a chatroom and not be representative of any particular person. ref. this to the TURING CHALLENGE

At a more functional level a particular phrase or word can be added to an ongoing conversation with the push of the copy (usually control-C) key on a computer. An example of this is in the ‘Talk City’ chat of February 16, 2000. In this dialogue the ‘speaker’ B_witched_2002-guest copies in ‘OHI’ 37 times in 75 turns of ‘speech’. One-half of the conversation is computer generated. I will further examine this in chapter 8 when analysing this particular chat.

more on this .Every human event is culture-bound (Nobuo: 1990: 79), yet there is the question of whether cyberspace is even "real" and therefore worthy of study. cite studies In addition, there are questions of whether cyberculture, especially exchanges within chatrooms, are public or private. (Cybersociology ~ ~ issue six: Research Methodology Online). ~ detail the arguments,  Why does this matter?

...........There are many forms of electronic communication to choose from. Therefore, identifying what area of electronic communication to analyse on-line conversation was the first task. There is a continuing developing array of communication forms being developed. How people 'talk' has gone through many transformations. One of the first forms of non face-to-face 'turn-taking' communications available to most people in Western Society on a large scale was the telephone. Computers are the next step in non face-to-face 'turn-taking' communication. You need to distinguish between them - especially with the arrival of the Palm Pilot and email via mobile phone.

........... ........    a. Why examine chatroom dialogue?

...........All areas of communication are worth examining. why? However, a significant value which is what? can be had from analysing current forms of communication. More and more people are communicating through electronic-on-line services. statistics?

...........New ways of engaging in conversation are emerging with the growing wide spread use of computers as a form of communication. The impact these forms of communication will have on future interactions between people is just beginning to be studied. examples?  E-mail is replacing a lot of traditional letter writing and its primary difference is the rapidity of response expected when an e-mail is sent. Unlike letters, which often are not answered for a varying period of time, it is assumed that e-mail will be responded to within a day or two. For example, if we do not respond to an e-mail within a day or two from a friend, another e-mail will prompt us to respond, inquiring why we had not responded yet. Therefore, e-mails tend to be answered in haste with at least a short response, maybe even just a "got your e-mail, am too busy to answer now, but will in a few days". Though e-mail can be a form of turn-taking, people writing back and forth immediately after receiving correspondence, it does not provide the conversational turn-taking choices which chatroom do. cite some studies on email.

...........A few studies of computer dialogue are beginning to appear on the Internet. I will note studies in progress and completed theses on this topic. However, due to the nature of the Internet some links may not be working by the end of this thesis. A study of computer conferencing for instructional purposes by Dr. Karen L. Murphy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M University and Mauri P. Collins, Research Associate for Educational Systems Programming and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff have categorized on line study by students as asynchronously or synchronously. Asynchronous study allows time for reflection between interactions. Synchronously interactions allows real-time interactive chats or open sessions among as many participants as are online simultaneously. Their study: Communication Conventions in Instructional Electronic Chats will be discussed in other sections of this thesis. The study is available on line at and usefully summarises the spontaneity and immediacy of chatroom-styled synchronicity.

........... Chatrooms are more hastily interactive (turn-taking exchange) than e-mail. Conversations in Chatrooms are rarely planned out making Chatrooms an ideal source of casual conversation analysis. In Chatrooms conversations are informal, often experimental and often are used for entertainment and escape. cite studies?  Virtual conversations, which Chatrooms can be considered, can have little to no real life significance. For example, in some chatrooms participants experiment with various personas. As they are not seen, heard or known by others in the chatroom, cite studies e.g. Turkle. a participant can be anyone or anything.  Turkle >>

........... Internet conversation, whether in chatrooms, America Online's Instant messenger (IM), ICQ, PalTalk, discussion groups, or even in role playing games such as MUDs and MOOS already involves two new paradigm shifts. To bring into being an "electronic interactive conversational analysis" requires a cross over between print and conversation-based analyses and theorisations. Firstly, there is the shift from print text to computerization. Print relies on hierarchy and linearity. Computer interactivity can have several voices going at once or a "synchronous communication". A prime example is in chatrooms where there can be multiple conversations involving multiple subjects happening at the same time (Aokk, 1995; Siemieniuch & Sinclair, 1994). more on THIS, before isolating the difference in IM and IRC exchange.

........... Discussion groups also operate around the concept of threads, where a topic takes on a life of its own. Even within the topic chosen there can be offshoots. However, I will not explore those within the context of this study.   why not?    

...........Instant Messenger, ICQ,and PalTalk,  have only two voices at one time, but not necessarily following one another. People still "talk" at the same time. One does not always wait for a response. If two people are typing rapidly back and forth, they can return and respond to something which was said whilst the other was typing. (See examples four and five.) While print media works on a flow of conversation or writing directed to an organised progression, on-line conversations fragment into multi-directionality.

...........A second paradigm shift is taking place around the notion of "discourse", parallel to the shift from print to the Internet (provide the details of his argument see Landow 1992, pp. 1-11). Within the Internet interactive environment there are further developments taking place. Recently there has been a shift from e-maiI and discussion groups to chatrooms and "Instant messenger" ("IM") and ICQ.

            E-mail and discussion groups are more or less a one-way road. For example, one usually waits for a return e-mail, which often is a complete response with several paragraphs: a considered and edited "textual" piece, close to the regulated print culture. Conversely, chatrooms and ‘IM’ are composed of one or two lines of text from one person then a response of one or two lines from another person. provide some good examples Chatroom, ‘IM’ or ‘ICQ’ are thus more a form of spontaneous casual conversation while discussion groups are e-mailed "texted" responses usually thought out and spell and grammar checked before they are sent to the discussion group. Similarily discussion groups are more controlled and planned: more "textual". In other words, the Internet has already produced its own set of "text-talk" genres and practices. At the same time, its universe of discourse is rapidly diversifying.

...........Because of this developing diversity and its clear formation around both textual and conversational practices, this study will encompass several linguistic descriptive and analytical methods. The major methods used will be Conversational Analysis (CA), Speech Act Theory (SA) and Discourse Analysis (DA), but will include aspects of Reading Theory, Text and Corpus Analysis, Computer Mediated Communication theories (CMC), Linguistics and Pragmatics. explain what each offers, and why you need it - or tell  where in the thesis you will do this Together these methods will provide sufficient range to enable me to develop a method for chatroom analysis, which will encompass more of its attributes than is possible within any one of the existing frames.

........... .......     b. Is electronic talk comparable to verbal talk?  Needs a detailed general discussion first...

.....       Chatrooms have limitations that conversations in which physical speech is produced do not have. Talk in chatroom is limited to short phrases. Rarely will there be more than several words written at a time by a 'speaker'. Looking at a sampling of a dozen Chatrooms and hundreds of entrances I found that there was an average of 7.08 words per turn. Within that sampling 25 percent of words consisted of two letters, and 20 percent consisted of three letter words. Eighty-three percent of words used in chatroom conversations were five letters or less. how does this compare with “live/natural” communicaiton? The way we will communicate will change and is now changing. As we are faced with more choices and more to do all the time communication will become more concise or the speaker will be left behind.

...........How this will affect the future way people speak with one another can only be hinted at. For example, will people only ‘speak’ with those people who understand what they are saying. Instead of explaining meaning, will conversation only continue with those who grasp what is being said immediately? In the rapid pace of chatroom ‘talk’ this seems to be the case. There is also the danger that people can become poor communicators. Chatrooms do not demand proper grammar as a conversation in person would. Spelling, because of the rapid rate of scrolling text is an unimportant aspect. Abbreviations become important. It is much quicker to write BTW than to write by the way. All chatroom talk could be considered informal speech. Will we stop using prepositions? In a Chatroom one may say, "he'll hit sixty in cincy...maybe sixty five" (turn #85 in baseball chat). When can such a statement be made? Without knowing the context there is no meaning. As I will explore later in this thesis, words do produce meaning, however the difficulty in Chatrooms is not only finding meaning within any 'talk' but to have others understand or follow what we mean.

            What talk is there when the cues are deleted? Who holds the power? Can conversation even exist without knowing anything about the participants? My research says yes! People are fully able to communicate as long as there are structures to communicate within. These structures have a linguistic base, wyhich “stand in” for our categorisation of speakers. all of these need discussion in more detail

            Chatrooms do provide structure. There is an architectural setting, an existing space. There are rooms, towers, Plato's cave, cathedrals, cities, states, nations, worlds and universes. The fact that the space does not have a physical locale is irrelevant. One moment we can have a philosophical discussion with characters as real as the gods were to the Greeks, another time we discuss tofu preparation, how to blow up an air plane, assassinate the pope, or love our neighbor. We can laugh, talk, complain, and argue in any setting at any point in time or space we want.  Need to read Lefelore/Soja on “ ####  “ - but why is this important to your study?

...........Two ways which dialogue can be studied are through grammar and discourse (Eggins & Slade; 1997: p.178). Grammar provides the “nodes” of speech, the constituent mood structures of conversational clauses. In physical interacting conversation, linguistics provides a system of rights and privileges of social roles in culture. Words very much define the speaker. However, in electronic 'talk' words do not define social roles as much as they define ideas. how do you know?  This is very much the core of your thesis!!    you need BOURDIEU here!

· Bourdieu and the status of the post-modern self

·  the Bourdieu Forum

· Pierre Bourdieu Bibliography

· The Sociology of Culture in Computer-Mediated Communication: An Initial Exploration

· Links to sites related to Pierre Bourdieu

· In Search of - Philosopher:


........... .......     II. Analyzing Chatroom 'talk'

........... NOT ALL CHAT-rooms ARE THE SAME

meaning not clear here.........One of the first things one observes about a chatroom is its uniqueness. Whereas we may think walking into a particular environment and talking with whoever is present is appropriate we do not need to have such concerns with an electronic environment. There is not necessarily a sense of "do I belong here?" All the social cues that are significant in a physical encounter are no longer important: gender, race, age, social standing, appearance, and attire. For example, it is reported  (May 24, 2000) that 40% of people using chatrooms are not the gender they say they are (ABC radio). Chatrooms are a great source of mis-information. Yet, we find similar patterns in the conversations in chatrooms to those we find in face-to-face conversation.

........... What is common and at the same time unique about chatrooms can be discovered in the theme or nature of the chatroom. I have identified categories into which all chatrooms fit. Each category has sub-groupings and the subgroupings are further broken down. I am analyzing the ‘talk’ within hierarchies of chatrooms, or topic specific which most chatrooms are. These areas are:

........... .......     1. Survival - The example I use here is from a hurricane in the US in 1999 (chapter 4). The hurricane - Hurricane Floyd, caused a lot of destruction but most importantly a large area of the United States East Coast was evacuated. Survival Chatrooms are just that, about survival. This is discussed in the introduction to the research of chapter - ‘storm’ With this particular chatroom I am including a Bulletin Board for this emergency as well as e-mails to a radio station. This will compare the difference between ‘talk’ amongst people and the sending of messages. Isn’t this a ‘help group’ - social support - function?  Or is it ‘information flow’? Whichever, I think the category is too narrow.

........... .......     2. Subject Specific - astrology. Obviously to be involved in this chatroom people have to have a common interest, as is the case in the following few subject specific chatrooms discussed below.

........... .......     3. Subject Specific - 3d graphics -

........... .......     4. Subject Specific - Baseball -

........... .......     5. Subject Specific - Britney Spears -This chatroom was meant to be topic             specific. I chose this believing it would be about a singer who is popular               amongst NEW SITE = JULY 2014 - - Today’s adolescents. However, no one seemed to mention Spears and I would count this as a general chatroom. A general chatroom is where people go to just talk about anything. What are the differences?...

........... Obviously one could choose from any one of thousands of specific chatroom on any particular subject. I chose these chatrooms to analysis, as I am particularly interested in computer 3d, baseball and astrology. I also find these chatrooms interesting in that the people in them are interested in the topics. It doesn’t matter who the person is, if they are in a baseball chatroom, that is what is discussed. This is also true of something like computer 3d; there is no purpose for someone to be in an area about computer 3d modelling unless they had knowledge of the topic. This contrasts with the general chatrooms where people go to meet others, or to cybersex-chatrooms.

........... Cybersexual chatrooms have been and are being analysed by researchers in the fields of sociology and psychology and examining them from a linguistic view is not as useful.

........... .......     I. a. RESEARCH QUESTIONS ~ as a starting point toward analyzing a culture of electronic-talk:

........... .......     1. How is turn taking negotiated within Chatrooms?

........... .......     2. With the taking away of many identifying cues of participants (gender,                     nationality, age etc.) are issues of sexism and political correctness as prevalent   as in face-to-face talk?

........... .......     3. How is electronic chat reflective of current social discourse?           

........... .......     4. Is meaning contractible within Chatrooms?

........... .......     II. a. RESEARCH HYPOTHESES: The research project is built around the following hypotheses:

........... .......     1. That people create a different 'textual self' for each environment they are in, and that we should not continue to regard all electronic textual practices as equal. [A question arises whether the speaker makes the chatroom or does the chatroom create the speaker? Just as in real life, talk parallels an environment. For example, one speaks differently at a church supper than at a brothel)

........... ....... 2. That conversation within Chatrooms, without all the cues of previous forms of conversation (physical or phone meeting and dialogues) will change how we come to know others and new cues based on written conversation may become as important as the physical ones which we rely on now.

........... .......3. That observational study of chatroom conversation can capture some of the adaptations of conversational behaviors from the way people identify themselves (log-on or screen names) and how they 'talk'

........... .......     4. That this work will assist in an understanding of how, and why, Chatrooms are an important area in which to create a new conversational research theory.

........... .......     5. That 'chat' does not differs from natural conversation


notes and references for this section


1. The Civilizations Of The Ancient Near East

For example the personal name "Kuraka"could be written by combining the pictographs for mountain (pronounced kur), water (pronounced a), and mouth (pronounced ka). By 2800 B.C., the use of syllabic writing had reduced the number of signs from nearly two thousand to six hundred.

2. Lexical Elements of the Grammar

The lexical elements of the grammar which defines network files are listed as regular expresions. For example, SPM_ampx*& means, that the character or group x can occur zero or more times. This is similar to writing computer programs.


Nobuo, Shimahara. (1990) Chapter 6 ‘Anthroethnography: a methodological consideration’. In

Qualitative research in education: focus and methods. Edited by Robert R. Sherman and

Rodman b Webb. London: The Falmer Press, pages 76 - 89.

 This is a work in process by Terrell Neuage for a Ph.D at the University of South Australia