Thursday, October 20, 2005

interaction terminology.

i know the topic has been mentioned before in personal communications, but i want to get this straight, because this is an academic blog and kind of carries some weight.

or something.

when we're discussing the internet in opposition or parallel to something occuring in the realm of non-internet, is there a good piece of terminology available outside of face-to-face or, even worse, real life? it's not like all offline interaction is face-to-face, and, well, i'm not even touching the notion of real life.

I prefer "offline." I'm not sure there's a perfect term, but that suits most of my purposes well enough.
As I've brought up some of our other discussions, FTF isn't really the best term because there is such a thing as a CMC FTF mode (webcamchat). If FTF is being used to indicate all modes NOT online, then there's a bit of a problem. The online/offline distinction is probably the most accurate, but it's also pretty general. Again, if we're talking about "online" communities, and using the term "online" to describe them, then we're also including webcam chat and voice over IP and sometimes a combination of the two.

i think the best way to refer to these online communites is by including the mode of interaction in the description, such as "IM comunity" or "message board community". since we all know that these communities interact differently (especially linguistically) then the best way to make sure we're being explicit is to refer to them by mode. i think that "online community" should be reserved for talking about communities that exist solely on the internet, regardless of their mode.

"IRL" has long been rejected as an accurate moniker because it carries a judgment with it. it infers that non-real-life communities, are some how "not real", and for people who interact in online communites, this simply is not accurate.

so while "online community" can be used accurately when describing all those communities that find a presence on the internet, "offline community" seems to encompass exactly what we want it to encompass... those communities that have a presence in NOT on the internet.

an alternative that i've discussed before is Shegloff's notion of "co-present" communities. Shegloff originally formulated this term to refer to the dichotomy between internactions over the telephone and interaction over physical space. while not a direct analogue, it may serve our purposes here. Shegloff discusses "co-present" interaction in:

Shegloff, E. (2003). Beginnings in the telephone. In Katz, J and Aakhus, M ,Eds. Perpetual Contact. CUP.
I use "3D" for offline communication that are face-to-face. Still probably not the best term but it does catch several nuances.

Though I will have gamers in my class next semester so no doubt the term will still require modification so I can fit into their world views.
yeah, that's tricky becasue 3D could be used to refer to webcam chat as well. but this is interesting because it raises the question of whether there are in fact 3 Ds in online spaces. While they're certainly not the same dimensions, can we think about online space as 3 dimensional if we reapply the concept of dimensions to an online environment.

Josh - I'd like to read that Shegloff piece (damn, I need to order a home copy of Perpetual Contact), but does "co-present" refer only to offline interaction? Does it encompass phone and F2F? Because much of online interaction also involves "co-presence," and even if not literally, many systems now contain features to increase a feeling of social presence (which I know may not be the same thing, but may be enough to problematize the term).

All - Also, it depends on precisely what you're trying to oppose. Are you opposing "through a screen" (IM, webcam, chat, msg board, txt) to "not through a screen" (phone, F2F)? Are you opposing "exists only via internet" ("online communities") to "exists outside of the internet and also maybe on the internet" (university communities, knitting groups, friendships)? Are you opposing "occurs mostly through text" (IM, chat) to "occurs with lots of nontextual cues" (F2F, phone)?

Josh, your thing about sticking the name of the modality in front of "community" is good, but it only works when "community" applies. This may be often the case, but for a most general term it doesn't satisfy me (in terms of simply paralleling internet to non-internet).

Speaking of that, it ALSO depends on what you consider "internet" and "non-internet." Is texting internet? Is texting CMC? Is phone CMC? Is voice over IP internet/cmc? Is it useful to call it such when it seems so much like a regular ol' phone call?

This is me, always asking more questions than I answer.
It's not very academic, but I like the term 'meatspace.'
i haven't kept up with the new analyses of the ways that cell phones have changed communication, but i'd argue for their inclusion in CMC. text-messaging is the obvious step up, but going from an interactional linguist's point of view, they also change conversational structure in ways that landlines never did. and hell, mine can even check my email and folds out into a gigantic keyboard.

really, don't ask.

despite all that, i would be uncomfortable with comparing cell phones to an other by using an online vs. offline distinction. i like schegloff's use of co-present communities, but i think the distinctions between the various formats we have available here are too big to really use that term as part of a dichotomy. there's also the community label, which bugs me too - community exists a plenty in CMD, but i don't think it's anything you'd want to assume. my favorite is josh's "modality + community" when community fits, but now i have to know what to call the real life community. which is kind of where this discussion started.

for what it's worth, i'm already the token vegan in my department, and i think slinging around the word meatspace would get me jumped.
oh, and i'm going to start a new message thread that includes a link to download schegloff's article on beginnings in the telephone.
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