Monday, October 24, 2005

Infrastructure and Language Ideologies

So we know that your connection speed and your proficiency at typing influences how fast you are able to communicate online in "synchronous" environments. If you use a 28.8 k modem on a shitty telephonic infrastructure (the type normally found in places like sub-saharan africa, latin and south america) "synchronous" becomes more "asynchronous". similarly, the same dichtomy is blurred if you grew up in a place or time where typing instruction wasn't available to you. given this brief context, the following questions apply:

1) What are the judgments people make about the relationship between speed of interaction (or fluidity of turn taking in interaction) and judgments about their interlocutor. For instance, are they judged to be "smarter" if they type fast or "slower" if they type slow? Do people in fact judge based on typing speed.

2) Will (or possibly has) the internet group(ed) into "those that have the ability to communicate synchronously through synchonous media" and those that do not? What are the demographics of the two groups? Where are they located? Are the same social forces replicated online as we see FTF?

3) assuming these groups to exist, are there different language strategies (yielding different linguistic variables) employed by the two groups. what effect do they have on how they're percieved?

rapid fire :|

this post makes me think that, in an ideal world, we would have a synchronicity continuum as a reference point.

1) i wonder about those base judgements, since multi-tasking has really changed the way that speakers view long pauses. i think there are definite speed-related ideologies or value judgements despite this, and you see these come up in meta-discourse every now and then ("josh2000: oh, i guess you're too busy to talk to me :(" or "iorio4life: damn u type fast"), but i don't know if they really reflect perceived intelligence. spelling errors and error corrections, on the other hand...

when you say communicating synchronously through synchonous media, what exactly are you referencing?
i'm trying to draw a distinction between those who communicate more asynchonously through synchronlus media (those with slow connections or poor typing skills). i guess the environment i'm refering to is a more engaged conversation, not one of the kinda relaxed conversations where you just throw a statement here, work a bit, throw a response, browse a webpage... i'm thinking more in line with conversations where both interlocutors are expected to be actively engaged in the conversation.
I think this is really important. I don't have any opinions on it, just yet, because I haven't done any research on it or looked at any research on it - though I do know that ANY time I've talked to people about using IM (mostly undergrads) one of the persistent comments is that some people "aren't good IMers" or something like that. What it means to be "good" seems a complicated mess of factors, typing speed among them.

This is where, honestly, people who look at the digital divide, particularly educators, really need research. As there's a cohort growing up WITH access to technologies and adeptness in them, what happens to their relationship with co-cohorts who don't have that same access? Will there be effects based on a) any offline usages that originate in online discourse between peers, that people w/out access won't, er, have access to; and/or b) the fact that some people aren't available online, so they get left out. I'm thinking particularly of critical ages like elementary school where kids are often prone to be bee-yotches and clique off all the time. Technology as one more source of division?
I agree whole heartedly that technology IS a source of division now. Here are two books that talk (in a round about way) of this very division.

1) Castells, M. (1996/2000). The Rise of the Network Society. Blackwell.

2) Brown, J. & Duguid, P. (2002). The Social Life of Information. Harvard Business School Press.

Access is a huge issue even in the US. To abstract a bit, i'm not only thinking of access fostering the kind of technological litercay that we know is important to success in the educational system, which promotes social mobility, but also how people are represented on the internet. For instance, lots and lots of middle class kids have webpages, or blogs, or participate in chat. Other kids don't have this kind of voice on the interent. And even if they do have the access in its most basic form (the 28.8k modem) are they able to present themselves online without any kind of "disablilty" as the kids with the T1 connection? Do they come across the same with a lousy connection as the kinds with the fast one?

I think that because popular belief is that IM clients are in fact truly synchronous, then people have the expectation that they can communicate synchronously, and don't take into account the fact that their interlocutrors may not be as synchronous as they are.

I'm thinking here of group IM discussion sessions where one person's voice is always a little bit late. for instance, 3 or 4 people are discussing a topic in IM, and the fifth person always seems to be a bit late with their comments. By the time their comment gets through the infrastructure, it's 3 or four turns behind where it should have appropriately fallen in the conversation. At times, this can lead to misunderstanding becasue the intended linguistic context has shifted from when the speaker replied to when the text made it though the network.

While i see this situation happen alot on my MMORPG because people are tied up in doing game related tasks, they expect this to happen and understand that responses may need to be pieced toegther with their antecedent. I'm not sure if people are expecting this in IM.

This is a much more theoretical concern now, but to go back to Lauren's point about the ramifications for education, as more and more universities go to online courses with required chat participation, we need to be aware that access to a speedy and reliable infrastructure may have some bearing on how we perceive the person behind the screen. It would suck if a student's voice couldn't be heard because every time they came up with something to say, it was already said by the time they typed it and it got thorugh the network. I think that typing proficiency plays a role here as well.
i participated in an academic chat session with students a few weeks back to discuss questions for an upcoming midterm, and the entire thing was really chaotic. our school uses a webct platform for such things, and my personal thoughts were that connection and typing speed weren't really an issue - even when kids lagged considerably, their messages were still considered relevant and still addressed - but the actual chat program we used set the dynamic for the entire interaction.

i can see the potential affect of connection speed on more interpersonal relations, and especially working as a division of sorts. i mean, we see it happening already with media and technology divides - who has what video game system, who watches what reality tv, who uses what instant messenger service. i can see exlusion from online-groups being reflected in offline-interaction, and vice versa (and honestly, i'm sure this is already happening to a degree), and can see this potentially expanding to include typing speed as an issue. a penny eckert - style ethnography of student interaction and culture that actually looked at this issue would make for amazing research.
Hi guys! I'm one of the "lurkers" hanging around here - a CMC researcher from snowy Sweden (yes, the first snow came today, and I'm very excited!). I just wanted to say that I think this blog is a really great initiative and I've enjoyed reading about your research. I hope to contribute more actively to your discussions in the future.

I also have a very brief comment concerning the expectations on synchronicity in IM conversations. Speaking from my own experience, I only get frustrated waiting if I can see that the other person has started typing ("X is typing a message"). Otherwise I might conclude that he/she is engaged in other activities as well.

I agree that this new type of digital divide that you're discussing would be an interesting area of research. Looking forward to conversing more with you!
Welcome therese! i wish is was snowing in texas :(

in response to your "X is typing" commnet... i'm wondering what people think about their interlocutors when they see "x is typing" for 30 seconds and then they see something like "ok" pop up on the screen or some kind of short, "thoughtless" response. do we expect IM conversations to pattern like FTF conversations with respect to the fluidity of interaction? (again, i'm talking here about situations where both interlocutors are engaged in the conversation with a minimum of multitasking lag?

something else that came to mind... see next post.
Therese! I'm so glad you commented. Welcome.
we have lurking!

welcome aboard, therese.
Thanks for your welcoming words, guys!

See the next post for a comment on the topic of f2f patterning.
speaking somewhat of the digital divide and the ramifications for education across the nation -

new discussion string.
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