Krolokke begins her essay by recapping recent research in gender and language in cyberspace, including the role of "grrrls" who specifically resist male domination. She then describes her study of 5 MSN channels of Internet Relay Chat (IRC): gay chat, lesbian chat, transgender/transsexual chat, politics2000 chat, and African-American chat for what she calls "playful chat". She analyzes the transcribed speech for 4 types of language play: abbreviations, paralinguistic cues, hybrid language, and insulting speech. Krolokke uses performance theory to explain gender play online such that she considers "linguistic gender" to mean performing a speech pattern that follows social and cultural expectations or stereotypes associated with the speech of that gender. She explains that in some cases, "IRC provides a space for participants to play out their most convincing performances of parodic linguistic identities." As such, she provides an argument away from earlier linguists who argued about the inherent differences in male/female communication and towards later "third wave" linguists who see all communication and all contexts as marked for gender, not the speaker him or herself.
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I became interested in Matsuda's analysis because, even though it has nothing directly related to gender, it shows a clear picture of how linguistic markers used in verbal speech are carried over into an internet context to delineate identity and power relations. Matsuda analysed the written communications in Japanese of Japanese ESL teachers on the online community TESOL Link for verbal markers such as formal verb endings, address terms, and honorifics that are used to signify deference and vertical social relations. Interestingly enough, he found that there was more horizontal than vertical social relationships on the list, and that when hierarchical distinctions were shown, they were created from a perception of knowledge as power more than seniority or social status. To this, Matsuda cites the teacher vs. learner role as invoked frequently on the list. While he notes that hierarchical relations were found to come into play in a theoretically hierarchy-free environment, Matsuda points out that the power relations were able to be re-negotiated by the members online in a way that might never have been possible in real face-to-face communication given social and linguistic norms in Japan.
In this article, Herring discusses her research into both asynchronous communication via discussion list and synchronous communication via IRC in which women were subject to harassment and demeaning characterizations by men. In both instances, the result was that the affected women fell silent or complied with the male behavioral normatives. I think it is important to note the forums chosen, as there may have been some issues inherent to the discussion which should be considered above and beyond the linguistic patterns. The discussion list was Paglia-L, a group dedicated to discuss the writings of the cultural theorist Camille Paglia, who is often referred to as an "anti-feminist feminist" and who often generates polemical discussions among women as often as in mixed company. The IRC channel was #india which is primarily composed of expatriates from India living in English-speaking countries, and as such, specific Indian cultural patterns may have also influenced the speech found on that channel. What is most useful to me from this essay is how Herring defines harassment online, shows examples of its resistance and escalation, and finally shows how the female participants accommodate or conform to the degrading situation. If these examples can be extended across the internet, it would indicate that male-female communication suffers from similar breakdowns as those that can occur on the job or in any face-to-face situation where harassment may surface and as such, that we have a long way to go to address gender equality online.
In this compilation of essays edited by Jones, the central theme is about how the internet is a virtual culture of its own and how that culture can be described in sociological terms. Of particular interest to me for fan related discourse is Watson's study of the Phish.net fan community, which describes an online fan base of 50K+ members and their interactions. Shaw discusses gender and sexual orientation and internet communities in his essay "Gay Men and Computer Communication: A Discourse of Sex and Identity in Cyberspace", which although does not related to women's speech, does deal with issues of communication and constructed identity. Later in the volume, Dietrich takes on gender and internet journals in their construction of a body politic. Finally, Zickmund addresses the problem of internet hate speech or "cyberhate" and how "the other" is defined online.
While I am not dealing with the subject of "cyberrape" as we read about LambdaMOO in the class assignment, if anyone is interested, Richard MacKinnon has a chapter in this volume titled "Punishing the Persona: Correctional Strategies for the Virtual Offender" which further discusses the rape and subsequent punishment of online offenders at LambdaMOO and elsewhere.
Linguists such as Deborah Tannen and Robin Lakoff have sought to examine the conversational styles and practices between men and women in order to formulate theories of gender-specific discourse. In my final paper, I plan to take the theories of such linguists and apply them specifically to Internet venues (chatrooms, discussion boards, and Yahoo groups) to highlight differences in male and female user communication strategies. It is my theory that while online, female members employ more verbal deference mechanisms and more consistently defend the use of “netiquette” than male members of similar age and regional background in order to preserve group unity and cohesiveness while discouraging group divisiveness. From the theoretical readings assigned in class, I plan to cite from Republic.com by Cass Sunstein, and possibly also the 2 articles by Henry Jenkins, in addition to the other bibliographic citations.