MAS 965 The Virtual Society
03.03 What do we communicate in conversations?

Conversations about much more than just the information ostensibly exchanged in people's words. Subtle indicators of opinion, claims to status and role, cues of affinity, etc. are encoded the forms of speech and the rhythm of the conversation. With varying degrees of success, these social and cultural components of speech are transferred to the text-based medium of today's online conversations.

assignment   ·   critiques go here

1. Please read both papers. The Saville-Troike reading is the basis for the assignment; the Cherny selection is a good example of the application of linguistic methods to the study of online communities

2. Closely observe 3 different online conversation environments. You may choose to pick three that differ along the key dimensions of the taxonomy we discussed in class (e.g. synchronous vs. asynchronous, anonymous vs. identified, etc.) or you may choose to look at three different uses of a similar infrastructure (e.g. 3 different newsgroups).

3. Identify some of the key communicative elements Saville-Troike describes. For instance, can you find greeting sequences? examples of phatic communication? forms of indirect speech that are unique to the virtual world? How do the boundaries of an online speech community differ from a real world one? Is there an identifiable form of communicative competence that is specific to online speech or to the specific environment you are examining? How is this competence acquired? How do people use language to establish their identity within the group?

Please submit the URL of your assignment online by Monday evening. Copies of the readings are available outside of E15-449.