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CLOSED OFFLINE COMMUNITIES OPEN UP IN VIRTUAL WORLD A study of participant’s interaction in the virtual science communitie...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                      2REVIEW OF LITERA...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                   3cyberspace where pe...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                    41987, Daft & Lenge...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                    5on-line, CSSNs are...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                   6                   ...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                7wife team of academic ...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                 8Aim:To find out knowl...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                9       e) The identiti...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                 10interested in meetin...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                  11can be disentangled...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                 12The interaction styl...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                 13These messages show ...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                 14in opens up the old ...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                 15INFERENCES:The succe...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                    16The study further...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                      17Kirby, D. A. (2...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                     18Herring, S. C. (...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                     19Figure 2Figure 3...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                     20Figure 5Figure 6...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                     21Figure 7Figure 8...
Closed offline communities open up in virtual world                                                     22Figure 9        ...
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Closed offline communities open up in virtual world

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This research paper is published in a research journal titled ‘Pragyaan’, a bi-annual publication of Indian Management Studies, Dehradun.

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Closed offline communities open up in virtual world

  1. 1. CLOSED OFFLINE COMMUNITIES OPEN UP IN VIRTUAL WORLD A study of participant’s interaction in the virtual science communities Daivata Chavan-Patil Assistant Professor Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Mumbai daivata.c@gmail.com
  2. 2. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 2REVIEW OF LITERATURE:Individuals use virtual communities to discuss shared interests (communities of interest), todevelop social relations (communities of relationships) and to explore new identities(communities of fantasy) (see Hagel & Armstrong). These online community discussions canserve as public space for the community and its participants and can indeed build socialcapital.The growth of the global computer network known as the Internet1 has facilitated the rapidemergence of online interactions of dispersed groups of people with shared interests formingvarious virtual communities2.3 Political sociologist Robert Bellah and his colleaguesconceived of a community as “a group of people who are socially interdependent, whoparticipate together in discussion and decision making, and who share certain practices thatboth define the community and are nurtured by it” (1985, p. 333)4According to writer Elizabeth Reid, Internet users constitute a social network who share acommon language, a shared web of virtual and textual significances that are substitutes for,and yet distinct from, the shared networks of meaning in the wider community. These userswhen participate in virtual communities link globally with kindred souls for companionship,information, and social support. 5Internet has provided relatively low-cost, easy-access, and far-reaching networks, dispersedacross the globe, that provide flows of vast amounts of information. Decentralized nodulesalong communication networks are easily created, constructed, and rhizomatically spread todeterritorialized "virtual public spheres"-cyber salons, cafes, and meeting places in1 Internet is the infrastructure and uses of the global network of computers, or what is generally defined as the"network of networks (Uimonen 2001).2 A virtual community is defined herein as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interactaround a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported and/or mediated by technology andguided by some protocols or norms (Lee et al., 2003; Preece, 2000).3 Peterson, S. M. (2002). The Anthropology of Online Communities. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 31 ,449-467.4 Sasha A. Barab, R. K. (2004). Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning. CambridgeUniversity Press (p.7-16).5 Barry Wellman, J. S. (1996). Computer Networks as Social Networks: Collaborative Work, Telework, andVirtual. Annual Review of Sociology , 213-238. Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  3. 3. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 3cyberspace where people and information intersect in virtual communities or subcultures(Wellman, Milena, and Hampton 2003; Wellman and Milena 1999). The communities thatare organized in cyberspace6 are just as real to the participants as face-to-face relationships.Here, people can gain or provide information as well as debate and negotiate interpretationsof reality and/or critiques of the social. Such interactions foster and/or recognize new formsof identity whose performative expressions include organizing actions and using the Internetto coordinate with other groups. Cyberspace has been easily adapted and embraced as anessential aspect of resistance struggles, beginning with news forums, interactive websites,and/or personal weblogs (blogs).7When computer networks link people as well as machines, they become social networks,which we call computer-supported social networks (Henceforth CSSNs). Such CSSNs arebecoming important bases of virtual communities, computer-supported cooperative work, and 8tele-work. Research in this approach links the technical characteristics of ComputerMediated Communication (Henceforth CMC) to task group outcomes such as increasedparticipation, more egalitarian participation, and more ideas offered, and less centralizedleadership (Hiltz et al 1986, Kiesler et al 1984, Rice 1987, Adrianson & Hjelmquist 1991,Weisband et al 1995). Limited social presence may also encourage people to communicatemore freely and creatively than they do in person, at times "flaming" others by using extreme,aggressive language (Kiesler et al, 1984). Although groups supported by CMC often producehigher quality ideas, reaching agreement can be a lengthy and more complex process as thegreater number of ideas and the lack of status cues hinder group coordination (Hiltz et al1986, Kiesler & Sproull 1992, Valacich et al 1993). However, status cues are not completelyabsent, as social information is conveyed through language use, e-mail address, andsignatures (Walther 1992). As messages are often visibly copied to others, they also indicatesocial network connections. Some participants prefer in-person contact to CMC forambiguous, socially sensitive, and intellectually difficult interactions (Culnan & Markus6 Cyberspace is a monolithic cyber reality which is everywhere yet nowhere, as free-floating as a cloud.(Economist 2001, p. 9). Gibson famously defined cyberspace as a space apart from the corporeal world7 Langman, L. (Mar., 2005). From Virtual Public Spheres to Global Justice: A Critical Theory of InternetworkedSocial. Sociological Theory, Vol. 23, No. 1 , 42-74.8 CSSNs began in the 1960s when the US Defense Departments Advanced Projects Research Agency developedARPANET to link large university computers and some of their users (Cerf 1993). The Electronic InformationExchange System, modeled after a government emergency communications network, started supportingcomputerized conferences of scientific researchers (including social network analysts) in the mid-1970s(Freeman 1986, Hiltz & Turoff 1993). Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  4. 4. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 41987, Daft & Lengel 1986, Rice 1987, Fish et al 1993, Jones 1995). However, CMC is alsoused to maintain social distance, document contentious issues, or when the message involvesfear, dislike, awkwardness, or intimidation (Markus 1994a, Walther 1996). Much CMCresearch has been individualistic and technologically deterministic, assuming a single personrationally choosing among media (Lea 1991). To go beyond this, some CMC analysts nowconsider how social relationships, organizational structures, and local norms affect the use ofcommunication media (Finholt & Sproull 1990, Orlikowsi et al 1995, Huber 1990, Markus1990, 1994b, Sproull & Kiesler 1991, Lea et al 1995, Orlikowski et al 1996b, Zack &McKenney 1995).Much of the communication on CSSNs involves the exchange of information. The nature ofthe medium supports a focus on information exchanges, as people can easily post a questionor comment and receive information in return. CSSNs increases the chances of findinginformation quickly and alter the distribution patterns of information. It gives those workingin small or distant sites better access to experienced, skilled people (Constant et al 1996).However, as anyone can contribute information to most newsgroups and distribution lists, theNet can be a repository of misleading information and bad advice (Foderaro 1995). Suchworries discount the fact that people have always given each other advice about their bodies,psyches, families, or computers (e.g. Wellman 1995, Kadushin 1987). The Net has just madethe process more accessible and more visible to others, including experts whose claims tomonopolies on advice are threatened (Abbott 1988). The flow of information through CSSNsitself generates access to new information. On-line information flows spill over unexpectedlythrough message forwarding, providing access to more people and new social circles, thusincreasing the probability of finding those who can solve problems (Kraut & Attewell 1993).People often bump into new information or new sources of information unintentionallythrough" leaky... quasi social networlds"(Brent 1994:on-line). Information obtainedserendipitously helps solve problems before they occur.9CSSNs are especially suited to maintaining intermediate-strength ties between people whocannot see each other frequently. On-line relationships are based more on shared interests andless on shared social characteristics. Although many relationships function off-line as well as9 Ibid 5 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  5. 5. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 5on-line, CSSNs are developing norms and structures of their own. They are not just paleimitations of real life.10Online interaction overwhelmingly takes place by means of discourse. That is, participantsinteract by means of verbal language, usually typed on a keyboard and read as text on acomputer screen. It is possible to lose sight of this fundamental fact at times, given thecomplex behaviors people engage in on the Internet, from forming interpersonal relationships(Baker, 1998) to implementing systems of group governance (Dibbell, 1993; Kolko & Reid,1998). Yet these behaviors are constituted through and by means of discourse: language isdoing, in the truest performative sense, on the Internet, where physical bodies (and theiractions) are technically lacking (Kolko, 1995). Of course, many online relationships alsohave an offline component, and as computer-mediated communication becomes increasinglymultimodal, semiotic systems in addition to text are becoming available for conveyingmeaning and “doing things” online (cf. Austin, 1962). Nonetheless, textual communicationremains an important online activity, one that seems destined to continue for the foreseeablefuture. This research describes an approach to researching online interactive behavior knownas Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis (Henceforth CMDA) in the virtual sciencecommunities. CMDA applies methods adapted from language-focused disciplines such aslinguistics, communication, and rhetoric to the analysis of computer-mediatedcommunication (Herring, 2001). It may be supplemented by surveys, interviews,ethnographic observation, or other methods; it may involve qualitative or quantitativeanalysis; but what defines CMDA at its core is the analysis of logs of verbal interaction(characters, words, utterances, messages, exchanges, threads, archives, etc.). In the broadestsense, any analysis of online behavior that is grounded in empirical, textual observations iscomputer-mediated discourse analysis.11CMDA broadly takes into following four domains of language: Phenomena Issues Methods typography, orthography, genre characteristics, orality, Structural/DescriptiStructure morphology, syntax, discourse efficiency, expressivity, ve Linguistics, Text schemata complexity Analysis10 Ibid 511 ‘Textual’ is intended here broadly, to include any form of language, spoken or written, that can be capturedand studied in textual form. Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  6. 6. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 6 what the speaker intends, what meaning of words, utterances Semantics,Meaning is accomplished through (speech acts), macrosegments Pragmatics language interactivity, timing, coherence, Conversation turns, sequences, exchanges,Interaction interaction as co-constructed, Analysis, threads topic development Ethnomethodology linguistic expressions of status, InteractionalSocial conflict, negotiation, face- social dynamics, power, Sociolinguistics,behavior management, play; discourse influence, identity Critical Discourse styles, etc. AnalysisParticipation, while not a level of linguistic analysis per se, constitutes a fifth domain, inwhich the phenomena of interest are number of messages and responses and message andthread length. Such numbers can be interpreted to address social issues such as power,influence, engagement, roles, and hierarchy. Participation is not associated with a particularset of discourse analysis methods, but rather with descriptive statistics (i.e., the phenomenaare simply counted).12How CMDA can be applied to investigate virtual community:Online learning settings such as professional development environments where peopleparticipate voluntarily and intermittently—i.e., for the purpose of acquiring information andskills to advance professionally—rather than in formal courses with students, instructors, andsyllabi, as is the case for distance education, CMDA is applied. In successful cases,participation in such environments is continuous and self-sustaining, unlike course-basedCMC which is task-focused and temporally bounded. An example of a genre of professionaldevelopment environment that dates back to the early days of computer networking is listservdiscussion groups for professionals in academic disciplines (Hert, 1997; Korenman & Wyatt,1996). A more recent example is the growing genre of professional development websitesthat combine discussion forums with access to documents and other online resources(Renninger). In a CMDA study by Herring, she studied such two environments asillustrations. The first, the Linguist List, was founded in November 1990 by a husband and12 Herring, S.C. (2004). Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis: An approach to researching online behavior, InDesigning for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning. New York, Cambridge University Press Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  7. 7. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 7wife team of academic linguists as a means for disseminating information and engaging inpublic discussion about issues of interest to professional (and aspiring professional) linguists;it has been in continuous existence since 1990. Originally a text-only, by-subscription list thatmade archived messages available only to subscribers, in 1994 it established a website andposted the discussion archives there, making them widely publicly accessible.13 For further idescription and analysis of the Linguist List, see Herring (1992, 1996b). The secondenvironment, the Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF), was opened to registered members in March2000. It was designed with National Science Foundation support by a team of faculty andgraduate students in the School of Education at Indiana University, with the explicit goal offostering online community among secondary math and science in-service and pre-serviceteachers interested in the inquiry learning approach (National Research Council, 2000).Members must go to the ILF website to post messages and access the other resources there(which include videos of teachers using inquiry methods in their classrooms); past messagesremain on the site alongside current messages. For further description and analysis of the ILF,see Barab, MaKinster, & Scheckler, Herring, Martinson & Scheckler (2002). Both theseenvironments bring together people who arguably already constitute real-world professionalcommunities: academic linguists and secondary math and science educators. Second, theironline participation is centered on a shared professional focus, as in Wenger’s (1998)‘“communities of practice.’” Third, the Linguist List is active and long-lived, which somemight take as prima facie evidence that it has achieved online community status. In contrast,the ILF has struggled to establish and maintain an active level of participation, but might beconsidered to have a prima facie claim to community status on the grounds that it wasexplicitly designed to support community (Barab, MaKinster, Moore, Cunningham, & TheILF Design Team, in press). This research talks about the knowledge generation and sharingamongst participants on these virtual science communities and therefore to investigate thetopic in detail the researcher will delve into following research questions:13 The Linguist List has subsequently expanded its Web presence, coming to serve as an electronic clearinghouse for language- and linguistics-related resources. Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  8. 8. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 8Aim:To find out knowledge generation and sharing amongst participants on virtual sciencecommunity.Research questions: a) How are the tools of new media changing the contexts and frames of communicative practices? b) How does technology enhance or displace discourses and practices of tradition? c) Whether members discuss science related issues or such CMC was completely out of context? d) Whether these online communities bridge the gap between scientists and academicians and other people especially those who are inquisitive?Assumptions: a) Although, there is heterogeneity in the participants, these members are participating in discussion with a common goal/objective. b) Individuals within these communities are simultaneously part of other interacting communities, societies, or cultures. c) Inter-networked computers are cultural products that exist in the social and political worlds within which they were developed, and they are not exempt from the rules and norms of those worlds.Limitations: a) Due to time constraint the researcher could not finish the participant’s survey by email questionnaire technique which she originally intended to. b) The method used by nature is qualitative and includes researcher bias although much care has been taken to avoid it. c) The sampling technique used was purposive and therefore sampling error cannot be calculated. d) Non-probability sampling techniques do not ensure population representativeness hence conclusions cannot be generalized to a larger set of population. Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  9. 9. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 9 e) The identities of the members of the community mentioned on their respective profiles are assumed to be true and the conclusions drawn are based on this assumption. f) The researcher is not a science student and therefore her knowledge of scientific terms is limited. Although she has tried her level best to understand the scientific issues discussed on these forums from the concerned sources.Delimitations: a) The multiple identities and negotiated roles individuals have within different sociopolitical and cultural contexts are not studied. b) The prime focus of the CMDA will be on second domain i.e. meaning, the other domains will also be considered but not in very much detail.Methodology: QualitativeMethod: Computer Mediated Discourse AnalysisSampling design:For the purpose of the study, www.orkut.com, a social networking site was chosen. The siteis very popular in India.14 Purposive sampling of non- probability sampling technique wasused. The population can be defined as the entire science and technology community. Thesampling frame was the community titled “Before the Big-Bang”. The researcher selected‘successful’15 thread for the study. The sample studied consisted of 614 exchanges that tookplace in the period starting from 27th Oct 2009 to 5th December 2009.The texts studied in this study come from a corpus of these exchanges chosen from the threadtitled ‘Crushing all the hell about God and such others’(http://www.orkut.co.in/Main#CommMsgs?cmm=537492&tid=5397076610731047825&na=1&nst=1). These exchanges lasted from 50 words to 350 words barring three exceptionswhich were of 500 words approximately. The specific exchanges studied here constitute onlya small portion of their daily communication through this medium. None of the data wascollected through deceptive means (e.g., by contacting a member and pretending to be14 Source: Internet and Mobile Association of India reports. (see www.iamai.in)15 The one that had maximum number of posts/comments by users and also the one which had latest commenton it and showed active messaging until Dec 5th 2009 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  10. 10. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 10interested in meeting). In order to protect members privacy, personal information such assexual orientation, photographs, and other personally identifiable data were not recorded orcopied. Socio-biographic information (i.e., gender, age, location) was simply noted for eachof the personal narratives, which were copied and pasted into a text file for further review.Following data collection, the text files were reviewed, and each occurrence of textualconversation was identified and coded. Three coders coded these data. Inter-coder reliabilitywas tested. A common code sheet was given to them to take note of cues in theposts/comments. This code sheet was entered and analyzed using SPSS software.ANALYSIS:The Social and Linguistic Environment of OrkutOrkut is a social networking site. Membership is freely available with the registration of avalid email address. Members create a profile that includes a variety of personal information(e.g., age, gender, location, zodiac sign, hair color, hobbies, profession, interests, etc.), aswell as a personal narrative. The socio-biographic information and physical descriptors arechosen from a series of drop-down menus and/or by checking boxes. This information isstored by the site, and it is searchable by other members. Additionally the site has allowedusers to make their own virtual communities according to their interests. These communitiesmay or may not be moderated. Any user wanting to interact/discuss/share or ask aboutvarious issues can do so by joining these communities and meet like-minded people.Basic features of the speakers identity were gathered from their user profiles, it must benoted that, many of them used nicknames and were not ready to reveal their actual identitiesonline. Certain patterns were observed, those who were relatively in the younger age groupi.e. between 16-25 used nicknames and the ones who were in the age group of 45 and aboverevealed their identities. Additionally, there was no way one can check upon the truthfulnessof the information they give about themselves. The information gathered from the data itselfand user profiles suggests that 33% participants belong to a homogeneous 16-25 age group(see Figure 1, Appendix I). In addition, most exchanges involve male to male interaction.Only 9% females participated (see Figure 2, Appendix I). Although it must be pointed outonce more that CMC is well-known for the ability it offers to participants to construct virtualidentities, which may not bear any relation to their actual social characteristics (e.g., Jones,1997; Rheingold 1993). As a result, sampling for age, sex and profession is not easy, unlessin experimental situations at the expense of naturalness. Furthermore, it is not always clearwhether these characteristics become relevant for the participants themselves or whether they Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  11. 11. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 11can be disentangled from generic characteristics, granted that most CMC genres areexclusively employed by young people in their everyday interactions. Thus, a fullerdiscussion of social parameters would require a more extensive research outlook.Interactional behavior of the members:Interactional behaviours show activities, such as thanking, recounting personal experiences,and expressing admiration and encouragement. However, the language used is lacking inpoliteness features and uses much jargon. If these communities are viewed through the lensof theories of politeness, one possible implication of this study is that a major tenet of Brownand Levinsons (1987) theory can be challenged with respect to its applicability to onlineenvironments. There are contexts where people may not need to be concerned with facemanagement. Moreover, ones negative face, or desire for freedom from imposition, is lesslikely to be threatened in anonymous open-access interactions, in that not being mindful ofother participants does not have as great a consequence these environments. Entering ananonymous post can itself be an act of entry into a world of less imposition, where negativeface is not as likely to be damaged as in the post that reveals identity. At the same time,posting messages can be an act of enhancing ones positive face, as ones messages can beread by a large number of participants. These may be among the motivations for people toengage in such activities. It was identified that possible determinants of linguistic variationacross these posts, including difference in discussion topics, and asserted that overalllanguage styles can explain different degrees of sense of community.Language used:The youngest age group disfavors the use of formal language, while the middle and oldergroups favor more formal presentation. This difference may be explained by the fact thatmany of the men and women in the 16-25 year age group were students, and they may havebeen more inclined than their older counterparts to use informal or everyday language even ina static, "written" environment. In addition, those participants in the 26-35 year age groupused a combination of formal and informal language because many of them have begun theircareers and may therefore feel the need to use a more careful style of discourse acrosssituations.Tone of the communication: Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  12. 12. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 12The interaction style was mostly both positive and negative (see Figure 3, Appendix I). 56%of the total posts led to conflict (see Figure 4, Appendix I). The language used to begin anythread was mostly group out i.e. a third person account using words such as they, you, etc(Figure 5, Appendix I) 57% used group out style. First or second person address personalizesthe text, which was observed in less number of posts. However, the language used wasmostly conversational style. Even though the communication took place in a virtualcommunity, participants tried to establish personal relationship and were interacting inter-personally. This they did by directly addressing to the person concerned when the senderwrote any text by writing receiver’s name. Females mostly used group out techniques andmales interacted in a more comfortable manner with each other.More research is needed that addresses individual motivations for using selected linguisticforms, as these analyses would almost certainly prove insightful in explaining the patterns ofsociolinguistic and pragmatic variation observed in CMC environments.Discussion patterns:A prominent feature of these exchanges noted is the frequent and abrupt introduction of newtopics and endings. Werry (1996) suggests that "successive, independent speech acts aresimply juxtaposed, and different topics interwoven" (p. 51), resulting in rapid shifts. Collotand Belmore (1996) also consider that this "easy interaction of participants and alternation oftopics" (p. 14) characterize electronic interaction in general. However, this should not lead usto conclude that virtual community interactions are totally haphazard or lack organization. Incontrast, participants seem to follow an implicit orientation to structure, which can besummarized in Table 1:PHASES PARTS NOTESOpening Starts with greeting, self identification Uses conversational style and self descriptionMain body Introduction/continuation/discussion Missing in some threads /development of the topicClosing Arrangements for future interaction Sometimes ends abrupt Pre-closing greetings Missing in some threads Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  13. 13. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 13These messages show an orientation towards an opening, a main body and a closing phase, ofwhich only the first is found in all exchanges. These phases consist of parts with a fixedposition and free elements that may occur anywhere in the structure. The latter appear in allexchanges and have two different functions: to engage in conversational play and check thechannel of communication. It must not be assumed from Table 1 that any exchange wouldexhibit this generic structure in full. A full analysis of the structural schemas of all 614exchanges shows that most interactions contain only a few of the parts indicated above. Thissuggests an interesting parallel with other genres of CMC, such as, e.g., Herrings (1996)finding about email messages that "participants are aiming at an ideal message schema" (p.90). Table 1 reflects precisely such an "ideal message schema" in its fullest realization.Although there are obvious and significant differences between asynchronous andsynchronous CMC, what this schema points to is the common pre-occupation of participantsin CMC genres with the organization of their contributions. The generic structure of a CMCgenre should thus be seen as the constellation of medium and other constraints as well as ofindividual creative acts into a schema reflecting the participants orientation towardsorganization.To further discuss generic structure, the only obligatory phase in the schema is the opening ofthe interaction, which revolves around the only obligatory part of the structure, self-identification. This part necessarily appears in conversations taking place for the first time,that is, in cases where the participants did not have a previous discussion, and stems from therequirements of the medium. It may also occur later, as in exchange number 415 in the data,where real names are exchanged. In the opening phase, it is also common to have a greetingpart (cf. Cherny, 1999, p. 204 ff.) and, less commonly, a self-description part especially ifhe/she thinks that he/she has more credibility and authority to talk about the topic indiscussion (language used was mainly like: as I am a science student, Being a teacher in thisfield, I am working here from the past five year’s, etc).The main body and closing phases are optional and can be significantly shortened or even leftout altogether. This is, no doubt, surprising, at least for the main body, but can be accountedfor by the informal character of online conversation, which allows interlocutors to withdrawfrom the interaction whenever they want. As a result, only the initial, "investigative" phasemay occur before an aborted conversation. The main body phase opens with either acomment on earlier post or starts a new topic altogether. 65 % of the messages were withinthe context, meaning they were related to the central theme of the discussion (see Fig 6,Appendix I). Even if the topic gets closed after five or six posts, any new member when joins Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  14. 14. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 14in opens up the old conversation with new ideas. Data in written form allows it to be savedand hence is used in further interactions.To move on, in the closing phase there is usually a pre-closing announcement by one of theparticipants (cf. Scollons 1998 pre-emptive closure) and a closing greeting. Although thereis an attempt to establish a closing exchange even in exchanges with no main body (e.g.exchange 386), these exchanges can break off at any point (e.g. exchange 392). In thesecases, the closing phase involves an abrupt ending, where sometimes the participant does notsignal the ending. This skeletal presentation of the generic schema points to the fact thatparticipants orient their contribution towards an ideal structure schema, in which thesemembers are primarily concerned with establishing contact with each other and sharinginformation. The fact that the main body phase may be absent would seem unthinkable inother genres such as telephone conversation, but can be easily understood in the context ofonline discourse. The generic schema indicates that self-identification is a prerequisite for theoccurrence of the other parts; the latter may be omitted, if the interlocutors do not want tocontinue with the interaction. Similarly, whereas the closing phase can be left out altogether,any exchange that does not have a well-developed opening phase is problematic. Inconclusion, the arrangement of phases and parts reflects a primarily interpersonal concern forengaging in or disengaging from CMC, whereas conversation itself i.e., the (ideational)exchange of thematic content seems to be a less pressing need.Flow of the communication:Of the total 614 posts: 14% posts asked queries, 6% offered solutions, 5% were abusive intheir style of writing, 7 % tried dominating the discussion, 8% debated over various issuessometime in positive and sometimes in negative tones. 8% disagreed to other memberscomments and the other 8% tried negotiating their ideas with fellow community members.However, 20% of them shared their information with others and 8% compared variousthreads and gave their inputs, only 3% of them tried to resolve the arguments and werebalancing the flow of the communication. 16% of the threads were not relevant to the topicbeing discussed, 2% of the posts were marketing ones (where members are trying to marketsome product or services) and the final 3% were totally out of context (see Fig 7, appendix I).Participant’s role:52% of the total posts appeared as thought leaders and the remaining and 48% facilitated theconversation ((see Fig 8, appendix I). Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  15. 15. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 15INFERENCES:The success or failure in online communication is related to the management of these frames,in which interpersonal relations figure prominently. Informal linguistic forms are used as ameans of creating interpersonal relationship and extract information. The durability of thetextual word on the computer screen helps participants associate with each other more easily.This claim is supported by the common practice of CMC-users to open several chat-windowstogether, and follow all of them at the same time (Turkle, 1995). Turkle’s informants reportthe ease with which this division of attention is accomplished, and clearly one importantreason for this ease is the simple fact that the different conversations (or textual narratives)are located in different areas of the screen. Thus, the visual ability of the user to take in aspatially complex picture at any given moment helps him note immediately which window isactive, and to sort out the different happenings in the different chatrooms in which he isparticipating.16With some practice, participants develop an ability to differentiate among the differentthreads within this stream; they can follow and contribute to one or more of these threads(Herring, 1999). Thus, these conversations resemble a stereotypical cocktail party (or adinner table), in which several conversations take place concomitantly, but in which skillfulparticipants can follow and take part in more than one of the conversations. In an auditorysituation, on the other hand, one can admittedly catch his name in a conversation going on inanother part of the room, but the rule is that we do not, and cannot, follow more than oneconversation line for a substantial period of time.It is also observed that conflicts are not resolved in these communities. Members join and endabruptly. Only 2% teachers and 1% scientists participated in the community (see Fig 9,Appendix I). When it comes to discussing or debating, members get abusive. The ones whoget abusive often do not reveal their identity. They post anonymously. Information flow fromfemales is very less, most of the times they join just to introduce themselves and do notcontribute by sharing information.Some posts also talked about existence of God. Users of these posts were trying to negotiatescientific meanings and were trying to convince fellow participants about the existence ofGod. If a profile picture depicted an aged person, greetings to that person were observed to bein a respectful manner (The person was addressed as Sir in most of the cases).16 Dresner, E. (2005). The Topology of Auditory and Visual Perception, Linguistic Communication, andInteractive Written Discourse. Retrieved Dec 8, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2005/161 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  16. 16. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 16The study further reconfirms that young people are most tech savvy (Dresner, 1996). Andtherefore, these virtual communities can act as a platform to reach to these audiences andcommunicate with them. Knowledge is shared irrespective of geographical boundaries. Thestudy has not observed offline discourse and hence the researcher is not in position tocompare knowledge sharing between offline and online communities.We see that the innovative medium—interactive written communication—leads to anotherinnovation, defined not in technological terms, but rather in terms of the communicationpattern: online communication enables a conversation situation where all participants arecontinually perceptually aware of more than one conversation line. These two distinct(although related) novelties of computer-mediated communication are usually not sufficientlydistinguished from one another. Once they are distinguished, however, we may inquire aboutthe relationship between the two: Why does interactive written discourse enable such ‘multi-focal’ conversation?BIBLIOGRAPHY:Journals:Barab Sasha A, K. R. (2004). In Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning (pp. 7-16).Cambridge University Press.Barry Wellman, J. S. (1996). Computer Networks as Social Networks: Collaborative Work, Telework, andVirtual. Annual Review of Sociology , 213-238.Carroli, L. (1997). Virtual Encounters: Community or Collaboration on the Internet? Leonardo (pp. 359-363).New York: The MIT Press.Clarke, C. (2004, Jun). The Politics of Storytelling: Electronic Media in Archaeological Interpretation andEducation. World Archaeology, Vol. 36, No. 2, Archaeological Pedagogies , pp. 275-286.Coyne, R. (1994). Heidegger and Virtual Reality: The Implications of Heideggers Thinking for Computer.Leonardo, Vol. 27, No. 1 , pp. 65-73.Herring, S.C. (2004). Computer Mediated Discourse Analysis: An approach to researching online behavior, InDesigning for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning. New York, Cambridge University PressJacobson, D. (1996). Contexts and Cues in Cyberspace: The Pragmatics of Naming in Text-Based VirtualRealities. Journal of Anthropological Research , 461-479.Kawakami, O. F. (1991, Mar). Media Use as Predictors of Political Behavior: The Case of Japan. PoliticalPsychology, Vol. 12, No. 1 , pp. 65-80. Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  17. 17. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 17Kirby, D. A. (2003, Apr). Science Consultants, Fictional Films, and Scientific Practice. Social Studiesof Science, Vol. 33, No. 2 , pp. 231-268.Langman, L. (Mar., 2005). From Virtual Public Spheres to Global Justice: A Critical Theory of InternetworkedSocial. Sociological Theory, Vol. 23, No. 1 , 42-74.McIlvenny, P. (1996, Mar). Heckling in Hyde Park: Verbal Audience Participation in Popular Public Discourse.Language in Society, Vol. 25, No. 1 , pp. 27-60.Metros, S. E. (1999). Making Connections: A Model for On-Line Interaction. Leonardo, Vol. 32, No. 4 , pp.281-291.Monge, G. D. (1999, Nov - Dec). Introduction to the Special Issue: Communication Processes for VirtualOrganizations. Organization Science, Vol. 10, No. 6 , pp. 693-703.Nambisan, S. (2002, July). Designing Virtual Customer Environments for New Product Development: Toward aTheory. The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 27, No. 3 , pp. 392-413.Peterson, S. M. (2002). The Anthropology of Online Communities. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 31 ,449-467.Porter, C. E. (2004). A Typology of Virtual Communities:A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, Vol 10, Issue 1 .Ricœur, P. (1976). In Interpretation theory: discourse and the surplus of meaning (p. 12). Texas ChristianUniversity Press.Steven R. Thomsen, J. D. (1998, July). Ethnomethodology and the study of online communities: exploring thecyber streets. Information Research, Vol. 4 No. 1 .Websites:Androutsopoulos, J. (2008). Potentials and Limitations of Discourse-Centred Online Ethnography . RetrievedDec 6, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1610Bergs, A. (2006). Analyzing Online Communication from a Social Network Point of View:. Retrieved Dec 8,2009, from www.languageatinternet.de: http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2006/371Compernolle, R. A. (2008). Language Variation in Online Personal Ads from Quebec: The Case of ne.Retrieved Dec 8, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de: http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1520Dresner, E. (2005). The Topology of Auditory and Visual Perception, Linguistic Communication, andInteractive Written Discourse. Retrieved Dec 8, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2005/161Goutsos, D. (2005). The Interaction of Generic Structure and Interpersonal Relations in Two-Party e-ChatDiscourse. Retrieved Dec 7, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2005/188 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  18. 18. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 18Herring, S. C. (2007). A Faceted Classification Scheme for Computer-Mediated Discourse. Retrieved Dec 9,2009, from www.languageatinternet.de: http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2007/761Holmer, T. (2008). Discourse Structure Analysis of Chat Communication. Retrieved Dec 6, 2009, fromwww.languageatinternet.de: http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1633Jannis Androutsopoulos, M. B. (2008). Introduction: Data and Methods in Computer-Mediated DiscourseAnalysis. Retrieved Dec 7, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1609Nishimura, Y. (2008). Japanese BBS Websites as Online Communities: (Im)politeness Perspectives . RetrievedDec 7, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de: http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1520Siebenhaar, B. (2008). Quantitative Approaches to Linguistic Variation in IRC: Implications for QualitativeResearch. Retrieved Dec 7, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1615Stommel, W. (2008). Conversation Analysis and Community of Practice as Approaches to Studying OnlineCommunity . Retrieved Dec 6, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2008/1537Yang, C. (2007). Chinese Internet Language: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Adaptations of the Chinese WritingSystem. Retrieved Dec 8, 2009, from www.languageatinternet.de:http://www.languageatinternet.de/articles/2007/1142APPENDIX I: Figure 1 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  19. 19. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 19Figure 2Figure 3Figure 4 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  20. 20. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 20Figure 5Figure 6 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  21. 21. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 21Figure 7Figure 8 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009
  22. 22. Closed offline communities open up in virtual world 22Figure 9 Science Meets Communication/ Bridging the gap: scientists and the masses/ISCC 2009/Dec20-24, 2009

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