Electronic Discourse: Linguistic Individuals in Virtual Space

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SUNY Press, 1997 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 217 pages
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This book examines interactive electronic discourse, exposing use of language that has the immediacy characteristic of speech and the permanence characteristic of writing. The authors created an asynchronous mainframe conference for language and linguistics classes in which they presented students with the task of analyzing the language used in original newspaper reports of the 1960s Civil Rights Sit-Ins. The authors observed how students wrote to each other across a wide range of social and virtual settings, how they built a real, if short-lived community within and across campus boundaries, and how they handled conflict while avoiding confrontation on sensitive issues of race and power. The result is a study that details how people use language when their social interaction is exclusively enacted through text on screens, and how their exchange is affected by computer conferencing.
The students who wrote in the electronic conferences faced two interrelated tasks: participating in a multiparty conversation and negotiating the individual identities they presented to one another in their virtual space. Individual writers used their own idiolects to influence the form and content of electronic discourse, adapting their own tacit knowledge of conversational strategies and written discourse to the new medium, as they created a real, although temporary, community.
In the electronic universe, writers adapt conventions of oral and written discourse to their own individual communicative ends. Electronic discourse, sometimes called computer mediated communication, presents us with texts in contact, and through those texts, their writers. Intertextuality in electronic conferences replaced a variety of conversational conventions. This book examines evidence for change, some trace of being and human interaction in virtual space, a domain where footprints are not in moondust but in ether."
 

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Contents

A first look at electronic discourse
1
Writing that reads like conversation
2
Bibers dimensions
4
Multidisciplinary perspectives
6
Selected approaches to discourse analysis
8
Description of the corpus
13
An example
17
Context and contact in electronic discourse
21
Personal pronouns
85
It behaves differently
88
Gender in the territory
91
Brents territorial moves
95
Taking a stance Text self and other
99
A range of definitions
101
The individual and the text
105
Verb classes
106

Repetition in electronic conference discourse
24
An emergent register
28
Electronic conferences as Town meetings
31
Changing contexts within a conference
33
Some purposes behind repetition in electronic discourse
34
Entering the conferences Challenges of time and space
37
What students brought as given
38
A closer look
40
The challenge of spaces
42
Space and time in the arrangement of conference texts
44
The impact of realigned times and settings on monitor screens
45
The challenge of expectations about genre
48
Replies as new frames
50
Titles Form and function in electronic discourse
53
The impact of conference topography
55
Conventions of direct address in titles
60
Titles as suggestive of selfdisclosure
62
The titling game and its impact
64
Software and moderator impact
68
Defining the territory
77
Individual views of the territory
78
Guarding the territory
83
Contexts and modal verbs
110
A change in audience
114
Aspects of emulation
121
Moving to reflexive writing
126
Emulation across distance and space in the transparent conference
127
Adjacency pairs in the transparent conference
129
Frame and focus in topic 2
132
Some features of audience in the transparent conference
134
Flocking behaviors in mainframe conferences
137
Emulating a strategy The rhetorical question
141
Features of rhetorical questions
142
Rhetorical questions from the stand alone conference
145
Rhetorical questions in the transparent conference
151
Conclusion
157
Going across local boundaries
159
Reading the text after the conference
161
A notion of virtual community
163
A final comment
164
Appendices
167
References
197
Index
209
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About the author (1997)

Boyd H. Davis is Professor in the Department of English, University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Her work includes Dimensions of Language and Writing about Literature and Film (with Margaret B. Bryan), among others.

Jeutonne P. Brewer is Associate Professor in the Department of English, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She has written Dialect Clash in America: Issues and Answers (with Paul D. Brandes), among others.

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