MAS 961 week 2: The Social Data in Conversations


Bonvillain, Nancy. Language, Culture and Communication ch. 4 & 5

Donath, Judith; Karahalios, Karrie; and Viegas, Fernanda. 1999. Visualizing conversations. In Proceedings of HICSS-32 January 5-8, 1999, Maui, Hawaii. (or in .pdf)

Whittaker, S., Terveen, L., Hill, W., and Cherny, L. 1998. The dynamics of mass communication. In The Proceedings of CSCW '98.


1. Write a short (2 - 4 page) analysis of the interactions in a newsgroup. (If you are unfamiliar with newsgroups, spend some time reading in different groups to get a sense of how they vary). Some of the questions you should think about include:

  • What constitutes a "conversation"? How do threads emerge, mutate, disappear?
  • What is the social structure of the group: do the participants seem to know each other? are there distinct subgroups? are there problematic participants?If so, how do the other members deal with them?
  • How is identity established by a writer - and how do participants indicate the impression they have of each other?
  • How do the participants use the medium to convey social information (e.g. turn-taking, agreement/disagreement,etc.)? Are there discernable gradations of communicative competence within the group? How are group norms established and maintained?

Tie your analysis in with the readings.

2. What does this conversation "looks" like? Illustrate your analysis with sketches of its structure, of the participants, etc.

This assignment is due Sunday Please submit your work online. If you have any problems with doing so, send email to Andrew Fiore