Monday, October 31, 2005

Computer-Mediated Anthropology

After doing some snooping (beware the snooping internetter!) around the LJ environs of one of our commenters, I found the Computer-Mediated Anthropology (CMA) website. It's got links to anthropologists doing cyberculture studies, various and sundry resources, bibliographies, a blog, and a list of CMA-friendly (or unfriendly, as the case may be) Anthro departments, which I'm presently going to go scouring...check it! It is run by Noah Porter at the University of South Florida.

Part of what's interesting here is to see, just from a quick glance, that there's some differing terminology from what the CMC lit uses, which is likely a product of the disciplinary framework (or is it?) - e.g., "Advanced Information Technologies" instead of "Information and Communication Technologies." I'd like to get a better handle on this kind of differing terminology and how it indicates that we're conceptualizing things/operationalizing concepts.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

lemke and education.

so jay lemke came to campus tonight.

for those of you not familiar with his work, jay works in education at the university of michigan, and his work is at the fringe of sociolinguistics, social policy, and the hard sciences. his talk veered towards his current research on online communities based around online gaming and various MMORPGs, specifically how the strong group dynamic and the learning potential of a virtual environment could be used towards the ends of improving education. he painted a picture of a university curriculum where students could learn about physics be controlling an avatar that performs experiments in a virtual world. it's an interesting prospect, maybe complicated by the socioeconomic stratification and gendered division of current users of such programs, but maybe being a contributing factor to making this part of the internet more accessible.

thoughts? comments?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Multiple IM Conversations and Judgments

A question that popped into my head when responding to therese's comment...

Does it bother you if you're having a conversation with someone else and they're not attentive to the conversation becasue you think they're having a conversation with someone else. This can often be signaled explicitly by mis-aimed interlocutions (i.e. you're having a conversation with someone about your bad day and they respond by mistake in your window to a conversation they're having with someone else in another window). Do we see this as acceptable, or do we think that our interlocutor isn't engagaed and focused on our conversation? Do we ignore these things?

To what extent do we expect to be the sole focus of attention during IM interactions (in diadic conversations)? In FTF settings, this lack of focus would normally be construed as "rude", where one person would in essence be having a conversation with 2 people at one time. Does this "rudeness" transfer to IM? Do people feel guilty about talking to 2 people at once, when one of the conversations is "important" (dealing with personal problems, exposing some weakness, etc.) Do we demand the attention of our interlocutors, or do we realize that IM is in fact different than FTF in this regard?

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 :|

Sunday, October 23, 2005

OMG NYT article on IM etc.

Go read this article, from NYT Sunday Styles, now. Better yet, get a print version if you can, because there's a killer screenshot of some IM convos between two teenagers. And we can discuss.

I'm running out the door, but two things:

1. The mother refers to IM as "the I.M." and her daughter's iPod as "the iPod." As in, "She's always either on the IM or playing the iPod." I feel like using definite articles here is definitely a sign of an out-grouper.

2. A girl in the article talks about the fun of having five-way IM conversations. Do we have a hunch as to how prevalent it is for IM convos to be between more than two people? I still think it's less than the one-to-one, but is its group chat function growing?

3. Multitasking sure is the theme of the year.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

interactional syntax.

since schegloff has already been brought up here:

not too long ago i read through his article on the relevance of repair to a syntax-for-conversation, and i started thinking about how relevant studies of interactional syntax could be when applied to CMD. when it comes to hardcore linguistics i'm more into phonology and comparative ling, but even i'm interested in how things like acronyms, text play, and emoticons must shape the structure of utterances.

a large list of schegloff's papers in pdf format can be downloaded here, if you want to read straight from the source.

any thoughts or reading suggestions can go into the comment box - but, you know, we're dealing with syntax, so i won't be too surprised if this gets unresponded to.

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.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

conference calls.

tis the season to submit abstracts.

if you're planning to submit a paper/poster abstract to any of the many conferences within the next few weeks, here's a mini-forum to post titles, name conferences, and ask questions about another's proposed research.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

the hot hardcore.

so going on that penultimate discussion string, are there any thoughts about perceived speaker identity versus actual speaker demographic? i've never come across this in face-to-face interaction studies, though i'm sure it must have been looked at before - maybe in considering the omnipresence of heterosexuality in queer linguistics?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Chat bibliography site

I just found the amazing Bibliography on Chat Communication. Seriously, it's incredible - you can view in alphabetical order, filter by language, and filter by chronology. Bravo to this site's owner!

Voice over IP

Here's a bit of an interesting conversation. They're initially discussing the use of 'voice over IP' in online video games, and then it kind of shifts to discussing the relationship between how people "speak" and how they "write". Finally, at the end, we see the beginning of an explicit discussion about language choice between offline and online forms.

Played a bit on UT2004 with headphones + many people, and no, my experience was not hysterical. plenty of kids, but not much talking, and no shouts and yells and wtfs

Pepe :
extremely practical for "between levels" sessions

Pepe :
to rearrange teams, to adapt difficulty, etc

Pepe :
and also, played to Pandora tomorrow with that. It's even part of the game. Since you play 2 vs 2, each team can speak without the other team listening. However, in-game, there's a gadget that allows you to spy on the other team's convo. extremely useful

since, the game is 75% about tactics

Pepe :
= since the game is

but people's style and vocabulary, or grammar, is more like everyday talk or like forum/chat sessions ?

Boris :
no, it's casual talking

very very often, people tend to speak as few words as they can

to not to pollute the discussion, since you cant "see" people talking, you cant know either when they want to speak

so, very few words, very "up-to-the-point" convos

Pepe :
also, very often, people tend to try to sound "pro"

as in "ridiculously" pro

acronyms and such ?

Pepe :

not necessarily. rather some "It's better to use the cricrigun on the factorygizzy level because with 0.25 seconds left, you can sprintstrafejump to the second base, and touchdown in the platform'

Pepe :
that, you hear a lot

(Hanz returns to chat after an absence)

Hanz :
jesus christ what have you cunts been chatting

Boris :

Hanz :

to be honest, I don't believe that my experience in chatting online while playing games is immense. But from the little I've seen, there's not much difference than there would be between people that would not know each other, playing in a cybercafe together

i think so, but would people playing together in a cybercafe talk the same way as people playing together around a table (or in a gym room)...

...or is their language a bit adapted to the cyber style (of forums, chat windows, etc).

hmm, nope, I don't believe so

Related to the video-game, no doubt, related to the online situation, I doubt so

Hanz :
simply angry little youths who get far too easily frustrated and can shriek at strangers with pretty much zero chance of rebuttal

Hanz :
can bet your arse that if that kid in the video was in a cybercaff, he'd just be quietly steaming

No, it's not about behaviour, it's really about forms of language and communication.

Boris :
Behaviour is a whole other issue.

Hanz :



Pepe :

Very related, however

well, "FUCK YOU" is one thing, "STttFFFFüüüüü" is another.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

undergraduate delineations.

two posts from an online message board used by the course i'm TAing:

I think its so frustrating that so much of language is based on phonics and accents. Have you ever noticed that when you are talking on instant messenger it is so easy to misread the tone of a conversation? You can say a sentence out loud in 5 different ways and have it have different meanings. While email is informal and easy, Im so afraid that what Im writing is being misinterpreted. Especially since Im such a sarcastic person, I've definatly said " That is an awesome shirt" and had people take me seriously.


oh i totally agree(honestly i do) i mean i cant even count how many times ive had misunderstandings even fights start from the lack of vocal inflections that r lost online. your comment on the informality of email and the issues of actually reading a conversation has to make me wonder, is online "talking" spoken or written english. i wouldnt say it's exactly written, i mean it is informal, structured like talking not a paper or essay or even a written letter. however, with out the human interaction and verbal speaking i dont know if its classified as spoken language either! oh my.

are 'vocal inflections' completely lost online? speakers are going to figure out ways to get around that barrier somehow, aren't they?

Monday, October 10, 2005

another lauren-referential post

so ms. squires was kind enough to share the paper she presented at this past weekend's aoir conference with a few of the early group members, and now i'm going to talk shit about it. in a good way.

-- the introduction to language, gender, and variation was really great. it referenced all the right people and illuminated the lack of variationist research in the field of internet discourse. i wept at its beauty.

-- i keep seeing references to chats and instant messages as near-synchronous mediums, and as they are functionally different from fully-synchronous forms, especially in terms of sequencing and turn taking, i'm calling them quasi-synchronous from here on out. the term is stolen from, i think, garcia and jacobs.

-- so there. i'm calling it QS-CMC.

-- the use of abbreviations and shortcuts within CMC gets its mention here. i've heard two arguments for this, both of which imply a desire for rapid speech. one is the classical conversation-analytic approach to turn-taking, that the turn structure of speech is competitive: given the quasi-synchronous nature of the mediums of chat and IM, the first speaker to submit their text to the application is going to get the floor. the other argument is for attempted synchronicity, essentially providing less lag between statements to appear more like face-to-face speech.

-- so is the purpose of zero-apostrophe to gain this speed? statistically speaking, does it save that much time? and do the speakers perceive it to save time? is zero-apostrophe a feature that's active on the conscious level of the speaker?

-- and are there any opinions or research regarding the two arguments about speaker speed above? i see the CA approach as potentially more relevant, especially considering that traditional non-verbal or extralinguistic forms of speaker selection (eye gaze, pointing, intonation) are absent from the medium, which i think would bring a type-quicker/get-floor kind of mentality.

-- i see zero-apostrophe more as a representation of style, and i'm agreeing with the analysis that use of the feature is more a way to 'do' informality than a matter of synchronous-aspiring speed. i'm also thinking about the comparison between apostrophe to zero and ng to n in speech - it's a cool thought. when the nasal switch happens in CMC, though, it harkens back to an informal speech feature that both parties are absolutlely likely to be aware of, and is therefore reminiscent of any number of popular language ideologies. the zero-apostrophe doesn't function that way, though. and ... now i've forgotten where i was going with all of this. hell.

-- i'd like to know the demographic backgrounds of the guys and gals in this study, how these are functioning alongside gender in this analysis. i think the paper is right in that taking age and ethnicity and the rest into account alongside the gender factor would be a good area for future work.

-- has this variable been looked at in asynchronous CMC? this would a be a nice follow-up maybe.

again, mazel tov to the author for starting the hot new trend of punctuation as variation. anyone with a mind for sending around abstracts or working papers to the list should feel free to do so!

Speed in CMC, plus a promise for future non-self-referential posts

So, here's a first roundup from IR 6.0, starting with the panel of which I was a part (excerpted, edited from here). Our panel was organized by Naomi S. Baron and titled "Rethinking Discourse in Cyberspace: The Role of Speed in Shaping CMC Behavior" (abstracts here). It was well attended (for which I’m grateful!) and very warmly received.

I presented my work on apostrophes as a linguistic variable in IM, and I got some good critical comments about the project that’ll help me craft this sort of research in the future, as well as any other versions of this paper. Basically I found that women used apostrophes much more than men (significantly more), and I tied it to the traditional findings in sociolinguistic research that women use more standard speech forms than men. This was kind of my attempt to start trying to applying sociolx methodologies to CMC, particularly with regards to variation, register, styleshifting, etc. So I was using a variationist type approach to see what would happen, and I was pretty happy with the results – though it’s only just a start. After this week I have so much else I want to start doing, who knows where all this energy will end up.

Rich Ling spoke about social dimensions of predictive text use and had some interesting things to report about the differences between those who use predictive text programs (PT) vs. those who use the “multi-tap” method, meanwhile reporting that studies have shown that speed of composition is actually minimally affected by PT. Speaking of cell phones, Erin Watkins then presented on “cellcerts” (“cellular phone” + “concert” = “cellcert”) among the Clay Aiken fan community. This is a phenomenon that seems like a high-tech upgrade on show taping and tape trading, but facilitated by cell phones and message boards (and hyperexcitable fans). Someone at the concert holds up their cell phone (we’ve all seen these people at shows) and the person at the other end writes about it on an online message board (like this one). The most interesting finding here, to me, is that about 2/3 of Watkins’ respondents preferred reading about concerts on the message boards – that is, those written by fans – than to read professional concert reviews. Now, there are undoubtedly a lot of reasons for this (like that Clay Aiken might not get the best reviews from traditional professional press, for instance), but it’s a nice suggestive finding that people would choose a fan as an authority over someone with established professional credentials. Or perhaps it just says that they’d rather read a narrative of the concert than a criticism of it.

Tim Clem and Brian Rabinovitz talked about their study on multitasking, the research design of which was stunning, if I do say so myself. They basically created an online survey which asks people to look, right now, at their browser to see what other programs they’re running, how many of them there are, what kind they are, how much they’re using each of them, where their attention is really focused, etc. Which is an excellent method, though of course it still has some of the self-report issues that any self-report study has. They also had interesting findings about multitasking behavior amongst their college-aged respondents: 89% were multitasking between being online and IMing, while 84% were multitasking between IMing and an offline (off-computer) task. Only 23% said that they often engage in only one IM conversation, whereas the average number of IM conversations is 2.5 going at a time.

All of which was wrapped up by Baron as an indication that much of online communication happens “under the radar”: it’s not our primary or sole activity engaged in whenever we’re engaged in it. It’s a backstage activity, in Goffman’s terms, or often even a backchannel activity, in ICT terminology. This means we get to choose who we talk to, and when, in what order we respond to all of those IMs. The allure of CMC, then, is not necessarily about speed in the sense of being able to rapidly communicate messages to people – but it is, I think, about being able to speed things up when we want to but being able to control the pace otherwise.

This is the same sort of thing I was trying to get at in my paper for AoIR 4.0, though less from the issue of speed than from the issue of communicative control overall. I have thought, and continue to think, that one of the most important effects of CMC and ICTs is that it affords us a level of control over the kind of interaction we have that hasn’t before been possible if we wanted to have extensive interaction at all. I’m just now going back to my 2003 paper, in fact, because I kept thinking of it this week when hearing what a lot of people were saying. So I find that a few things I wrote then are particularly applicable to the aspect of control that Baron is talking about, and since what I said then is basically what I would say now if I were writing anew, I’m just going to quote myself here:

[W]hile technology does not necessitate communication inferior to F2F communication (it is not so deterministic), each mode constitutes a unique domain—in technical characteristics as well as in users’ experiences with the media. Mode choice is a highly individual, contextual process; delegating certain content for discussion in certain communicative venues is a way to control information by choosing the realm in which the information will be exchanged. The technology users in this study are keenly aware of functional differences between technologies and choose to use media accordingly…

[T]he privilege formerly assigned to both visual and auditory cues in interpersonal communication may be weakening; what it means for a medium to engender “social presence” is also changing. Mediating technologies, and especially text-based forms, enable communication that is controllable to a higher degree than is F2F. If nonverbal cues are the least controllable aspect of communication, the fewer nonverbal cues it is possible to pick up or emit, the fewer uncontrollable elements (such as Goffman’s signals “given off”) enter the equation.

Baron engages us, rightly, to wonder what we gain or lose from gaining a certain measure of control over communication like this. How do ICTs upset, shift, negate, reinforce, etc. existing interactional dynamics (=social/power relations) as seen from this perspective?

Moreover, "under the radar" has a couple of different meanings. CMC not only can happen under the radar of our attention, as in multitasking between several tasks at once, but it also happens largely under the radar of traditional linguistic pressures. Which is where we come in.

As for the other really really awesome stuff that other people are doing, some of it terribly exciting to readers of this blog – I'll enthusiastically report back later in the week.

Is this thing on?

Testing. I'm going to give this page some content in a day or two, reporting on the great discoveries from the Internet Research 6.0: Generations conference in Chicago. Stay tuned.

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